The Fretted Violin - A Unique Instrument to Play https://violinspiration.com/wp-content/uploads/The-Fretted-Violin-A-Unique-Instrument-to-Play.jpg

If you’re interested in the electric violin, I have something a little different that I think you’ll like – the fretted violin! This type of violin isn’t very traditional, but it’s very flashy and fun to play.

A fretted electric violin can be a fun instrument to experiment with after getting comfortable with an acoustic violin. Most fretted violins are also electric, which can open you up to a whole new world of musical styles and ways of playing.

Even though this instrument isn’t very popular or mainstream, it’s fun to watch, and even more fun to try to play! Let’s talk about what they’re like, who this violin is best suited for, and modifications you can make to your own instrument to incorporate this style into your own musical journey.

Fretted Violins

Mark Wood shares a few styles of music that can be played on this type of instrument.

Look & Shape

Fretted violins aren’t very common, but there are options out there! These instruments are usually electric and used in rock and metal music. You might see frets in combination with other less standard setups, like 5-string or even 7-string violins. The instrument bodies don’t always look like the standard violin body; sometimes they’re triangular or just a long rectangle shape. Anything goes!

Even though these instruments are usually electric, frets can be added to acoustic violins—we’ll talk more about this later!

Fretted Violin - NS Design NXTa 5-string Fretted Electric Violin
NS Design NXTa 5-string Fretted Electric Violin
Fretted Violin - Wood Fretted Viper Electric Violins
Wood 7-string Fretted Viper Electric Violin

Violin Technique

Classical music that’s traditionally written for the strings often involves using vibrato and slides; two techniques that are more difficult to perform with frets. This is a big reason why most violins do not have frets.

Fretted Violin - Traditional Violin

Intonation

Playing on an instrument with frets also affects the intonation (tuning). If any of the strings are a little out of tune, the fretted notes will sound out of tune as well, and it’s nearly impossible to adjust the intonation on the fly.

However, fretted instruments can be really helpful for rock musicians who play in conditions where they can’t easily see the fingerboard to check that they’re playing the right notes. They’re also helpful if you perform in very loud environments where you can’t hear whether or not you’re playing in tune.

Fretted string instruments can also be fun to try out if you like experimenting with new types of music and doing your own thing.

Fretted Violin - Importance of Intonation

Types of Violin Frets

There are a few different types of frets that are commonly used on these violins.

Fretted Violin - Rounded Fret

Rounded Frets

Rounded frets are similar to those on a guitar. They’re not very tall, and you place your finger directly on the fret to play in tune.

Fretted Violin - Phantom

Phantom Frets

This type is shaved practically all the way down to the fingerboard so that you can see where they are without really feeling them. This style is more for looks than for the feel.

Fretted Violin - Shaved Fret

Shaved Frets

Lastly, the shaved variety is similar to rounded but is shaved down to be just a little bit shorter.

Who Might Benefit from a Fretted Violin?

These instruments are best for rock musicians who can’t see the fingerboard when they play or can’t hear whether or not they’re in tune with all the loud instruments around them. Fretted violins are also fun for hobbyists who love experimenting with different musical styles.

I would steer away from buying a fretted instrument just to help you learn where to place your fingers to play in tune; it’s best to learn on a traditional, acoustic violin (with the help of tapes or stickers), and then move to more specific instruments later on.

Learning where to put your fingers to play in tune is one of the hardest aspects of learning to play the violin. Adding frets might seem like a solution, but frets are best for changing up your playing style.

If you’re starting to learn the violin and are looking for help learning where to place your fingers on the violin, make sure to read my tutorial to add tapes to your fingerboard!

Fretted violins are usually seen in the rock and metal scene, on electric instruments. If you’re performing on stages with crazy lighting and lots of movement, it can be difficult to find where you need to play on the fingerboard. Frets add a tactile element that can help you play in tune when you cannot visually check that you’re playing correctly.

violin fingerboard - Fingerboard Tapes

Adding Frets to an Existing Violin

If you’re looking for a violin with frets but don’t have the money for the latest, coolest custom instrument, there are sites where you can have frets added to any violin! FrettedViolins.com will add frets to any violin on their site, and they also sell used fretted violins. They offer both acoustic and electric violins.

From The Fiddle Fretter, you can purchase stick-on frets to add to your violin, viola, or cello. This is a nice option if you want to experiment playing with frets, without spending a high price on a new instrument or committing to modifying your violin. If you decide you don’t like how it looks or feels, you can easily remove it. No harm done!

Vintage Fretted Violin
4-string version, this a Vintage Fretted Violin by frettedviolins.com

Early String Instruments with Frets

Viols, early members of the string instrument family, had gut frets that were tied to the neck of the instrument. The frets were made of gut, though historical instrument musicians now sometimes opt for synthetic ones made from elastic.

The frets can be tied or moved as needed to adjust intonation and change the tone of the instrument. Without frets, the stopped notes of the viol sound much different from the open strings. Adding the tied frets helps give the viol a more consistent sound.

It’s interesting that string instruments used to have frets, then we’ve taken them away for a few hundred years, just to bring them back on electric instruments!

Fretted Violin - Bassviol (Viola da Gamba), 7 strings
Viola da Gamba
HaCeMei, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Best Fretted Violins

Now, let’s take a quick look at the best electric violins with built-in frets that you can get.

Wood Violins Vipers

Here’s a video of Mark Wood showing off a Viper 6 string!

Wood Violins Vipers are great (but expensive) electric violins. They offer custom options, where you can have frets added if you’d like. If you’re serious about this type of instrument, this is one of the best you can buy.

Fretted Violin -Wood Violins 6-String
Wood Violins 6-String Fretted Viper Electric Violin

Check out the offer in the Fiddlershop or the Electric Violin Shop.

NS Design NXTa

The NS brand is reliable, and their 4- and 5-string fretted violin is ergonomic and made of beautiful maple, available in black and sunburst.

Check them out:

Check out the offer in the Fiddlershop or the Electric Violin Shop.

Fretted Violin - 4 String Violin Black
4- string Version

Support us for more FREE content    No extra costs for you    Recommended by Violinists

Fretted Violin - 5 string version Sunburst
5- string Version

Support us for more FREE content    No extra costs for you    Recommended by Violinists

Final Note

Playing on a fretted instrument can be a fun way to get creative in your journey of learning the violin! While they’re not super common, having frets is a unique way to change up the music world, in addition to other modifications like having a five-string instrument instead of the traditional four-string.

Person Playing Violin

Your musical journey is your own to take, and I hope this article has taught you a bit about how you can make violin playing unique to your interests! If you enjoy playing rock music and experimenting with amplification, adding an instrument with fretts to your arsenal might be very fulfilling!

If you’d like to learn more about electric violins, I have a full post of the best ones you can buy. If you’re more interested in different instruments, try reading 13 Types of Violins.

Happy playing!

Do you have any experience with playing on a fretted violin, or would you like to try it in the future? Share in the comments below!

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