History of the Bowed Electric String

Presenter: Benedict Heaney


How & why the Electric Violin Family came to be. Who made what, where and when. This is absolutely extraordinary story is made all the more incredible because it is told here for the first time.

Certainly, after the 1950s, those picking up the quest for an ideal electrified violin are pursuing a path maybe less trodden but nonetheless already cleared. The fetters have been snapped from the art of music. These instruments mark an absolutely new epoch in music as well as in musical instruments.

The contemporary researcher compared to one just a few years ago has a vastly enriched database of material to search and draw from to focus their study: on the people, events, places and times that matter. As can readily be found, there are instances of players, makers of instruments and composers working with electric violin stating they were the first to do so.

Assumedly, mostly made in honesty, the claimant having searched around available sources found nothing of note to contradict, and simply a wrong conclusion was drawn. Such are the resources available today however proof is readily found that a case for an electronically adjusted (“Electric”) Violin was made long ago.


An energetic, enthusiastic and highly motivated individual sustained by the creative and expressive arts. With 30+ years’ experience in the music industry, including 20 years teaching, I have been engaged in a broad range of activities; from working on commercial, corporate and independent projects, within mainstream, state, private and health care sectors.

A key interest over the last 30 years has been playing and researching the role of the electric violin in music today. As an electric violinist I work both as soloist and in ensemble, particularly with the critically acclaimed group, August List and have performed and recorded with many others spanning 30 years.

My solo recordings since 2017, including a single, EP and two albums Dark Descended & Everything and Inbetween (2022) have all been met with excellent reviews. In 2019 a 30-year retrospective of my work was released on CD on the Mains Spike label. Last summer I was commissioned by the University of Illinois to write a History of the Bowed Electric String for required reading of all Master’s and Doctoral level String students at the School of Music.

I consider this a personal triumph and significant milestone in the development of the profession.

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