The Maker And Designer Of My Electric Violin: Tucker Barrett

Or: How That Gorgeous Piece Of Violinly Loveliness Came To Feature In The Top Left Corner Of My Blog

Tucker Barrett bottom bout, mmmmmm, yummy.

Tucker Barrett bottom bout, mmmmmm, yummy.


 
 
Due to the sporadic nature of my web reading and news following, it would appear that it took a year for me to find out that Tucker Barrett, the designer and maker of my much beloved electric violin, has ceased manufacture and development of his bowed string instruments.

For me, this represented the end of something very unique and special. I felt very sad that Tucker wasn’t going to be developing his fabulous design any further. I felt really depressed that the option to order a new Barrett custom violin with six or seven strings (as opposed to the five string model I currently play) was no longer going to be available to me. And I felt really bad that more people weren’t going to get the chance to own and play one of these (as yet) unsurpassed violins.

On the other hand, I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the chance to acquire a custom made version of one of these fantastic instruments. I find myself hoping that if Tucker really doesn’t want to work on his design anymore, perhaps he might license the design to another maker, who might take the development of it on to new heights.

And I find myself thinking about how I ended up having one of these for my very own.
 
 

My Search For A Suitable Electric Violin

 
Ever since I started playing amplified gigs full time in the mid 80’s, I was plagued with the problems of amplifying an acoustic violin. The primary problems were:
 

  1. Horrible amplified sound, which was not true to the sound of the unamplified acoustic instrument
  2. Equipment which was not designed for use with violins (most usually adapted for use from dedicated guitar equipment), and was therefore not designed to function optimally with the unique requirements of the violin
  3. Feedback (where the amplified sound of the violin causes the violin itself to resonate, performing the function of the microphone in the linked image)

 

I knew other fiddlists who were experiencing similar problems, but nobody really had any kind of adequate solution. I didn’t know it at the time, but it seems that quite a bit of quiet work had been going on to address these issues.

I spent a lot of time over the ensuing years researching the mechanisms of these problems.
 

    (if there is enough interest, I could do a post explaining the precise details (in lay terms) of why amplifying an acoustic violin will always be plagued by these sorts of problems, and why it will never yield a convenient enough, similar sounding result to how the acoustic violin sounds unamplified to the human ear, and also why most electric violins do not sound as good as most players would like.

    I might do one anyway, seeing as I’ve not yet found a page which covers all this in the kind of detail, relevance and style which can be of use to most non physicist or electrical engineering musicians.

    For those who want to try researching for themselves, I recommend this book. It will now be slightly out of date with respect to some specific electric violin models and makers, but the technical information contained within it is excellent and very sound.

    I found it to be a fabulous resource when I was researching. I heartily recommend it for anybody wishing to research the topic of electric violins from the perspective of a technically interested player or maker.)

 
The more I learnt about the mechanisms of the issues, the more I appreciated that the only acceptable solution was to have a dedicated electric violin which was not at all acoustic in nature. So I stopped trying to find solutions to amplifying my acoustic, and started searching for a dedicated electric instrument instead.
 
 

Trying Different Electric Violins

 
I really have no idea how many different electric violins I tried over the next lot of years, all without generating sufficient interest to make a purchase. Because of what I’d learnt from my researches into the problems, I avoided those electric violin models which were primarily comprised of a closed, hollow, resonant box (like acoustic violins), such as these or these.

The first likely candidate was the Yamaha Silent Violin. I first saw it in the mid 90’s selling for something like £300, but it sells for a whole lot more now. Even now, I’m considering buying one of these to have as a spare, or for those gigs where I’d rather not bring my favourite instrument.

I then tried a variety of Zeta violins. I came close enough to buying one of these, because of the MIDI functionality, and because they really do have a huge name in the electric violin market. But the sound just wasn’t good enough to grab me.

