Electric Violin

Rickenbacker, Inc. American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 684

The Rickenbacker company was one of the first to experiment with electric instruments. This unusual violin is made of an aluminum tube with a maple violin scroll and an ebony fingerboard mounted to the tube. The serial number 21 is stamped on the heel of the violin. The large horseshoe pickups are located at the bridge and each string has its own termination point (as opposed to acoustic violins that end in a tailpiece). A celluloid plastic knob controls the volume. A bakelite block located at the bottom of the instrument holds the electronics and a cord plgus into this block to attach to an amplifier. The chin rest also attaches to this block. A single piece of metal attaches to the tube to suggest the upper right bout of the traditional violin, helping the violinist find positions and "feel" the normal size of the instrument.
This design was made by George Beauchamp of Los Angeles, who first received a patent for an electric violin in 1936. This specific instrument is probably a prototype for his second patent which would be granted on February 14, 1943. This extremely minimal design showed the possibility of an electric instrument to change the form and shape of traditional acoustic instruments.

Electric Violin, Rickenbacker, Inc. (American), Aluminum, maple, ebony, American

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