Quadibloc

Ergonomic Viola Idea

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Start out by imagining a violin. Except, like the Viola Pomposa, it has five strings, the C string on a viola not found on the violin being added.

The bridge, however, in addition to having grooves for five strings, is also unusual in that it has four feet. (Patented three- and four- foot bridges were sold in the Victorian era as ways to supposedly improve a violin's sound, so such things do exist.)

Let's number the feet 1, 2, 3, and 4, in order. Feet 1 and 4 are on the edges, feet 2 and 3 in the middle. Foot 1 is the foot that would be over the bass bar, and foot 4 is the foot that would be near the soundpost, in a normal violin.

On this violin, though, things are backwards. The bass bar runs under foot 4, and the soundpost is very near foot 2. Yes, this does harm, not good, to the sound of the violin part of the instrument. But this instrument is supposed to be an ergonomic viola, and thus the viola part comes first.

There are holes in the belly below feet 1 and 3, and corresponding holes in the back.Feet 1 and 3 sit on quite long maple sound posts that project out of the violin part.

Hanging below the instrument, suspended below the violin part somehow, is the body (without strings, bridge, or neck) of a viola. It is rotated about 60 degrees clockwise.

So the maple long sound post coming from foot 1 of the bridge rests on the belly of this viola body about where the treble foot of a normal bridge would, and there's a bass bar running under it. Whatever is holding the viola body up, it's exerting enough tension so that this long soundpost really can transmit vibrations from the bridge of the violin part to the belly of the viola part.

Because the viola part is rotated only 60 degrees and not 90 degrees, the sound post from foot 3 just misses the bass bar; it goes through a hole in the belly (which also has the usual f-holes) and rests on  the back of the viola part, to which it transmits vibration.

Spruce or some other soft wood is used for the bellies of both the violin and viola parts, maple or some other hard wood is used for the backs of both the violin and viola parts. This is why the outer feet drive the two bellies and the inner feet drive the two backs.

I figure that the upper end block, the lower bass corner block, and the lower end block of the violin part would be connected somehow to the lower bass corner block, the lower end block, and the lower treble corner block of the viola part respectively to brace the two parts together, and something would extend from the framework down to the floor, like the pin on a cello, as this apparatus would probably be heavy and unwieldy.

But the violin part would be normally accessible to be played in the usual violin playing position.

Thus, one could have something that would have a big body to sound good as a viola, but which would offer to the player a violin-sized instrument to reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries.

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I realize that it's asking a lot to visualize it from my verbal description, so I did work to make a crude schematic diagram which may help:

erg_schem_w5.jpg.0fb3a9b5e8866c9a6411d1f767ed4bcf.jpg

So the green and red lines show the paths of the long sound posts between the two instrument bodies.

The green one, under foot 1, goes to the top of the lower body, the viola body, and sits on the sound bar close to where the bridge foot would sit normally.

The red one, under foot 3, goes through a hole in the lower body's belly, and sits in a different position on the lower viola body's back than the sound post would normally sit in a viola, more towards the neck, and likely on the bass side instead of the treble side.

Between the red and green lines, inside the top item, the violin part, is the violin part's sound post, which is under foot 2.

To the right of foot 3 is foot 4, and that sits on the violin part's bass bar, which is on the wrong or treble side of the violin part.

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what is 'ergonomic' in this design?:mellow:

To me it looks like complicating things. 

I was expecting something where the outline is altered to help violists playing the instrument like the Erdesz model or the Iizuta model. 

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I have now realized that there is a fundamental flaw in the design which would make it sound strange.

Using a bridge with four feet, as pictured, would impose a ratio of amplitude between the two bellies and the two backs: the two backs would have to move exactly 1/3 as much as the two belies.

Fixing it by moving the feet closer together, to reflect the actual ratio of stiffness, would still leave another problem. Each individual plate has its own resonances, and this changes that individual plate's stiffness for that one frequency.

