Take the 2-minute tour ×
Musical Practice & Performance Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for musicians, students, and enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I am constantly looking (for years) after a violin piezo pickup (or any other that is feedback-safe guaranteed), that won't ruin up the violin sound.

All the PUs I've been experimented with, over the last decade, some more some less but all of them were nasal, nylonish, and ruined up the original violin sound.

I am looking for either:

  • A pickup that will truely pickup the violin sound
  • A pedal/appliance that recreates the PUed sound so it sounds like original (or makes it even better by choosing preset patches, i.e. it should sound like Stradivari, Guarneri, etc. etc. etc.)
share|improve this question
3  
This question seems reasonable... Equipment questions ARE on-topic, and I feel this is constructed in a way that lends itself to good answers with a minimum of subjectivity. –  NReilingh May 26 '11 at 15:52
1  
As this question is currently written, it's a shopping recommendation and off-topic. Possibly rewrite so the question is asking what qualities to look for in a pickup? (And, BTW, except for the feedback-proof part, there is such a pickup. It's called a microphone.) –  neilfein May 26 '11 at 16:28
    
I largely agree with neilfein. Something along the lines of "How can I record a violin so that it sounds natural?" would be a better question. I think it will be closed unless you rewrite it. –  Matthew Read May 26 '11 at 18:36
1  
I wouldn't say it's off-topic since the forum is called "Practice and Performance" this question is really about a performance issue me and zillion other violinists have, and is a board for that special one and only violinist that bumped into that feedback resistant piezo PU willing to share his surprise with other people. So no one looks for promotion, if there is a good thing, we should know about it, not because we promote the brand but because we deserve it! Anyway, if that said and you still think this is off-topic, please tell me and I'll go ahead an delete this question. –  Shimmy May 26 '11 at 21:46
    
This question is similar to this one: music.stackexchange.com/questions/1734/…. I think it's okay, he's not asking a "whats the best piezo pickup ever?" kind of question. You could change the question to be: "What are some attributes of a natural sounding violin pickup and how do I select a good one?" and it'd probably get more nods. –  Jduv Jun 1 '11 at 14:58
add comment

3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I have also tried several kinds of piezo-pickup to record myself and amplify sound in certain situations, even tried a cello bridge with cell inside a leg and various other systems for violin and viola. For the time being I am not using any kind of piezo but using a BASIK external pickup from SCHERTLER because it fits my own criteria:

  • Not ridiculously high price for an amateur.

  • Picks the table vibrations, with a sufficiently good signal in the bass register. I feel (but I cannot prove) that the sound I get from it has a richness I like and do not overrepresent high frequencies.

  • When trying it first I did not feel I had to change things in my technique in order to produce a good result. But I did change my technique once I had the occasion of listening carefully my recordings, with the help of other people who could listen to performance and reproduction.

  • External (pasted on the table) so I can have only one system for my different instruments (but you have to test what it gives on your varnish first, of course)

  • I have not noticed an essential change between the violin unfitted and the violin fitted

  • 1.5V preamp fits the kind of thing I do most of the time (recording) and my equipment but there is also a Phantom Alim preamp.

  • The same company makes other (a lot more expensive) recording and amplification systems so this is not an isolated product, but an entry level one by a serious house.

This is certainly not the only choice and I do not know about the availability and price in most countries.

Drawbacks :

  • I have to be very careful about the way I plug wires, and the alimentation, and take the instrument because I can easily knot myself in them if I do not it orderly (it is more my problem than the system's.). I have to think of dressing with clothes with pockets because it is easier that way.

  • The amplification is certainly colored in various ways and using the same sensor for both a violin and a cello is not ideal. I would need a very good recording installation to make a safe evaluation of that.

