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Octave Violin 4: A New Design Concept That Gives Great Results

Posted by paulinefiddle on Sunday, February 19, 2012

I've also posted this in one of my other blogs, "Violinist Seduced by a Viola,"  I've posted photos of octave violin 4 in a photo album on FiddleHangout.


It's so much fun to try a new instrument.  I recently got a new octave violin on loan from my friend who is trying to learn to be a luthier.  This is the fourth one I've tried, and it's fondly nicknamed OV4.  Octave violins, as I discussed in my blog entry of May 4, 2011 (, are similar to regular violins, but they are tuned one octave below the strings on a conventional violin, fitted with heavy strings,  and strengthened structurally to accommodate the heavy strings.  
OV4 is a new design concept.  OVs 1-3 were made from violins whose bodies were strengthened to accommodate the heavy strings.  OV4 started out as a fractional (less than full size) viola whose body is 14" long, the same length as a full size violin.  The structural difference is the depth of the instrument.  The viola has a deeper body which is strong enough to accommodate the heavy strings.  OV4 has a dramatically different sound compared to OVs 1-3:  more deep, strong, and resonant than the violin-based OVs.  I loved it as soon as I tried it.   
As I played it more, I found that I really liked the sound of the two upper strings, but the two lower strings sounded weak.  I tried using various bows, but I could not get as much sound from the lower two strings as I wanted.  I consulted with my friend who made OV4, and he said that he would try something completely new to me:  increasing the length of the after-strings (the part of the strings between the bridge and the tailpiece).  The after-strings resonate in response to the resonance of the bridge, and the effect is more pronounced with the lower strings than with the upper strings.  He made the after-strings 3/4" longer by replacing the current tailpiece with one that was 3/4" shorter.  I had not known that the after-strings could influence the sound this way.  I'm learning a lot from my friend who designs and makes OVs.
The change to a shorter tailpiece dramatically improved the sound of the lower strings and enhanced their playability.  The strings are easier to depress with my left hand, and they are more responsive to small changes with my right hand on the bow.  Now OV4 is easier and more fun to play.  I keep playing fiddle tunes on it, and they sound really good.  








6 comments on “Octave Violin 4: A New Design Concept That Gives Great Results”

bj Says:
Monday, February 20, 2012 @7:13:58 PM

My friend Ed tried to turn a regular fiddle into an octave fiddle. It sounded GREAT, so I asked him to switch with me at a jam so I could try it out. I swear the dang thing almost rattled my teeth right outta my mouth! I think you do need a bit of reinforcement for those heavier strings! And don't forget a mouth brace . . .

paulinefiddle Says:
Monday, February 20, 2012 @7:29:57 PM

bj, you really do need to have the violin strengthened structurally. This usually means taking the top off of the violin, adding another post of the appropriate thickness, and gluing the top back on. Then you won't need a mouth brace. They are fun to play.

beardedbruce Says:
Wednesday, February 22, 2012 @4:56:21 AM


It was the bassbar: I put a larger one in.

paulinefiddle Says:
Wednesday, February 22, 2012 @11:10:51 AM

Beardedbruce, did you substitute a larger one for the one that was there? Don't you sometimes add a second bar?

beardedbruce Says:
Wednesday, February 22, 2012 @11:42:40 AM

On the violins I add EITHER a 2nd bar, about 3 times the mass of the original, , OR ( one time) an extension to the existing bar (*), again about 3 times the mass. On the violas, I just play with the pegbox, pegs, nut, bridge, and tailpiece.

(The bassbar was carved into the top, and FLAT along the top. I put in side panels and a curved top over the original)

richdissmore Says:
Wednesday, February 22, 2012 @8:43:32 PM

hi pauline i tryed to E-mail you check your E-mails

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