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Don Rickert Musician Shop

Announcing D. Rickert FX-1 Venetian Series Arch Top Electric Violins

Posted by D. Rickert on

Basic Characteristics of FX-1 Series Electric Violins by D. Rickert Musical Instruments

The FX-1 Series Electric Violins by D. Rickert Musical Instruments are engineered from the ground up to function flawlessly with effect signal processors. The FX-1 instruments are all "chambered" body violins. Chambered body instruments are sometimes called either "semi-solid" or "semi-hollow." I do not think that there is an official threshold between "semi-hollow" and "semi-solid." The key point is that they are full-on electric violins and not acoustic-electric instruments.

The FX-1 Venetian Series Electric Violins arch top versions are currently available as pre-production hand-made special editions at the Don Rickert Musician Shop. They are available with a either a semi-traditional violin pegbox, or a unique (for a violin) slotted head version, illustrated below:

New FX 5-string revised violin headstock final build 2 scaled New FX 5-string revised final build 1b scaled
 

Links:

The FX-1 Venetian Series Electric Violins are nothing like the plethora of electric violins in the $100 to $250 price range you will find on eBay and elsewhere. These cheap mass-produced violins come predominantly in body styles inspired by:

  • The Yamaha Silent Violins (every possible permutation!)
  • Zeta (the late great U.S. electric violin company)
  • Fender
  • Wood Violins (violins that look like little electric guitars)
  • Others are in body design category that one might call “over-the-top different just to be different”

They use the cheapest electronic components possible. 

See the photo album on our Facebook page entitled Wall of Shame, which features the very WORST electric violins being made today.

Our FX-1 Venetian Series Electric Violins are professional level luthier-built instruments, expertly crafted entirely in the U.S. from the finest materials and components.

Our instruments are quite expensive compared to what one often finds, either online or in music stores. This Toilet_paper_orientation_overis because electric violins (actually violins in general) have become commodities.  In this context, a commodity is:

…a good or service whose wide availability typically leads to smaller profit margins and diminishes the importance of factors (as brand name) other than price.

For example, toilet paper is a commodity!

Our electric violins are NOT commodities! They are fitted with the finest accessories and electronics available. Just the cost (our actual cost) of the pickups we use alone is often three or four times the cost of the cheap commoditized electric violins on the market today!

This is all as it should be.  We did not get into this business to sell a lot of junk at low profit margins. Those who experience price “sticker shock” should go elsewhere to find an instrument. That being said, we do make every effort to keep prices as low as possible, including the use of CNC machines when deemed appropriate, but never at the expense of quality.

Also, we have gone to great lengths to develop a form factor that is beautiful and ergonomically optimal body shape that looks absolutely nothing like the cheap instruments flooding the market. We have made a similar effort to differentiate the “brand” embodied in our instruments’ form factor from the other high-quality electric violins being made today. These include: Wood Violins, Jordan, Jensen, Vector, EVL Violins, Stratton, NS Design, Bridge, Yamaha and Fuse.

See the photo album on our Facebook page entitled Some of the Best Electric Violins.

Target Users

Professionals

These musicians will very likely be fiddlers in alternative “plugged-in” acoustic bands, such as Bluegrass and/or Celtic or “Celtic Punk”. In fact, our design “Personae” (idealized users) were Natalie McMaster, Bridget Regan (Flogging Molly), Brittany Haas, Eileen Ivers (original fiddler of Riverdance, famous for her blue violins…we’ll do a blue on for you, Eileen!), Sharon Shannon (when not dazzling us with her accordion playing…damn good fiddler as well), Joe Craven (played in several groups with David Grisman) and Dave Swarbrick (co-founder of Fairport Convention).

  • They will possibly currently play an acoustic-electric or acoustic violin with a high-quality pickup
  • They are looking for a focused and rich plausible acoustic violin sound when playing (very loud!) at large venues
  • The more experimental among them may be seeking to explore the cello range or even the contra-bass range in live performance or recording, using an instrument that plays like a regular violin
  • They need more feedback free sonic power than you can get with any amplified acoustic fiddle (thinking specifically about Bridget Regan…needs more volume!)
  • They may have owned or still own a Zeta or NS Design instrument
  • They are looking for an overall design that combines an ultra traditional fine instrument look and feel with a modern design edge (our physical design motif is heavily influenced by the Stromberg-Voisinet mandolins and tenor guitars of the 1920s)

Seriously Committed Advanced Amateurs and Part-Time Performers

  • Looking for many of the same things as the Professionals
  • There will possibly be more experimentally inclined players among this group.

