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Mad picker

5 string octave violin questions

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Hello everyone! First post here.

I have started a new project, a 5 string octave violin. I've only have two fiddles before (they're fun to play and sound good). I found some specs online from Alan Golblatt for the violins, but I had some questions about the octave violin. Since lower tones need bigger bodies, my questions are:

-Should I make the sides deeper? If so, what depth works well?

-Should I make the scale length longer? Or should I still follow the specs for the violin?

-what string thickness would work for the 5th string? Assuming that the octave violin strings would be G D A E, what string should I use for the c string? An actual cello c string? Or is that too heavy?

Sorry for so many questions. I've made a couple guitars, banjos, and other instruments, but I'm trying to learn everything I can about violins also. Any input would be appreciated! Thanks so much!

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I have a "Nippon" fiddle, WWI Vintage, That was a rescue. As a fiddle it was loud and pretty harsh. I have two other fiddles of much better quality so the Nippon was not getting played at all.

On a whim I ordered a set of Helicore Octave strings, adjusted the nut and bridge slots, and strung it up. Sounds pretty good and am getting some use out of it now. [ 358mm LOB, Ribs are 32mm at lower block to 30mm at neck block. Lower Bought 210mm, Cs 115mm, Upper 167mm]

Observations on your questions:

Can't imagine a Low C [Octave lower than Viola] that would work sonically or be playable on a violin platform.

I do need to invest in a heavier viola bow for the octave fiddle than my violin bows.

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12 hours ago, Mad picker said:

-Should I make the sides deeper? If so, what depth works well?

-Should I make the scale length longer? Or should I still follow the specs for the violin?

-what string thickness would work for the 5th string? Assuming that the octave violin strings would be G D A E, what string should I use for the c string? An actual cello c string? Or is that too heavy?

Have you actually held a cello &/or string before? :) yeah it's waaaay thicker. String resonance is a function of vibrating length, tension & mass... plus a cello C is A WHOLE OCTAVE LOWER ;) 

 

Or did you mean Viola?

You can buy VIOLA strings for a 14" viola, that'll give you the correct C below the violin's G-D-A-E. 

These days i've seen string sets offered for 5-string violins so that's probably the easiest way to go. I'd assume 5-string violins would be 14". 

From the junk that I've left my fingerprints on, a 14" viola is only slightly thicker in the ribs than a 4/4 14" violin. Haven't measured exactly how much, at guesstimate it's about 3-5mm at most. 

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O.wait... did you mean 5-string Violin C-G-D-A-E or a "octave" strung Violin G-D-A-E an octave lower... or you want the whole C-G-D-A-E an octave lower...? I'm confused... :wacko:

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Sorry for the confusion! I was thinking of making a violin tuned an octave lower than standard, but also adding a 5th string to it. So the A string would be 220hz. I have made 2 cellos (they're really not pretty, but they sound alright), and I remember the C string being really thick. 

So is that even possible? Or would the lowest string be too loose and floppy? Or would it becomes too fat to play?

I was just wondering if, instead of making a violin and stringing it with octave violin strings, actually making a violin-shaped body tweaked to emphasize the lower notes. 

 

(P.s., this is a passion project just to see what works. I'm not the best at violin making, so I thought it would be fun to make a VSO to get practice and to make something that sounds different and is fun to play).

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This would be similar to a Carleen Hutchins "tenor" violin which was one member of her Octet and is tuned an octave below a violin and is large.  I made one and it sounded wonderful and was easy to play for my  large hand and fingers but totally unnecessary for most music compositions.  Adding a C string seems like a fun idea to me.

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I’ve only played one. 

It is crazy low - really the lowest two or three strings require a pickup to be at all musical. 

The one I played was a frankenfiddle made by a friend and had salvaged strings so I don’t really know what the strings were, but I’m pretty sure that the C was a ‘Cello G cut down to length. 

Also of note is that the ribs were roughly viola depth. 

Have fun and keep us posted. 

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7 hours ago, Mad picker said:

Sorry for the confusion! I was thinking of making a violin tuned an octave lower than standard, but also adding a 5th string to it. So the A string would be 220hz. I have made 2 cellos (they're really not pretty, but they sound alright), and I remember the C string being really thick. 

So is that even possible? Or would the lowest string be too loose and floppy? Or would it becomes too fat to play?

I was just wondering if, instead of making a violin and stringing it with octave violin strings, actually making a violin-shaped body tweaked to emphasize the lower notes. 

(I have zero experience nor do I play luthier on TV... :P ...but)

Suspect what hull you end up designing might be a cross between a 1/8 cello and a large viola? Or a 1/4 cello with a shorter neck!

Stringwise these days there are some makers of specific 1/8 cello strings, some say "1/8-1/4" as per Pirastro link above... it's all down to designed string length & they should sound designed note with 'ok' tension for that length. 

Go checkout a 1/8 cello see what strings sounds good/ok on it. :) 

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The C string on an octave viola (ie. a viola tuned as a cello) is extremely thick, and fits very awkwardly on a viola fingerboard. It flaps around like crazy, makes your teeth fall out, and sounds s**t. At least that's my experience of Sensicore octave viola strings. They are just about viable for recording if you do a lot of post-production, but a complete waste of time acoustically.

I think an octave violin is just about viable, lowest string G, but I really wouldn't bother with a low C. It doesn't work on a large viola body and would be even worse on a violin body.

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58 minutes ago, martin swan said:

I think an octave violin is just about viable, lowest string G, but I really wouldn't bother with a low C. It doesn't work on a large viola body and would be even worse on a violin body.

I haven't played or heard an octave viola, but there are some theoretical problems...

The A0 is the lowest acoustically significant resonance in the violin and viola; below that frequency, output drops like a rock.  So below ~260 Hz on a violin or maybe 230 Hz for a large viola, you don't get much.   For a normal violin or viola, the fundamental output from the lowest string is weak, but the first overtone is OK.  The question is:  How many of the low overtones can you lose before  it becomes musically worthless?

With Martin's assessment that a octave G on a violin is marginal, the first acoustically significant output would be on the second overtone (D), with the fundamental and first overtone missing.

Going to an octave C, you'd then be missing the fundamental and the first two overtones as well, so I could imagine that it would sound somewhat like a rope slapping on a flagpole in a strong wind.

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3 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

 

Going to an octave C, you'd then be missing the fundamental and the first two overtones as well, so I could imagine that it would sound somewhat like a rope slapping on a flagpole in a strong wind.

That's a fair description!

There is sound, and you can interpret it as an octave C if it's in the right context, but there's no volume - which is why it's usable if you can do a good deal of post-production.

I used an octave viola quite a bit to record string quartet-type material for TV scores  (allowing me to make a vaguely cello sound with an instrument I could put under my chin), but it was a lot of work to make it sound in any way realistic.

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Thanks for the replies! I think I'll forego the C string (sounds like it's more trouble than it's worth) 

I'll post pictures as I go (but forewarning I'm not using maple or spruce cause I have other woods on hand and dealing with student loans).

Again thanks for all the help!

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Look at the Violoncello da Spalla.  You can find it on YouTube.  It is held against the shoulder with a strap, and it is larger than a viola.  5 string versions are tuned C2, G2, D3, A3, and E4 (Middle C is C4).  Four string versions are tuned like a regular cello (C2, G2, D3, A3).

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