Violin or viola?


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5 hours ago, matesic said:

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.

Shame that it’s not a viola.

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9 hours ago, matesic said:

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.

I like the sound of big violas.  Maybe violins should be bigger too.

Who decides this size stuff?

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11 hours ago, martin swan said:

What if the estimate was unrealistic? is it still a bargain?

The estimate was surely unrealistic or I'd have been outbid. £200 plus commission seems a small price to pay for an old fiddle in good condition with a decent tone and some (maybe not much) historical interest. I think it shows that these boxes weren't just turned out mindlessly, to a standard template - somebody was trying to do something slightly different with this one. Maybe we're wrong to think of the violin and viola as separate species.

 

 

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3 hours ago, Wood Butcher said:

Do you really just think violas are big violins?

Correct me if I'm wrong but I thought it had been pretty well established there are no features that absolutely distinguish a viola from a violin, size being whatever you choose to make it. Of course in most violas the model has been adapted in various ways to make them easier to handle and/or hopefully improve the sound in compensation for the size/pitch anomaly, but physics is physics and the magic formula remains elusive. I'm all in favour of experimentation (for violins too, why not?), but I thought it a bit ironic the other day when I spotted online (can't remember where) a fractional viola on the Tertis model, when I thought the broad lower bout was simply intended to compensate for shortness of length. How broad can you make it..?

 

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5 hours ago, matesic said:

Correct me if I'm wrong but I thought it had been pretty well established there are no features that absolutely distinguish a viola from a violin, size being whatever you choose to make it. Of course in most violas the model has been adapted in various ways to make them easier to handle and/or hopefully improve the sound in compensation for the size/pitch anomaly, but physics is physics and the magic formula remains elusive. I'm all in favour of experimentation (for violins too, why not?), but I thought it a bit ironic the other day when I spotted online (can't remember where) a fractional viola on the Tertis model, when I thought the broad lower bout was simply intended to compensate for shortness of length. How broad can you make it..?

 

Just as a thought experiment, lets say that you went out and discovered a previously unknown del Gesu or Bergonzi. The LOB on your new treasure is 355-mm, and the ribs are an uncut 33-mm. Would you tell the world that you'd found a violin or a viola? 

If you decided that because of the rib height, your snazzy new del Gesu was the only known dG viola, how do you suppose the violin establishment would respond to your claims? 

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6 hours ago, matesic said:

Correct me if I'm wrong but I thought it had been pretty well established there are no features that absolutely distinguish a viola from a violin, size being whatever you choose to make it. Of course in most violas the model has been adapted in various ways to make them easier to handle and/or hopefully improve the sound in compensation for the size/pitch anomaly, but physics is physics and the magic formula remains elusive. I'm all in favour of experimentation (for violins too, why not?), but I thought it a bit ironic the other day when I spotted online (can't remember where) a fractional viola on the Tertis model, when I thought the broad lower bout was simply intended to compensate for shortness of length. How broad can you make it..?

 

If you find a viola that's close to the back length of a violin you will find that it's always significantly broader, the fs are bigger and more open and the head is bigger.

Very few makers produced such small violas, I can only really think of the late 18th C English makers - bot they always signify very clearly that they are violas.

 

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2 hours ago, martin swan said:

If you find a viola that's close to the back length of a violin you will find that it's always significantly broader, the fs are bigger and more open and the head is bigger.

Very few makers produced such small violas, I can only really think of the late 18th C English makers - bot they always signify very clearly that they are violas.

 

Are string lengths about the same as the violin, or do they have longer necks and body stops?

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1 hour ago, Don Noon said:

Are string lengths about the same as the violin, or do they have longer necks and body stops?

I only came across one small viola that was under 38cm - a Duke with a back length of 36.5. The neck proportions were to scale, maybe the body stop was a bit longer ...

I'm sure I saw a Genoese viola in one of the current auctions with a back length of 37.5 or so, but it's super-rare to find anything under 38cm.

