Bow, Pluck or Plug In

When our radio in the bedroom played a theme from an old show this morning, I was attracted by the rich low tones that emanated, and that I identified as being produced by a bass violin. A bass violin–what an instrument that is, and one that used to be played in our churches. I can’t remember, though, when I’ve seen such an instrument in a modern church service. Often, in those long-ago church gatherings the bass was played, not with a bow, but with the plucking of the strings–a pizzacato technique.

I asked Jerry about it.

“You used to play the bass, didn’t you?”

“Yes, I did…never owned one…and I don’t believe I was very good at it, but I did play.”

“Not with a bow, huh?”

“No, just plucked the strings.”

“Wonder why we don’t see those in churches anymore?” I persisted.

“Probably because of electronics.”

That discussion aroused in my mind the issue of whether or not electronic instruments are superior to acoustic ones. Is an electric bass better than those big bubbas that used to stand prominently on the platform? Smaller and more convenient, that’s for sure, but are the tones as full and husky?

And what about these?

Keyboard–Can an electric piano touch a grand acoustic instrument?

Guitar–Is an electric guitar superior to an excellent Martin or Gibson acoustic guitar? (probably showing my age by mentioning Martin and Gibson. Do they even make them today? Is there a much superior acoustic guitar?)

Drums–Had to come back and add these. Almost forgot the choice of electronic drums .

Have you ever listened to the rich low tones of a bowed acoustic bass violin? Have you admired the elegance of the instrument itself? Take a listen here. Excellent music…then tell me your opinion of acoustic versus electronic instruments.

18 thoughts on “Bow, Pluck or Plug In

  1. renaissanceguy

    I prefer acoustic overall. Although a great musician can do great things with electronic instruments that are simply impossible on acoustic ones.

    A good electronic keyboard can produce thousands of sounds in multiple combinations. They can be blended and mixed to taste–right at the keyboard–and even recorded and played back later.

    However, I much prefer to play an acoustic piano, because the expression that I can put into it and get out of just cannot be duplicated on any electronic keyboard that I have ever played.

    It just so happens that I am learning to play the electric bass. I’m enjoying it, but I agree with you about the beautiful tone and appearance of an acoustic.

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  2. Sis. Buxton,

    So glad you stopped by my blog. Yes, I married the baby of the family, Neil Hyler. He’s the best one of all of them in case you didn’t know. HaHa. But seriously, the Hyler’s are an amazing family. They’re a good bunch to call ‘family’. Hope you stop by again sometime. =)

    ~Sherah~

    I don’t know all the Hylers, of course, but of the ones I know, the term “Salt of the earth” must have been phrased.

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  3. Michael

    When a sound is amplified that’s all you get; when a sound is natural or man made it seems the imperfection of that pitch or the chord thats strummed in its imperfection is far superior.

    umm, you may be right. I was especially taken with the tones that seemed almost literally to linger from the bow on the video. Such beautiful music.

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  4. This subject is always an interesting one. After reading the comments, I will have to agree with Jana and Karla. I think acoustic and electric have their distinct places. I also believe that it is not the instrument that makes a “racket”. It is in the expertise of the musician whether or not that instrument makes a beautiful sound or not. I must say I’ve heard some fairly awful sounds coming from acoustic instruments as much as I have from electric. 🙂

    Oh, do I agree.

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  5. We have had an acoustic bass violinist in our church from as far back as I can remember….at least 50 years, probably more. He has just recently stopped playing (this year). I am sure it is because he has become too hard of hearing at his older age. His “base fiddle” still sits on our platform. Just thought you would like this bit of information…

    Neat, indeed. Thanks for telling us.

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  6. Pingback: Age Of Electric » Blog Archive » Bow, Pluck or Plug In

  7. Being a musician and director of music for many years, this topic always touches a chord with me.

    Drums – acoustic all the way!!! Most drummers I talk to (including my son) vote for acoustic, also.

    Keyboard – LOVE an acoustic piano, but an electric keyboard has it’s place. While in a small church with only a keyboard, bass and drums, the electric keyboard had it’s advantages. But… I am determined to have a baby grand piano in my church for times when Bro. Becton comes to preach or the Shoemakes come by.

    Guitar – both acoustic and electric have their place depending on the song.

    Bass – I’d have to say I prefer an electric bass for most Pentecostal music.

    Hi, Karla. I can just see Brother Becton or Sister Shoemake at your grand piano. Nothing like it.

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  8. Hi, Jana. Though I too, as most people it seems, prefer acoustic instruments there definitely are many advantages to electronic, and as you so capably pointed out, some of the sounds are hauntingly beautiful…and realistic.

    Thanks too for the link. His site is beautiful.

    It’s interesting that although people seem to prefer acoustic instruments there is a swing away from them–at least it seems so in the churches with which I am familiar. Certainly that does not apply to classical music, orchestras, chamber music and such.

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  9. My favorite is acoustic but, I must add, the electric does have its place. Several years ago, I heard an orchestra (about 75 pieces) and Hugh Rose was the soloist. As the song progressed, a choir was added and there were several electric instruments, too. Guitar, bass, synth, keys, etc. The combination was soundly balanced and outstanding. It is one of my favorite church memories – combining old world and new world which transformed into a dynamic, goose-bump feeling, over-the-top worship moment.

    P.S. David Hungate (discography here: http://www.toto99.com/disco/hungatedisco.shtml) played a stand up bass on my CD. You can hear him on the songs “I Asked the Lord” and “How Big Is God?.”

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  10. dean

    Sister Buxton, I once played a Martin made in 1930. I was scared to hold it, but what pure tones and wonderful deep bass. I cant imagine what it would sound like in a true artists hands. Ohhhhhhhhh

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  11. Hi, Sherah. Welcome to my blog. Hope you’re here often. I’m trying to remember which Hyler gentleman it is you married. Help me here.

    Glad he enjoyed the post. Does he vote acoustic or electronic?

    I go over and check out your blog.

    Be blessed–

    Edit–Sherah, I took a look at your blog and have the family tree all sorted out now. 🙂

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  12. Sis. Buxton,

    I shared this post with my husband. As you might know he is very musically inclined. He really enjoyed the blog. Your blog was passed on to me by a member of my husband’s family. They love you guys very much. I just started blogging. Check it out if you get some time. I’ll stop by here often.

    Sherah Hyler

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  13. dean

    The Martins, TheTaylors, The Les Pauls, the list is nearly endless. The acoustic I love to play the most cost $99. Just something about the old wood I guess. Are you in the market?

    No, not in the market…just curious. Seems when I was a child, (although I never did know much about guitars) Martins and Gibsons were preferred.

    A couple of years ago, Mike bought Jerry an acoustic guitar at Costco. He plays around with it a little when we’re home.

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  14. dean

    I have owned lots of guitars, own several today, and I pick the acoustic up much more frequently. Wild wood Flower or Amazing Grace?? Your Choice, my choice, Acoustic!

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  15. Oh my, the old stand up, “Bull Fettle.” How I love to hear one played either by plucking or with a bow. The sound is one of a kind.

    My deceased wife could make one of those almost raise its frets and worship the Lord. Then there was the young man who became a Missionary who would play that “Bull Fettle” and dance before the Lord while playing it.

    Those days have come and gone!! Sad !! But true. Now the bass must be able to keep up with the key board, which must keep up with the drum, who must keep up with the guitar and on and on the noise goes. Sorry young people. Please forgive this old man. When I come or go to church I come to hear the Voice of the Lord. It’s kind of hard to hear that still small voice, with all that other going on.

    Mervi

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