Introduction: Electric Violin V1

Picture of Electric Violin V1

This is something I built as a school project. I have built a follow up project since, and itavoids a lot of mistakes I made in this one:

My woodworking skills and access to machinery being limited, I spent a considerable amount of time planning and further simplifying the structure of the electric violin I was about to build.

You may want to read up on the parts of a regular violin:

I'd like to thank the folks at, for providing an excellent set of plans free of charge to the general public. They were of immense use to me.
I would also like to thank Ocean Music Ltd. for providing the fittings for this project. (

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any damage to property or persons caused while following these instructions.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials


1. Two and a half feet of 2*2 inch tonal wood (more on this in the next step)
2. A (25*15)cm piece of any hardwood
3. General purpose rasp
4. Large Clamp
5. 50ml sanding sealer
6. Three pieces of 50 grit sandpaper, two pieces of 100 grit sandpaper, two pieces of 200 grit sandpaper
7. Two part epoxy
8. Dilute Potassium Permanganate (optional, for staining wood)
9. 150ml Varnish
10. Paintbrush
11. Thinner
12. Drill
13. Premade violin parts: endpin, chinrest, tail gut, tailpiece, fingerboard (about $30 if purchased individually)
14. Piezoelectric pickup (more on this in next step) ($10 on ebay)
15. Guitar tuning pegs (two left and two right) (you may use ukulele tuners if you wish) ($10-$25)
16. Violin strings, E,A,D,G gauges ($10-$50)
17. An acoustic violin for comparison while building (optional).

Step 2: About Tonal Wood and Pickup

Picture of About Tonal Wood and Pickup

Tonal wood: Types of wood with particular qualities which make them suitable for instrument making. Examples are maple and mahogany. I chose the wood of the Jack tree, which is used in traditional music instrument building throughout South Asia.

Pickup: this is a sensor which converts/translates the mechanical movements of a string to electrical signals. "Piezoelectric" and "Magnetic" are two types of pickups.The former uses a property of certain ceramics and the latter uses magnetic fields to detect mechanical motions.

I found an inexpensive piezoelectric pickup on ebay, but you can find good instructions on how to build one on the internet (try the much loved google search). Magnetic pickups are something you may try out if you feel like it.

**edit: a professional electric violin/cello maker "bulmung" (comment is on first page) recommends piezoelectric pickups with the sensor built directly into the bridge. Shown in a picture below.

** surfinbela shared a link to magnetic pickups:

Step 3: Draw Plans and Trace Onto Wood

I got some great plans at:
and modified them to my needs. I encourage you to do the same and to come up with some crazy/unusual design (the sound doesn't depend much on the shape). Or you can directly use the plans provided.

The plans should be printed/ drawn life size and traced onto the wood you're using.

Step 4: Cut Out and Sand

Picture of Cut Out and Sand

Use a bandsaw to cut carefully along the lines you have just traced (like me, you can politely ask a wood workshop person for the use of one of these in case you don't have one.)

I must warn you that these machines are extremely dangerous and will slice off various parts of your anatomy like butter, so if you have never used this before, its better to watch and learn or have an experienced person next to yo while you're working.

The only bandsaw I could find was er... an old model, to say the least. It left gouges in the wood that took forever to rasp and sand out.
If you use the correct type of blade, and a new machine, you will have very little sanding to do.

To get a great polish, work your way up from 50 grit to 200 grit sandpaper.

Step 5: Glue and Varnish

Picture of Glue and Varnish

Glue together all the parts using epoxy (very tough stuff) and a clamp to hold the pieces together while drying. The amount of time for this depend on the brand you use.

Do not varnish till all the epoxy has cured. Otherwise, you end up with bad looking varnish (due to chemical reactions, mixing etc.).

Saddle: glue on a piece of wood about 4 millimetres high as shown in the last picture of this step. The tailgut will ride on top of this. Lightly varnish this too.

Step 6: Special Note on Fingerboard

Picture of Special Note on Fingerboard

The fingerboard angle and position is not very easy to standardize. Basically, there should be an inclination of about 2 degrees with the lower side towards the neck.

Before starting, I recommend that the place where you're going to glue the fingerboard is slightly larger than the fingerboard.

I was not very happy about the fingerboard angle I ended up with, so I created a raised surface on top of the existing exposed area using epoxy and sanded it down flat. After this only did I glue on the fingerboard.

After gluing on the fingerboard, the sides of the neck were sanded down flush with the sides of the fingerboard.

Step 7: Drill Holes

Picture of Drill Holes

Use an electric drill to drill the big holes. Go very slowly where the wood is thin, or the wood will crack (it's back to the drawing board after that).

