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Oct 15, 2020 - 11:37:42 AM
362 posts since 12/14/2010
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Just wondering if anyone has any experience setting up a larger size viola (16 or 16.5, not a 14) with a violin string configuration (from low to high), i.e., medium G, D, and A strings and a medium long-scale E string?  (In other words, the same as the top four strings -- GDA and long-scale E, and not the C string -- as on a 5-string viola)

If so, did you fine the tone deeper, richer, and more resonant than a traditional 4/4 violin? And was the viola any more or less responsive than is a traditional violin?

And did it sound and play decent without even making any adjustments to the bridge slots -- or even perhaps replacing the bridge?

Thanks.

Edited by - hayesdt on 10/17/2020 18:43:14

Oct 16, 2020 - 11:24:06 PM
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4 posts since 12/7/2014

I just play a viola as if it were a violin, @hayesdt; but I leave it in conventional viola tuning (or in something comparable to say, open A, or calico). Frankly, I've pretty much forgotten how to read a viola score (where middle C is the center line); I just use ABC notation to transpose the treble clef score so that my actual notes match the ones other fiddlers are playing. And I own two fiddles* for taking to music classes; it's just too confusing for everyone when I bring the viola. OTOH, the viola adds a wonderful quality to a jam as long as I play in key, and I can add low harmony notes.

Luckily, I've always had a pretty good ear, so matching my notes to what others are playing isn't too hard.

It sounds as if you could also just LISTEN and keep in tune with other musicians with the alternative string setup you describe. I'd love to have you post a few short samples -- a tune, or even just part of a tune -- in the library so the rest of us can hear what you're doing!

-- Rachel Holmen, Berkeley, CA, USA

*one in standard tuning, one in something else -- Cross G, perhaps

Edited by - ViolaRae on 10/16/2020 23:27:33

Oct 16, 2020 - 11:26:01 PM
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4 posts since 12/7/2014

P.S. The viola bow is a bit heavier than a violin bow, so you can occasionally need to take it easy in order not to drown out others in a jam.

Edited by - ViolaRae on 10/16/2020 23:26:51

Oct 17, 2020 - 5:22:52 PM
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568 posts since 8/10/2017

A friend of mine had a violin with a viola body. I think the neck was a violin neck. I don't know if you can string it with the right strings to be GDAE. I have a little instrument that probably has about a mandola/viola string length. I put strings on to do CGDA and then tune them up a step to DAEB. So maybe just see if you can tune your viola up a step. Most fiddle tunes will work.

Oct 17, 2020 - 5:31:15 PM

hayesdt

USA

362 posts since 12/14/2010
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Thanks to both of you. Good suggestions

Oct 17, 2020 - 6:07:38 PM
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2640 posts since 9/13/2009

I did have a smaller (14.5-15.5"?) viola using violin strings but that I tuned a step or so down; I thought it made FCFC or some E tuning sound better than my regular fiddle, but also less floppy. But what you want to do is different.

The GDA strings can just use the viola strings, moved over one course.

I would think you will have an issue with getting an E string, the longer it is, the either has to be thin enough or has to be under very high tension.

The other aspect is more complicated in how sound works, and instrument building and setup, that you might be getting wrong. It will sound different... as violas sound different in the G and above notes, but not necessarily more resonant, responsive or deeper tone. The bigger body might not help the higher notes (>G) much at all. Of course much will be on individual instrument. Many student models can lack cutting definition, can sound a bit mushy, boxy or nasal.

That said, listen to examples of the timbre of the G and above notes on viola, and maybe that is what you are after?

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 10/17/2020 18:10:31

Oct 17, 2020 - 6:51:03 PM

hayesdt

USA

362 posts since 12/14/2010
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quote:

The GDA strings can just use the viola strings, moved over one course.

I would think you will have an issue with getting an E string, the longer it is, the either has to be thin enough or has to be under very high tension.

-------------------------

Yes, but isn't a long-scale E string precisely the type of suitable E string that comes with a set of strings for a 5-string viola (from low to high, CGDAE)?  And in this case I'd just be using the G through E strings of a 5-string set on my regular, 4-string viola.  I've got a cheaper viola I'm going to try this on to see how it works out and will later report back with what it sounds like.

 


Oct 17, 2020 - 8:59:33 PM
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2640 posts since 9/13/2009

AFAIK those are usually considered a 5 string fiddle/violin... and have scale length of regular violin (325-330 mm, or about 12.8 ").... just adds a thicker low string (C); same length as violin.

A pitch is determined by it's mass/thickness; tension and length.

The regular viola has scale of 365-390mm; 14.37-15.35" - or 1.5 to 2.5 inches longer. For same given string (mass and tension)... the longer the scale will make a lower note. (about a whole step lower in example) - The only way to make that longer scale up to E=660 is to use a thinner string or way more tension. It's a bit like trying to tune the regular fiddle E string up to >F# or more. Might try tuning down a step or so. FCGD or lower.

But might find a suitable E string, I would think on a viola would make it a bit thin sounding.

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 10/17/2020 21:12:41

Oct 17, 2020 - 10:52:28 PM
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12 posts since 10/30/2011

I wonder if you could use a single unwound 0.08 or 0.09 guitar string for the E string. It's all plain steel so it shouldn't be any different really. You can find D'Addario singles pretty easily. The ball ends on guitar strings are a little bit larger than violin strings. You can always convert a ball end to a loop end with some pliers and a steady hand.

Oct 18, 2020 - 2:43:51 PM
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967 posts since 6/26/2007

I once converted three violas (two 15.5 inch and one 16 inch) to five-string. I don't remember what I used for e strings, but it wasn't a big problem. One was for a teacher who used the same instrument to teach violin and viola. He thought it worked fine. I don't remember much about the sound quality, except that the smaller ones sounded better than the 16". They were all cheapies.

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