Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

13
Fiddle Lovers Online


Jan 24, 2023 - 4:40:18 PM
1 posts since 1/24/2023

Hi all,

I'm a journalist and (amateur) violist working on a project about the history and use of the viola as a fiddle. I'm just looking to see if you all have any ideas for sources, research or documents I should look into. I'm based out of Missouri so my newsroom will be looking for local connections as the primary angle, but also interested to learn about it around the country. Any and all ideas welcome!

Jan 24, 2023 - 6:02 PM
like this

1 posts since 1/24/2023

I’m interested in your study. I don’t have any advice for you as I have only been playing viola for three months. I’m interested to introduce bluegrass and country fiddle styles into my playing
Thanks
Tim

Jan 24, 2023 - 6:45:36 PM
likes this

2157 posts since 12/11/2008

Ya' know, I've never been much interested in the viola. For one, it never seemed to be able to cut through the mix and command the attention the other string instruments can muster. For a while I played in an old time group with a professional violist who played with numerous Hollywood-based studio ensembles. I actually saw her play at the Hollywood Bowl one evening. In any case, she didn't play the viola in the old time group. She played the fiddle...much better than I could, too.

Jan 24, 2023 - 6:47:26 PM
like this

132 posts since 3/19/2012

This may not be exactly what you want, but it is fiddling using a viola, with tenor banjo in CGDA tuning.
youtube.com/watch?v=Q9OJd_uOUJg
The first reel is The Broken Pledge, don't know the other one.

Jan 24, 2023 - 7:44:34 PM
likes this

359 posts since 6/3/2016

I do "play the viola as a fiddle", but it's a relatively recent thing for me. And right now I'm playing a tenor viola tuned a fifth below a regular alto viola. I don't think you're going to find any remotely recent historical tradition of playing the viola as a fiddle.

If you go way back in time, there's the medieval vielle: https://earlymusicmuse.com/vielle-introduction/. And later there's the viola da braccio. Here's a nice recording of a viola da braccio that is pretty fiddly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BezbbKJn6_g . The German name bratsche for viola comes from braccio.

In art, you will see paintings of "fiddlers" playing instruments that look like violas, not violins. Here is a link to the 1692 etching by Matthias Scheits with the English title Violin Player and the Old Womanhttps://collection.artbma.org/objects/76936/violin-player-and-the-old-woman?ctx=e173eb710c94f22146879a6d9cdef837dccbd13b&idx=8 . This etchingof a "fiddler" is on the front page of The Don Messer Anthology of Favorite Fiddle Tunes. To me that instrument looks to be the size of a viola and not a violin. I haven't been able to find Matthias Scheits' German title for the etching, but I wonder if it uses the word geige (violin / fiddle) or bratsche (viola).

I'm just an amateur so take everything I say with a grain of salt. I do think you are going to have a hard time finding a historical linkage between the vielle, the viola da braccio, old artwork and modern viola players playing fiddle-style tunes.

I'm about halfway through the book American Antebellum Fiddling. So far all the references are to violin. I'll be very surprised if the viola turns up in it.

Good luck in your search! Hopefully someone with actual knowledge of instrument history and/or musicology will see your question.

Edited by - RinconMtnErnie on 01/24/2023 19:55:51

Jan 24, 2023 - 8:06:18 PM
like this

14146 posts since 9/23/2009

I do play a viola as a fiddle...I cross tune it the same way I cross tune my fiddles...like...instead of Sawmill tuning being AEAE on the fiddle as it's usually tuned, for viola I tune it to CGCG to get the same tuning that I would normally use on A tunes...and play them in C on viola.

But the only reason I picked up viola was because I could get a fairly decent one made in China cheap and I love the low growl of a viola and just wanted to play one. Since I'm just a self-taught fiddler, I automatically played nothing more than Old Time with my viola.

One big problem I would think would be if you played Old Time viola you might have trouble finding jams or band mates who wanted to play in your best keys. For some that wouldn't be a problem I guess, if they had classical training...for the self taught it could be a problem.

I don't know of any traditional uses of viola among Old Time or Bluegrass fiddling styles (self taught amateur that I am), but if you get a look at youtube I think there are a few people doing it these days. There also seem to be people playing Old Time and Bluegrass cello. Seems the fiddle has invited its relations to the Old Time and Bluegrass dance halls.

Jan 24, 2023 - 8:07:02 PM
likes this

359 posts since 6/3/2016

Here is a link to an image of the Matthias Scheits' etching Der Geigerhttps://www.hamburger-kunsthalle.de/sammlung-online/matthias-scheits/der-geiger?artist=Scheits%2C%20Matthias&get_filter=work_search&offset=20 . Once again, that looks more like a viola than a violin to me. But peopler were shorter back then, so maybe not.

In modern terms, I think the word Geiger suggests a player of violin / fiddle. But another German word for the viola da braccio was Armgeige. That suggests to me that a Geiger might be a player of either a violin / fiddle or a viola.

Jan 24, 2023 - 8:10:55 PM
like this

359 posts since 6/3/2016

quote:
Originally posted by groundhogpeggy

...

One big problem I would think would be if you played Old Time viola you might have trouble finding jams or band mates who wanted to play in your best keys. For some that wouldn't be a problem I guess, if they had classical training...for the self taught it could be a problem.

