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39 cm (15.35) small violas - 352 mm string length - what is your experience making them?


MANFIO

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I received a commission from a player in Belgium for a small 39 cm (15.35) viola with a 352 mm string length.

I have made many 15.5 (39.6 cm) violas but with a longer string length, 375 mm, they worked fine.

I will make the neck with 14 cm. (instead of my usual 15 cm. neck). 

I am rather scared of the small 352-string length. I've heard that stark strings work better with short string lengths.

Would you share your experiences with me! Thanks! MANFIO.

 

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I haven't finished it yet, but I am working on a 39 cm viola, but I'm using 142/213 mm, so a 355 string length. 213 was where the notches were! 

The stark string idea always comes up, but I think it is a balancing act between tension, length, and thickness. It is easier to see if you look at string tension charts for gut strings. Put in the 375 scale on a viola chart,use the default tensions. Write down the tensions, and string sizes, and then change the scale length to 352. At the same tension the string size will go up; but the tension remains the same. 

Playing with that, you should get some sort of idea how much thicker/stiffer strings need to be for the same tension.

This is an easy one:

http://www.gamutstrings.com/calculators/calculator.htm

The question I guess becomes, does the player like stiff, or looser strings. Even at 375 scale, they sell light medium and stark for a reason. Although some might be what the instrument likes.

The answer will give some idea of strings, and how still your body should be. Modern strings makes it harder to fit; so many choices and the are all over; and not cheap. 

I just got Helicore mediums for mine, because they sound decent on a 325 scale on my 15 inch 5 string. They seem to have a fairly complex sound. This is just an experimental viola. I have a back of 1 piece Birds Eye that is 42 cm with a 375 scale, that is ready to start. I have no clue what I would put on that. So many choices.

 

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I've never heard of a string calculator before, but it makes sense to use it. I once accidentally put the spirocore s23 viola strings used on a 14.5 inch viola on a pretty big 18 inch viola and I have to give credit to the quality of the thomastik spirocore strings, they didn't break and after realizing my mistake I was able to reuse those strings again on 15-inch viola without experiencing any problems or deterioration in the sound of these stretched strings. They were very tight, maybe an extra 15 kilos or more, but my 18 inch viola handled it like a PRO, so I ordered the appropriate heavy strings for that instrument and called it a day. But for your 15.35 inch viola, the string lengths seem to be similar to a regular 14.5 inch viola, so anything similar to the string chart below should work fine for your purposes.
It doesn't have to be a thomastik spirocore of course, just make sure the string manufacturer recommends strings for the 14.5 inch body size when ordering your strings and you should be fine. As you can see, there are many differences in materials, dimensions and tensions, even if we are talking about one string brand, 5.5-6.8 kg for C and 7.1-8.6 kg for A string. And that means 25-30.3 kg of tension for the whole set. Spirocores are fairly high tension strings so maybe you want a bit less tension, around 24 kg maybe. I would start with heavy C tungsten wrapped and rest string mediums. I hope it helps.


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