Electric Strings

Electric violin and electric viola degrees are offered in Performance and Literature, Music Education, and Music Technology at the Bachelor’s, Master’s, Artist Diploma, and Doctoral levels. Additionally, electric strings can serve as a cognate or minor. On this page are links to application instructions, frequently asked questions, information on the curriculum, and the current syllabus. Any questions about the electric strings program may be directed to Professor Rudolf Haken, rlhaken@illinois.edu

University of Illinois Electric Strings Ensemble at the Bayreuth Young Artists Festival in Germany August 2022

Rudolf Haken's article on electric strings in the Journal of the American Viola Society, Fall 2021

Demo reel - University of Illinois Electric Strings

Electric Strings at Illinois Youtube playlist

Chuck Bontrager (DMA) YouTube

Matt Bell (MM) YouTube

The focus of the University of Illinois Electric Strings program is on the instruments rather than on a specific style of music. Whereas a Jazz Strings, Classical Violin, or Traditional Fiddle program is geared to a certain culture of music-making, ours allows for any style of music to be performed on electric instruments for attaining a degree. Each student chooses a style on which to focus, and we work to achieve great artistic results in that style. This brings great diversity to the studio of course. Additionally, each student gains at least a working ability in the pantheon of styles that are likely to be required in their playing careers. At this point we have electric strings students working on heavy metal guitar solos, Indian Carnatic music, Japanese pop songs, Baroque viola da gamba works, 1930’s swing, Romantic 19th century European virtuoso showpieces, Nigerian hip-hop, contemporary avant-garde experimental music, and numerous other genres. A similar approach is taken to electric strings technology. Some students prefer to play with a large array of pedals, while others prefer performance software such as Ableton Live, or an effects unit such as a Line 6 Helix. Some are interested in playing with backing tracks while others prefer only live instruments. Some prefer to use the electric instrument to imitate existing instruments through impulse response technology, while others are more interested in creating timbres never heard before. Again, students focus on their preferred technological approach while also ensuring that they gain at least a working knowledge of common approaches to performance and recording. As with any skill, musical or otherwise, systematic exercises are a necessary part of daily practice, not only for effectively learning and performing music, but also for developing sustainable, injury-free ways of playing. Many of these exercises (such as scale systems in various styles, bowing exercises, etudes, improvisation challenges, etc), will be developed and customized to fit individual goals.Every student in this curriculum, from a first-year student on their first day of classes to a DMA candidate defending their dissertation, brings unique musical abilities, artistic perspectives and practical skills to the table. In the environment of one of the world’s great universities, as well as the continuous improvement in electronic musical equipment, resources for achieving success and real artistic greatness abound. The University of Illinois’ Engineering, Physics, Media, Education, and Business programs are all world-class and provide an abundance of opportunities for interdisciplinary research and study. These departments are eager to apply their vast technological research to the art of music. The purpose of this curriculum, and of this course, is to provide you with every opportunity to not only master the art of electric string playing, but to act as pioneers, innovators and advocates in this emerging field of music. Nationally and internationally, electric string players form a close-knit family, at conventions, in online forums, in concerts and ad-hoc performances. The same is true for electric string players in this program. The continuous sharing of ideas and expertise, and the enthusiastic support among members of the studio, allow each member of the studio to succeed and for the combined talents of our musicians to bring forth great internationally-recognized innovations. Even during the nascent stage of this program, before the curriculum was established, our electric strings players were invited to international festivals and tours. This attention and worldwide feedback is sure to expand in the coming years. At the beginning of each semester we will discuss your long-term and short-term musical goals and design a personalized curriculum that best serves your career goals and prepares you for professional success.