The purpose of this article is to explain: how to create wet sound for your electric violin with an effects processor (or effect pedals) in order to add effects such as distortion, tremolo, or chorus to it. The ultimate goal here is to create high-precision effect chains.
What are the ‘dry’ and ‘wet’ sounds of a musical instrument?
The ‘dry’ sound of a musical instrument is produced when it is plugged in without any accompanying interface. What we call the ‘wet’ sound of your electric violin is the elimination of the ‘dry’ sound by using effects. This can be achieved with an effects processor.
Discover what is an effects processor?
The dry sound is never perfect. It is subject to many elements that can generate interference. For example, the pickups of an electric violin can create slight noises on certain frequencies. We’ll see how to eliminate this noise at the signal input.
Why should you clean up dry sound?
It is important to clean up the dry sound of a musical instrument before applying any effects to it. Without a preliminary clean up, the effects will accentuate any sound defects and the final result will have a lower quality.
This includes all the saturation effects that tend to overemphasize the entire signal. Without the use of a wet sound, your distortion will amplify all the small defects of your dry sound. In order to clean up the “dry” sound and transform it into a wet sound, we are going to cumulate effects in order to remove the imperfections.
This video shows the sound of our Line and Equinox electric violins. All of the effects chains we have created go through the process of creating a wet sound and then applying the effects.
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In this case, you can hear a wah-wah modulation effect, a rather classic effect using a lot of reverb and at the end, an effect created especially for pizzicatos.
Creating your wet sound
To achieve this, we will work with an effects processor or effect pedals (one per effect) to switch from the dry sound of your electric violin to a wet sound. Note that working with dozens of small pedals will make the task longer and more complex…
We advise you to work on your wet sound with closed-back headphones. By isolating yourself from ambient noise, you will be better able to detect the noise that needs to be eliminated.
Applying a noise gate
The noise gate is a sound processing effect designed to prevent the interference sounds of the input signal from passing through the audio circuit. The goal is to obtain a sound with as little interference as possible at the output.
The noise gate is determined by a setting that allows a part of the sound signal to pass through. The part of the sound signal that is above or below a certain volume, or within a certain frequency range, will be preserved. The rest of the signal is not preserved.
It will be used to suppress unwanted interference from electrical instruments. They emit a form of continuous static that you have all heard before. This form of buzzing is only audible when the musical instrument is not being played and “disappears” as soon as it is played. The buzz doesn’t really disappear, it’s just that this noise is covered by the music being played. To eliminate it, we will work on the input volume by configuring the noise gate according to the buzz.
The noise gate is often used by sound engineers to rework the sound of a drum kit after a recording. For example, it allows to preserve only the snare drum, and to eliminate the other elements.
Discover few tips to limit audio interferences.
Setting up your equalizer
You have effectively eliminated the interference noise produced by your electric violin when it is not being played. But it’s not over yet, because many other interference noises will appear as soon as you play! These include the bow, the resonance of the instrument or even the pickup!
In a previous article, we talked about setting up an equalizer when playing a violin. We invite you to read it in order to fully understand the work we are going to do here.
A little reminder: an equalizer is a tool used as part of a recording, a sound system, or a sound mixing, in order to decrease or increase the presence of certain frequencies of a sound.
If you don’t know how to set up an equalizer, we invite you to read our article on this subject.
The diagram above is given for informational purposes only. It does not correspond to a recommended setting. The settings will depend on your instrument… Each violin or guitar has its own unique characteristics. A musical instrument can generate interference at certain frequencies where others do not.
Non-audible frequency suppression
With the equalizer, we will first remove the frequencies that are not audible by the human ear and all those that cannot be produced by a violin.
An adult’s hearing perceives the following range of frequencies: from about 20 Hz to 15,000 Hz. And for the violin, we will focus on a frequency starting at about 120 Hz.
This is the time when you will play in order to identify the specific noises that your instrument is producing. Here below we will focus on bowed stringed instruments. We are going to analyze the noises produced by the bow when it is rubbed on the strings, then the noises produced by your pickup and possibly other interferences.
This is one of the things that strikes classical violinists when they first play an electric violin. The movements of the bow on the strings create a kind of interference noise. Often found in the lowest frequencies.
Use the equalizer to filter them out. This is also called a high-pass filter: it is a filter that lets high frequencies pass through and attenuates low frequencies.
The ‘crack’ produced by a pickup
These interference noises are related to the piezos in your pickup. They, too, are barely noticeable. You should be able to identify them with your headphones on. These noises are found in the high frequencies. You can identify them by boosting and analyzing the higher frequencies. They are different from one violin to another, simply because the components involved are never the same.
To identify them, we advise you to take it one step at a time. Choose a reference point, position it at the maximum available gain and look for frequencies that generate noise.
Other interference noises
There are probably other noises that need to be suppressed. You will find them by ear, if a frequency is bothering you, try to limit its presence. One example is the electrical grounding problem produced by violins that rely on batteries to be played. The major difficulty will be to eliminate these noises without distorting your sound too much.
Boosting the right frequencies
Don’t forget that an equalizer allows you to eliminate frequencies as well as boost some of them. You must therefore also increase the frequencies associated with the violin in order to give it more presence.
Remember to customize the parameters we have mentioned. The suggested frequencies must be adapted to your instrument and the way you play. Each parameter will lead to different results…
What do I do with my wet sound?
Here is where the fun part begins! You can apply serial effects (overdrive, distortion, fuzz, delay, reverb, tremolo, etc.) to your wet sound to generate your effects chains. With this wet sound, those unwanted interference noises won’t be amplified and your sound at the end of the chain will be cleaner!
We have written 2 more articles to further elaborate on the creation of your effects chains.
Here is an example of an effects chain starting from the dry sound to the final output sound.
And below, an example of a processor interface on a multi-effects processor. You can see the association of different effects from the in to the out.
Images and references: Makers, 3Dvarius, Duncan Kidd, Unsplash.