For the screws of the pegs, the holes needed are extremely small, so use a hand tool .

For the endpin, the hole should be slightly smaller than the endpin. After that ideally you should use a reamer to taper the hole. Otherwise use a knife to very slowly and carefully taper the hole.

The hole for the pickup should ideally be at the position indicated in the plans provided in step 3. But the most important thing is the scale length (length of open strings) to be close to 327mm.

Step 8: Final Assembly

Picture of Final Assembly

If you did not do so in step 5, securely glue on a "saddle", on top of which the tailgut rides. This can be a scrap piece of hardwood 4mm tall. Lightly varnish this.

1. Bang in the endpin.

2. Shape the top nut of the fingerboard and cut grooves for the four strings. Remove any sharp parts within the grooves that the string may snag onto. (There are articles written on this, so read up and you'll be fine.)

3. Set up the tailpiece as shown in the picture

4. Cut and shape the bridge (this may have to be done several times). Violin bridge shapes: . Instructions:

5. Attach the tuners by following the instructions that came with them.

6. Attach the pickup and place bridge on top of it. (Your case may differ.)

7. Wind strings onto the tuner lightly.

8. Lightly anchor the other end of the strings to the tailpiece, going over the bridge in the middle of the instrument.

9. Tighten the strings bit by bit, going from first to second to third to fourth then to first string and so on. Never keep a single string in high tension because it will break. Maintain the tailpiece "floating", just clearing the saddle (see picture). Keep the bridge at right angles to the surface.

10. Finally, attach the chinrest using the small clamp provided.

Step 9: Notes on Bridge and Nut and String Height

I prefer the strings to be quite close to the fingerboard so that its effortless to press the correct notes.
Accordingly, I cut the bridge at a height which would bring the strings close, but not too close to the fingerboard.

I say this again, the fingerboard angle is not 100% standardized, so you may compensate for any mistakes made in fingerboard angle by cutting the bridge differently. This is acceptable in an electric violin, because the sound created is less dependent on the body than in acoustic violins.

The nut is another point where I broke out in sweat. If you study another violin or look at pictures of violin nuts (there's one on the previous step), you can see that the grooves are cut so that the string just sits in it. The contact between string and groove should be very smooth (hint: use the graphite of any pencil to aid smoothness) . Ideally the nut should hold the strings very close to, but not quite touching the fingerboard.

About string spacing on the nut - leave about 3 mm space at the sides. Divide the remaining space into three and see if it comes close to 6mm. If so, go with this. Otherwise, you may reduce the space at the sides by just a little.


LethiaC (author)2016-07-19

I want to make this so that I can carry it around. I don't care about the acoustics because I already have a full violin. Where or what kind of place could I take the wood to be cut as I do not have a wood shop or access to a wood shop?

Gimli76 (author)2012-05-14

Did you want to write instead of Beacuse I can't connect with the last one :)
Good instructable by the way.

Half-Life (author)Gimli762015-04-10

Yeah, the site is down. I should probably introduce them to ebay (this is a small company in Sri Lanka, but they have great craftsmen, I've visited the workshop)

Victor Does (author)2014-10-15

Nice work! :)

Cozmic Cultivator (author)2013-12-04

This is awesome, thanks for creating such a cool instructable!!!

mrx91 (author)2013-07-02

man wt about amplifier where u put the pickup jack????

ray_sami (author)2011-12-09

My daughter start violin lessen 2 month ago , i think something like that will be nice birthday gift for her but unfurently i am not good in craft....
if it possible that someone can make for me ?? (how much it will cost) ?

very nice project. keep on


Half-Life (author)ray_sami2011-12-09

Ebay has some electric violin kits for sale. If you live in US, its less than $100 with shipping

JBowmanDIY (author)2011-11-02

i have two questions first.

the first one is, does the type of wood affect the sound of the violin?

and second, are the parts you have for a 4/4 violin?

zigzagchris (author)JBowmanDIY2011-11-02

Wood does effect the sound, not so much for an electric as a acoustic but you still want to invest in a nice tonal wood.

zigzagchris (author)2011-09-21

Started work on mine this week. Very excited, all feedback welcome

Poehls05 (author)2011-05-10


AdamVanMeter (author)2011-03-13

do you have any advice on how I could adapt this to make a cello? I have wanted one for years, but space and cost concerns have always stood in the way - this looks like a great way around them.

Half-Life (author)AdamVanMeter2011-03-14

Luckily somebody built an electric cello and documented it:

However, a piezoelectric pickup was used in the above link (a very expensive one at that), and from experience I can tell you that a piezo pickup fails to deliver optimal sound. If you do make a cello, go with a magnetic pickup preferably with tone and volume controls. You can make your own ( or try a commercially available pickup designed for four strings.

