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Who makes F strings for a 5-string viola?


PatR
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Hello! I have a SuperSensitive Sensicore F string, but it's very thick and doesn't match well at all with the D'Addario Helicore set for the other four strings. (All of the strings are long scale, medium weight) Any recommendations? Also, I'd appreciate any recommendations for a good inexpensive (<$100) viola bow. Thanks!!

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  • 16 years later...

Different question:  Why?

I haven't heard of any violas adding a low F string... perhaps for a reason.  Or maybe I just am not clued in.  Is there a recording of such an instrument somewhere?

At least with a C string on a 5-string violin, the 1st harmonic of the open string gets into the region where there is significan body sound output.  Unless the viola design is very unusual (I mean even more unusual that the usual Kasprzyk), there wouldn't be any help at all even on the 1st harmonic of the F string, and I think it would be about similar to adding a C-string to a 1/2 size violin.

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1 hour ago, Don Noon said:

I haven't heard of any violas adding a low F string... perhaps for a reason.  Or maybe I just am not clued in.  Is there a recording of such an instrument somewhere?

I've never heard of any actual need or use, but they do make Sensicores. Maybe in non-classical genres there are players that use them, maybe mostly electric,

https://www.electricviolinshop.com/sensicore-viola-string-2703.html

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On 6/8/2004 at 11:51 AM, PatR said:

Also, I'd appreciate any recommendations for a good inexpensive (<$100) viola bow. Thanks!!

Tough one. You could roll the dice with a Chinese Ebay offering. Reasonable chance something like the below would be OK, I would look for something a few grams above 70 if you are setting up something with a low F

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Master-piece-An-IPE-Viola-Bow-Choose-stick-1-500-unique-forg-Highly-Recommend/313130585465?hash=item48e8098d79:g:-pkAAOSwaThexNZo

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42 minutes ago, deans said:

I've never heard of any actual need or use, but they do make Sensicores. Maybe in non-classical genres there are players that use them, maybe mostly electric,

https://www.electricviolinshop.com/sensicore-viola-string-2703.html

Electric makes sense... where you aren't limited by the acoustics of the viola body.

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2 hours ago, Don Noon said:

Different question:  Why?

I haven't heard of any violas adding a low F string... perhaps for a reason.  Or maybe I just am not clued in.  Is there a recording of such an instrument somewhere?

At least with a C string on a 5-string violin, the 1st harmonic of the open string gets into the region where there is significan body sound output.  Unless the viola design is very unusual (I mean even more unusual that the usual Kasprzyk), there wouldn't be any help at all even on the 1st harmonic of the F string, and I think it would be about similar to adding a C-string to a 1/2 size violin.

Why?  ---a good player (college viola professor) asked me if I could make one.  

One of my early experimental large violas sounded pretty good with its C string detuned to F2 at 87Hz. Like other instruments (violin, etc.) the lowest open string has a very weak fundamental.  But its A0 frequency was low at 170Hz so the second harmonic (the first harmonic is the fundamental harmonic) of the F note is strong so the sound was quite full and the other low notes on that string also sounded like the lower notes of other full size instruments. 

Attached is a frequency plot of the open F note and a frequency response curve of this earlier viola.

I could have made a new 5 string neck, fingerboard and bridge for this viola but I decided to make an entirely new one.

Many typical size violas have an A0 around 220Hz so I agree they wouldn't work as well with an added C string.  

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2020-07-01 at 12.16.46 PM.png

Screen Shot 2020-07-01 at 12.12.32 PM.png

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7 minutes ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

Why?  ---a good player (college viola professor) asked me if I could make one.  

One of my early experimental large violas sounded pretty good with its C string detuned to F2 at 87Hz. But its A0 frequency was low at 170Hz 

Many typical size violas have an A0 around 220Hz so I agree they wouldn't work as well with an added C string.  (I'm sure you meant F string.  -dn)

This pretty much answers why there isn't much demand (therefore supply) of viola low F strings.

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  • 3 weeks later...

A while ago I accidentally acquired a 5 string viola. Since the instrument was a "regular" 40.5cm one (16"), the e-string was barely able to stay on the tuning peg, and painfully tight. So I started wondering about changing it to a deep F instead.

After thinking about this for a while, I sent off a quick email to one of the better known string makers asking if they could suggest a string made for fractional cello which might work. To my considerable surprise they replied that they a) don't make F-strings for violas, b) had some experimental F-strings lying about, and c) would send me two different ones to try out - free of charge - if I would send them an honest report on the strings!

 

So I got the strings, moved everything about and adjusted the pegs while I was at it, and put the first F-string on. When plucked, it sounds about as resonant as a wet sponge. But when bowed! Maybe it's just my cheap&shiny viola that does it, but that string sounds amazing and much closer to cello than "normal" viola sound - even in high positions.

Another week to settle in, and I will write the report on that string, then change to the other one and see if there is any difference.

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Thanks Felefar for your reply.  I'll follow your suggestion of asking string makers for help.

In a replay of the F string discussion from 16 years ago I tried a Super Sensitive Sensicore F viola string.   My recently finished 5 string viola (380mm string length) sounded really good on the F string but I also found the Sensicore string was difficult to bow because it was so thick (1.68mm).

I also have tried  cutting down a full size cello string as was suggested back then.  I used Helicore medium tension C string which was thinner (1.34mm) and much easier to bow.    I believe it was thinner because it uses a relatively high density  tungsten-silver overwrap on a steel core whereas the Sensicore used a lower density chrome winding on a lighter nylon core.

The Helicore cello C string was selected (other makes would probably work too) for trial because I calculated that it had the proper mass/length for a typical viola string tension to produce an open F note at 65Hz frequency.

