I recently acquired a used 16" 5-string viola that I'm very happy with. I've played a few 5-string violins over the years and decided against buying one. But this viola is a different story. It's a beast volume and tonewise, and I'm looking forward to when I can get together with other folks to jam and play Old Time tunes again. I like that I have the flexibility (with the C string) to go lower than the open G string if I need to, and overall I'm generally happy with the tone of the low C as well as the high E.
I'm aware that some folks acknowledge that 5-string violas have slightly thin-sounding E strings, which is a characteristic of mine I sometimes notice also. So far, I've just compensated for that and made do by using slightly more bow pressure on the E string.
Is there a particular E string brand / type any of you can recommend for a 5-string viola (or violin for that matter) to improve the typical E string "thinness"? And as the 5-string currently has a set of medium gauge strings on it, should I try a heavy gauge E string?
Thanks for the suggestions.
I only have one customer with a five string Viola, it is a 16.5 and she uses a Mandolin E string due to the string lengths. IMHO it sounds pretty good.
WE didn't build a lot of 5-string violas, but I generally set mine up with Helicore Viola E strings. They came in light and medium and worked pretty well. Larsen also makes some which might be even better, despite the fact that Helicore are pretty popular with violists.
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