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Strings for Small Violas


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I rebuilt a 14" viola recently, which I intend to play when my

tendonitis is bothering me. Ahem-now that you have finished

laughing, can someone tell me what the difference is between 14"

viola strings and the more standard ones of over 15"?

Is this simply an issue with the threaded wrapping, or

is the length-density different for a smaller viola string?



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I don't think there's a difference. Viola strings are just viola strings. But you might try the "heavy" gauge (high tension) on such a small viola. Eventually it's not the viola but the string length that matters: if it's the same as on a "normal" viola, you could put "normal" strings.


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What's the string length of your viola (distance from bridge to upper nut)? If it's much below 375 milimeters, as I imagine it is, I would also try heavy gouge strings, perhaps heavy gauge Dominants (or Evah Pirazzis) with a medium gouge A Jargar or Larsen.

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Thank you for all the replies. Using the heavy gauge makes sense,

especially since I have played  some pretty "ropey" C strings

on small violas.

 Manfio-you are correct the string length is 329mm.  I

will play a round with some heavy strings to get the best




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Originally posted by:

In the case of Zyex, Helicore, or Prelude viola strings, the string gauge is identical for all lengths. For example, a Zyex viola G is always the same diameter (gauge). Only the length changes for a 17" viola or a 14" viola.

I find this hard to believe, but didn't have the time to look into it until now. I know there are big differences in fractional violin strings. D'Addario doesn't have a lot of specifics posted on their viola strings for fractional instruments, but I did find this for Prelude. Note that no tensions are posted for light or heavy gauge long scale strings (so I removed those from this chart):

Item # Note Description

LM 16 & over

MM 15 - 16

SM 15 & under

XSM 12

playing length:

millimeters 380 360 330 305

inches 15 14 1/8 13 12

J911 A Aluminum 16.1 14.9 13.8 12.0

J912 D Aluminum 11.6 11.3 10.6 10.2

J913 G Nickel 10.6 10.4 9.2 11.1

J914 C Nickel 10.8 10.6 9.5 9.5

J910 Set

According to this chart, a 12" viola G (model XSM) has a higher tension at 12" than any of the longer strings on their appropriately sized instrument.

I think some additional research would be needed to determine if all viola strings by all manufactures were similar. I always try to use shorter scale strings for short scale violas. I think it would be in someone's best interest to find the correct size string for their instrument.

A simple test would be to buy a short and a long scale of the same string that you prefer and see if there is a difference or not. Be careful with all the extra wrapping you will have on the long scale. If you cut it down, you can seal up the end with a drop of super glue and allow to dry before inserting into the peg hole.

BTW, A great short scale viola string that you don't see much in the States is the Correlli Crystal.

If anyone does experiment with different scale viola strings on the same instrument, please post your findings.

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