On October 25, 2014, I headed down to Rock Hill, SC, to work with the orchestra students at Northwestern High School. Their teacher is Marsha Gross and she had recently invested in a quintet of electric stringed instruments to use as part of her recruiting and retention efforts for the orchestra program at the school. This is especially cool because she really didn’t have a background in electric strings and simply wanted to branch out and do something different and cool for her students. She also picked up a bunch of Digitech effects processors to use with the groups as well. I took a couple of NXT and CR violins, violas, basses, and cellos to the session, along with a ton of sound equipment so that everyone would have an opportunity to get hands on instruments during the day.
The day ended up to be really an amazing day of playing and learning. I headed out of Durham, NC around 6:00 AM in order to get started at 9:00 in SC. I started with a quick performance for the kids, so they could see how I perform on my CR violin, using loops and efx processing. I wanted them to understand that the key to being an electric violinist is to be a solid violinist and musician.
Next, we talked about optimum set up for hearing yourself and getting comfortable with the sound coming from an amp rather than the instrument. We also discussed tone controls and listening for the best tone possible. Once everyone was set up with a great tone quality and a comfortable playing environment, we played for a while as an ensemble and discussed the experience as well as ways to optimize intonation, dynamics, and monitoring.
After lunch, I gave them an extensive tour of effects processing, covering EQ, reverbs, time based effects, filter effects, distortion, and pitch shifters. Then, we ended the day by getting everyone set up with an in-line effects processor and turning them loose to get creative. I was also able to give the kids pens, lanyards, stickers, and other cool stuff from NS Design,, the Electric Violin Shop, and D’Addario Orchestral. (There is nothing like free stuff to get everyone interested real fast!)
In then end, it was a fun day, full of learning and playing. I think that everyone left with a new set of tools for real creativity with bowed electric strings. Congratulations to Marsha Gross for her innovation and forward thinking approach. Congratulations to the students for great attitudes and preparation, as well as a real openness to my ideas. The students could not have been any nicer and attentive. And, big thanks to all at NS Design for supporting this type of work in so many ways.