Intended Use

  • Live performance, ranging from living rooms to coliseums, where a focused, yet rich acoustic sound (only louder; in some cases, much louder!) is required
  • Flawlessly driving special effects, particularly octave splitters, harmonizers, “anti-chorus” (unison doubling where the duplicate note is detuned by several cents…a very small amount…simulates the sound of two instruments playing), is required

Lesson from history of innovation

Users will find all manner of uses NOT intended by the designers (us).

The Body and Neck

Body

The body core is Western Red cedar, a lightweight and darkly resonant tone wood. The body core is “chambered” (i.e. material removed) to meet the following goals

  • Keep weight to a minimum
  • Make room for internal electronics and wire routing (installed as well as potential options)
  • Control the way in which the bridge pickup interacts with the instrument such that the body is optimized for generating an output signal that is both rich AND intelligible to effect signal processors.

Top (arch-top model): The top is carved from joined book matched halves of flamed maple, much in the way a violin back is carved. The top is hollowed to an average thickness of about 4mm. An appropriately contoured block of Western Red Cedar is bonded to an area of about 5 sq. in. directly below where the bridge will be located; thus providing a substantial, albeit resonant, mass directly under the bridge feet.

Back: 1/8” basswood, covered with a veneer of figured maple, bonded with epoxy resin. There are two access panels, composed of ABS, located on the lower bout.

Sides: The exposed Western Red cedar sides are veneered with figured maple, bonded with epoxy resin.

Binding and Purfling: Both top and back have black binding. The top also has the model's signature alternating black and white stripes.

Varnishing: Traditional Italian oil varnish. The default is a medium golden brown with reddish highlights (same as many classic violins)

Neck

The necks (both the slot head and pegbox types) are carved from highly figured maple. The slotted head has a Katalox head veneer.

Pickup Choices (No additional charge for either)

Either pickup below works equally well with effect signal processors. Both pickups have two dual transducers (4 piezo elements) per string. They sense a stereoscopic image of each strings vibrational dynamic output. By sensing each strings vibrational information from two different points and then combining the signals, a more complete, detailed image is formed. The two dual element transducers per string provide an extra degree of refined tonal warmth and clarity, smoothness of sound and balance of output from low to high registers.

Barbera Solid Twin Model (4 or 5 string)  BTS Solid pickups

  • 8 (or 10) dual transducers (two per string)
  • Darker, focused sound (a sound favored by many musicians)

Barbera Twin Hybrid

BTS Twin Hybrid pickups

8 (or 10) dual transducers (two per string

The heart and wing structure allows for the natural mechanical motions of a traditional violin bridge to occur. These bridge motions facilitate a wider overtone spectrum and an open sounding low end. This combination of bridge structure and multi transducers system yields a rich, open and full range sound quality. Bottom line: a more “natural” acoustic sound than the Solid Twin Model

Electronics

  • There is a single gain control, which would normally be dialed to a neutral setting. Since the instrument is designed with professional performance in mind, all sound shaping is assumed to occur externally. Installing an on-board EQ unit would defeat the purpose of compatibility with effect signal processors, many of which must be “first in the chain” (before any EQ).
  • There are two ¼ inch jacks located on the back of the lower bout.
  • We do offer an on-board stereo headphone mini-amp as an option.

Standard Accessories

Tuners:

For Slotted Head type
  • Gotoh Stealth Tuners
  • 11 grams
  • 18:1 gear ratio
For Pegbox type
  • Wittner Finetune™ internally geared violin pegs

Tailpiece:

  • Dov Schmidt Harp Tailpiece (ebony)

Chin Rest:

  • Guarnerius over-the-tailpiece type or Customer preference

Shoulder Rest:  Wittner isny 1

  • Wittner “Isny” tail-mounted shoulder rest

Options

Internal stereo headphone amplifier

  • Volume knob mounted adjacent to the instrument gain knob
  • 1/8” stereo jack mounted on instrument back adjacent to the two main instrument output jacks

Purfling on back of instrument

  • Front always has purfling and binding. Standard configuration has binding only on the back

Special varnishing

Adaptor for using normal shoulder rest instead of the Wittner Isny

  • The instrument has binding rather than overhang; therefore an adaptor is necessary for use of a normal shoulder rest.
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