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Christopher Jacoby

da Spalla

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Interesting stuff...I wonder if a set of plans exist. It would be a blast to make...looks like a challenge to play but I like the sound. 

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Yep, Badiarov is your guy. I sat in on one of his webinars, where he reads you a bulleted version of his 2007 article in the Galpin Society Journal then tries to sell you his book. He sells technical drawings as well. 

I'm torn about the spalla - they sound really neat and look fun to make/play, but the scholarship about their manufacture and use is actually kinda weak. At the very least, it doesn't seem that instruments of the size and configuration Badiarov champions were ever in widespread use. Barthold Kuijken has said Badiarov invented it for Sigiswald because the latter wanted in on the basso continuo action. 

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21 hours ago, Christopher Jacoby said:

Had a client announce she'd like a Violoncello da Spalla today-- Any resources I'm unfamiliar with ya'll know of?

Eric Aceto...Ithaca Stringed Instruments.

I think he is finishing the varnishing on one as we speak.

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I got very interested in this subject some 10-15 years ago, when I first got wind of what Badiarov was up to. I wanted to be able to play cello parts, especially for recordings in my home studio, without having to re-learn everything to play an actual cello. I started out by buying a 1/16 size cello and trying to play it with a strap (after taking out the end pin, of course!). It was an interesting experiment, but there were some serious limitations in terms of playability and sound, owing to the fact the instrument wasn't designed to be played that way, and it was a cheap student instrument to begin with. I was motivated to find out more, and started investigating what sort of historical precedents there might be as well as trying to design something more useable.

As far as historical precedents, there just aren't any clear-cut examples of historical violoncelli da spala that have come down to us in original form, having been used as such over the years, tuned c-g-d-a (or 5 string). There is iconographic evidence of larger viola-type instruments being played this way, including things we'd call a cello being played "guitar-style" with an underhand bow coming up from underneath. Of course, there are several fascinating "tenor" type instruments, and although it's often still debated, it seems logical, and there's enough documentary description, to assume that they were often tuned an octave below the violin, g-d-a-e, not just used as oversized violas. There's one in the Paris museum that's particularly interesting, with an extra long neck that really begs for more study. I also discovered that over the years, there have been multiple attempts to revive this sort of instrument in many different countries, and I settled about 10 years ago on a "Violon à Sons Grave" patented by a certain Monsieur Letellier in France at the beginning of the 20th century for my neck cello duties. It uses the same "trick" I later saw in an  old English tenor at Ben Hebbert's place, viol style breaks at either end of the back to get more rib-depth in the middle, but keep the instrument playable in "violin position."

I have found two main problems with any neck-cello type of instrument. The first is accessibility of higher positions, since greater rib-depth makes it uncomfortable to get above the 4th position. Badiarov got around that by making his a 5-string, and the Banks and Letellier (and some others I've found) did it with a viol-style break. The second is much tougher to deal with, since it's the nature of the beast: getting a low sounding string with such a small string length. Without enough mass, the c-string, if you want to get down that low, will be too loose and intonation will be unpredictable with a fuzzy, nasal sound. With enough mass to get it up to tension, the string will feel like a truck towing cable under your fingers, and you're still left with an instrument body that doesn't seem optimised for frequencies that low. In the end, I still use my neck-cello at times for fun and to study the cello parts in chamber pieces I'm preparing for teaching or performing, but if I ever get back to multi-tracking chamber music, I'm just going to get a real cello and spend some time learning to play it. 

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4 hours ago, Michael Appleman said:

...if I ever get back to multi-tracking chamber music, I'm just going to get a real cello and spend some time learning to play it. 

My "solution" is to play the cello part up an octave on a viola and drop the pitch digitally. It sounds a bit weird up high and some passages are pretty well unstretchable (e.g. the Op132 finale, just finished!), so those I play at pitch and splice them in.

Michael, I never yet came across anyone else sad enough to want to play chamber music all on his own. I've been doing it for 15 years now using Audacity and find it a lot easier than getting a real group to play the right notes all together in the same style

btw I also saw that tenor at BH's!

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19 hours ago, Jim Bress said:

A friend made one earlier this year. I’ll check what source he used for plans. 

No luck here.  He reported that he could find no plans anywhere.  His was based off what pictures he could find and built it like a small cello as opposed to a large viola.

 

Nice post Michael!

 

-Jim 

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I like the size of it.  It isn't huge like a cello, and would be far easier to get around with.  The other day I found a site that had the sizes of Stradivarius guitar patterns.  Even the largest plan has a body far smaller than the Archtop I'm building.  Just viola sized.  Granted, they didn't have the low E, but even so, the volume difference is huge.  

String lengths for the d'Spalla are probably the challenge; like Michael said.  Find a length, and material, for a decent low C, and make it 5 strings.  

Whatever Dmitry is using seems to work, doesn't it?  

It should be simple enough to draw up. There's a current post with a gazillion ways to do it!

