Rudolf Haken

Professor of Music, University of Illinois



Application form is at the bottom of this page.

1. Which courses in Electric Strings are offered at the University of Illinois? We offer private instruction in electric violin / electric viola, as well as small and large ensembles involving electric instruments. Independent study for electric cello is also available (see question #5). Additionally, the School of Music offers courses in jazz improvisation, hip hop, rock, ethnic music, music production, recording and related fields.

2. How do I audition for lessons? Fill out the application form at the bottom of the page, including a link to your audition video. On that form you’ll also be able to indicate an interest in ensembles.

3. Does my audition video need to be on an electric instrument? No. Please submit anything that shows your skill on a string instrument, whether acoustic or electric.

4. Can non-music majors enroll in private instruction and ensembles? Yes. Please refer to the last page of the syllabus for course listings.

5. Is electric cello instruction available? As a cellist you can register with me for an independent study section to learn playing styles, repertoire, electric instrument amplification, effects, and recording techniques. However, I’m not a cellist – so if you’re seeking specific guidance on playing technique you’ll need to additionally register for cello lessons. You can also participate in small and large ensembles on the electric cello. If you’re interested in electric cello please fill out the form at the bottom of this page.

6. What are course numbers for electric strings? Please refer to the last page of the syllabus for course listings.

7. Can I take lessons for multiple semesters? Yes, lessons can be taken for an unlimited number of semesters, as long as you are making satisfactory progress.

8. Can I register for acoustic and electric strings in the same semester, even though they’re different sections of the same course? Yes, you can simultaneously register for two sections of the same course.

9. Which degree programs are recommended for a student pursuing a career in electric strings? The University of Illinois School of Music welcomes you to design a curriculum catered to your specific career goals. Please feel free to consult with me when designing your curriculum and keep in touch during the application process. I can be reached at The programs listed below are for undergraduates. For graduate programs please visit

a. "Music+" allows you to combine music with another field of your choice

b. Bachelor of Music in Open Studies allows you to further customize your curriculum

c. Many music curricula enable you to incorporate electric strings into your studies

d. For those pursuing a performing career in the classical string world as well as electric, the Bachelor of Music in Performance is recommended.

e. Bachelor of Music Education can prepare you for a teaching career that incorporates electric strings, depending on how you design your curriculum.

f. Jazz Studies is an obvious choice for an electric string player.

g. CS+Music is a curriculum for those interested in Music Technology.

h. Non-music majors have the option of a Music Minor, which can include individual instruction in electric strings and courses in related fields.

10. Does the University of Illinois have electric string instruments for student use? Yes, we have an “electric string quartet” set consisting of three five-string violin/violas and one five-string cello. These instruments are in demand and shared by students, and may not be taken out of the building except for performances. Therefore it’s best to purchase your own electric instrument.

11. What brand of instrument should I buy? Among the great variety of designs, you should purchase what you feel comfortable playing and what suits your price range. Visit for the greatest selection and expertise. Feel free to ask them questions about various instruments. Also join the “Electric String Players – Violin, Viola, Cello” Facebook group for thoughts on various instrument designs. I personally own a six-string fretted Wood Viper. I recommend getting an instrument with five strings or more as this increases your range considerably, and allows you to serve as either a violinist or a violist. Depending on the number of strings, one instrument can cover the range of a cello, guitar, viola, and violin. Very inexpensive instruments are available on ebay but quality is far from guaranteed. Another option is to build your own electric instrument if you have the time and inclination.

