E.H. Roth, Markneukirchen, Germany 1926.

Copy of a Stradivarius Cremona 1714. It has the number A258 inside it.

This has been my main acoustic instrument for years and the one I’ve done most of my recording with. I travel with it all over the world and its fitted with a Baggs bridge pickup. I use the AKG PT81 wireless system on all my violins & I use a Brook custom equalizer with this violin also.

Epoch VP4 electric violin

Gold Coast, Australia, 2003

This is the most even sounding violin with pickup I have ever played. It has become my favorite electric instrument and I take it to most Jazz and all Rock gigs. Acoustically it’s loud under the ear, and with its well designed electronics Epoch have done a great job of removing any unwanted tones. It’s a simple matter of plugging it in and turning it up. It’s so easy. Also having the pre-amp built in saves me carrying any extra gear and it sounds great plugged directly into a PA or into an instrument amplifier – no further EQ is necessary.

Epoch VP5 5 string electric violin

Gold Coast, Australia, 2004

This 5 string violin is really fun to play. It’s Epoch’s latest space-age carbon fiber design and has an extra low string. As with the 4 string model, this Epoch has the pickup and equalizer built in. The neck has been widened to accommodate the extra string and it’s surprisingly comfortable to play. Although I am more dexterous with the spacing of a 4 string, this violin comes into it’s own when playing on the gutsy low C string.


Matthew Bolliger, Sydney, Australia 2004

I asked Matthew to make me a violin that didn’t have the bite the Roth violin has, and whose tone is a bit mellower. He did it! This one sounds glorious and is what I used to record the Chamber Jazz CD.


Matthew Bolliger – Viola, Sydney, Australia 1997

Matthew originally built this instrument as a 5 string violin for me, which made it a violin and a viola in one. Handy! He thinned out the bouts which increased the instrument’s low frequency response but at the expense of the high end. To compensate, I tried an extremely high tension metal E string resembling thin fencing wire, but it never worked well. It’s hardly surprising though – the design of the violin hasn’t changed much in 300 years since the masters got it right, with 4 strings. So I removed the top string and it now makes a perfect violin scale viola.


Epoch VM4 electric violin

Gold Coast, Australia, 2008

This is a 4 string carbon fibre fiddle with a pickup and no electronics. I got this for the purist in me who wants total control over the sound. You wouldn’t believe that with my years of dabbling with studio electronics, I haven’t been able to come up with a better sound than what they’ve already done in the VP series instruments.

Other assorted Instruments

1) Epiphone MM-30E/AS mandolin with bridge pickup. A beautiful instrument, and very easy to play.

2) Fender FM-62SE Acoustic-Electric Mandolin It sounds just like a Fender Telecaster and it’s uncanny the people I have fooled with this!

3) A cheap Erhu – Chinese violin with 2 strings. I bought this in Shanghai.

4) Mahalo Ukulele. I’ve set it up with viola tuning and spaced the strings closer together. Now I can whip around on it as comfortably as I do on a violin.

5) Sarangi – Indian Fiddle I bought in Mumbai. It has a bunch of sympathetic strings which resonate when notes are played. It can sound quite eery and I recorded it on a Vic Roads anti-speeding TV campaign in 2008.

6) Yamaha YTR6355J Trumpet (James Morrison model)


I used to use the Fishman V100 pickup on my acoustic violins. I got into them when those and Barcus Berrys were all you could get. They had a habit of working loose, buzzing and falling out of the bridge at the most inopportune times. So I’ve changed over to the L.R. Baggs bridge pickup and only wish I did it years ago.


Fender Blues Junior (tweed version) This is my old favourite amp that I take to most gigs. It’s only 15 watts, but it’s 15 FENDER watts. It gets new tubes about once a year.

I used to believe that a small valve amp being driven hard had a better tone than a larger amp working at a quarter its capacity, until I discovered the Mesa/Boogie Lonestar. This amp sounds glorious at all volumes and has that famous fat Boogie tone even when played softly, as well as remaining totally un-distorted at eardrum splitting level. Its 2 x 12″ speaker configuration removes the boxy sound inherent when playing violins through single speaker amps. Getting crunch & distortion out of guitar amps is easy – that’s what they’re designed for. But getting it loud AND clean is not so easy. This amp does both. It has a 100w/50w switch which means you can get those big hot valves internally hemorrhaging whilst playing at low level, and that’s the tone I love!! .

When I need to sound acoustic (ie. Gypsy music or with my Classical string quartet) I use a an AER Compact Mobile.  It has a rechargeable battery and can do a 3 hour gig without power. It’s a very clever little amp.




When I am performing away from home and can’t take an amplifier, I plug straight into the PA via a custom equalizer. I created the EQ curve using a few multi effects units daisy-chained together and got Mark Hornybrook to build it into as tiny a box as possible.

The curve is a compromise between what works well in concert halls with large expensive European PA systems, and seedy club PAs with horn tweeters thrown into home made foldback wedges the sound guy built in his garage. Version 1 was designed for the Fishman pickup.

Ian Cooper’s RIG Ian Cooper’s RIG

Version 2  is for the L.R. Baggs violin pickup and has a few more refinements:

Ø      Powered by 12vDC or internal 9v rechargable battery

Ø      Internal battery is charged when powered externally

Ø      Battery test LED

Ø      Cannon XLR DI output plus phono jack output

Ø      DI earth lift switch

Ø      Volume, Bass & Treble trim pots for fine tuning

Ø      Recessed trim pots won’t move during transit

Ø      3v output to power the AKG wireless receiver

Ø      FX send/return

Ø      9v output for powering Boss FX pedals

Ø     Tiny isn’t it!!

This is my pedal board I use for rock and country gigs. At the heart of it is a Boss GT3 multi effects unit. It gives me many different sounds, for example, a string section sound from just a single violin, Wah wah effects, and a hot, distorted lead guitar sound like the guitar solo (violin actually) I recorded on Tin Symphony. At the bottom left is a power point, top left is a battery charger for the wireless transmitter on the violin, centre is the GT3, top right – an AKG wireless receiver, bottom right – 2 Boss pedals: I usually take an equalizer and a line selector. Top centre is a Brook power supply which powers the wireless receiver and the Boss pedals

Wireless Systems

I use an AKG PT81 transmitter with a PR81 receiver. These are broadcast devices and very small. The receiver is the same size as the transmitter and both smaller than a pack of smokes. The transmitter attaches with velcro to a small platform beneath the violin (like an upside down chin rest). The receiver lives on top of the amp or anywhere else on stage. I use this on all gigs and I have found that it in no way changes my sound, nor has it ever played up. The range appears to be about a mile, but it’s impossible to play in time with the band at that distance anyway!


For recorded performances or radio broadcasts I love the sound of a Crown GLM200 condenser microphone. This tiny mic clips under the tail piece and is what I send to the sound guy. I use the pickup and amplifier for the stage sound only as I can turn this up louder without feedback that I can a mic signal.

I use the wind sock because the mic sits directly under my nose and picks up my breathing. I make sure never to yell abuse at drummers when using this mic as it comes out on the recording!   

Here’s another mic I’ve had great live results with, the Sennheiser 441 – the best dynamic mic ever made, especially good for violin because of its directional characteristics and its ability to ignore other sounds on stage.