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If you’re looking to extend the use of your violin, you may want to consider finding a pickup for it.
With the use of a pickup, you can amplify the sound of your violin on stage and in the recording studio. Sometimes, the producer or engineer will insist that you have microphones on your instrument anyway, but it’s nice to have the flexibility.
So, what are the best violin pickups available? Let’s have a look.
The Feather Violin Pickup With Flexible Micro-Goose Neck By Myers Pickups
Why is this pickup called “The Feather”? Because it’s incredibly lightweight!
This solution can work on a variety of instruments (in addition to violin) without modification. And, there’s no need to install it permanently on your violin either, which means you can take it on and off at will.
The Feather comes with an internally powered active preamp, which allows for a rich and full sound. The power source comes pre-installed and doesn’t require phantom power. It will work with most wireless systems too.
Best of all, this is essentially a “plug and play” pickup, and all the hardware you need is included.
That’s about all there is to know about the simple and highly-rated Feather. The Myers Pickups is definitely worth a look.
Headway The Band Violin Pickup System
Another popular premium option for violinists is the British-made The Band.
Headway isn’t just known for their violin pickups. They also produce similar solutions for violas, cellos and other orchestral (bowed) instruments.
This pickup is easy to install, compact and durable. It also doesn’t require any batteries. The entire premise behind the pickup is that it can be easily attached to a violin without issue. You can think of it like a large rubber band that can be secured with Velcro.
This is a great pickup for any genre, whether you play folk, classical, jazz, country or otherwise. Many violin pickups tend to produce feedback but you shouldn’t have that problem with The Band.
Performing and recording violinists should not overlook the Headway pickup.
Fishman V-200 Classic Series Professional Violin Pickup
Fishman pickups are known for their bright, full and rich sound. The V-200 is no exception.
The easy-to-install V-200 piezo-ceramic pickup can help you achieve a clear sound thanks to the fact that it will not pick up any magnetic fields. The V-200 also does a good job of preserving the original sound of your instrument without compromising it. That can always be a worry for violinists, so this is good to know.
The manufacturer recommends using an impedance matching preamp with the pickup, but this isn’t required. If you need more control over the overall gain and volume the pickup offers, then you may benefit from using the preamp.
So, overall, the Fishman is another great option worth considering.
LR Baggs Violin Pickup
As with Fishman, LR Baggs is a well-established contender in the pickup space. This violin pickup is a favorite among violinists because of its overall sensitivity to the inherent dynamics of the instrument. The mini vibration transducer eliminates feedback and nasal tones while replicating the instrument’s natural tone.
As LR Baggs claims, this pickup will not affect the tone of your violin and it’s a favorite among well-known pros like Alison Krauss, Michael Doucet, Darol Anger and Jean-Luc Ponty.
So, it’s hard to go wrong with the LR Baggs.
Barcus Berry 3100 Clamp-On Bridge Violin Piezo Pickup
The Barcus Berry 3100 is a reasonably priced piezo pickup that doesn’t require the modification of your instrument to use (some do require permanent changes to the instrument, which isn’t going to suit many violinists). The pickup simply clamps on to the bridge of your instrument, making it easy for you to put on or take off.
The 3100 produces a natural sound, and the feedback rejection feature also helps with this. Overall, this is a no-nonsense pickup that does just one thing well – amplifying the natural sound of your violin. Now, there is no pickup that will get you 100% of the way there, but all things being equal, this is a good choice.
So, the Barcus Berry is another worthy contender on this list.
KNA VV-1 Violin/Viola Pickup
What makes the VV-1 stand out? Its lightweight wooden sensor casing, which allows the pickup unit to blend in with your instrument. It’s also easy to install and remove from your violin. The VV-1 attaches to the eye of the bridge and requires little modification.
This pickup also produces a quality sound, making it perfect for live performance. It claims to deliver the “natural sound” of your instrument, which is reassuring.
So, if you’re looking for a pickup that sounds, looks and feels natural, you’ll want to have a look at the KNA.
Andoer B00VNSOK2C Cherub WCP-60V Clip-On Pickup For Violin
Sometimes all you need is a quick and dirty solution that gets the job done. The Andoer will more than get the job done, despite its remarkably low price.
This cherub pickup simply clips onto your violin and will not affect the exterior of your instrument. The eight-foot cable it comes with is also nice to have, as it gives you more freedom to move around as you play.
Finding the perfect balance can be tough. But the Andoer sounds good and is easy to use.
If you’re looking for instant gratification, you’ll probably be hard pressed to find anything nearing the quality of the Andoer. For professional players, it could make for a great backup too.
What Should I Look For In A Violin Or Fiddle Pickup?
There are plenty of violin pickups out there and many of them are solid choices. That doesn’t make it any easier to choose one that’s right for you.
