Viola sizes and measures

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I'd like to create a viola somewhere in the future but I am a bit puzzled on the sizes, it seems to be in a range form 15" to 17" and I have been said that depends on personal player preferences the choice.

Is the any reference on the relative measures: length, width, neck length, thickness of the back and top? 

Thanks a lot in advance,


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This is the advice I would give somebody buying a first viola which may also apply to somebody making their first. Go conservative. Body length around 16.25" string length around 14.75" with a neck:stop ratio 2:3. This will fit a lot of players and most off-the-shelf strings will work. Probably something like an A. Guarneri model, common, boring, but maybe the best chance of working for a first go.

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I would say, violas smaller than 16" are easier to play for most players, but usually lack power, especially on the C-string. If one can't play a 16" one should better stay with the violin. I find 16-16 3/8" the golden middle - you also need ot get the rib height right. I have however recently seen some new violas of 15.5" with a great sound. I have personally not seen a single smaller viola that had a desirable sound.


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When a luthier decides to make a violin, he has two basic models: Stradivari and Guarneri Del Gesù. But if the instrument is a viola it is not all that simple. First there is the question of size (from 15.5 to 18 inches), then the model, that can be Cremonese (Amati, Guarneri, Stradivari), Brescian (Gasparo da Salò, Maggini, Zanetto), Venetian (Busan), or personal. Depending on the choices of the maker the resulting viola can vary a lot in terms of sound, playability and appearance.Then comes the sound, dark or bright. All these possibilities will affect violist’s decisions when they are looking for a viola too.The viola is tuned one octave above the cello so, ideally, it should be half of the size of cello, but that would make it unplayable.

I try to avoid the most common problems associated with the viola: a too narrow dynamic range (you change your bowing and nothing happens in terms of volume and sound color), slow response, a dead C string, lack of clarity (notes will mingle in quick passages) and unfocused and hollow sound.

Playing comfort depends not only on the size but also on the string length, weight of the instrument, neck thickness and width, rib depth and how wide the sound box is, mainly in the upper bouts.


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I have a Guadagnini copy of a viola. I don't  know if it is an accurate copy - but I really like it. I like the way it looks and the 15.75" size is noticeably easier to play than my 16" Strad copy.

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I'd say just go around and ask a few viola players what they like and why. If they demonstrate by playing, you can build your own rough ideas on the sound. For a first instrument it is advisable to avoid any extremes in size. 

One famous modern model not mentioned here is the Tertis model. Tertis developed the idea of the outline and various makers pretty much all over the globe made their interpretation of it. 

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