Separating sound from source: sonic transformation of the violin through electrodynamic pickups and acoustic actuation

Pardue, Laurel and Buys, Kurijn and Overholt, Dan and McPherson, Andrew P. and Edinger, Michael

Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression

When designing an augmented acoustic instrument, it is often of interest to retain an instrument’s sound quality and nuanced response while leveraging the richness of digital synthesis. Digital audio has traditionally been generated through speakers, separating sound generation from the instrument itself, or by adding an actuator within the instrument’s resonating body, imparting new sounds along with the original. We offer a third option, isolating the playing interface from the actuated resonating body, allowing us to rewrite the relationship between performance action and sound result while retaining the general form and feel of the acoustic instrument. We present a hybrid acoustic-electronic violin based on a stick-body electric violin and an electrodynamic polyphonic pick-up capturing individual string displacements. A conventional violin body acts as the resonator, actuated using digitally altered audio of the string inputs. By attaching the electric violin above the body with acoustic isolation, we retain the physical playing experience of a normal violin along with some of the acoustic filtering and radiation of a traditional build. We propose the use of the hybrid instrument with digitally automated pitch and tone correction to make an easy violin for use as a potential motivational tool for beginning violinists.