After that, I tried out a bewildering array of assorted varieties of electric violins. With all these, I ended up finding that however different they looked, they all sounded and responded pretty much the same. Essentially, as far as I was concerned, all the instruments I tried had the same problems. They were all:
 

  1. Audibly less responsive or unresponsive to changes in bowing style, resulting in very little capacity to produce nuances in musical expression
  2. Sounding much like each other (and not enough like a good acoustic violin), with very little idiosyncratic character to audibly distinguish one instrument from the next. This results in a lacklustre, bland, colourless sounding (and frustrating) playing experience

 

These violins were all pretty much similar in design principle: they either had a very much smaller and less resonant sound box arrangement near the chin (with or without a more or less minimal skeletal arrangement round the edges), or they had a violin-like top plate with no back. They all had some kind of solid beam running up the centre which supported the strings, bridge, and fingerboard. The ones with the top plate and no back tended, to my ears, to sound worse than the others, with fewer overtones, resulting in what might be described as a “thinner” sound. This was a shame, because I thought those ones at least looked more violin-like than the others (even if they didn’t sound it).

Looking back on it, I’m not surprised that they all sounded similarly inadequate, since there were few deviations in design with regards to resonance. None seemed to take into account the physical mechanisms at work in an acoustic violin, which give the good ones their characteristically rich timbre. Electric violins which I’ve tried more recently still exhibit similar characteristics to the ones which put me off buying them the first time round.

And then……
 
 

Eureka!!

 
Early in 1997, I was reading The Strad magazine, when I saw a small blurb with this image in it:

The Tucker Barrett European Maple Luma EV5 - 5 string model

The Tucker Barrett European Maple Luma EV5 - 5 string model

This utterly grabbed my attention.
OMG, I SO had to have something like this!

 
 
This was nothing like any electric violin I’d seen before. For a start, it was just beautiful. I stared and stared at that picture in the magazine. Stunning. Gorgeous. I may have drooled just a tiny bit, looking at that picture.

If there ever was anything like violin porn for the seriously obsessed, this was it. ;)

Mmmmm mmmmm MMMMMM.

It looked like a musical instrument, hand made with loving care. It even looked like an actual violin. Most of the other electric violins I’d seen looked like painted pieces of equipment, not like something I could love.
 

    (the thing about playing an instrument is, you have it with you every day, you handle it, you smell it, you feel it respond to your touch. Usually you are playing on the same individual instrument for many years, for hours every day.

    You grow to know its quirks, its idiosyncrasies, what it will give you and what it can’t. Sometimes it sounds different, as it responds to environmental conditions, or to some damage you didn’t know was there.

    It talks to you.

    You care for it, you clean and maintain it. You carry it with you wherever you go. It picks up marks and damage, which remind you how you got them, even if they are repaired. You really develop an emotional bond with it. I can’t tell you how important it is to be able to love your instrument.

    My point is, that when an instrument sounds and behaves just like every other instrument of its type, and when it looks and smells and feels like something built as one of many in a factory, it just isn’t possible to love it as an individual thing in the same way as an instrument made entirely by hand.

    This is less true for guitars than it is for violins, but similar principles hold true for both, albeit in varying degrees.)

 
I read the blurb over and over, and looked at the picture some more.

And as I read the copy, and stared at that image, I thought about one of the more persistent problems with all the electric violins I tried. Those other electric instruments just didn’t give me that feeling of talking back to me when I played them the way an acoustic violin does, even an acoustic which is new to me.

But looking at this image, and reading the blurb over and over, and remembering all the research I’d done learning about the whys and wherefores of how amplifying instruments works, I knew, just from looking at this picture, from the design of this instrument, that this electric violin would be different.
 
 

    Now, the only thing standing in between me and that violin, was around 3000 miles and the Atlantic Ocean.

    Oy vey, Vermont. It just had to be Vermont. ;)

 
 

Transacting The Purchase

 
I contacted Tucker via the magic of the telephone (I didn’t have a computer at the time), and he sent me this kind of promotion pack thingy (which I still have). It was this kind of paper file thing made of stiff card, and had pockets inside which had glossy pictures of his various models, and a price list.

Despite my best efforts, that price list had time to go out of date, as three years passed before I managed to get to Tucker’s workshop in Vermont.

After many trials and tribulations, time passing, gigs coming and going, travelling to gigs almost near enough to visit Tucker’s workshop (but not quite), there finally came the long awaited visit to Tucker’s workshop in Vermont.

And there followed much trying out of various instrument models, very interesting and interested discussions, much admiration of Tucker’s work (and tool collection), careful instrument model and wood selection, specific wood plates selected, and, ultimately, the placing of one order for a Tucker Barrett EV5 Koa Luma 5 string electric violin.

Mmmmm mmmmm MMMMM mmmm mmmmmmmmmmm.

