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Violin or viola?


matesic
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This is a question that cropped up just a few weeks ago but Jeffrey found himself obliged to close the thread so I'm afraid here we are again.

violinorviola.thumb.jpg.e503fdb2851232dd208d032b30c72d6f.jpg

This was my latest £200 extravagance from Messrs Brompton, described as "a violin, possibly Czech". Their description also included the lob of 357mm but that was all I knew when I placed my blind bid. It wasn't until I got it home that I discovered the ribs are 34mm. Viewed from the side it looks like nothing but a viola. I've strung it both ways and I'd say it mostly sounds like a viola, although the C string is predictably weak. The E string, on the other hand, sounds sweet and clear. I expect someone will want more pics...

 

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13 hours ago, deans said:

I think 34mm is within the range of many violins. But if you like it better strung as a viola, then enjoy it as such.

Not sure about the "many" - my current crop of violins all fall into the range 29-31 so this would be be a real outlier. If it isn't a viola for violinists' hands (which I think is how it's going to stay) is there any other reason why a maker or workshop should choose to make a violin with 34mm ribs?

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Certain schools and makers were known to use pretty tall ribs, and Prague is a city where they could get this tall. Some makers who usually didn't use such tall ribs would accasionally try it as an experiment. There's a well-known "Ole Bull" Vuillaume, supposedly actually made (or worked on) by Bull himself at the Vuillaume workshop, with "viola size" ribs on a Vuillaume "Del Gesu" model outline. It would seem to be an attempt to get "viola like depth" out of a violin sound.

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2 hours ago, matesic said:

Not sure about the "many" - my current crop of violins all fall into the range 29-31 so this would be be a real outlier. If it isn't a viola for violinists' hands (which I think is how it's going to stay) is there any other reason why a maker or workshop should choose to make a violin with 34mm ribs?

Bear in mind that a lot of old violins have had the ribs lowered over the years. Either from cleaning up the surface after top removal, when new linings were fitted, or to make it conform to an accepted standard of the past.

When you see one that is untouched, you can be surprised. 34 is tall, but not unheard of.

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4 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

I would think that it's a slightly older Schönbach box that "the usual" and suspect that it's been revarnished. I would think of it as a largish violin, and don't think that you can be too bothered for 200 quid

I was suspicious that there's almost no varnish wear underneath the bridge feet, although elsewhere it scratches very easily. Then even more recently someone must have thought it a good idea to varnish the neck and head in a more chocolatey hue. I removed it from the neck

30 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

The eye spacing looks very wide (46mm?), which to me might indicate viola intent.  If I was making a viola that small, I would also make a longer vibrating string length.  If the string was violin length, I'd probably call it a funky fiddle.

Yup, 46 or 47mm. I think it'll be fun to give it a try as a viola with violin finger spacing. Thanks all!

aure berceuse czech viola.mp3

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3 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

I’m wondering if there’s any way to get more sound out of the C string by using a tailpiece that allows a longer string length? Or are there other tricks that accomplish that goal?

The nut-to-bridge distance is the most important (active string length).  As long as the afterlenght isn't unusually short, I don't think it would make a big difference.

But while I'm here... it might be the angle of the photo, but the active string length scales to something very short.  The body stop seems about right, so I'm thinking the neck might be short.  If it is a short scale, that won't do wonders for the C string... or any viola string for that matter.

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2 hours ago, Don Noon said:

The nut-to-bridge distance is the most important (active string length).  As long as the afterlenght isn't unusually short, I don't think it would make a big difference.

But while I'm here... it might be the angle of the photo, but the active string length scales to something very short.  The body stop seems about right, so I'm thinking the neck might be short.  If it is a short scale, that won't do wonders for the C string... or any viola string for that matter.

I think my wide-angle lens may be foreshortening the appearance of the neck. The NS/BS ratio is about 0.68, the ASL 331mm. 

1 hour ago, deans said:

You definitely want strings designed for small violas

https://www.viola-strings.com/dominant.php

I would try both the 141.12 and the 141.34, see which one works best 

A lot of people use the Helicore short scale too

I'm using violin G, D, A strings and a small viola C string. The Tonicas come in at less than half the price of a Dominant set and I've played worse C-strings on bigger violas so I think I'll stick!

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25 minutes ago, Felefar said:

Maybe it's a 3/4 viola? :P

The fractional size classification gets rather ambiguous when applied to violas. I don't know about the Saxon workshops but I notice reading the Lambert-Humbert catalogue of 1912 https://www.luthiers-mirecourt.com/laberte_humbert_1912.htm#partie1  that whereas violins and cellos are manufactured in 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and 4/4 sizes, violas come in just the one, unspecified, take-it-or-leave-it size!

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58 minutes ago, matesic said:

The fractional size classification gets rather ambiguous when applied to violas. I don't know about the Saxon workshops but I notice reading the Lambert-Humbert catalogue of 1912 https://www.luthiers-mirecourt.com/laberte_humbert_1912.htm#partie1  that whereas violins and cellos are manufactured in 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and 4/4 sizes, violas come in just the one, unspecified, take-it-or-leave-it size!

Yes I know - my stepdaughter played a little viola for a while while she was learning violin. The school had some small horrible ones, and some big ones, and when she needed a 3/4-ish size we put viola strings on a 4/4 violin. There seems to be small violas for small children, and anything from 37cm to 47cm for adults, but very few "upper intermediate size" ones like 3/4. So this one might actually be a good candidate for a young viola learner!

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17 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

I am curious - if the EADG strings all sound good on it, but the C string is weak, why do you want to make it a viola?

From your description, it sounds like you have a violin with a nice dark tone, which can be very desirable violin to fiddle players, in particular.

Frankly, I don't need another violin! This one would be enjoyable to play occasionally but I've become intrigued by the possibilities of a small viola, particularly in string quartets where I find it's only too easy for a big one to overpower the violins.

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42 minutes ago, rudall said:

So why did you buy it, seeing that it was described as a violin?

You do seem to have a burning need to buy crap in auctions. 

To practise refurbishment, minor repairs and setting up, if that's OK with you? Hands up anyone here who only buys an auction violin when they need one. The estimate was £300-£500 so I don't think I did too badly - may even make a profit eventually

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