It’s a tiny instrument that can be plugged into your brain and can play a whole range of sounds, from an acoustic to a high-pitched, stringed orchestra.
But it’s also a tool that’s very, very hard to get your hands on.
“There are many, many things that are difficult to get on a violin, because the violin is very fragile,” said Michael Ziegler, a professor of music at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
“It’s very difficult to bend the strings and get them in the right places.”
To get a stringed violin to vibrate, you have to cut a piece of string off and string it in a specific way.
But for the first couple of years of their existence, it’s not exactly clear how to get a piece like that to work.
And now, with the help of a Kickstarter campaign, they’re trying to figure it out.
For this week’s episode of the podcast, we’ll explore the problem of the violin’s lack of mass.
With a little help from an expert, we’re going to learn how to make an all-electric violin out, and we’ll take you inside the workshop to see what it’s like to be an electric violin maker.
Listen Now: Listen to the episode with our hosts, Jeff and Mike Zieglers, as they try to solve a problem that’s a bit more complex than it looks.
“The whole idea is that the violin should be able to be made by a person with a great sense of the human condition,” Jeff Ziegling said.
“That’s what we’re trying here.”
That’s why he wanted to bring his partner, musician Michael Zingerman, to the workshop.
“When we first started the Kickstarter campaign to make the violin, it was kind of like, what am I going to do with this instrument?”
He and Jeff wanted to create a musical instrument that would feel like a true acoustic violin.
“We had been playing acoustic violins for years and years,” Jeff said.
But the lack of acoustic materials meant that they could’t create a fully-functional acoustic instrument, so they were forced to invent something more practical.
And that’s when they discovered the idea of a vibrating string.
“You know, we thought of strings as being really good at playing music, so we thought, we can actually make a violin out by playing a string and vibrating it,” Jeff explained.
They were able to find a few small pieces of string that were able.
But when they tried to use it, it wouldn’t work.
“So we made a vibratory string,” Jeff continued.
“And we put a small piece of metal over it and played a string with that string, and the vibration actually started to be heard by the human ear.”
To test it out, they had Jeff hold a small instrument, and he could see that when he was playing it, the vibration made a very distinct “ticking” sound.
“At first, I thought, oh my god, this thing is going to be really hard to play,” he said.
Jeff said they eventually made the string and got it working by playing the same string with a little bit of the metal underneath it, and they could hear the vibration.
“This is really a very sensitive, really sensitive vibratory sound,” he continued.
So when they got the string working, the vibrations really started to make their way through the metal, and Jeff said the vibrations were getting a little louder.
“Now you have this real loud vibration,” he told Jeff.
“But we have to keep going, and so we just start to play the same note that we were playing before, and then the vibration goes away.
So you can play the whole thing back and it will start to sound exactly the same, and that’s where the real sound is coming from.”
So what do they make of all of this?
“It was a real surprise to us,” Zingberg said.
It was the first time that we really understood how complex the violin was, and it’s a very, really complicated instrument, they said.
And it’s really interesting because we were never really able to make something that would sound like a string that was really, really, very sensitive.
“To make this work, we had to build something very, truly, incredibly sensitive,” Ziegerman said.
So what are they going to use this vibrating instrument for?
“The only way to play this instrument is to do the string-bending,” Jeff told us.
“Because that’s the only way that you can do it.”
And to do that, they have to learn to use a special technique, which they describe as “a combination of all the techniques that you know to play with a violin,” he explained.
“If you have any of those techniques, then you can learn to do these things