Five String Electric Violin
This website is a showcase of the five string electric violin that I play: the Violorama Sycorax. It contains audio and video demos of the instrument, and information about why this particular electric violin is different from other electric violins.
If you like the sound of this electric violin, you can get your own Sycorax from the Violorama website.
Why Is It Different?
1. How it feels to play
Every other electric violin I have played has been pleasing to play for about half an hour. Then, I started missing the way it feels to play an acoustic violin. This is because almost all electric violins are built with the bridge mounted on something completely rigid. On an acoustic, the bridge and the top of the instrument move when they are played. You might think such a tiny movement isn’t discernible, but it affects control of the instrument, and obviously also the tone that it produces. This lack of movement is both the reason for a rigid, dead feel under the bow on most electric violins, and also the nasty bee-in-a-bottle sound that they usually produce.
However, the Sycorax electric violin is built in a way that deliberately mimics the structure and physical movement of an acoustic violin. So it feels much more natural to play.
2. The sound
Due to the structure I just described, it also has a basic sound that is much closer to that of an acoustic violin than most electric violins are able to produce. But, you may be asking, why would someone want this? Isn’t an electric violin supposed to sound different to an acoustic?
Yes and no. Yes, you can add effect to and electric violin that make it sound radically different to an acoustic violin. But with most electric violins, these are used to mask a basic sound which is generally pretty awful, rather than to enhance it. If you start off with a good sound, you can add effects and they’ll sound just as good or better, but you also have the option of playing it without adding these effects.
This is one of the areas where the appeal of the Sycorax is broader than that of a regular electric violin OR an acoustic violin with a pickup or clip-on microphone.
Yes, you can play it with effects and make it sound however you like, but it’s also great for playing in situations where an amplified acoustic is the desired sound (e.g. in a folk or ceilidh band). In my opinion, the amplified basic sound of the Sycorax actually sounds more like an acoustic violin than any sound I’ve got out of an acoustic violin by amplifying it with a pickup or clip-on microphone.
And on top of that, it doesn’t have the feedback problems that an amplified acoustic violin has.
3. Five strings
OK, there are loads of electric violins with five strings, so this isn’t really a difference. But since I’m explaining why I play this particular instrument, I thought I’d add a bit about the reasons behind picking a five string over a four string.
The main reason is that I started out as a violist, and only got a violin when I was 20. Which was great because with the violin I could play fiddle tunes much more easily, but I also missed the low C string of the viola. So for me, because I play violin and viola, a five string instrument is the obvious choice.
People often ask if it’s hard to adjust to the different string spacing on a five string instrument, what with the strings being slightly closer together and at shallower angles. My own answer is that, yes, there’s a bit of adjustment, but it just takes a little bit of time to get used to. I personally find that it’s no problem swapping between the five string electric violin and my acoustic four string viola – I have developed two separate sets of muscle memory for the two separate instruments.
4. It looks really cool
This shouldn't be a reason to choose a particular electric violin over and above ergonomic and sound reasons. But it helps! The top and back of the Sycorax is made from wood (with each instrument being slightly different, and different woods to choose depending on the sound you want) and the frame is 3D printed with added struts of carbon fibre for strength.