  • Pasting/repasting when changing instruments induce a lack of consistency and variety (but this is a drawback of having only one sensor)

share|improve this answer
    
thanks for your helpful response. I've never had the chance to try out their products. 1) How is it on VERY load stages? is it completely feedback resistent? 2) Price range (the BASIK and the PROs +) –  Shimmy Jun 2 '11 at 22:49
    
@Shimmy: I have no experience for very loaded stages or loud feedback. In this case a sensor on the bridge might be the best (the table can easily vibrate to other instruments'sound, the bridge less so). For the price range, I bought mine a few years ago for around one hundred euros. A simple web search should help you for the current prices. –  ogerard Jun 3 '11 at 8:34
    
So far best answer. Waiting for more ideas. –  Shimmy Jun 3 '11 at 11:16
add comment

I don't know much about violin, but I do know a thing or two about pickups :). Piezoelectric pickups are nothing like a standard electric guitar pickup in that no magnetic field is induced while you are playing--which makes them suitable for applications such as violin and classical guitar where no metal is involved. Due to their construction they have much higher output impedance than an average passive pickup and consequently use an output buffer to properly drive the line. Unfortunately, this combination of features will never result in a completely natural violin sound. Output buffers tend to be very simple to make, and they almost always color the tone of your instrument because they are designed to boost some frequencies and attenuate others in the name of controlling clipping. There are some that have been manufactured to have a flatter frequency response (David Barber's B-Buff comes to mind) but I haven't seen any of those incorporated into a piezoelectric pickup, and they are large and bulky due to the higher quality components required to build them than a standard JFET/OpAmp buffer.

So, with this in mind were I you I would simply continue experimenting until I found a pickup that I was completely happy with. A piezo will never sound as lush or natural as a nice ribbon microphone or even a lower end condenser due to the reasons discussed above, but when looking for a good piezoelectric pickup consider the following features:

  1. Controllable EQ. If you can control which frequencies are attenuated/boosted from the pickup then you'll have better success dialing in a sound you like. You can also achieve this by running the line from the Piezo into a pedal such as the L.R. Baggs paracoustic DI and controlling it from there.
  2. Higher quality or transparent buffer/pre-amplifier. This will control the tone coloring I discussed earlier. It will never be perfect, but you can get very close with nicer components.

All things said the best tone from your violin will come from a nice microphone, but like all situations similar to this it's the musicians plight to compromise and find the best trade off of practical application to tone. Don't be a perfectionist unless you need to be. Studio musicians and people who play in symphonies will almost always choose a ribbon or high quality condenser microphone over a pickup, but touring fiddle players with a country band might live with a piezo and EQ it to their liking. Find the right compromise for your application.

share|improve this answer
    
You have to know the the violin-tone structure is much more sophisticated and complicated than the guitar's tone. a bowed tone is very rich and complex compared to a plucked tone. here is where all (is there an exception?) violin piezos completely ruin the violin sound. I know this is tweakable, but still far from expected original signal. –  Shimmy Jun 2 '11 at 22:40
1  
As I said, if you want the true tone then you're best option is to mike it. There isn't a Piezo that exists that will reproduce it perfectly. Make the best trade off based on your application. –  Jduv Jun 3 '11 at 17:28
    
A mike is not an option in my case. I need a %100 feedback resistant microphone, which turns out that the only option is a piezo, unless you know something I don't. Anyway, what among the various violin PUs you've tried would sound mostly "violin" rather than the famous nasal violin piezo sound? –  Shimmy Jun 4 '11 at 23:11
    
A transducer won't be "100% feedback resistant" either, and a sufficiently focussed mic might well be resistant enough for feedback. –  slim Jan 4 '12 at 16:42
    
I wonder whether an additional approach would be to place multiple soundboard transducers, to pick up frequencies from various parts of the board; then mix and EQ the outputs to taste. –  slim Jan 4 '12 at 16:43
show 1 more comment

In my experience the best way of reproducing the natural sound is actually to not use a dedicated pickup at all, but to use a clip on mic such as the ATM350. I've had good results with this personally, it's small, discreet, easily clips on the chin rest and produces a much more natural, airy violin sound than a dedicated pickup. I've found that unless stage levels are ridiculous, they also do a rather good job of rejecting background noise too.

They do sell at around £150, so they're not ridiculously cheap - but not completely out of the range for most people either.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.