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16-inch or 16.5-inch?
Picking a size for my first viola
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MACJR
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December 15, 2016 - 1:34 am
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I have been researching violas for a month or two, and I will probably buy a Cecilio CVA-500, to match my Cecilio CVN-500, within the next month or two.

Later, if the viola and I get along, I will invest in a higher grade viola, perhaps the Fiddlerman Concert Viola, which is doable for me if I save up for a few months.

However, I have never held a viola, let alone a large 16" or 16.5" viola, and it is one or the other of these sized violas that I want to try. I have read that you get better sound with those larger violas. At 5'9" I am probably tall enough to handle a 16.5" viola, but I am not overly tall so it might not be comfortable during long practice/playing sessions.

I do have the upper body strength, but I am getting older - which means that I have to live with the aches and pains that come with age (that sometimes get aggravated by hard workouts with heavy weights, or long arduous cardio workouts). I never let these pains hold me back though. As long as I am still able to move about and do things, I will keep moving about and doing things.

So for those of you familiar with larger violas, what do you recommend, a 16" or a 16.5"?

MACJR

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Charles
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December 15, 2016 - 12:27 pm
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I've been playing a 15.5" viola strung as a violin (I sometimes call it a 5/4 violin) for the last couple of months, and I've found it to be noticeably heavier than a violin, and perhaps slightly larger than would be ideal for me.

 

The list of measurements below is the length of your arm (measured with the arm outstretched, from neck to center of palm), then the viola size.  There's not a an ironclad rule that everybody follows. I saw one site that said to measure to the base of the fingers, another that said this is the maximum size - for comfort, measure to the wrist.

Arm    Viola

23.2"   14"
24.9"   15"
25.6"   15.5"
26.4"   16"
27.1"   16.5"

 

According to the physics, a viola needs to be 21" (body) to be in the same proportion to its strings that a violin is.  A handful of NBA players can play one that large (and they are made). 

All things considered, I'd go for comfort and ease of play. The difference in how close each comes to the ideal length of 21" is not that large, and speaking from experience, greater size doesn't make everything better.

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BillyG
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December 15, 2016 - 12:50 pm
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WOW @charles - and LOL @5/4 violin !!!  

That sounds INTERESTING ....  ( not about the measurements etc etc - that's just physics and expected ) just the re-stringing of a viola-sized body to violin....  

As you know from my posts, on one of my 4/4 violins I went the other way and restrung him as a viola....   

Soooo... in your case there - I assume you are fully tuned to G D A E and not wimping-out and tuning a tone low or anything ?   ( Just asking - I often retune my "viola" ( the restrung 4/4 fiddle ) "high" - i.e. up a whole tone - well - I won't go into it - but for a specific reason - I move it up from from C G D A to D, A, E, B - and usually wait for the strings to go POP ( and no, they have not yet ! ) 

I had never thought about how a larger-bodied instrument might sound strung as a violin ( well, if I actually HAD one, it almost certainly would have crossed my mind to try ! ) 

I sort of suppose a MUCH greater body size ( i.e. beyond 16 or so ) really starts to become a bit of a cross between fiddle/viola fingering and a cello ! LOL - well - OK - I exaggerate - but I'm already at full pinkie-stretch on the 4/4 fiddle in first pos...

Yeah  - as I said - interesting - and food for thought, Cool!  thumbs-up 

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
December 15, 2016 - 1:15 pm
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I think you should get a 16" viola. I prefer a 15.5" for my own personal playing. Too much difference in my opinion for switching back and forth. While it's true that a bigger viola sounds more, there are tons of smaller violas with plenty of gusto. 🙂

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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MACJR
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December 15, 2016 - 1:24 pm
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Thanks, Charles. I had seen a chart for size-reach, I think at violaman.com, or fiddlershop.com, but it was missing that last measurement, 27.1" - 16.5".

My reach is a bit more than that, at about 29.5" or so on the conservative side, so a 16.5" viola may work out okay for me.

I have been flip-flopping about which size to get for a while now. I guess it would be best to find out with the less expensive viola, if that size is right for me or not.

