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Does Anyone Else Have a 5-String Fiddle?
A fiddle made to have 5-strings.
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (2 votes) 

January 25, 2022 - 3:26 am
Member Since: June 10, 2020
Forum Posts: 4432
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Two and ½ years and I STILL 💖 my 5-string VIOLIN! 


Don't know why I just recently had a revelation about the way I look at it. 

Instead of thinking it's a VIOLIN with a few extra low notes - I should've been thinking more that it's VIOLIN AND VIOLA! 

It's very weird that just by 'calling' it one or the other - gives it an identity that makes such a huge difference!

I'm sure if I'd been thinking that it's equally VIOLA, I would have been searching for play-along solo VIOLA video scores and tutorials, much earlier - and, I'd be MUCH HAPPIER! 

...I don't really care to spend a lot of time on the E string, anyway - but sometimes it's just easier to learn a tune using it, then I can move it lower or to a different key.  

I think in a perfect World, a fractional 5-string VIOLA would be my recommendation for ALL beginner bowed string players... but nobody makes them! 

I'm very excited - I should be getting my new 16", 5-string VIOLA next month. 🤗  It will be interesting to see if I think of it in the opposite sense - VIOLA with a few extra high notes? 

...or will I just see it as a BIG VIOLIN, with a few extra low notes? 😳 

- Emily 


Food for thought: 

Bach Cello Suite #6 - can NOT be played in the original key on a four-string viola!

An article in “The Strad” Magazine. The Magazine quotes Simon Rowland-Jones’ comments in 1999. (The article was printed in July, 2021)

“The suite can only comfortably be played on a five-string instrument, although most cellists do play it on a normal four-string cello using thumb position to facilitate the higher registers. As thumb position is not possible on the viola, violists normally play this suite in the key of G.”

Fort Lauderdale
January 25, 2022 - 8:36 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 15989
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True. It's both a violin and a viola.

So when you say a fractional 5 string you mean smaller than 14 inches? My thinking is that it's hard enough for them to learn on 4 strings but children have brains that are like sponges right? You could have a point there.
Most teachers and violinists don't play a 5 string and probably haven't even tried it. I first played on a 5-string through my business and probably never would have tested one otherwise. As fun as a 5 string instrument is, I have way more control on my 4 string instruments and they seem to project more as well.

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


January 25, 2022 - 10:50 am
Member Since: June 10, 2020
Forum Posts: 4432
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@Fiddlerman - 

Kids ARE sponges, you are so right! 

So, hypothetically speaking: 

If everyone started with 5 strings, NO one would know anything could be different. 

And, it's not like, WHAM - we start playing everything on ALL 5 strings.  Everyone basically starts learning on the higher strings, anyway - then, moves toward playing more on the lower strings... right? 


🤔... If I learned on a 4 string instrument, then was handed a 5-string, I might think "Oh no, I have to learn to deal with another string, this will mess me up - what do I do with it?"  

Instead: since I started with 5 strings, when handed a 4-string, I'd think "Oh no, how boring, I won't be able to switch parts with a 2nd voice, or use my favorite double stops and options to shift motifs for improvisation - I miss that string... and it's extra resonance!" 

Hmm... now, what if we were talking about learning to use 'telephone' vs. 'smartphone'?  My Grandkids only know how to make a call from a cell phone.  Not so sure I'd want to use a regular telephone if I grew up relying on a smartphone.  ...does anyone still have a telephone in their house? 


I'm pretty sure there's room for a little more innovation in 5-string acoustic instrument design.  Maybe more electronic innovation, too.

Could have sworn I saw a violin or viola design, somewhere, that had graduated the depth of the rib - so, increased depth on the C string side, etc... tweaking the body shape or fingerboard angle/height - might help with projection and better balance of sound (?)

Can't different types of strings help (a little) with projection?  I'm not talking 'miracle workers' here. (lol) 

Thought about 2 Clefs, but learning Treble AND Alto Clef shouldn't be difficult if starting with both - I mean, kids learn 2 Clefs for piano! 



Okay, this is fun, but I HAVE TO STOP... before I meander any farther down this rabbit hole! 

...or my brain explodes! 😳🤣

- Emily

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