My suggestion is to start researching on the dimensions of a regular cello, and where a cello player holds the instrument. Apparently the top part of the cello soundbox touches the chest and the sides of the lower bout are gripped by the knees. You might want to replicate these critical parts of the structure of a standard cello.

An adjustable endpin is a must, so try looking around hardware stores for something which allows a rod to me moved and held when required.

bulmung (author)Half-Life2011-03-17

Hey, electric violin/cello maker here. I believe magnetic pickups would not work, Strings are made of different materials than that of a guitar. Look for piezo pickups built into the bridge itself, those are the best sounding, personal favorite is Barbera pickup, it has 2 piezos per string, but it's very expensive. Also you don't have to stick to 4 strings! I've got a 6 string electric cello I've been playing for awhile, have a range from low F to high E. Finally no need for an endpin either, we make cellos with harnesses so you can move around while playing. Check out the instruments we make

surfinbela (author)bulmung2011-04-06

Magnetic pickups do work! - But as you said, you need strings with magnetic properties: for example steel core strings like Helicore or Pirastro Flexocor. Normal, "commercial" (guitar- mandolin- or bass-) pickups won't work. You'll get a bit of output plucking (pizzicato) and almost no output bowing. But have a look at these pickups and listen to the soundfiles:

They build magnetic cello pickups, too.

Half-Life (author)surfinbela2011-04-06

awesome. thanks.

Half-Life (author)bulmung2011-03-17

Coming from wood violins, this is certainly good advice. Excellent suggestion about the harness.

However I don't see why a magnetic pickup wont work. As long as the strings are made of soft-magnetic material... Since steel is a hard-magnetic material though, finding the correct type of strings would be a problem.

In the end, a piezoelectric pickup seems the easiest way to go. I'll try to implement a magnetic pickup and report back with results.

Once again, thanks for the comment, bulmung.

Half-Life (author)Half-Life2011-03-17

I updated step 2 with your advice on pickups by the way.

bulmung (author)Half-Life2011-03-18

Awesome, glad I could help!

Just tested out a magnetic pickup, it does work but it has to be close to the strings. You would have to make your own bridge/cut the legs off a bridge. Also the curvature of the bridge would make it very difficult to pickup all the strings, your lowest and highest string would be much louder than the others.

Also wondering what your playing through? To get the best sound from the piezo I suggest an acoustic guitar amplifier or a keyboard amp.

surfinbela (author)bulmung2011-04-06

Why not a tube amp if you want to play rock'n'roll? - Here I play a baritone violin (violin strung with octave strings - these are Thomastik Super Flexible) with magnetic pickup through a Fender Blues Junior:

Here both viola and cello are equipped with magnetic pickups and play through tube amps - recorded with a little photocamera:

surfinbela (author)bulmung2011-04-06

Yes, the curvature - bridges are very individually cut - and asymmetric, while the fingerboard is symmetric. - so a magnetic pickup has to be adjustable to reproduce the sound / balanced output desired. And every violinist has an own idea of sound ... look at the link I gave above.

zack247 (author)2011-03-10

electric violin.

its one of those things that just doesnt sound right, that alone makes it AWESOME!

great 'ible and a even better idea, 5*s

Half-Life (author)zack2472011-03-11

Thanks a lot zack!!!

However, electric violins have been around for quite a while (so i didn't come up with the concept).

There's an awesome (AWESOME) rendition of "Toxicity" on Youtube featuring electric violins. You should check it out.

For those interested:

wow. that was awesome. you would never expect a violin to be something hardcore like that.

iamtoats (author)zack2472011-03-30

They're tuned down 3.5 steps (ADGC). That helps the weight of the sound a lot. They could just call them electric violas...

Edit: The girl who's playing the rhythm has a 5 string. The girl who's playing lead has no low C. that's why she solos when she does...

akilaweerat (author)2011-03-28

hw to like this btw??

Half-Life (author)akilaweerat2011-03-28

voting is over dude, but thanks anyway

akilaweerat (author)2011-03-28

haha.isuruuuuuuuu!!!!!!!!!!!!!!violin boyyyy.well done!!!!!!!!

Half-Life (author)2011-03-26

Don't forget to vote if you like this instructable!

sabladask (author)2011-03-16

cool;) good instrucatble!

killerjackalope (author)2011-03-15

This is an awesome project - for the cutting a powerful jigsaw can be used like a bandsaw by clamping it in to a work bench upside down, it takes you be extra safety concious though as you'll have to lock the jigsaw to on - probably at full power too for hardwood.