MACJR

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MACJR
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December 15, 2016 - 1:38 pm
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Fiddlerman said
I think you should get a 16" viola. I prefer a 15.5" for my own personal playing. Too much difference in my opinion for switching back and forth. While it's true that a bigger viola sounds more, there are tons of smaller violas with plenty of gusto. 🙂  

And of course, this reply would come in while I was working on my previous post.

I have thought that a 15.5" would be more comfortable than a larger viola, and that 16.5" looks rather large and uncomfortable... since I am not even close to NBA player height.

I may go with the 16.5" for the Cecilio, and then downsize for the Fiddlerman Concert Viola.

MACJR

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Charles
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December 15, 2016 - 1:52 pm
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@BillyG,

BillyG said
Soooo... in your case there - I assume you are fully tuned to G D A E and not wimping-out and tuning a tone low or anything ?   ( Just asking - I often retune my "viola" ( the restrung 4/4 fiddle ) "high" - i.e. up a whole tone - well - I won't go into it - but for a specific reason - I move it up from from C G D A to D, A, E, B - and usually wait for the strings to go POP ( and no, they have not yet ! ) 

 

Yes, it's strung just like a violin (GDAE).  I have D'addario Helicores on it, and they make an E-string-for-viola in that line.  Just shifted the high 3 down one and added that one, and there I was.

BillyG said
I had never thought about how a larger-bodied instrument might sound strung as a violin ( well, if I actually HAD one, it almost certainly would have crossed my mind to try ! ) 

I sort of suppose a MUCH greater body size ( i.e. beyond 16 or so ) really starts to become a bit of a cross between fiddle/viola fingering and a cello ! LOL - well - OK - I exaggerate - but I'm already at full pinkie-stretch on the 4/4 fiddle in first pos...

It's very resonant at certain pitches.  I'll upload a sample if I ever quit thinking about posting videos and actually do them... 🙂

The pinky thing is something my teacher warned me about. If you play a viola like  a violin (in particular lots of pinky stuff, you can hurt yourself permanently. It's larger AND requires more force.  Notes played with a pinky should be infrequent.

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Barry
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December 31, 2016 - 10:04 am
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Im 6ft 1 and play a 16.5   , Because of my long reach its the best fit for me. The problem with the cheaper instruments if the 15 inch range is they dont sound very good...this may not be the case on better instruments.

I currently play a CVA 500 and with a few tweaks she is a pretty sweet girl

There is no shame in playing twinkle, youre playing Mozart

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MACJR
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December 31, 2016 - 12:17 pm
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Barry said
Im 6ft 1 and play a 16.5   , Because of my long reach its the best fit for me. The problem with the cheaper instruments if the 15 inch range is they dont sound very good...this may not be the case on better instruments.

I currently play a CVA 500 and with a few tweaks she is a pretty sweet girl  

Hello Barry, I decided to go for an electric violin first, and hold off on the viola for now. I still plan to get a viola sometime soon though. The plan was delayed, not cancelled.  😉

I think I will take Fiddlerman's advice and go for the 16" viola. Once I have handled that, I can then decide if I want to go bigger, or smaller, for a second viola.

Good to hear that you like that CVA-500 though, because that is the one I want to try first. I would rather not spend more money than that one costs for a first viola, especially when I am not sure which is the best size for me.

MACJR

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Elwin
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January 15, 2017 - 4:38 pm
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Well, a 16.5-inch viola is pretty heavy. I'm 5'10" and it fits me, however holding it up does present a challenge. If you're in doubt, then get a smaller viola. I don't know if I'm able to trade mine off for a 16" of the same brand, so yeah.

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MACJR
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January 15, 2017 - 4:59 pm
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Elwin said
Well, a 16.5-inch viola is pretty heavy. I'm 5'10" and it fits me, however holding it up does present a challenge. If you're in doubt, then get a smaller viola. I don't know if I'm able to trade mine off for a 16" of the same brand, so yeah.  

Thanks for the input, Elwin. The more I have read about it, the more I started to think that maybe a 15.5" viola might be a better place to start, and see if I want something bigger after that.

I am still leaning, barely, towards the 16" viola, now, but may I go for a 15.5" instead.

I have a lot of upper body strength, but I also have joint and spine issues. They do not  currently disable me (although standing on my feet all day is definately out of the question), but I do need breaks more often than I used to.

MACJR

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