...


And that is exactly why I am playing tenor viola (an octave below fiddle) and not regular alto viola. I can play a tenor viola by ear in a jam. I would have much more difficulty on a regular viola. I prefer regular viola by myself at home.

Jan 25, 2023 - 6:23:08 AM
likes this

Baileyb

USA

107 posts since 1/24/2019

I play my viola the same way as I play the violin. Love the resonance of the viola over any of my fiddles. I'm not really interested in learning to read the viola's alto clef, so I stay with the treble clef. That is a 15.5" viola that I'm playing in my profile photo.

Jan 25, 2023 - 8:16:17 AM
likes this

972 posts since 3/1/2020

Bonnie Rideout has recorded a fair amount on the viola. I think her decision to do so inspired a number of people to try fiddling on the instrument.

Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 01/25/2023 08:16:38

Jan 25, 2023 - 8:24:33 AM
likes this

2623 posts since 7/12/2013

Could you tune a viola like a violin? I have a viola and mess around with it, because I like the sound, but it would be fun to take to a jam and play, but it would really hurt my brain trying to refigure out how to play all the tunes.

Jan 25, 2023 - 9:59:52 AM

83 posts since 12/26/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Baileyb

I play my viola the same way as I play the violin. Love the resonance of the viola over any of my fiddles. I'm not really interested in learning to read the viola's alto clef, so I stay with the treble clef. That is a 15.5" viola that I'm playing in my profile photo.


I love the sound of viola as well. I played a friend's viola a few times in school and had very little difficulty adjusting to the difference in scale. I later went out with a girl whose father played viola with the symphony and it was frankly shocking the things he could do on the instrument, nothing "second fiddle" about it. He played anything and everything, classical, chamber, Panamanian folk music, jazz, country, rock, gospel, by the dots or by ear or improvised. He had a violin as well, but viola was his instrument of choice. 

I'm with you all the way with the alto clef. I can barely read bass clef from playing piano. Treble clef with 8va or 8vb covers all the bases for me. The line in the middle of the staff is  a "B". Period.

Jan 25, 2023 - 10:21:40 AM

193 posts since 12/30/2008

There is a .pdf file available of mostly New England tunes, in alto clef, arranged by someone who played them on viola and mandola.
drive.google.com/open?id=1eu.....1h31_bBaQ

I downloaded it to play on mandola, but I haven't learned alto clef yet.

Jan 25, 2023 - 10:51:24 AM
like this

972 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by fiddlinsteudel

Could you tune a viola like a violin? I have a viola and mess around with it, because I like the sound, but it would be fun to take to a jam and play, but it would really hurt my brain trying to refigure out how to play all the tunes.


You could move the G,D, and A over, remove the C, and put a long E on the A peg to play in violin configuration. It wouldn't sound very good, though--the Viola body is designed for a lower register.

It is a bit awkward playing fiddle tunes on the viola, as they tend not to fit as easily without being transposed or rewritten to account for the different voicing. Once you find solutions to the challenges it can work; you just have to spend the time acquainting yourself with the sonority of the viola, the different range, and the mechanics of playing it. 

Jan 25, 2023 - 11:55:36 AM

2623 posts since 7/12/2013

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

You could move the G,D, and A over, remove the C, and put a long E on the A peg to play in violin configuration. It wouldn't sound very good, though--the Viola body is designed for a lower register.

It is a bit awkward playing fiddle tunes on the viola, as they tend not to fit as easily without being transposed or rewritten to account for the different voicing. Once you find solutions to the challenges it can work; you just have to spend the time acquainting yourself with the sonority of the viola, the different range, and the mechanics of playing it. 


Yeah that makes sense. Maybe I should sell the viola and just get a 5 string fiddle

Jan 25, 2023 - 12:34:42 PM

DougD

USA

10986 posts since 12/2/2007

Playing fiddle tunes on a viola has the same problems as playing them on a tenor banjo in "standard" C-G-D-A tuning. It can be done, but they often don't "sit" very well, especially in the sharp keys. That's why a lot of Irish banjo players today use different strings and tune an octave below the violin, with the same fingerings. It might have been different years ago when you might be playing with a buttonbox that could be in C.

Jan 25, 2023 - 1:24:28 PM
like this

banjopaolo

Italy

257 posts since 9/14/2010

I'm a professional Viola player, classically trained, I love traditional music and I write my own fiddle and banjo tunes often playing viola (I also play violin and some cello), I also play jazz on the viola...
But I don't know much about the use of Viola in traditional music in the past, never heard anything about that


Feb 1, 2023 - 8:55:28 AM

41 posts since 12/16/2016

Check out postings found in the Viola Lovers group and/or search past FHO viola related posts. Paul Kirk posts weekly TOTW and sometimes plays the tunes on viola, maybe message him for more information. Steve

Feb 1, 2023 - 9:23:52 AM

Swing

USA

2242 posts since 6/26/2007

Mark selling your viola and getting a five string is a good option.... having said that, find a five string that is base on a small viola rather than a five string based on a four string size...that bit larger body really does support the C string better and the combination does give you a full range of both instruments....there are many maker/sellers out there... Woodwiz here on the forum can help you for sure... if you need other sources let me know.

Play Happy

Swing

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.2192383