Yummy. :)

Overall, I spent about three and a half hours at Tucker’s workshop.

The entire time I was focusing and listening so intensely to what I was doing, hearing, and learning about the new instrument I was choosing.

I focused so hard (as I am wont to do sometimes if I’m not careful), that I got one whopper of a migraine during what felt like a terribly long journey back to where I was staying.

After my arrival home, there then followed some happy transatlantic phone calls, some payments, some excited waiting, more payments, more transatlantic phone calls, more excited waiting, still more transatlantic phone calls, yet more excitement, still more waiting, shipping, and finally, the thrilled receipt of one chilled express parcel, still cold from having been at altitude in the cargo hold of a plane.

And thus, in February of the year 2000, I FINALLY had my dearly coveted electric violin I had been seeking for so long.

Tucker Barrett full body view.  Drool.

Tucker Barrett full body, three-quarter view. Drool.


 
 

Summary Of My Transaction Endurance

 

  • Waiting for opportunity to visit: ————————————— Years – 3
  • Travel to airport and check in etc: ———————————— Hours – 4
  •  

  • One transatlantic flight: ————————————————— Hours – 7
  • Distance between Dublin and New York: ————————— Miles – 3179
  • One car journey part way: ———————————————– Hours – 3
  • Distance part way: ———————————————————- Miles – 128
  • One car journey next day: ———————————————– Hours – 2
  • Distance next day: ———————————————————– Miles – 100
  • Time spent at the workshop: ——————————————– Hours – 3.5
  • Car journey back: ———————————————————— Hours – 5
  • Distance back: —————————————————————- Miles – 228
  •  

  • One migraine: —————————————————————— Free
  •  

  • Flight back: ——————————————————————— Hours – 7
  • Flight distance: ————————————————————— Miles – 3179
  • Approximate distance travelled: ————————————— Miles – 6814
  • Approximate time invested: ———————————————– Days – 7
  • Swollen on flight: ———————————————————— Ankles – 2
  • Enduring time with parents: —————————————– Neuroses – several
  •  

  • One violin from a maker who isn’t making any more: Priceless.

 
 

Playing My Electric Violin

 
Nearly eight years on, it’s still a pleasure to look at my electric violin. And every time I pick it up, it’s still a joy to handle, to draw my bow across the strings, and listen to it speak in its velvety, deep, rich, gooey chocolate voice. I especially love making it whisper. Sure, it belts and bellows great with the best of them. But where it really excels, where it really stands out from all the others, is how exquisitely it whispers. That whisper has made people cry.

Sure, there are some things about this instrument which bother me, just as there are many things about it which I love. And it’s that precise combination of elements, some pleasurable, some less so, which makes it possible for me to bond with it, to emote with it, to express with it, and to love it.

I think there is now a huge gaping hole in the electric violin world, where Tucker Barrett’s ongoing work used to be. I don’t think most of the stringed world realises just what it had, and what has now gone. It seems such a shame that really excellent artists are sometimes just not valued as they should be until they’re no longer with us.

Fortunately, Tucker is still alive. :) He may, possibly, with a great deal of politeness and respect, be persuaded to make just one or two more bowed string instruments, if we’re lucky. But I can’t help thinking that the guitar world’s gain, where Tucker has gone to, is the violin world’s great loss.

I miss Tucker’s work already.
 
 
I leave you with a lovely performance I found on Youtube. It isn’t me playing. It is David Pretlow, playing “With Or Without You” by U2, solo, on his Tucker Barrett 6 string. I hope you enjoy the rich dark acoustic sound of his gorgeous instrument.

Thank you for reading.
 
 
The Youtube information on this video:
 

    Dave DeMonki U2 With or Without You

    From: DeMule
    Joined: 1 year ago
    Videos: 5

    About This Video
    Cover of U2 song performed live at Seaside, Fl by Dave DeMonki early April 2006 using an RC-20 Loop Station and recorded by Drew Powell. The fiddle is custom built by Tucker Barrett.. David Pretlow
    Added: May 16, 2006

 
 
Take it away…… Dave!
 
 

 
 
==========================

Update

 
I was poking through my old copies of The Strad magazine, and I found the original issues with Tucker’s ad in them, the places still placemarked with paper inserts.

It seems I first saw Tucker’s ad in the April 1997 issue of The Strad, and then again in June 1997.
 
