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viola/cello 'ridge' on fingerboard between G and C strings


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I've recently been playing my viola from my student days. Here's a picture of the fingerboard:


The curve of the fingerboard isn't continuous; there's a definite break between the G and C strings, and a sort of a 'ridge' on the fingerboard at that point (I hope it's visible in the photo). In fact, it seems as though the fingerboard falls away in almost a straight line, not a curve, to the bass side of the instrument from there. It seems to add to the difficulty in playing comfortably on the C string, to say the least. -)

I asked around, and this break seems to be common on cellos. I'm told its purpose is to allow the C string room to vibrate, without contacting the fingerboard. Is this right?

Is this common on modern violas, or even older violas?

Thanks for any info on this.


Larry Samuels

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I think that it's not necessary to use this type of fingerboard

anymore,  maybe because there has been a lot of evolution in

the strings technology.  

I really don't know if it was possible to comfortably play a viola

or cello with no "buzzing" without using this

"Romberg flat" in the past or if it was really necessary for the

violas, but I think it was probably a necessity for Romberg at

that time for his cellos because of the strings gauges or

stiffness and maybe because of his personal style of playing.


It was maybe a simple idea or a too simple idea to solve a problem

he was having.  I think that it's possible and was possible at

that time to get the same effect or feeling with a round

fingerboard by making a exaggerated "hole" under the C


I still see viola and cello players using this type of fingerboard

but I don't know if it's because they want that or because the

instrument was simply like that when they bought it.

I am not a historian and I did not make to much research about the

strings, but it might be interesting to put this problem in his

historical context if someone feels competent about it.


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This is an extremely interesting thread for me, as I am old enough to have trained on violin with flatwound gut in the A, D, and G positions. An excellent teacher of mine had a gorgeous instrument with string buzzes so frequent that they became almost a hallmark of his, and of the faculty string quartet he led for many years. Please tell us more, experts.

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Hmm... I've always had difficulty in understanding really, how a a flat surface under the string can make less buzzing than a round surface, that should provide more room for the string to move. But making it flat you can be more careless about the curve, eh that is, there IS no curve, so I guess it is not as easy to go wrong. I think many like the Romberg though, because it is sort of facilitated the making of a well-working fingerboard? You have to be a little more careful when you make round cello fingerboards, that is the new way of making round fingerboards. (Very clever post, wasn't it? )

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Consider that on these old violas the C string would have been silver wound on gut -- a relatively large diameter, low tension string. It needed quite a lot of fingerboard clearance, and the flat gives it just a tiny bit more.

I learned on this type of fingerboard in my youth, and I think this style is a little easier for a beginner. A weak little 4th finger can move the string slightly sideways toward the edge of the fingerboard, rather than straight down.

With the old low tension strings, the flat seemed to be useful. With modern strings it is no longer needed.

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I've called this type of fingerboard a "faceted" fingerboard. Indeed it was used to give more clearance for the greater swing pattern of the wrapped gut or plain gut strings. This type of faceting is totally unnecessary for most modern strings, but the violin world is slow to accept change. I tell my customers that the violin busines is 300 years of tradition, unhampered by progress.

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