An Electric Violin in the Making …

As many of you know,  I split my music career and ministry into two distinct camps: Performer and Educator. I have a sense of real calling to both – I love teaching and passing on this amazing art form of playing the violin … and I love performing.

Occasionally,  I feel led to highlight the accomplishments of some of my music students. I have done this previously here and here.

Today I would like to talk about another senior student, Isaac Jackiw, who has taken it upon himself to design and build his own electric violin! It has been very cool to watch his journey unfold from the initial dream, to a design and now the final stages of construction. There is SO MUCH in music to explore and learn and I really enjoy the unique gifts, interests and skills my students bring. Along with exploring contemporary violin styles, improvisation, recording techniques and other “non-classical” skills, Isaac is learning (with the guidance of Luthier, Terry Maurice) about the Science and Art of building an electric violin. He is combining his interest in design, woodworking and electronics with his music education.  A recent email from Isaac explains the process (how long he has worked on it) and the interesting story behind the walnut he used for the instrument:

There’s actually a cool story behind the walnut that I used. I got it from my grandfather who had originally bought it about 20 years ago to make the frames for three cedar strip canoes (one for my father, one for my uncle, and one for my aunt). Later, he used the same walnut to make two music stands (the one in my
room, and the one in the living room).

The question on how long I’ve been working on it is totally dependent on what you mean by ‘working on it’. I started thinking of building one, and all of the research, in about November ’07. I then worked on several drafts of the design before my final one from then until about May ’08. While I was working on the drafts, I got a lot of technical recommendations from Terry. Then, in June ’08, I actually started the construction process. For that, I visited my Grandfather and Grandmother for a week, and my grandfather, one of his friends and I worked on cutting the wood in my Grandfather’s friend’s workshop (for this, I had to make stencils based on my final draft). In September, I started doing weekly sessions with Terry while he taught me how to properly use and maintain planes, scrapers, chisels, etc. as well as various elements of making/repairing violins. In this, I also learned quite a few things to keep in mind for the next violin (particularly, things NOT to do again!). I’m still working on it with Terry, as we hit quite a few snags in some of the design (mostly related to how I made the neck). I hope that once I finish this violin, I can start moving into acoustic violin repair, and acoustic violin crafting, while still making a few more electrics (I’ve actually had a friend request one, not quite ready for that yet), and maybe even someday moving into viola’s and guitars.

I am very proud of Isaac’s accomplishments. Here are a few pics of his progress thus far … Until next time. TD


Isaac's drawings of the electric violin


Isaac glues the neck to the body of the instrument in Terry Maurice's workshop


The finger-board is now on ... the instrument in taking shape (Isaac used some walnut supplied by his Grandfather for the body of the electric violin) ... a very cool design!