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Violin strings on a viola?
trying to solve a problem
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (6 votes) 
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markcobb
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November 8, 2018 - 7:39 am
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I'm a fairly good sized guy with large hands and finger placement is an issue. My hand covers the neck of a violin. My friend is quite a bit larger than I am and couldn't hold a violin but says he wants to learn. with everyone using octave strings to drop tone, I'm curious as to what would happen if a person put violin strings on a 17" viola. I know a viola is set up to carry the deeper tones and the bridge is different. would the E string become week sounding? would the distance of the strings from the fingerboard be to much overstressing the string and throwing the pitch out the window?

I told him to just put a chin rest on a cello and run with it. I mean, you never heard the sprout making fun of the green giant so I figure he should be good.cheers

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Irv
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November 8, 2018 - 8:12 am
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It is easy enough to reduce the height of a bridge to 5 mm separation between the string and the fingerboard end for the g string and 3.5 mm on the e string.  The question in my mind is if you could find an e string long enough to fit (you could use the “upper” strings of a viola set for the g, d, and a strings).

I would continue to utilize a viola bridge to provide adequate separation distances between the strings.

Cranks make revolutions.  JBS Haldane

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Andrew Fryer
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November 8, 2018 - 8:17 am
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The strings would be a little under-tensioned.

I always wanted to be a juvenile delinquent but my parents wouldn't let me.

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markcobb
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November 8, 2018 - 1:49 pm
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Andrew Fryer said
The strings would be a little under-tensioned.  

Why would they be under tensioned? If it's a case of the peg size, would you be able to replace them with violin pegs or would violin pegs not fit in viola peg box?

 

I'm learning on the violin, know nothing about the viola, spent my life with the saxophone.

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Irv
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November 8, 2018 - 2:14 pm
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I don’t see a reason why the strings should be under tensioned from your conversion.  You are just moving them to an adjacent peg.  Pegs and peg holes should also be fine.  If tension becomes an issue with e string, select a harder tension string (they come in soft, medium, and hard tension).  Look back through the thread regarding maker of long e strings.  The e string is rather inexpensive so you should be able to do some experimentation on this. 

Cranks make revolutions.  JBS Haldane

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Andrew Fryer
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November 8, 2018 - 2:52 pm
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Yeah, it's the other way around - you'll get higher tension.

I just quickly thought if you put concert uke strings on a soprano uke, you get higher tension strings. And vice versa. But that's simply because concert strings are thicker than soprano uke strings. (I just had to run off and look at a spreadsheet I constructed a few years back).

In fact tension is proportional to scale-length squared, so you'd get higher tension on a viola than on a violin, not lower.

I always wanted to be a juvenile delinquent but my parents wouldn't let me.

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bocaholly
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November 8, 2018 - 3:54 pm
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2 cents worth of my experience:

I previously had medium tension Obligatos (relatively on the low-tension side by nature) on my 4/4 with it's shortened string length. Standard is +/- 32.5cm and mine has been adjusted to 31.5cm. Those lovely Obligatos were so low tension over the shorter distance that the G string sounded flabby.

Now I have a trial set of Warchal Timbres strings (relatively higher tension) and when at pitch, the flabbyness is gone. 

But as I believe Irv suggested above, the main issue is finding a long enough E string since normal long-scale viola strings can be used for the A, D and G. 

My estimate is that the sounding string length difference between a 4/4 violin and a 17" viola has got to be about 6cm. Curious to hear if an E string beast like that exists 🙂 And if yes, also curious to learn if a relatively long but low tension 4/4 violin E string wouldn't work out better on a 17" viola.

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Andrew Fryer
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bocaholly said
But as I believe Irv suggested above, the main issue is finding a long enough E string since normal long-scale viola strings can be used for the A, D and G.

Sorry, I missed that bit. But that E string is going to be pretty taut, if you can find one long enough.

I always wanted to be a juvenile delinquent but my parents wouldn't let me.

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Irv
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November 8, 2018 - 6:13 pm
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I thought this post was made on the viola section of the forum.  My bad.  There is a similar thread on that section started by DeltaFour1212.  He(she) said that a viola e String was available for $9, but did not say who made it.  I did some searching and found that D’Addario makes one under their Helicore brand.  So you should be good to go.

Cranks make revolutions.  JBS Haldane

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Fiddlerman
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November 9, 2018 - 10:32 am
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Andrew Fryer said
The strings would be a little under-tensioned.  

