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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Octave Fiddle

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

nofrets - Posted - 10/05/2007:  20:58:46

Hi All,

Just listened to a tune from Chirps recorded on octave fiddle and have some newbie-like questions. Checking out google, I learn it's as simple as buying octave strings. Is that right? It's unfortunate that twice as low means twice as high in cost. ouch!

Anyway, my questions are:

1. Any special things to be aware of using these strings? (i.e. stress on violin, special bridge, etc.)
2. When is the best time to use it? Playing in unison with another fiddler? Just when you want something lower?
3. Is there one style of fiddle that suits it better? (i.e. OT, Bluegrass, Irish, etc.)

I have a second fiddle that I don't use much, and don't really do much in cross tunings, so I'd be interested in trying them.

Thanks in advance,

tiquose - Posted - 10/05/2007:  22:01:57

I'm interested, too! Chirps's recording is so gorgeous! (See the topic, Amish Town/Coming Down from Denver, or listen at Chirps's homepage music archive:

My number three fiddle might be a candidate for this. I was thinking of selling it because it has kind of a hollow sound that I don't care much for. Would this negative quality be exaggerated if it were set up as an octave fiddle, or muted?

With those heavy strings, is it more difficult to play an octave fiddle?

Gianna Violins (our own member, voodoo) sells The Grizzly Octave Violin, designed particularly to be an octave violin. It has a deeper body, for one thing. I wonder what differences there would be between that and a regular violin strung with octave strings. Maybe voodoo will read this and elaborate.

"Curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back." -my grandmother, Bertha Morgan Nelson

seisflutes - Posted - 10/05/2007:  23:38:18

I know a woman who uses heavier strings on a viola as an octave fiddle. It sounds really cool!

voodoo - Posted - 10/07/2007:  09:17:17

Grizzly is quite nice. Can hear it on "Close to Home" and "Cold Case" on TV - Michael Levine scores those and wouldn't send my demo back! There are some tricks to really getting it working. But the strings alone do OK. Can use a new nut and a different bridge.
Friendsville, TN

tiquose - Posted - 10/07/2007:  12:18:14

Voodoo, what do you think, should I put octave strings on that fiddle with the hollow sound (like the sound is coming out of a bottle)? Would it do the fiddle any favors or just make things worse?

"Curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back." -my grandmother, Bertha Morgan Nelson

bosco - Posted - 10/07/2007:  23:37:21

First of all,I guess the body size of violin is not big enough to make that low sound! You need cello size body to make big good low sound, at least. It's fun to play octave fiddle sometimes, though.
I strung Gibson fiddle which is little bigger and thick top, with Supper Sensitive octave strings. I repaleced bridge with higher and thicker one. Also the nut needed wider grooves.
And I noticed pegbox of some fiddles are too small or narrow for the fat big G string. Be sure that there is enough space under the peg and bottom of pegbox.
Here is a link to Darol Anger's website.

Konnichiwa, arigato, sayonara

Midwest_Fiddler - Posted - 10/08/2007:  09:12:47

Howdy all. I'm glad folks have found my little offering interesting.
Here is the info about my octave fiddle in case you missed it.
It's a fiddle made by one C. E. Waldorph of Brooklyn, IA. The label is dated April 18, 1905. The fiddle is kind of "square-ish" looking and seemed a bit wider/thicker, so, I thought it might work for an octave setup. I took it to Spruce Tree Music in Madison, WI and had Wil set it up for me. I believe that he put on a new bridge and perhaps a new nut (he may have just adjusted it- I'm not sure). These are the items that would need to be different to accomodate the thicker strings. I will have a couple of photos up soon.
BTW, if anyone knows anything about C.E. Waldorph please share it. I haven't been able to find out anything about him.

PS: nice photos of the Grizzly here:

Edited by - Midwest_Fiddler on 10/08/2007 09:16:41

tiquose - Posted - 10/08/2007:  09:30:26

It's beginning to sound like a Guarneri-type violin, with a wide body, and with an otherwise too-bright tone, might be a good choice for conversion to an octave fiddle. Probably fairly easy to find, too.

"Curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back." -my grandmother, Bertha Morgan Nelson

snowgood - Posted - 10/08/2007:  16:46:47

My local luthier has a 17" viola (same size as a 4/4 violin but deeper) which I'm thinking of having him set up with octave strings. Has anybody tried using a small viola as a violin? Any knowledge/guess about tone?


live music, deep snow, fast water, big fish

FiddlerFaddler - Posted - 10/08/2007:  21:46:52

Snowgood, I think you meant a 14-inch viola. I have a 16.5-inch viola, and it is way bigger than a violin. I visited a customer that had bought a decal that fit on the fingerboard of a violin or a 14-inch viola for showing where to put the fingers. BTW, I recommend using a viola bow instead of a fiddle bow on an octave fiddle. You need the wider swatch of hair to move the heavier strings.

FiddlerFaddler Mike

OTJunky - Posted - 10/08/2007:  22:13:30

You folks have way too much spare time...

"I can barely fiddle on four strings. Why would I want five?"

snowgood - Posted - 10/08/2007:  23:34:24


Thanks for the correction (the luthier had it right, just not me) and the suggestion-- I do have a viola bow I experimented with before, now maybe I can find a good use for it!


Midwest_Fiddler - Posted - 10/09/2007:  07:47:04

I would imagine that a small viola would sound great with octave violin strings. If the scale is the same, the strings should fit. I second the viola bow comment. That is what I use with my octave fiddle.

bosco - Posted - 11/04/2007:  07:36:55

I found some recordings of me and John Herrmann plyaing regular fiddle and octave fiddle back in 2005. John was playhing my Gibson octave strung fiddle here. I posted a couple of tunes from the session on Sound Off forum.
Jimmy Shank and Train 45

Konnichiwa, arigato, sayonara

tiquose - Posted - 11/04/2007:  11:10:49

You and John sound wonderful, Bosco!

"Curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back." -my grandmother, Bertha Morgan Nelson

tiquose - Posted - 11/04/2007:  14:54:02

When I was in Oregon visiting my friend David Kerr at his violin shop, I asked if he had any octave fiddles. He said that he didn't, but that he was starting to carry electric violins. He thinks that's a better choice because they can be adjusted (how, I have no idea) to be octave fiddles and will have the volume that the acoustic ones don't have. Volume aside, would an electric sound the same as a "real" violin? Wouldn't it be a pain to drag around all the amplification equipment it would require?

"Curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back." -my grandmother, Bertha Morgan Nelson

voodoo - Posted - 11/04/2007:  17:59:50

Dragging equipment is a pain. One can tweek a 14" viola into a rather nice octave. Some interesting mods work well. If you listen to "Close to Home" and "Cold Case" or watch "Celtic Spring" play you'll hear our "Grizzly" model. On stage with Springsteen etc. Has been well accepted. Dave somebody or other band has one, too.
Friendsville, TN

Midwest_Fiddler - Posted - 11/16/2007:  11:37:55

I forgot to mention it but I posted a couple of photos of my C.E. Waldorph octave fiddle at my homepage. Check it out if you like.

tiquose - Posted - 02/01/2009:  08:13:27

Voodoo, do you still carry the Grizzly octave fiddle? I couldn't find it on your website.

Or does anyone else know of a source for octave fiddles?

"Curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back." -my grandmother, Bertha Morgan Nelson

Edited by - tiquose on 02/01/2009 10:54:16

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