There are some minor problems with using cello strings:  the end ball is about twice the size and the end winding extends about twice as far from the tailpiece whereas the Sensicore F string end was similar to normal viola strings.

Cutting the cello string to length eliminates the silk winding at the other nut end.  The cut bare Helicore string was too large a diameter to fit through my Wittner 1/2 violin size peg hole so I unwrapped the tungsten-silver overwrap for about 1.5cm and applied a drop of super glue to prevent the overwrap from unwinding.  A cello string is also relatively expensive because about half of the string is discarded.

 

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7 hours ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

>

>

The Helicore cello C string was selected (other makes would probably work too) for trial because I calculated that it had the proper mass/length for a typical viola string tension to produce an open F note at 65Hz frequency.

>

 

Sorry, I didn't write that correctly.

I should have said: "The Helicore cello C (65Hz) string was selected (other makes would probably work too) for trial because I calculated that it had the proper mass per unit length for a typical viola string tension to give an open F note at 87.5Hz frequency."

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I tried the cut down medium tension Helicore cello C string for the low F string on my 17 inch 5 string viola.  It had a wonderful rich, deep, rumbling sound. It vibrated the instrument so much it blurred your vision. Maybe it's a good for giving back rubs that viola players like.

It was much much easier to bow than the larger diameter Sensicore F string but it still required much more down force on the bow is needed to get the string to grab compared to the upper four strings.  Cello players might be used to this.

I concluded it was  better idea to have the extra fifth string a  high E string rather than an a low F string.

 

 

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5 hours ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

I tried the cut down medium tension Helicore cello C string for the low F string on my 17 inch 5 string viola.  It had a wonderful rich, deep, rumbling sound. It vibrated the instrument so much it blurred your vision. Maybe it's a good for giving back rubs that viola players like.

It was much much easier to bow than the larger diameter Sensicore F string but it still required much more down force on the bow is needed to get the string to grab compared to the upper four strings.  Cello players might be used to this.

I concluded it was  better idea to have the extra fifth string a  high E string rather than an a low F string.

 

 

I helped Francesco Bissolotti with the setup when he made a 5 string viola for Kim Kashkashian. Initially I cut a thin (weich) Thomastik Spirocore tungsten wound cello c string in half. She appeared to be be happy with it when she picked it up but I have no information on any final string changes she may have made.

Instead for Salvatore Accardo he did make a five sting with a high e string which he needed for a recording of Harold in Italy..

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4 hours ago, Bruce Carlson said:

I helped Francesco Bissolotti with the setup when he made a 5 string viola for Kim Kashkashian. Initially I cut a thin (weich) Thomastik Spirocore tungsten wound cello c string in half. She appeared to be be happy with it when she picked it up but I have no information on any final string changes she may have made.

Instead for Salvatore Accardo he did make a five sting with a high e string which he needed for a recording of Harold in Italy..

Thanks Bruce,

I'll ask her what she's now using.  

I had used a medium Helicore cello c string.  I'll try some cut down light tension cello strings like you mentioned.  My impression is that it is the diameter of the string should be as small as possible hence the the development of high density metal wrap overwraps.

I'm only about 300 years late in discovering this.   

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1 hour ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

My impression is that it is the diameter of the string should be as small as possible hence the the development of high density metal wrap overwraps.

I'm only about 300 years late in discovering this.   

Anyone make an iridium-wrapped string?  Of course, a neutron-plated string would be better, but nobody is mining neutron stars as far as I know.

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On 7/24/2020 at 3:12 PM, Don Noon said:

Anyone make an iridium-wrapped string?  Of course, a neutron-plated string would be better, but nobody is mining neutron stars as far as I know.

We could use Plutonium which in addition would certainly help the radiation ratio.

If we don't tell the violists, in time they may lose some fingers but would this really make a difference in the way they play?:lol:

 

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  • 5 months later...

Utter newbie here but obsessed with violas and lower strings on them.
I'd be curious to understand why no-one has brought up octave viola strings. From what I've read they work on 14" (bodies) up to 17".
The G from that set would only need to be downtuned one note.

Alternatively, there is the same low G, but designed for an octave violin. The longer neck length of a viola (provided the violin string offers the length to mount it) might make it shoehorn in?

Reviewers report that a cello bow considerably helps engaging the thicker octave viola strings.

I've seen several "odd" body designs to make the very most of the lower notes without adding length to the instrument or encumber playing.

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I've made two small cellos for young players. These were the same body size as my large violas and I used Super-Sensitive Sensicore Octave viola strings on them to give the normal cello tuning.

They sounded very nice but I thought the bowing was very difficult and I concluded that a large viola with an end pin and tuned as a viola with viola strings was better for teaching young cello players than if it were tuned as a cello with the Octave.  Reading the cello music was the same and the fingering was the same.

But cello teachers disagreed.  One young child quit and took up drum playing much to their parents dismay. 

 

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I have not tried weich cello strings, though it seems reasonable to me.

The contrasting strings are medium Larson, Kaplan and Dominant cello a-strings. Maestro Noon's point about the actual output is important. but for the uber-nerd violist exiled to the garage because their spouse not handling the experiments... See if a bunch of old strings can't be mailed to you from those willing to donate.

The Kaplan has been the most supple. My opinion: Low - F on a viola to this point has been difficult as a performance instrument. A 1/4 cello that I own has produced better output than most any low - F on the viola despite the closer string length. The low  F - string feels rigid and the overtones are generally absent on a viola. There is not much room for expressiveness but the low notes can be heard. 

Not being a nay-sayer and would love for great results but that it has been difficult to this point with more conventional violas.

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