So, here are a few factors I would keep in mind when choosing a pickup. Many of these are also true when looking for a fiddle pickup; there really isn't much difference between the two.
A Natural Sound
Unless you’re heavy into experimentation, you’re probably going to be looking for a pickup that offers a nice, natural sound.
It’s a little disconcerting when the sound coming from your amp or PA is different from the sound you hear in your head. And, you can end up losing confidence, because you’re not sure if the audience is hearing you the way you want to be heard either.
If you’re a purist, then you probably won’t be satisfied with anything short of a natural sounding pickup.
Meanwhile, if you’re on a bit of a budget, or you don’t mind if the audience is hearing something a little different than you are, then you might be less picky in this regard.
The more expensive the instrument, the less likely you probably are to want to modify it. Some pickups may require that you drill holes or use adhesives on the exterior of the instrument. Generally, violinists tend not to like that.
There aren’t any pickups in this guide that require this level of modification. But in some cases you may need to replace or attach components to your instrument.
Generally, I think the more “plug and play” the pickup is, the better. This means less hassle overall, and you’re more likely to get use out of the pickup.
Construction tends to be an important factor with pickups in a couple of ways.
First, you want the pickup to be durable. Most pickups attach directly to your instrument, meaning if you bump it the wrong way, there is always the possibility that the pickup unit will fall off, break or otherwise.
This shouldn’t be a major concern for the most part, but all things being equal it’s nice to have a pickup that doesn’t collapse under pressure.
Second, you don’t want the pickup to get in the way of your playing. You don’t want it to weigh down your instrument, nor do you want it to be jutting into your neck. The pickup should be unobtrusive and not impede your playing in any way.
So, look for a pickup that meets these criteria, and you’re sure to be happier overall.
What Is A Violin Pickup?
Pickups are what turn acoustic instruments into electric instruments.
An electric-acoustic guitar, for instance, is almost always equipped with a pickup (though mics are also used for this purpose – they are kind of the same thing).
So, if you have an acoustic violin that you’d like to turn into an electric violin, you would likely purchase and install a pickup on your instrument.
A pickup is a device that picks up the vibrations of the strings on the instrument and translates it into a digital signal that can be amplified through the use of an amplifier or PA system. An instrument cable would be used to connect your pickup to the amp or PA.
It's not terribly common to use an acoustic-electric violin in a classical or orchestral setting. But many violinists like to use them in band situations, especially if they’re playing bigger stages to bigger crowds.
So, a violin pickup isn’t all that different from any other type of pickup, except that it’s designed to handle the configuration of a violin.
Which Violin Pickup Should I Get?
I’ve already introduced several factors that you should be thinking about when choosing a pickup.
But there is one more aspect to this that should be covered in detail.
And, that comes down to what you’re planning to use the pickup for.
If you’re just looking to plug your violin into a combo amp to practice at home, you probably don’t need (or necessarily want) a fancy pickup. Combo amps will color your tone whether you want them to or not, and while a better quality pickup can help, it’s not going to make that much of a difference for general practice.
Meanwhile, if you’re an in-demand professional player with plenty of live and session gigs, you should invest in the best quality pickup you can find. You want to sound great on stage and in the studio, and the people you work with will be expecting that too. If you let them down, you might have trouble finding your next gig, which is the last thing you want.
If money is an option, then you should either save up to buy the best pickup you can find, or you should buy the best that’s available within your budget.
Do I Need A Violin Pickup?
First of all, if you generally play in orchestral settings, it’s unlikely that you will need a pickup, unless you are specifically asked to use one. So, if most of your playing is within the context of orchestras, at home and with your teacher, a pickup might be a fun toy, but you may not need one at all.
Second, if you’re thinking about branching out into rock, country, jazz and other genres, or if you’re already playing in a band, a pickup is a good idea. After all, you need a way to cut through the mix, especially at rehearsals.
As well, if you’re a session player looking to play live or in the studio, having a pickup can be an asset. When you’re playing at a professional level, producers and engineers will likely have gear to capture the sound of your instrument if you don’t, but I’ve found most of them tend to like more options rather than fewer.
The necessity for a violin pickup should be obvious in most cases and you should invest in one if you’re looking to play and perform in a variety of situations.
Respected Violin Pickup Brands
While there are a number of companies who create violin pickups, not all are of the same quality. Here are some of our favorite brands who make pickups for your violin. In no order:
Best Violin Pickups Conclusion
Violin is a fun instrument to play, and it can be complementary to a variety of musical styles, as evidenced by the many bands and artists – like Metallica, The Eagles and “Weird Al” Yankovic – that have either played with, or will be playing with an orchestra.
With a pickup comes more freedom and flexibility in your work. You can play in a variety of settings, satisfy your professional commitments and even apply effects to your instrument. So, if you want to take your playing beyond, you might consider getting a pickup.