So, if you want to drive two violin bodies from a single set of strings, you need to give each violin body its own bridge for translating horizontal string motion to vertical motion. Each bridge having only two feet. The strings would sit on a third part, which transmits its horizontal motion to the two bridges for the two bodies.

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48 minutes ago, MANFIO said:

This kind of bridge would not "rock", it would be too stiff.

Exactly, which is why I noted my fundamental error, and instead concluded that a bridge made of three pieces would be needed. But maybe something like this would work:

bridge3.jpg.89a1f9bbda9e8f7c1a037e4e946f5df0.jpg

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1 hour ago, Quadibloc said:

Exactly, which is why I noted my fundamental error, and instead concluded that a bridge made of three pieces would be needed. But maybe something like this would work:

bridge3.jpg.89a1f9bbda9e8f7c1a037e4e946f5df0.jpg

Ours is a traditional,  tough craft; ideas must materialize in instruments and good tonal results and, as far as I know, these good results are reached with a traditional bridge.

Every good maker will do some different things, but in general they are subtle, not radical.

That's why, as far as I know, no patent or invention or radical inovation in the last 100 or 150 has been incorporated by makers.

 

 

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5 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

I was expecting something where the outline is altered to help violists playing the instrument like the Erdesz model or the Iizuta model. 

Oh, I had also been thinking along those lines - thinking about where one could add volume to a violin without getting in the way of playing it. This is what I am thinking of in that area:

volume2.jpg.71a782a5dc16d189dedb1c8d90997d88.jpg

But I also was thinking of this more radical idea, in case something like that was not enough.

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30 minutes ago, Quadibloc said:

But I also was thinking of this more radical idea, in case something like that was not enough.

The T-bone viola!  Only for meat loving viola players . :P

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Quadibloc, You've studied enough that you're ready to "build a better mousetrap".  I think it is time to leave the armchair behind.  Step 1. Build a workbench.

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2 minutes ago, Jim Bress said:

Quadibloc, You've studied enough that you're ready to "build a better mousetrap".  I think it is time to leave the armchair behind.  Step 1. Build a workbench.

My thoughts as well, 

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3 hours ago, Conor Russell said:

But where would you put the chinrest, on the violin or the viola?

The chin rest is on the violin part, since that's the part with a neck. So the relationship between the violinist and the neck and the strings remains the same as with a regular violin.

 

2 hours ago, Jim Bress said:

Quadibloc, You've studied enough that you're ready to "build a better mousetrap".  I think it is time to leave the armchair behind.  Step 1. Build a workbench.

Actually, I have considered this. First, I need to find a local store that sells the appropriate kinds of wood.

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6 hours ago, Quadibloc said:

Oh, I had also been thinking along those lines - thinking about where one could add volume to a violin without getting in the way of playing it. This is what I am thinking of in that area:

volume2.jpg.71a782a5dc16d189dedb1c8d90997d88.jpg

But I also was thinking of this more radical idea, in case something like that was not enough.

Looks like a precursor to the Starship Enterprise - or a bat'leth...can't quite make up my mind...

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Your viola is so unique that only its mama could love it. Don't forget that part of the thrill of an instrument is its beauty. :)

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8 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

The T-bone viola!  Only for meat loving viola players .

Is there any other kind?

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9 hours ago, Jim Bress said:

Quadibloc, You've studied enough that you're ready to "build a better mousetrap".  I think it is time to leave the armchair behind.  Step 1. Build a workbench.

Guess how the ergonomic bench will look like. 

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4 hours ago, dabenno said:

Your viola is so unique that only its mama could love it. Don't forget that part of the thrill of an instrument is its beauty. :)

And, looking at how the corner bouts are constructed, the part that is perpendicular to the neck doesn't really lend itself to being expanded in a straight line.