 

Strad Magazine cover, April 1997

The Strad Magazine cover, April 1997

The Strad Magazine Cover June 1997

The Strad Magazine cover, June 1997

Tucker Barrett picture ad in The Strad, April 1997

Tucker Barrett picture ad in The Strad, April 1997

Tucker Barrett picture ad in The Strad magazine, June 1997

Tucker Barrett picture ad in The Strad magazine, June 1997


 
 
I think it’s entirely possible that I saw the June ad first, that’s the one I remember grabbing me for the first time. I may then have gone back through the issues to find the April ad, but I really can’t be sure. I can’t imagine that it’s really all that important in the grand scheme of this story.

Nevertheless, for completeness, I thought I’d stick it in. I thought it was pretty nice to find those old magazines (wow, over ten years ago now) with the pages still marked from where I kept going back and looking, over and over again during the following few years.

But anyhow, it’s a good excuse to put up more pretty pictures of stringed yummyness. :) I should prolly include more electric violin porn in this blog.

I know you’re all feeling incredibly shortchanged in this niche market. :p

I’ll do my best. :)
 
 
==========================

Update The Second – Starship Troopers

 
27 July, 2008
 
This may not count as an “update” in the strictest sense, since it actually focuses on a film which, even though I watched it only recently, was originally released in 1997.   Whether this update is timely or newsworthy or whatever, anyhow, here it is.

It seems that 1997 was a bumper year for Tucker Barrett.   That was the year he placed those advertisements I saw in The Strad magazine, and that was the year Starship Troopers was released.   You may or may not remember Starship Troopers as the film which brought us that time-honoured and oft-repeated question:
 

 
Since time began, this very question has clearly been keeping all of us awake at night.
 

    (or, some of us awake at night)

    (well, at least a few of us awake, on some nights)

    (ok, maybe one of us was kept awake, once, by something maybe related to bugs, or thinking, or something)

 
For anybody who has (or hasn’t) seen Starship Troopers, or for anybody who is a fan of Tucker Barrett (and frankly, all of you should be by now, after reading all this), the obligatory hot electric violin porn in Starship Troopers is duly represented by a cameo feature of a green version of one of Tucker Barrett’s acrylic Luma 5-string violin models.

Tucker Barrett Acrylic Luma EV-5 5-String Electric Violin

Tucker Barrett Acrylic Luma EV-5 5-String Electric Violin

Mmmmmmm, yummy violin porn…….
 
 
And Here It Is – The Cameo
 
I enclose some screenshots below of Starship Troopers and the scene in which Tucker Barrett’s hot acrylic electric violin porn makes a featured cameo appearance.   And I do mean cameo and featured.   That violin really does feature as a guest star in that scene – you’ll see if you watch the film clip I’ve uploaded to youtube as a special extra super bonus feature.   The violin features in a scene about an hour and 20 minutes into the film, during the evening party which takes place after a gory conflict with big spidery bugs on a barren planet.
 

Starship Troopers - Posing with Tucker Barrett electric violin

Starship Troopers - Posing with Tucker Barrett electric violin


 
Starship Troopers - Electric Violin Serenade 1

Starship Troopers - Electric Violin Serenade 1


 
Starship Troopers Electric Violin Serenade 2

Starship Troopers Electric Violin Serenade 2


 
Starship Troopers - Tucker Barrett Acrylic Luma EV-5 Electric 5 String Violin - Close Up 1

Starship Troopers - Tucker Barrett Acrylic Luma EV-5 Electric 5 String Violin - Close Up 1


 
Starship Troopers - Tucker Barrett Acrylic 5 String Electric Violin - Close Up 2

Starship Troopers - Tucker Barrett Acrylic 5 String Electric Violin - Close Up 2


 
Starship Troopers Tucker Barrett Electric Violin Close Up 3

Starship Troopers Tucker Barrett Electric Violin Close Up 3


Starship Troopers © 1997 TriStar Pictures Inc. and Touchstone Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
 

 
The Film Clip:   Tucker Barrett electric violin – Starship Troopers

This is the visual glory of a Tucker Barrett green acrylic Luma EV-5 5-string electric violin as featured in the 1997 film Starship Troopers. These violins are no longer being made as of November 2006. The actual electric violin audio was played by Kat Evans on a Violectra custom 5-string.

