JBiggs

Favorite small viola model?

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Hello! I'd like to build a couple of small violas, somewhere around 15 3/8 - 15 1/2". Has anyone built one this size that worked well? What model did you use? I've already built 3 based on the Conte Vitale and would like to try something else. How would you characterize the sound of such a small instrument? Thanks a lot!

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I've seen a lot of old 18th early 19th German violas of this size. The are always sweet, responsive, pleasant, and a joy to play. But I think most modern makers would think you would be crazy to built something modeled after one of these. These days louder and huskier are important even for small instruments. There are plenty of more modern models that will give you these properties. Someone like Manfio probably has some good suggestions. Look for wider dimensions especially between the C bouts.

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I made some 39.6 cms. violas some years ago. They were "fat" ladies. I followed Renè Morel's ideas and used a 15 cms. neck, a 375 mm string length.

Here:

Here one of them in action, with Kim Uwate, Karen Dreyfus chose this viola to her student Kim:

 

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The 1785 Guadagnini is really cool.  I am currently varnishing one now.  I'm not sure the poster is still available but you might be able to find one somewhere.

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38 minutes ago, Dwight Brown said:

This was workable for Mr. Primrose for a long time.  

https://tarisio.com/cozio-archive/property/?ID=43489

 

I am not sure if it was cut down from a bigger tenor or not though.

 

DLB

I don't know if it was cut down either.  Roger Hargrave doesn't mention it in his poster article.

http://www.roger-hargrave.de/PDF/Artikel/Strad/Artikel_1998_12_Guadagnini_1785_PDF.pdf

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4 hours ago, MANFIO said:

I made some 39.6 cms. violas some years ago. They were "fat" ladies. I followed Renè Morel's ideas and used a 15 cms. neck, a 375 mm string length.

 

Manfio those are really great instruments! I read another older post from you recently were you repeated the same comment about Morel's ideas on Viola neck and string length. I'm currently contemplating making my 1st viola, brothers Amati 1570 and measures 410mm. Would you use the 150 neck length and 375 string length even on his size instrument?

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17 hours ago, Mike Spencer said:

Manfio those are really great instruments! I read another older post from you recently were you repeated the same comment about Morel's ideas on Viola neck and string length. I'm currently contemplating making my 1st viola, brothers Amati 1570 and measures 410mm. Would you use the 150 neck length and 375 string length even on his size instrument?

Yep, I would use Morel's ideas.

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Keep in mind that that sometimes the motivation for small violas is that some people cannot manage the long string length. I agree that one should have as generous a strength length as possible, but some may not be able to manage 375. I've seen pretty good sounds from small violas with 360-370, provided the right strings are chosen.

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FWIW, I think Helen Michetschlager advocates a shorter (in general) string length in order to facilitate the left hand.  I'll leave it up to you to decide who holds more clout. 

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I actually favor string lengths that are somewhat proportional to the body length. Especially on larger instruments above 17". This is where a long string length really adds overtones and tonal complexity, provided you get the tension right.  

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Here's my "copy" (slightly smaller at 15 1/4 x 230mm).  This was only my second viola (3rd one was more recently), but I'm guessing that the full Brescian arch shape works best on larger sizes, and might be too stiff to give a big sound on the smaller body.  Mine was fine... responsive, strong bright A string... but kinda sounded a lot like a violin.  I think a more recurved arch would have given it more depth.

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I'm not a fan of the Guadagnini.  It just does nothing for me.  I don't like many Strads either, so maybe it's just me?  Don't care much for the Bros. Amati either.  I've made a 400 mm Gofriller from photos, and a 425 Gagliano styled as a cross between a Gagliano cello and violin I saw in a photo on a calendar.  For a smaller viola;  I think it's  378 or so,  I'd make this one.  I'd love to find back wood like that!  I'd pay real money for it. (small caps real, not REAL!)  It's a Storioni.  Anyone know anything about his arching?  It looks pretty full.

126241.jpg

126242.jpg

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Thanks to everyone for the information, lots of help!  I'm very fond of the looks of the 1765 Guad and the Da Salo, anyone have more information on either?   My third viola was based on the Conte Vitale, but shortened to 404mm.   Kept all other dimensions, it sounded fine and was much easier to play than the full 419mm length original.   I may just shorten the same model another 10-12mm.

I have the Maggini Contralto Viola Strad poster, has anyone copied this viola?

Thanks again to everyone!

 

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On 04/11/2017 at 4:12 PM, Ken_N said:

I'm not a fan of the Guadagnini.  It just does nothing for me.  I don't like many Strads either, so maybe it's just me?  Don't care much for the Bros. Amati either.  I've made a 400 mm Gofriller from photos, and a 425 Gagliano styled as a cross between a Gagliano cello and violin I saw in a photo on a calendar.  For a smaller viola;  I think it's  378 or so,  I'd make this one.  I'd love to find back wood like that!  I'd pay real money for it. (small caps real, not REAL!)  It's a Storioni.  Anyone know anything about his arching?  It looks pretty full.

126241.jpg

126242.jpg

I had this Storioni viola in my hands last July, it is being played now by soloist Julian Rachlin, we met here for some viola test driving. I played it also. The archings looked "normal" to me. I think the wood is "acero nostrano/oppio", that is, local Italian maple. The viola is 412 mm. There is a big knot in the table in the upper left side in the purfling region. The scroll is "alla Storioni". Some more photos of it here: http://www.magico.co.jp/12624storioniviola.htm

 

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