As you expand into into electric string playing, whether with a pickup on your acoustic or a full electric violin, you will need a few essential gear elements to make you sound like a pro.
Reverb pedals are the most important thing to improving the quality of your bypass pickup tone from your violin. Violins naturally resonate when a note is perfectly in tune, with electric violins the tone is typically dry when it is going directly into the amp or PA system. The reverb pedal will add a little resonance and depth to your tone to make it sound a little warmer and add a natural resonance to it.
Violin pickups are non active, meaning the tone coming from them is typically thin and lacking shape. It's important to add a piece to rig that will help round out the tone of the violin, sometimes an amp won't cut it...that's where an EQ pedal comes in handy. The three primary EQ controls are "High" "Mid" and "Low". To optimize the violin tone, roll the highs nearly all the way down, leave the mids around half way up, and boost the lows nearly all the way up. This will provide a thicker and warmer tone.
For decades strings have been used in contemporary music for textural parts to compliment the arrangements. Now that strings are going electric we have a wide range of effects available to us to take those textural parts to another level. One of those effects is delay, often referred to as echo. As string players we have been blessed with the ability of multi note sweeps with our bows, adding a delay effect to those sweeps will add an irresistible effect to that part. The delay effect is also ideal when you have a solo and you kick your solo tone on with a little delay, it will make your solo sound like its roaring through an auditorium.
Distortion is one of the most iconic tones in music. But with violins you have to be careful with how it's used, for most acoustic pickups distortion will cause a mad feedback. For those using solid body electric violins, like those made at wood violins, they are designed to handle distortion tones. As for the style of distortion, of course that varies on the style of music you are playing, however typically you need a heavy/fatter tone for your violin. To avoid having a screechy sound when you turn it on, it's important to roll the tone knob nearly all the way down. This well round out the mids and boost the lows. Keeping the tone a little smoother.
This may not seem like an obvious piece of gear to pickup, but keep in mind when you plug your violin in, you loose a lot of the natural dynamic flexibility of an acoustic violin. The worst thing to do when playing in a band is to be the one that's always too loud. It's a quick fix by adding a volume pedal to the end of your signal chain allowing you to pull in or out at anytime without loosing tone. There are many different volume pedals on the market, keep in mind violin pickups use piezo pickups, so keep an eye out for volume pedals that are designed for piezo pickups.
Hope this helps shed some light on the new exciting world of electric strings and technology. Subscribe and leave your thoughts and share your rig in the comments below!