Starship Troopers © 1997 TriStar Pictures Inc. and Touchstone Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
 
 
Special Extra Bit For Electric Violin Geeks
 
For the geekier electric violin geeks amongst us, you may be interested to know that Kat Evans, who did the actual electric violin playing in that scene, was almost certainly not playing a Tucker Barrett (which of course you knew already from the sound of the thing).   Kat Evans was more than likely playing a Violectra similar to this one.

Violectra 5-string electric violin in cherry sunburst - front view

Violectra 5-string electric violin in cherry sunburst - front view


 
Anybody with even a semi-functional ear who has heard a Tucker Barrett played, and who has also heard any one of the multitudinous varieties of what I’ve come to call ‘electric-violin-on-a-stick’ being played, should hopefully be able to recognise and distinguish between the two.   I regard the violin music in that scene as being much more characteristic of what I have come to recognise as the nasal, thin, homogeneous, violin-on-a-stick sound  (notwithstanding the effects used to dress it up)  when compared to the rich depths of the more acoustic and responsive Tucker Barrett sound.

And I hope you didn’t think that actor was really playing that violin?

Please don’t tell me you thought he was.

Cos I just ate.   :)
 
 

About Lady Lubyanka

I am a 45 year old musician, and also a multisexual, polyamourous, Jewish, socially dominant woman within my romantic BDSM relationships.
This entry was posted in Audio, Droolworthy Stuff, Dublin, inclusion, Interesting musical instruments, Me Me Me Me Me, Music, Music making, Music Video, noodge, noodging, nudge, nudging, Respect, Spokesmodel, worship. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to The Maker And Designer Of My Electric Violin: Tucker Barrett

  1. Pingback: BDSM Night 1 - December 2007 « Lady Lubyanka

  2. Andrew says:

    Greetings m’Lady,

    I am currently looking into purchasing an electric violin, and in the course of my research I found your blog article on Tucker Barrett (8 Nov 2007). Your comment on the lack of character in most electric violin sound I found interesting, as I was beginning to form that impression myself. The expectations of electric violin and electric guitar are quite different, with the character and tone of the guitar coming from the pickups and external effects and amplification, rather than the inherent qualities of the instrument’s construction.
    I wonder if this attitude has carried across to the electric violin?
    The real point of the mail is to ask you if during your search for an electric instrument, you tried out Vector Instruments, in particular the Prodigy series. I love its skeletal, almost sculptural construction. I definitely could love one of these instruments – but only if the tone is good! I’d love to hear your opinion of this instrument, if you have one.

    Best Regards,

    Andrew Starr
    Christchurch, New Zealand

  3. Hello Andrew,

    Interesting questions to consider. :)

    Your first question:
     
    The expectations of electric violin and electric guitar are quite different, with the character and tone of the guitar coming from the pickups and external effects and amplification, rather than the inherent qualities of the instrument’s construction.
    I wonder if this attitude has carried across to the electric violin?

     
    My experience is that the inherent qualities of any instrument’s construction apply every bit as much to guitars as they do to violins. The sound will clearly reveal whether any instrument is well made or not.

    But there are also other important factors to consider, such as whether an instrument is bowed or plucked, fretted or fretless, what kind of instrument it is, and so on.

    Regardless of the expectations of the player, and regardless of external effects, amplifiers or speakers, my experience is that the overall sound of any dedicated electric instrument is primarily determined by:

    – materials used in its construction
    – quality of workmanship
    – shape
    – position of the pickup
    – type of pickup
    – type of instrument (mandolin, tuba, piano, whatever)
    – how it’s played (bowed, plucked, or struck)

    My experience is that the combination of those elements will determine the audio result far more than anything else. After all, it isn’t possible to amplify and/or manipulate sound with effects or speakers, if there is no sound to amplify or manipulate. The sound coming from the instrument itself is what will primarily be responsible for your final result, regardless of any other equipment.

    My experience is that if the original sound coming directly from a specific instrument is unsatisfactory, then no amplifier, effect, or speaker is ever going to change that to any significant degree. Besides, it’s hardly worth the effort playing an instrument with an unsatisfactory sound, if it is then necessary to invest a lot of money in external equipment to modify that sound until it is improved enough to tolerate.

    Additionally it is worth considering all the extra effort required to maintain, carry, set up, and take down all that extra stuff at every gig. This also significantly adds to your cable and power supply load, which in itself will be fairly heavy.