Yes, here it is https://www.bromptons.co/auction/7th-18th-october-2020/lots/56-a-viola-by-nicolo-bianchi-genoa-or-paris-1855.html

Check out the size of the f-holes and the scroll - very hard to confuse that with a large violin ...

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I’m coming to this late, but I think I have learned a valuable tidbit. If I understand correctly you can tell a viola by the distance between the F holes, and the hips, or the bottom bouts, perhaps, will be significantly wider. And not by looking at body length or rib height.

I have a colleague, recently, very recently, deceased, who owned a lovely yellow Maggini viola and I always thought that it was a converted violin, because it was just as tiny as it could be, but it was a viola and she played it in the Dallas symphony for 45 years. Her other viola was a Stadleman And it was big as a Volkswagen, I always wondered how she switched back-and-forth.

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6 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

I have a colleague, recently, very recently, deceased, who owned a lovely yellow Maggini viola and I always thought that it was a converted violin, because it was just as tiny as it could be, but it was a viola and she played it

You could be right in a way, Maggini did make some violins with a 37cm back, which were a lot longer than the Italian standard others seemed to work to.
There seems to be growing evidence that these may actually have been the work of Rogeri, made 50 years or so after the death of Maggini. She could have been playing a Roggini:D 

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13 hours ago, Three13 said:

Just as a thought experiment, lets say that you went out and discovered a previously unknown del Gesu or Bergonzi. The LOB on your new treasure is 355-mm, and the ribs are an uncut 33-mm. Would you tell the world that you'd found a violin or a viola? 

If you decided that because of the rib height, your snazzy new del Gesu was the only known dG viola, how do you suppose the violin establishment would respond to your claims? 

I'd keep my big mouth shut. I'll remember Martin's criteria, but since mine looks to me like a scaled down viola and quacks like a viola elgar chant de nuit czech viola.mp3I intend to play it as a viola!

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After a few days I've discovered something about my tiny "viola" that may prove that it's really a violin. The neck width of 22mm at the nut (as compared with 24mm on a WHLee) makes it harder to play doublestops cleanly when slurring between CG and GD strings in first position. It appears the C-string needs that little bit more wiggle room.

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  • 2 weeks later...

If the vibrating string length is the same as for a full-size violin, try a Helicore Heavy C instead of the Medium.

I have a violin strung as a viola. It came with Helicore mediums. The C was too fuzzy. Switched to Tonicas but the C was even worse, like a floppy rubber band. At the suggestion of some folks at violinist.com and a rep at D'Addario, I recently put on a Helicore Heavy C. It's so much better! The tension is only a pound heavier than for the Medium but the thicker gauge makes it work better at such a short length. It blends seamlessly with the Tonicas. The volume is even across the strings and everything just has a lot more ring. Might not work the same for you, but it's a cheap experiment.

You might also try a set of Corelli Crystals #230 for small viola. Concord Music carries them. Years ago an article in Strings magazine rated them the best strings for small "fractional" violas. I have a set on the way as my next string experiment.

HTH!

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7 hours ago, amritakaur said:

If the vibrating string length is the same as for a full-size violin, try a Helicore Heavy C instead of the Medium.

I have a violin strung as a viola. It came with Helicore mediums. The C was too fuzzy. Switched to Tonicas but the C was even worse, like a floppy rubber band. At the suggestion of some folks at violinist.com and a rep at D'Addario, I recently put on a Helicore Heavy C. It's so much better! The tension is only a pound heavier than for the Medium but the thicker gauge makes it work better at such a short length. It blends seamlessly with the Tonicas. The volume is even across the strings and everything just has a lot more ring. Might not work the same for you, but it's a cheap experiment.

You might also try a set of Corelli Crystals #230 for small viola. Concord Music carries them. Years ago an article in Strings magazine rated them the best strings for small "fractional" violas. I have a set on the way as my next string experiment.

HTH!

Thanks for the suggestions. For the time being I'm going with "violin" until I hear (and get some feedback) how well it sounds in ensemble. To my ears on the G and E strings it outplays a lot of much classier violins I've tried so I'm wondering what might be done for the D and A. It's a kind of Cinderella thing...

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