It will however produce a smooth cut with the right blade - to save on sanding a fine wood blade will cut slower but smoother...

CranieBMD (author)2011-03-14

I like this, I tried something like it a little while back. You could easily make this into an electric mandolin, all you'd need is mando tuners and a flat bridge and I suppose you could add frets. If anyone tries it post pictures!

jhd04 (author)2011-03-13

Cool I'able! I'm'a build me one!

No seriously, wanted an e-olin for years since I went to a Dave Matthews show. I've built an electric guitar, so how hard can this be? Famous last words...

Half-Life (author)jhd042011-03-14

go for it. Did you make the pickup for your electric guitar? If so, could you point me towards some good resources on pickup building?

Mistwalker (author)2011-03-13

I've looked at the costs of electric violins online, and they are usually quite exceptionally expensive. I'm curious as to what your overall costs were putting this together. It looks beautiful, by the way.

Half-Life (author)Mistwalker2011-03-14

I spent $50 on this. And thanks.

Allonsy (author)2011-03-13

so, would this cost more or less than a decentish electric violin? awesome ible btw.

Half-Life (author)Allonsy2011-03-14

Less. The total for me was close to $50. The price might vary depending on where you live.

The lowest I've seen for an electric violin with ebony fittings is $80, on ebay.

nateO (author)2011-03-13

This looks like a fun way to spend my new found sobriety. Who would have thought that my parents could have saved the cash they spent on the violin i played when i was in school. They could have bought me the parts and i could have made my own B.A. electric violin.

ARJOON (author)2011-03-13

what a rusty g-clamp by the way nice violin

spookylean (author)2011-03-13

This was a school project? Are you going to awesome school?

brooklynlord (author)2011-03-12

I've been playing violin for 9 years, and i do find it interesting :)

Constructive stuff:

You do know that the violin is hollow right? xD lol

Inside the violin is a bass bar and a sound post. But if this is a school project then..... well you can glue the bass bar but the sound post is a problem.

The less glue you use, the better sounding violin you will have.

I'm not sure about varnish though.

What size is it?

Oh and about the strings: I'm in RCM grade 7-8, and I'm using a hand-crafted violin with Eva Pirazzi strings. I know they cost like 110$, but they are almost like the best strings you can get. If this is a school project, i reccomend Dominant brand strings. They're about 50-60$ for great sound. The pirastro obligato aren't a bad choice either.

Steel strings have a different sound because they have lots of overtones. This makes them sound shrill and more like cutting glass than just a sound. The wound strings have less overtones therefore they sound more warm.

But otherwise, this is a GREAT instructable

Oh yeah. One more thing. My teacher was playing i think on live television when suddenly the neck (Fingerboard and the wood below) snapped off. She said it sounded like a gunshot. She wasn't hurt, but the violin had to be repaired. The reason was there wasn't enough glue between those two wood pieces.

So even though if you're trying to build a violin with the least glue as possible, remember that you still need enough glue.

Half-Life (author)brooklynlord2011-03-12

Hi. First of all thanks for the input. I agree with you that steel strings are terrible, but $110 strings are a definite no-no for a light player like me. ;-)

At first I considered building an acoustic violin (hollow, without electronics), but since there were so many things that could go wrong, I decided to try an electric violin first for experience.

Since this instrument picks up string vibrations and amplifies them electronically, the inside doesn't have to be hollow, which means the whole instrument can be a single, shaped piece of wood (no glue at all at the neck joint).

Ever heard of the Stroh Violin? It has a very interesting structure.

brooklynlord (author)Half-Life2011-03-12

I have heard of the Stroh violin. It is quite strange. It kind of looks a little like your violin :).

I know that a lot of things can go wrong with a acoustic violin. Like the sound post falling over.

The electric amplification doesn't seem like a bad idea, but i'm not sure about something....

Did you sand/cut the bridge? Some bridges are blanks, meaning they are really tall and are supposed to be cut/sanded. After that you put notches in them.A taller bridge means more pressure on the front of the violin. A shorter bridge means less pressure.

2 more questions :D
Size? You forgot that one xD
Do you play the violin?

Half-Life (author)brooklynlord2011-03-12

Yeah I cut and sanded the bridge, as mentioned in the last step. This is a 4/4 violin (full size). I play an acoustic violin, but not regularly.

coppeis (author)2011-03-10

what kind of noise does it make?

Mr. Potato Head (author)coppeis2011-03-11

What kind of noise would you think it makes?

Seems pretty obvious that an electric violin would sound
surprisingly violin-like.

About This Instructable




Bio: Mechanical Engineer, coder, electronics hacker. Aficionado of the little things in life.
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