 

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From a mechanics perspective, what is the advantage of playing something like this (or really anything) at the neck rather than vertically like a cello? I personally find violin/viola to be the least ergonomically pleasant instruments to play. Obviously if you already play violin/viola it is easier to transition. I do have to say that this guy in the video looks ridiculous but ergonomically I would probably prefer this more guitar-like position (especially for left wrist) to the typical violin/viola position. 

 

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4 minutes ago, glebert said:

From a mechanics perspective, what is the advantage of playing something like this (or really anything) at the neck rather than vertically like a cello? I personally find violin/viola to be the least ergonomically pleasant instruments to play. Obviously if you already play violin/viola it is easier to transition. I do have to say that this guy in the video looks ridiculous but ergonomically I would probably prefer this more guitar-like position (especially for left wrist) to the typical violin/viola position. 

In a guitar position I think you would need an extra long bowing arm.

I've tried this with a very large viola, not as hard as it looks, but It is sort of ridiculous. There's a reason why only a handful of early music purists are interested. But they seem do it well.

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8 hours ago, matesic said:

Michael, I never yet came across anyone else sad enough to want to play chamber music all on his own.

Sad would be a nicer description than "megalomaniac" which is how my wife described it...

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I thought a good name for my one-man-band might be I Solipsisti. A (real) cellist friend suggested I Onanisti.

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9 minutes ago, matesic said:

I thought a good name for my one-man-band might be I Solipsisti. A (real) cellist friend suggested I Onanisti.

:lol:

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4 hours ago, Ken_N said:

 ( ... )

String lengths for the d'Spalla are probably the challenge; like Michael said.  Find a length, and material, for a decent low C, and make it 5 strings.  

 ( ... )

Gut strings offer a variety of thicknesses, so one learns to adapt. The low string would likely be tungsten at this point, following more of the American school set ups. Sonics of gut strings makes sense in that the overtones are a bit less harsh and reedy. If the sound needs to be chunky, the cello exists. I never understood the need for this instrument except for the newer variety of tonal range. I would go to see a recital in a small hall but would assume that it would have about the same appeal as a guitar recital. A very select group of listeners. 

If the goal was to achieve a more cello-istic sound, a very well set up 1/4 size cello would be a better bet. About a dozen ASTA conventions ago i played a 1/4 sized cello on the shoulder in a quartet. The back of the instrument gets muffled from the body so the instrument even more midrange-y. See below. 

 

2 hours ago, glebert said:

From a mechanics perspective, what is the advantage of playing something like this (or really anything) at the neck rather than vertically like a cello?  ( ... )

Not an advantage but an option of having a string being more horizontal.  Mr Tortollier had his adaptation for cello string angle and the Mr Rostopovich changed angles over time.

There are people playing LARGE violas tuned down an octave. It is a challenge in so ( too ) many ways. A great possibly fun project if one doesn't get injured, but otherwise, is it sonically practical? It is not unreasonable up close and some upper octave frequencies sound great, but low frequencies are not very audible.

I can not play in 1/2 position on a 18" viola so it does have to come off the shoulder, but then the restricted bow arm requires a 1/4 - 1/2 size cello or violin ( truly tiring to play ) to get enough pressure on to the string to get the lower ovtave. Lots of grinding, because of limited bow velocity issues. From an adaptive stand point, access to the higher positions is by tipping the instrument on its side, more like a guitar or a giant uke on the chest.

Maestro Kasprzyk should be asked as i get the feeling he has tried this. 

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I taper inward the bottom end of the backs on my large violas so they can fit closer under the chin.  This reduces the arm reach several inches for both arms and makes them much easier to play.

It might be fun to make one of these really big things.

No 33 end.jpg

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Are there extant historical example of this instrument? More than one?  I am a little leery of the historicity.  One the other hand I have heard some nice playing on them and was quite impressed with the sound.

DLB

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1 hour ago, Dwight Brown said:

Are there extant historical example of this instrument? More than one?  I am a little leery of the historicity.  One the other hand I have heard some nice playing on them and was quite impressed with the sound.

DLB

 

Take a quarter teaspoon of salt and give this a read.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://badiarovviolins.com/PDF/GSJ60_121-145_Badiarov.pdf&ved=2ahUKEwiUjN339YzlAhXCLH0KHQDfB_8QFjABegQIBhAI&usg=AOvVaw0vO-BwYOw1JjeCI9dwo2_s

 

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3 hours ago, Dwight Brown said:

Are there extant historical example of this instrument? More than one?  I am a little leery of the historicity.  One the other hand I have heard some nice playing on them and was quite impressed with the sound.

DLB

The scholarship that I subscribe to suggests that back in olden days, people did what they needed to make something work.

While the HIPP crowd frowns on modern hardware (chinrest, shoulder rest), if you use a leather pad or strap, or craft a device yourself, it's generally considered ok.

I've been experimenting with a strap on my tenor viola, playing it da spalla. 

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