    Obviously I cannot comment on what other people’s expectations might be with regard to their electric violins vs electric guitars. I do play guitar as well, a bit, I have some experience of both. So I don’t know what expectations have to do with the ultimate resulting sound from any specific instrument. It will sound as it sounds, regardless of what is expected.

    So, essentially, my experience is that the specific sound of an individual instrument without effects and so on, is the primary factor determining your ultimate sound at the end of the day.
     
     
    As for your second question:
     
    The real point of the mail is to ask you if during your search for an electric instrument, you tried out Vector Instruments, in particular the Prodigy series.
     
    Personally, I’ve never tried a Vector violin. After reading your mail, I did some research on the web, and this is what I found:
     
    1. The maker of Vector instruments began his life as a luthier making fretted, plucked, stringed instruments. This may not seem important to you, but it tells me that his making style, outlook, and technique will be primarily coloured by his background as a plucked string maker, rather than as a bowed string maker. In my experience, the two are worlds apart.

    I feel that the fact that the Vector guy began as a fretted instrument maker will have significantly affected his abilities to understand the specific and idiosyncratic requirements of violin construction and how it’s played (i.e. with a bow). This fact alone is likely to affect his violins adversely, in my opinion. My experience is that most fretted makers simply are not aware of some of the important differences between bowed and plucked instruments, nor do they understand those differences. Seldom have I seen a fretted maker make the effort to get their heads round this issue (except for Tucker, obviously :) ). Most of them don’t seem to have an interest in the issue, or even view it AS an issue.

    Of course, it is also a fact that luthiers who began their lives as acoustic violin makers almost never move into construction of electric violins. However, I think that luthiers who start their lives as electric violin makers are far more likely to make properly responsive instruments. Mostly I think this is because they not only haven’t got any plucked string instrument making habits to unlearn, but also because they don’t even have to make the leap towards learning that there *are* such habits and knowledge which must be unlearnt or modified.
     
     
    2. The shape of Vector violins is precisely the same shape as the electric violins I tried which turned out to be unsatisfactory.

    During the time when I was researching electric violins prior to purchase, I learnt quite a bit about physics, acoustics in particular. And one thing I learnt is that the shape is hugely responsible for how an electric violin will respond and ultimately sound. All of the electric violins I tried with that Vector shape (i.e. the straight central beam up the middle supporting the fingerboard and the strings, surrounded by less or more skeletal bits coming out the sides) sounded, and more importantly *responded* very much alike.

    For me, the most important issue was the fact that this shape of electric violin was just not responsive enough to the varying nuances in bowing. This shape might well work great for plucked instruments, but in my opinion it is just insufficiently responsive for a bowed instrument. There wasn’t even a huge difference between playing loudly and playing quietly, let alone tonal variations.
     
     
    Plucking, by its very nature, is a rather violent activity. It is a harsh, hard thing to do to a string, and it’s easy for an instrument to reflect the force of the plucking in its sound. Bowing, on the other hand, is such a relatively gentle activity compared to plucking. It takes a much more specialised instrument to respond appropriately and detectably to such a subtle stimulus.

    I’m sure you can imagine how frustrating it is to try to play louder, and no matter how hard you bow, nothing happens! I tried til my arm fell off, and nothing. It was really…. horrible. I mean, sure, there was a *bit* of a difference, but if you’re doing something and your instrument isn’t reflecting that in the sound, it feels a bit like talking to the wall. I don’t know about you, but I just couldn’t cope with that.

    Tucker’s violins were the *only* ones which responded to the bow in any reasonable way, and I think it was because of the top-and-bottom-plate construction, instead of the solid-central-beam-and-a-few-bits-out-the-side construction.
     
     
    As for any recommendations I could offer you, they might be kind of pointless, because:

    – I am not a professional acoustic physicist
    – I am not a professional luthier
    – I am not a professional instrument reviewer
    – my research is a bit out of date (I was last researching electric violins in a focused way up to 2002)
    – I have never personally tried a Vector violin in particular
     
     
    Nevertheless, I can’t personally recommend a Vector to you for the reasons I outlined above. Essentially, my experience was something like this:

    If you imagine a horse race:

    – The horse that comes in first is a good half an hour in front of the others.
    – The horse in second place, finishing half an our after the first one, is only one second faster than third horse.
    – Meanwhile, the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth horses all finish together in a bunch.

