Char O’Lette talks keys & violin

Classically-trained Char O’Lette is a musical whizz - and writes amazing hooks on her violin and other gear.

"I sing, play piano, synths, also do additional writing and arrangement and vocal harmonies with the group as well, so keeping busy. I play a little bit of violin when needed. Obviously it could come across as a gimmick but I try and limit it to where it feels right as an instrumental tone."

Char O’Lette was thrown in at the deep end when it came to Planes - her audition ended up in the spotlight!

"Ted and I were at music college together, and for quite some time we decided that we’d really like to start a band, and his friendship with Steve started to flourish. A couple of years ago I was invited to come down to London to meet Steve and also Bill Lloyd who was producing our first EP. It was a sort of audition set up where I just had to record and write some lines, as a vocalist and violinist primarily.

I think in that very first session that’s when we recorded One Drink, which is our single on the EP. So the very first time we met and auditioned we hit it off and Planes was born, really."

We wondered how her German violin from 1890 survives being on the road. It turns out that it’s got quite a bit of character.

"My violin was won on the horses, my grandad put a bet on the horses when I was really young and I decided I really wanted to play violin, so that’s how I acquired it. It’s very old but it’s also not worth very much at all.

So it actually suits carting it around to various gigs and situations and drink spillages quite well."

"It’s got a lovely tone because of the age of the instrument but also I’m able to take it anywhere and use it as required. It’s pretty good. At the moment I use a pick up called The Band which plugs into DIs or through an amp if necessary."

"Plugs into DIs or through an amp if necessary"

Made by Headway Music Audio
The Band is an instant-fit pick-up which Velcros to itself around the the body of the instrument. It requires no alteration of the instrument itself and generates a strong passive (no batteries required) signal which can usually be plugged straight into a mixing desk or combo amp. The multiple pick-up elements, of the Violin version of The Band, are tuned specifically for Violin and deliver a lively, tailored passive signal. The Band is used equally in folk/rock and classical situations and is popular with sound engineers and players, as it offers far greater volume levels before feedback, compared to mics. You can avoid being tied down to mic stands and The Band cuts feedback, bowing noise, body noise and excessive treble by acoustic filter.

"I’m exploring different options of an electric violin at the moment, just because you can come across different sort of sound issues with different venue set ups and things when you’ve got an acoustic violin. Sometimes also you can get different buzzes and frequencies that cause problems. So as much as I love using an acoustic violin for the sound, I think it might be time to start looking for an electric for live shows too."

Char O’Lette is far too modest about her skills, but has a funny description of her style.

"I would describe it as scruffy violining. I’m not a fiddler, I did learn classically but I use quite a lot of low end double stopping and triple stopping, so you sort of create chords, and that’s really fun to explore with different pedals and things as well so it almost - you can make it sound like a synth rather than the instrument itself. But my violin is quite rich in the lower two strings so I try and use that to my advantage as much as I can."

The other key instrument in her repertoire is nicknamed ‘The Beast’.

"I play a Korg SV-1 and it has 88 keys, and I went for the larger one because you get an extra octave of low notes, which works really well with any really heavy organ sounds or even with the Wurlitzer replicas on it, it really does make a difference with boosting that heavier side to our music."

"It’s an amazing instrument, the controls are almost analogue in style"

Made by Korg
The SV-1 (Stage Vintage) is a versatile keyboard that gives you everything from two styles of grand piano through to ’80s synth sounds, making it a great all-rounder for performing. It has Graded Hammer Action available in 73 or 88 keys, and the single-function knobs in the ‘Live’ front panel make for easy changes. It includes favourites buttons, and 36 sounds such as electric pianos, organs and strings. Plus it has Valve Reactor 12AX7 tube-driven amp modeling, a range of effects, reverb delays and a 3-Band EQ. The XLR Stereo balanced stage and recording outputs make it good for studio use too, and it comes with a damper pedal and assignable footswitch and footpedal options.

"It’s an amazing instrument, I’m really pleased with it. The controls are almost analogue in style, so for me that’s quite appealing in that it feels a little bit special to play, it’s a little bit heavier and clunkier so it’s good."

"At the moment I’m using more of a Wurlitzer sound with a little bit of overdrive and maybe a little bit of distortion thrown in as well, depending on the style that we’re playing. This last few months, I’ve been getting to grips with its capabilities and finding actually it’s defining the sound of Planes a lot more now. I’m getting my way round the instrument. It’s brilliant."

The violin strings Char O’Lette uses are designed to cope with changes in temperature and humidity - withstand the rock and roll life!

Dynamic response synthetic string

Made by Pirastro
Pirastro Obligato strings are made with a synthetic fibre core and are designed for good volume and playability/pliability, and a dynamic response. They are robust and resistant to changes in temperature and humidity, and have a warm, rich and bright sound.