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violin strung as viola question


hungrycanine
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I'm looking at a large violin (14.5 inch length) that has been strung as a viola for quite a number of years, while being used by a young learner. A luthier examined the instrument a few decades ago and determined it was likely made in Bavaria between 1860 and 1880. But the "conversion" to being strung and played as a viola happened after that professional assessment.

    Are there any issues about different tensions and stresses of which I should be aware? I'm guessing that violin strings put higher tension on an instrument than do viola strings, but that is ONLY a guess. Are there other issues I should consider, given the unusual history of the instrument's use? Thanks.

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String tension depends on the length, the weight (per unit length) of the string and the pitch to which its tuned. Most viola strings have a weight designed for a string length of around 14.5 inches and tuned to standard viola tunings. If you put these on a violin with a much shorter string length and tune them to pitch they will be much lower tension and flabby, and usually results in poor response and sound.

 

Fortunately many string companies have designed thicker/and or more dense strings specifically for small violas (even the size of fractional violins) which will work much better. I'd go with steel core strings, even though I don't usually like them.

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Thanks for the responses thus far. Perhaps I need to clarify: I'm not considering using the instrument as a viola; I would return it to its original purpose as a violin, albeit a somewhat larger-than-normal violin. My concern and question is this: Would the fact that the instrument has been strung as a viola for the past 10 or 15 years likely have had an unhealthy effect (in terms of stress, etc) on an instrument that was originally designed to accommodate violin strings? I really have no way of knowing what sort/tension of viola strings were used, but only know that the instrument had a recent past strung as a viola. Thanks again.

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Who knows what was on your instrument in its long history, we can never know what strange things people have done, in the past there have been some very high tension metal strings for both violin and viola. I think you just want to optimally set it up now for its future use, and it will probably settle in well over time. Keep in mind that there are many other factors that determine how much string tension a given instrument might like. Especially important is the angle of the strings over the bridge, arching, thicknesses etc...

 

If the vibrating string length is also a bit longer than normal, I would start with light gauge violin strings, if its significantly longer than normal you might run into trouble.

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yes, that makes sense, given the age of the instrument. Like most things, answers are more difficult than questioners usually assume! But at least it doesn't seem that the violin having been strung as a viola for the most recent 1/10th of its life (!!!) NECESSARILY changed anything since the time it was last assessed/appraised/evaluated by a luthier. I'm considering purchasing the instrument in question (a local private sale) and need to rely a great deal on the previous professional assessment (documented) and my own very limited understanding of stringed instruments. I appreciate whatever assistance the forum can provide. 

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...Would the fact that the instrument has been strung as a viola for the past 10 or 15 years likely have had an unhealthy effect (in terms of stress, etc) on an instrument that was originally designed to accommodate violin strings?...

 

I don't see any reason why it would.  I would not worry about it.

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"I would like to know what rib heights are on this fiddle. Measured at the end pin, corners and at either side of the neck."

I'm afraid I can't provide those measurements. Why would they matter? I think I'm content with Brad Dorsey's assessment, as I was only worried that putting viola strings on a violin might have been a foolish thing to do (I've done my share of "foolish things".....)

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