12. What adjustments need to be made in playing technique from acoustic to electric instruments?

a. Hearing and assessing your playing. On an acoustic instrument the sound is  produced entirely “on site”. On an electric, the sound goes through effects and is produced far from the instrument, which can result in a “disembodied” feeling when you first try it. Likewise, playing in an electric ensemble is quite a different experience from an acoustic. Using headphones and in-ear monitors can give you more of a connection to your playing and how it affects the sound, as well as assessing the mix between you and your fellow musicians.

b. Shape of the instrument. Many electric instruments bear little visual resemblance to their acoustic counterparts, resulting in a substantially different feel, as well as a change in chinrest / shoulder rest setup. This tends to be an advantage, as there is no bout to reach around for high positions and the weight of the instrument is reduced. However, those who prefer a familiar shape and sound might find instruments such as the Glasser Acoustic-Electric more suitable.

c. Finding a sound. Some electric strings players are looking for timbres that are radically different from acoustic instruments, while others prefer something closer to an acoustic sound. The Glasser Acoustic-Electric mentioned above accommodates is suitable for these players. Listen to electric strings players online and look for sounds and playing styles that you’d like to emulate.

d. Bowing. Generally, bowing on an electric instrument is lighter than on an acoustic, which requires some adjustment. The same bow used for an acoustic can be used on an electric, but without applying as much arm weight. Instruments with more than four strings require some adjustment in bowing angle, but this is acquired quickly.

e. Using effects. After being accustomed to controlling your sound exclusively with your arms and hands, your feet will now become quite busy as well. The more practice you have using effects, the more nuanced your understanding and your footwork become.

13. What advantages do frets offer? Particularly in noisy environments frets are useful for intonation, yet they don’t force you into well-tempered pitches. They’re shallow enough to glide over, allowing you to be as free to use expressive intonation as you would be on a fretless instrument. You do need special strings for fretted instruments.

14. What equipment do I need other than an electric instrument?

a. Headphones for individual practice, enabling you to hear yourself clearly without disturbing neighbors or having to carry an amp.

b. Headphone amp Some instruments (such as the Yamaha Silent Violin) have built-in preamps, but generally you’ll need a headphone amp, preamp, direct box, mixer, or audio interface to boost the signal sufficiently to be heard through headphones.

c. Effects - most importantly a looper. As you work on different genres of music you’ll want to expand your palette by adding wha, distortion, octave, chorus etc. This can be done “old school” with a board full of individual pedals, or by using software such as Ableton Live.

d. As your career progresses you’ll need a good acoustic amp such as the Fishman Loudbox. Never perform through a low-quality amp, or one not suited to electric bowed instruments. All the work you’ve put in will be lost unless you have a good amp.

e. A DAW (digital audio workstation) on your laptop enables you to make excellent recordings by plugging directly into a high-quality audio interface. Effects can be added after recording. I use ProTools with a MOTU Ultra-Lite audio interface, but many other options are available, including free DAW’s. 

15. Which ensembles at the University of Illinois include electric strings? From this list ensembles that have welcomed electric strings include Hip Hop Collective and Jazz Ensembles. Students can register for chamber music as an electric string quartet as well as enroll in Group Jazz Improvisation classes. (See course numbers at the end of this document.) Additionally, there is no shortage of bands on campus that welcome electric strings.

16. What genres of music would I be studying? Each Electric Strings student learns to play in a great variety of styles, then specializes in those that most interest the student. Students are given sheet music for rock, blues, jazz, pop, hip hop, klezmer, crossover classical, folk music, avant-garde, etc. to gain a working knowledge of each style. Many songs are performed with backing tracks. Students are also encouraged to compose and to collaborate on creating new music.

17. Is it possible to double-major in music and another field? Yes. However, a blended degree such as “Music+” or “CS+Music” is likely preferable as it will be customizable to your interests. (See question #9.)

18. Where can I connect with electric string players online? The “Electric String Players (Violin, Viola and Cello)” Facebook group is a good place to start.

19. What is the grading policy for lessons? At the start of each semester I meet individually with each student to assess their goals, playing level and schedule. Together we craft a workable plan and grading system for the semester.




If you are a current student, please provide your UIN (university identification number)
Choose Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior, Master's (indicate year), Doctoral (indicate year)
2 credits = half-hour lesson per week. 4 credits = full hour lesson per week.
If you're majoring in String Performance or String Music Education, ask your primary instructor to email to authorize your enrollment in the electric strings course. Indicate the name of your primary instructor here.
Please provide a link to an audition video, playing anything you have prepared on a string instrument (does not need to be electric).