First up, Leo Fender’s Electric Violin is hollow. It is a misconception that it is or ever was solid-bodied. Maybe an early prototype may yet emerge from a dusty cupboard or secret stash to prove different, but certainly when Leo Fender presented his first production prototype to the world in 1957, it was and still is an instrument with fully chambered body. To be absolutely clear and certain, the inside of a Leo Fender Electric Violin is not like the inside of a Telecaster, Stratocaster, Precision Bass etc. It has a top, back and sides. The Fender Violin was set to be the first fully chambered ‘hollow-bodied’ Fender Electric Musical Instrument… if it had ever made it to full production in 1958!
Everything about the technical mechanism of this groundbreaking bowed electric instrument can be learnt from the patent specifications which have been publicly available since 1961. For reasons too extraordinary to comprehend however, these appear to have been either overlooked, ignored or simply missed for decades.
The following diagrams have been made from those patent specifications with new labels added for clarity. From them another popular misconception can be exploded. Leo Fender’s Electric Violin Pickup might be electromagnetic, but it does not operate in the same way as his hugely successful Electric Guitar Pickup. Contrary to a long held belief, any type of strings can be used on this instrument – be they steel, gut, synthetic etc. The key difference in Leo Fender’s Violin it is the vibration of the bridge that causes flux in the magnetic field, not the strings.
As can be seen in the diagrams here, the strings pass in the usual manner over a bridge. The bridge however sits on a steel armature, set in such a way that when the strings vibrate the rocking motion caused in the bridge immediately causes fluctuations in a magnetic field and thus creates an electric signal. Beyond this. the signal is sent via two potentiometers, one for volume, the other for tone to the output socket, which can then be routed either straight to a playback amplifier and speaker set up; or processed, recorded or broadcast however is required.