In that case, perhaps it's best to retreat to my first concept for a more modest attempt at a more playable viola:

moderate3.jpg.bb2838da72ffc53b93d079a024c666eb.jpg

On the bottom is the outline of a 4/4 violin body. On the top, the proposed instrument body shape is based on a 7/8 violin body, but reversed, so that the narrower upper bouts are near the chin. Then the instrument is widened in the middle, so that the narrow lower bouts, formerly the upper bouts, have the width of the lower bouts on a 4/4 violin.

Combine that with increasing the rib height to 60 mm, as was found feasible by Eugen Sprengner.

This way, the height of the instrument is limited to that of a 7/8 violin, so as to minimize the risk of repetitive strain injuries. The basic outline of the violin is preserved, although the shape is changed in a more radical manner than in the Tertis viola - but because the lower bout width is kept the same as that of a 4/4 violin, it should not be unwieldy.

EDIT: However, there is a flaw in this idea that I didn't realize at the time, despite its reasonable appearance. Since the lower bouts are larger, this design, with them reversed, blocks access with the bow to the area of the strings near the fingerboard. That's why I went to the T-bone design instead.

EDIT: Further thought, however, allows me to combine the strengths of the two ideas into something that may finally be practical:

erg_new2.jpg.e15a606fad362c7d470012a1bbf27f94.jpg

This time, I leave the lower bout on the bottom. It is now a subtle change, but I am still adding a flat area in the middle so as to widen the lower bout from a 7/8 violin to the width of a 4/4 violin.

On both sides, I prolong the center bouts so as to change the position of the upper corner blocks. The upper bouts start with the same curve as they have on the ordinary 7/8 violin, but then the curve becomes sharper.

Since there is now a real horizontal area in the center bouts, on the bass side only, there is a small additional lengthening with a flat area.

Edited by Quadibloc
Design provided that avoids flaws found

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12 hours ago, JacksonMaberry said:

Some of the most treasured violas are smaller liras da braccio which were converted, such as that of Yizakh Schotten. These are pretty ergonomic. Why reinvent the wheel?

Definitely, one way to make a viola that has a deep sound from a large body is to start with a cello da braccio or similar instrument, and give it suitable strings.

Since one is no longer playing an enlarged instrument in the normal violin position, the RSI danger is avoided.

However, there is another viola issue which that does not solve. It is not possible to play, on a viola, any arbitrary piece of music written for the violin, but transposed a fifth lower. At least, unless one's hands are one and a half times as large as those of the normal violinist's, in order to reach points on the fingerboard.

To resolve that issue, one has to somehow make a viola that is no longer than a violin. This is why I try to come up with designs like this:

curved2.jpg.2922421933e4707d3efcfe3005ede0e8.jpg

a modification to the T-bone design which attempts to improve aesthetics by avoiding straight lines.

Or perhaps this would be better:

curved7.jpg.9206fa80618542175a7dac87a76641d1.jpg

avoiding modifying the side from which the instrument is bowed, and making the added volume less narrow, thus more likely to contribute a normal sound.

Edited by Quadibloc
Adding additional diagram, avoiding double post

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21 hours ago, Rue said:

Looks like a precursor to the Starship Enterprise - or a bat'leth...can't quite make up my mind...

I couldn't see a resemblance to either of those, but perhaps there is one to something in between: how about a Klingon bird of prey class starship?

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10 minutes ago, Quadibloc said:

I couldn't see a resemblance to either of those, but perhaps there is one to something in between: how about a Klingon bird of prey class starship?

Sure! ^_^

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One problem with these large surface area plates is that they have more node lines that don't vibrate and many more antinode areas that do vibrate than smaller plates at any one frequency.  The anti node areas alternate.  Areas that move upward are next to areas that move downward at any instant.  

The sound waves coming from the large plates therefore cancel in the near field so little far field sound is produced thus it doesn't help to increase the plate area.   Another problem is that the larger plate is also heavier which further reduces the sound output.

If a deep sounding viola is desired from having a low A0 frequency it is better to play with plate thickness, rib thickness, rib height, arch heights, and f hole areas.

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