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Stringing a violin as a viola


CJ

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Ok, don't blast me viola players! But I've got a violin sitting around I don't use much and thought I might string it as a viola. No, it'll never be a viola and sound as great but my hands are small and at best I'd end up with a 15" anyway. What I want to know is: is there anything I should watch out for when I do this? Do I need a heftier bridge or alterations in the nut? Or is it just as simple as moving the strings over and popping on a C-string? Or perhaps I need a whole new set of strings to get the balance right? If I have to do too much to it perhaps I'm better off just trading it in. Thanks for your input!

CJ

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I think the fact that you have "small" hands does not limit you to a 15 inch viola. My son went from a violin restrung as a viola to a 15 1/2 inch viola at about 9 1/2 years old. He had no problem with that size at his age. I think you just have to get used to the stretch.

Good luck!

Renee

[This message has been edited by rainyann (edited 08-08-2000).]

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Hi CJ: I've never heard of doing that before! If I were you, I'd talk to a professional luthier to discuss the ramifications of doing this. There is a reason why the violin and viola are built differently and it would be worthwhile to get an expert opinion. Good luck!

Xena

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CJ,

Actually it is quite common- You could use a violin A, D, and G and a viola C, but the C will sound bad bc it'll be too long- I recommend at LEAST for the C, get a string that comes in a size for 14" violas (full-size violins)- Dominant does, Pro Arte does...I think Sensicore too. I'd try a whole set of the 14" viola strings though, at least if you're not satisfied with the sound from the violin A, D, and G.

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I have no idea if this is true or not; I have no experience about such things, but it seems to me that not only would the viola strings not sit well on a violin bridge, but viola strings will put more pressure on the violin's belly, won't it? What if it caves in or something?

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Actually, I was in the main music store for rentals in our area when I overheard their luthier rent out a viola to a boy. I was looking for a pickup cord for my guitar. He explained that for the smaller instruments they just went ahead and used violins and strung them as violas. (Probably because they could get them cheaper!). Anyway, I got to thinking about it and wondered if it was a wise practice. Seems like at a minimum you'd have to have a little heftier bridge and the nut altered a little. And a top that would withstand the heavier strings.

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Most violins are 14 inches long. An average viola is 16 inches long, but this can vary from 15-18 inches. Anything over 16.5 is considered to be quite large.

If you restring a violin as a viola, I second the suggestion to get "junior" viola strings or whatever they call the kind made for 14" violas.

Your luthier should also adjust the soundpost to favor a lower register on your instrument.

As for the comment about the top being thicker for the thicker strings, this is untrue. The viola is under less tension than a violin, so the top does not have to be any stronger than a violin.

Some very little people play fairly big violas, so I encourage you to try many violas and go to a good shop where they will understand what you mean when you say you are a violinist who would like an instrument that is comfortable. There are some exciting innovations by modern makers making fairly large instruments much more comfortable than they used to be. Try Potter's in Bethesda, MD. They have some excellent examples of this.

Good luck.

Brian

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  • 15 years later...
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I've done this before. I just moved over the A, D, and G and got a short scale viola C. I probably had dominants on my violin at the time and I think I tried a Zyex C. Helicore C might work well for a violin strung as a viola (they make a short scale viola and a violin C).

My experience was that my instrument sounded just fine as a viola (and not really worse than some 14" violas I've tried). 

If you want to keep the violin strung as a viola, you might want to make sure the bridge and nut have the right grooves for viola strings and have a soundpost adjustment. I think some violins make better violas than others.

Regarding viola size, I have a 15.5" viola that I have been avoiding playing because I often  get hand pains when I play it for the duration for example of an orchestra or chamber music rehearsal. While it's very true that small people can play larger violas, not all people are equally flexible and sometimes it makes more sense to play a smaller instrument. Also, I find that having my arm very extended makes playing in first position on the C string, especially with vibrato, rather difficult.

 

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