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switching instruments


Trisha
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I know that most people that have switch intruments in the orchestra switch from violin to viola. Well instead of switching to Viola I have switched form Violin to Cello. I picked it up very quick and now I take private violin lessons every week and am the first chair cello in my orchestra. To me this proves that anything is possible, don't you think?

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: I know that most people that have switch intruments in the orchestra switch from violin to viola. Well instead of switching to Viola I have switched form Violin to Cello. I picked it up very quick and now I take private violin lessons every week and am the first chair cello in my orchestra. To me this proves that anything is possible, don't you think?

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It's great that you have switched. It would be even nicer if you kept playing them both, as Katie and I do. I think it's like being fluent in two languages, only easier. I started violin lessons at age 4-1/2 and cello at age 14. Cello came easily to me, as well, my father needed a cellist for a quartet that Friday, I got the cello on the weekend and played with his group latter that week - mostly Haydn and Mozart.

I then learned quickly to be able to play the violin holding it like a cello (a trick my cello teacher liked to do to tease me) - but I have found that talent dissappeared as the years passed, and now if the instrument goes under my chin, I read music for violin, if my left hand goes into cello position, I read for cello, and find it difficult to sight read for violin in cello position - although treble clef in thumb positions works out OK. The brain is indeed a marvelous organ. Now if I could only adapt it to sight-reading viola parts as well. I find that just to mind bending and I really have to think about it when I do it.

Keep up the good work.

Andy

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I didn't switch, but I began playing the violin and then borrowed a cello out of curiosity. I assumed some violin skills would transfer to the cello, but even I was surprised at how 'easy' it was, easy being relative to when I began the violin. Not to say that the cello is easy, or even easier than the violin because it's not. (I've not yet gotten into thumb position, or other clefs, etc.) Contrary to when I began violin, I found intonation on the cello fairly easy. When I first started violin, I really struggled to get my fingers into the right place at first, but with the cello, it was rather simple. And the bowing- I could get a very nice sound out of the cello in just a few minutes, whereas I sounded awful when I began the violin. And a few minutes after learning where the notes are, I turned to the last page in the essential strings book and played the last song(a simple minuet by Bach, I think) This was not due to any music talent of mine by any means. It took me a LONG time just to learn the violin in tune in 1st position. I just think if any violinist is contemplating adding cello to their repertoire, it is definately to one's advantage already to know one string instrument. Not that someone could just pick up another stringed instrument and play well without lessons, but having already developed a good ear and bowing technique is helpful in learning another instrument.

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Hi:

I'm a violinist who am considering switching to viola. I am reasonably advanced on violin and know all the basics (shifting, double stops, bowing techniques). I'm currently studying Brahms sonatas and Mozart concertos. But I like the viola and my main interest is chamber music.

BUT I have relatively small hands for a person (man). My fourth finger is shorter than almost anyone I've compared with. It's not all a bad thing. The fat little thing I got stuck with is a strong little devil and can vibrate circles around many others' long spindly pinkys. Would you (especially teachers) consider this a reason to avoid the viola? I'm sure I couldn't play the finger

stretching Dont études I'm now working on on a 16 1/2 " viola. I would have to shift alot more than some people. How much

does one's physical stature weigh into the appropriateness of violin or viola.

I also don't want to be obliged to chose a small viola. I have heard many violas and the nicest sound definetly comes from the

medium sized (16 or 16.5 inche ones). If I play the viola I want to chose it for the sound, not for my limitations.

Any comments and examples would help.

Also any comments you might have of switching from one instrument to the other would be interesting to hear. Should I pretty

much stop playing violin if I want to really learn the essential unique qualities of the viola?

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I'm certainly not a particularly good person to answer your questions. I decided about 3 years ago that I could enlarge my chamber music playing opportunities if I could play the viola, so one afternoon I tried, and I did. I then sight read second viola parts in a few Mozart Quintet sessions, and a little other stuff - but nothing that challenged (or helped) my key-signature confusion (which is my biggest problem with the viola). And a significant problem it is, indeed! I vowed to learn to play the viola, but I was too lax in my committment and practicing. I read through the Stamitz, and parts of the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante, and figured I could hack it for most needs. But then I chickened out for a concert next weekend and loaned one of my violas to a far better violinist than I who is not scared of that part, while I will play violin for a string quartet accompanying a bach Cantata.

Anyway, to continue: I am surprised by how little difference in size there really seems to be (to the hand) between a violin and a 16-inch viola. Of course it is further out there but the finger spacings do not seem as significantly different to me as does the width of the fingerboard and the length of the instrument, which put vibrato into a different realm.

I think it would not be a bad idea to concentrate on the viola until you can sight read without confusion. But I would not advise against continuing on the violin as well, once you are comfortable on the viola. It has a literature that is so much richer than the viola. I think the secret may be to drop the violin temporarily, just long enough to become fluent in "viola language."

Of cource, one you are a good violist, your playing opportunites will increase, and you may find it hard to get as many playing opportunities on the violin again - unless you are really a superb fiddler.

Best of Luck!

Andy

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In a recently published technical paper, I read a solution for improving viola tone. You see, the problem seems to be (as I understand it) that string instruments act as Helmholtz cavity resonators, with a certain relationship required between the volume of vibrating air in the larger cavity and the volume of air in the "nozzle" (i.e., the air exit at the f-holes). For the pitch range of the viola the problem is often that the cavity and f-hole volumes are not in the proper ratio. This can be improved by enlarging the "trapped" volume at the f-holes quite easily and reversibly by taping about a one-half inch width of "scotch" magic tape around each f-hole. It is not necessary to completly cover the f-hole outline - just taping to the straighter sections is enough. Do not put tape on the outer surface of the instrument - you just want to "lengthen the nozzles."

It will look better if you submerge the tape so it is not visible from the outside, but even if it is, it will still work to enhance the tone (if it is going to work at all), unless it gets in the way of bowing the A and C strings.

Actually, this works well enough that I am using it on both my violas. It has also improved responsivenes and eliminated traces of a Wolf tone.

Andy

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Hello,

First of all I don't play violin or viola, so feel free to disregard whatever I say. My daughter went to viola from violin but played them together for three years. She took it as a challenge to learn to easily make the switch from one to the other. People had told her it was difficult, so she set out to make it "her thing." She plays mostly viola now. It's sort of like eating jalapenos: you have to like them and you have to be used to them, and it has good shock value.

Roberto Diaz, principal viola in the Philadelphia Orchestra, plays a 16-inch viola and certainly gets a big enough sound.

A. Brown

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I'm a switcher myself, but between clarinet and violin. It can be confusing but I think learning a second instrument is a lot easier than the first, even when they're totally different. But it can be aggravating (spelling) to be playing the Mozart Clarinet Concerto on clarinet but still be stuck on fairly basic to intermediate violin music! I'm the principal clarinetist in my (high school) symphony orchestra this year and I was the principal violinist in the orchestra last year (when I was in Middle School). It's possible.

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