We often get requests and questions about what exactly is an electric string quartet. So I figured I would try and explain what the name implies and what a client should expect when a vendor offers the electric strings option.
The obvious difference between electric violins, violas, cellos, and their acoustic counterparts is the way they look. There are many designs out there, from sting ray looking violins to butterfly cellos and everything in between. Some of them even light up, which is kind of cool if the ambient lighting is dim these instruments will stick out. However, the design of the body of an electric instrument has absolutely no influence on the quality of the sound that is produced. That all depends on the pickup that is installed on the instrument.
Every electric instrument has a pickup that takes the vibrations of the strings and translates them into an electrical signal, which in turn is amplified and turned into something we can hear. In an acoustic instrument this happens in the hollow body of the instrument. So interestingly enough, an acoustic instrument without a hollow body is exactly the same as an electric instrument without a pickup.
Some of the best electric instruments out there also incorporate a built-in sound equalizer, which simply means the player can adjust if they want the low notes to be pronounced, or the high notes. A high quality instrument will ideally sound great on all registers. But even the best electric instrument does not even begin to compare with a professional acoustic one. The general price for a high end electric violin is under $5000, where as that price range is considered a mediocre level instrument for the acoustic world, and the high end modern violins can easily reach up to $75,000. I will not discuss here the old Italian instruments of Stradivarius and friends because that's a whole other topic :)
So now that we have our cool looking electric instruments, what's the big deal? Well, that depends on how much value you as the client put on the overall performance and the way it is put together. An electric violin is like an electric guitar played with a bow:) They make the musicians look cooler and elevate the performance to a modern atmosphere. Electric instruments also open the door for many other add-on features such as backing tracks and special sound effects, and I will be discussing those options in the next blog.
In short, playing an electric instrument is very much like playing an acoustic one with the biggest difference being the body shape of the instrument. The quality of the electric instrument sound will depend largely on the quality of the pickup and the ability of the musician to hook up all the cables correctly and adjust the volume and equalizer.