    If you equate horses with electric violins, then Tucker Barrett’s were in first place, and all the others were kind of much of a muchness, all finishing in a bunch together, long behind.

    But if you wanted a specific recommendation, the only one I’ve tried which I can recommend as a kind of best-of-the-worst kind of thing, is the Yamaha Silent Violin range.
     
     
    It doesn’t look the coolest out of all the electric violins out there, unfortunately, but for the money, it’s the best I’ve found so far, besides Tucker’s.

    Please keep in mind I’ve tried some of the newer ones since, but essentially, the laws of physics do not change, and so the inherent problems remain the same.
     
     
    Would you mind if I published your questions and my answer in the comments on my blog? Others might find this information useful.

    I hope that was of some help?

    Best regards,

    Lubyanka.

  4. Andrew says:

    Wow! Thank you very much for your considered (and prompt!) reply. It certainly was very useful – I think I will put any thoughts of purchasing an electric until I’ve given the subject a bit more serious thought. I’m interested in your experience in not being able to get much dynamic range from some of the instruments, and the physics of why that should be.
    Anyway, thanks again. By all means, put the Q and A up on your site.

    Regards

    Andrew

  5. Your message was refreshingly polite and I was glad to help. :)

    I wish you the best of luck with this – I know how hard it can be to research and shop for these things.

    Best regards,

    Lubyanka. :)

  6. Pingback: Klezmorim In Da House! « Lady Lubyanka

  7. jr says:

    i know they stop making and selling the Tucker Barrett Acrylic 5 String Electric Violin
    but i just wanted to know if there is still a way to get one or just any of the colorslike this violin and if they ever made a 4 string and were to get it.

  8. Dennis says:

    A local North West violin player extraordinare, named Goeffry Castle, plays a six stringed T.F. Barrett Loa Luma. Five years ago I happened to wander into a public performance of his, and was transfixed by his music and his instrument. As a fan of both eh music and the instrument, I have become a fan. I was at that time in the process of making my first acoustic violin of traditional materials and a standard Strad pattern. I have since become the owner of a five-string electric Skyinbow. The Koa Luma has been a holy grail of mine since my first glimpse, and I read your story with great interest and empathy. At this time a woodworking colleague of mine has received Tucker Barrett’s approval to make copies of the koa luma design. We have studied Goeffry Castle’s instrument, taking dozens of photographs and crtitical measurements. Tucker has offered some technical advice. The top and bottom plates are laminated wood and plastic. The spacers have threaded adjustments to fine-tune the sound production after assembly. The BTS bridge, which is a critical component contributing to the magical tone is still available. With my awareness of the contribution that the tonewood adds to the sound-quality, we are hunting for some koa that has good tap tones. So far I have not found the right wood. We will find it, and will make a batch of three koa luma instruments, two five-string, and one six-string. It is a grand experiment.

  9. Dennis says:

    A local North West violin player extraordinare, named Goeffry Castle, plays a six stringed T.F. Barrett Loa Luma. Five years ago I happened to wander into a public performance of his, and was transfixed by his music and his instrument. As a fan of both the music and the instrument, I have become a fan. I was at that time in the process of making my first acoustic violin of traditional materials and a standard Strad pattern. I have since become the owner of a five-string electric Skyinbow. The Koa Luma has been a holy grail of mine since my first glimpse, and I read your story with great interest and empathy. At this time a woodworking colleague of mine has received Tucker Barrett’s approval to make copies of the koa luma design. We have studied Goeffry Castle’s instrument, taking dozens of photographs and crtitical measurements. Tucker has offered some technical advice. The top and bottom plates are laminated wood and plastic. The spacers have threaded adjustments to fine-tune the sound production after assembly. The BTS bridge, which is a critical component contributing to the magical tone is still available. With my awareness of the contribution that the tonewood adds to the sound-quality, we are hunting for some koa that has good tap tones. So far I have not found the right wood. We will find it, and will make a batch of three koa luma instruments, two five-string, and one six-string. It is a grand experiment.

  10. Daniel Song says:

    have you finished building the repilica? let me know please.. thank you :)

  11. Angel Sanchez Ballesteros says:

    Hi, nice article, now in 2016 i’m looking for a Tucker Barrett instrument. This replica had finally finished? Thanks!

Spill yo oh-PIN-yunz after the tone ...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s