I believe that Mark wants to put violin strings on a viola.

markcobb said
I'm a fairly good sized guy with large hands and finger placement is an issue. My hand covers the neck of a violin. My friend is quite a bit larger than I am and couldn't hold a violin but says he wants to learn. with everyone using octave strings to drop tone, I'm curious as to what would happen if a person put violin strings on a 17" viola. I know a viola is set up to carry the deeper tones and the bridge is different. would the E string become week sounding? would the distance of the strings from the fingerboard be to much overstressing the string and throwing the pitch out the window?

I told him to just put a chin rest on a cello and run with it. I mean, you never heard the sprout making fun of the green giant so I figure he should be good.cheers  

First of all, 17" violas are rare. I believe you would be better off shooting for 16.5".
Secondly, violin strings are not generally long enough. The best thing would be to use the viola G, D and A but find a longer E string, perhaps from a guitar and cut to size.

You would be surprised how big your hands can be and still play the violin. It's OK for your fingers to cover several strings at the same time as long as the wrong fingers are not covering strings that you are playing on. For example, if you are playing double stops with one fingered string and one open string, you would allow your fingers to be overlapping the string on the opposite side of the open string.

Hope that was not too confusing but just so you know, my fingers touch a minimum of two strings.

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

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Andrew Fryer
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November 9, 2018 - 10:50 am
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@Fiddlerman 

Yeah, I messed up the whole thread. I was bringing to mind a similar thing involving different-sized ukes, but without having thought through the differences between the two situations. I could delete all my contributions to this thread, but it would just make it even more incoherent.embarassed

 

This was the  post where I make sense (to me): -

Andrew Fryer said
Yeah, it's the other way around - you'll get higher tension.

I just quickly thought if you put concert uke strings on a soprano uke, you get higher tension strings. And vice versa. But that's simply because concert strings are thicker than soprano uke strings. (I just had to run off and look at a spreadsheet I constructed a few years back).

In fact tension is proportional to scale-length squared, so you'd get higher tension on a viola than on a violin, not lower.  

I always wanted to be a juvenile delinquent but my parents wouldn't let me.

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Fiddlerman
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November 9, 2018 - 12:50 pm
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Sorry that I missed that Andrew. 🙂
Definitely makes sense.

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

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Irv
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Fiddlerman, good catch to use a guitar upper e string, since it would be less expensive than my $9 solution.  It would be interesting to use a 4/4 harp style violin tail piece on the viola to get even more lower harmonics when used as a violin.

Cranks make revolutions.  JBS Haldane

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Andrew Fryer
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Fiddlerman said

You would be surprised how big your hands can be and still play the violin. It's OK for your fingers to cover several strings at the same time as long as the wrong fingers are not covering strings that you are playing on. For example, if you are playing double stops with one fingered string and one open string, you would allow your fingers to be overlapping the string on the opposite side of the open string.

You see the first part of this in the ukulele world too - some insist their hands are too big, and others say anyone can, and should, play a soprano. But in Hawaii the tenor is the man-size nowadays.

The second point I discovered myself that with my fingers that was the only way I was going to be able to manage doublestops.

I always wanted to be a juvenile delinquent but my parents wouldn't let me.

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markcobb
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November 9, 2018 - 6:45 pm
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you guys are a bunch of ever loving geniuses. I have another friend that would have guitar strings for days.

when i say my hands are big, I wear a size 13.5 on my ring finger until arthritis hits. Chris, guy who wants to try the viola violin set up, has Tony Robbins hands. I have a neighbor that used to fiddle so he lets me use his from time to time. (All cracked up, not sure if it's me or the fiddle that sounds so terrible.) When Big chris held it, half the peg box was in his hands. my old wedding band doesn't go past his first knuckle. kinda like a hairless bigfoot. used to palm my head when we were kids. erfff.

Anyway, I really appreciate the information.

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Irv
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November 9, 2018 - 8:22 pm
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D’Addario now makes a low priced set of synthetic viola strings called Ascente which are low in cost and sound very good.  You know how to get around the e string issue.  You are going to get a nice sound out of it but I would try it with a 4/4 violin harp tail piece for about $20, which should be really something.  Put a piccolo fine tuner on the e string only (another $15 or so).

An unresolved issue is the bow.  My thought is a full sized carbon fiber violin bow with black horse hair and dark rosin (about $80).  But with large hands you might find a viola bow more comfortable.  

A 16.5 inch body viola is a much more common than a 17 inch, and should be less expensive for you.  Keep body size consistent if you have more than one instrument or you will have constant problems with intonation.  Good luck with this.

Cranks make revolutions.  JBS Haldane

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bocaholly
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markcobb said
... guy who wants to try the viola violin set up, has Tony Robbins hands... used to palm my head when we were kids. erfff.