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A bunch of viola questions
New to Viola and have some questions. (Note: this topic thread contains a lot replies of various tips and info about the viola and strings.)
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (69 votes) 
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stringy
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June 28, 2021 - 10:11 am
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Gordon Shumway said
If you've got a Fiddlerman bow and you've been playing for 4 months, I'd say stick with the Fiddlerman bow. Rather, since it's a kit, stick with the kit. Buying new gear will just be a symptom of frustration with the slowness of the learning process. Maybe plan an upgrade for your first anniversary, but don't dive in now.

  

Good advice, new bow after four months is pointless.

Bit more, bit more, snap #*÷?×[email protected]?#[email protected]

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ELCBK
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June 28, 2021 - 11:13 am
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@Ash Telecaster -

Fiddlerman bows have been recently improved - VERY nice, but don't know if you received one of the improved ones in your kit, or not - ask them at the Fiddlershop. 

Should be all you need, for now.  How you hold & use that bow, allow flexibility, is more important - many subtle nuances you never experienced as a guitar player.  And don't use a light colored rosin right now - also, too much is as bad as too little.

If you've been playing several hours, with a lot of pressure, every day - you will probably benefit from new strings within this next couple months.

Yes, you can try warmer or brighter strings, but you might be better served with a YouTube search for "how to get rid of beginner sounds, or how not to sound like a beginner on Violin & Viola" - there are quite a few available to watch & learn from. 

Please just give yourself some time, a year or 2 is certainly not unreasonable.  Everyone you've been listening to has probably been playing their instrument for MANY years.

The only way you are really going to be able to add good Viola sound "quickly" to the rest of your music is to use a DAW and plug-ins from some database of experienced string players. 

Think you'll find learning this instrument very rewarding in the end.  I love playing the lower register of my 5 string violin - which is your strings, only a little smaller scale. 

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/_zmzLNEDA1s/hqdefault.jpg?sqp=-oaymwEXCNACELwBSFryq4qpAwkIARUAAIhCGAE=&rs=AOn4CLCQC4YKxsbqtePyseWQlfeADPRotA

 

Stick with it! 

- Emily

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Gordon Shumway
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June 28, 2021 - 12:03 pm
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Buy MOR value-for-money strings. Change them twice a year. Don't become an equipment fetishist.

Talk of "bright tone" and "dark tone" assumes you are capable of producing those tones. Don't be tricked into thinking the strings will do that for you.

Andrew

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Fiddlerman
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June 28, 2021 - 1:11 pm
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Ash Telecaster said
Hello, 

I am a long time guitar/bassist. I decided to expand my horizons and buy a Viola. I like the tonal range and felt it would pair well with acoustic guitar compositions.

I bought a Fiddlerman Concert. It was expertly set up and came with a great accessory package. I consider it to be a decent instrument and an exceptional value. 

Thank you so much for your purchase and kind words.

I have found learning to play it is waaaaay harder than I anticipated. It's been a few months, I can play Bach Minuet 1 and 2, and a few others, and can jam pretty freely in first position in the keys of C, G, and D, and their reletive minors and am working on E, which is pretty hard. Haven't broken the vibrato barrier yet. 

I love the instrument and decided I am in it for the long haul. I am determined to get good at it. 

I finally broke down and got a remote instructor, Aubrey Fineout. She's brilliant and super talented. She has a few killer videos on YouTube.

She has been a lot of help but I am still having some issues. She plays one note and it sounds killer. I can't seem to get that kind of tone. I know that a lot of that is technique but I'm thinking about the instrument and contemplating upgrading.

I'm wondering a couple things.

What do I have to spend to get a solid instrument for recording, that I can grow into, and where is the point of diminishing returns?

One million dollars. ;)
Just kidding, you'll find a fine instrument in all price groups but a great part of your sound and sound production will come from improving your technique.

I was looking at the Fiddlerman Master and wondering if it is likely to meet the need?

I see a couple Scott Cao Violas on Fiddlershop in my price comfort range. They don't appear to have all the accessories. They also come in 17" where the Fiddlerman Master Max's out at 16.5". I wonder if that extra half inch Will make a big difference in tone. They seem to be a well respected brand.

Perhaps, and I'm not doing myself any favors here, wait to make that decision. Sleep on it. When you are ready, we'll happily help you decide between any instruments that you may be considering. We can make approval and comparison videos for you. Not all Master's are exactly alike just as not all Scott Cao's are alike.

Why do more expensive Violas only have 1 micro tuner instead of 4?

The highest string has the most tension and is more affected by lesser movements. Especially with steel core strings.

The geared tuning pegs seem like a pretty good idea. Seems like a no brainer. I'm surprised they aren't standard. Is there something I'm missing?

It's a bit traditional, plus it's way faster to tune an instrument with traditional conical pegs. I can tune all strings in seconds. Of course it's different for beginners or non advanced players. Also, conical pegs can last forever theoretically. Not sure about the geared pegs.

I see bows costing $500 and more. I have to admit that seems crazy. Like spending $50 for a guitar pick. But I want to give myself the best chance to get great results. How much do I have to spend to get a good bow?

You may feel and hear subtle differences but don't expect too much. action, playability, feel and tone are some of the things different bows will bring into the equation. But as I said, subtle changes.

Strings seem to be an important consideration. Any suggestions for strings?

This will be a life long endeavor. I'll leave that to everyone else to make suggestions. What I will say is that the most popular combinations involve mixing different C, G and D, A strings. It's common to use Helicore, Spirocore and Larson. Usually Larson or Helicore on the top two and Spirocore and perhaps Dominant on the lower two. Evah Pirazzi is also popular for the lower three strings.

Any thing else I should consider?

How much fun do you want to have??? Life is just getting started now. 😉 Enjoy your new journey. We look forward to your posts.

Thank you in advance for sharing your thoughts! 

Anytime and welcome to the forum.

  

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

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Ash Telecaster
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June 28, 2021 - 4:55 pm
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Thanks again to everyone for your responses.

And thanks Fiddlerman! Love your store, the service has been exceptional!

I thought it might be a good idea to record a minute or two and see if what I'm hearing picks up on the recording. It does very well. Its like my bow doesn't pull smoothly across the strings, it stutters.

Is this a technique issue or an equipment one?

Thanks!

Warning: Not for the faint of heart, pitchy and timing and blech, but gets job done.

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ELCBK
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@Ash Telecaster -

Sorry, it's just you. 😊 

But, I don't know why you are questioning anything - you sound GREAT for 4 months, GREAT for 6 months... even 1 year! 

Excellent intonation!

Search for those videos I mentioned, to learn where you might tweak your sound - not that you need to, but we always strive for better.   

giphy.gif

 

Just keep up the great work!  

PS. I forgot to mention you can experiment a little with bow hair tension - try a half turn more or less - see what you like best.

- Emily

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stringy
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June 28, 2021 - 5:18 pm
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first of all thats good progress for a few months you should be happy with yourself.

Nothing wrong with your bow its practice and technique, your intonation sounds very good, are you using tapes on the fingerboard? if so I wouldnt use them for long because in my opinion they become a crutch and a hinderance to training your ears, others on here think differently,, but we all have our own opinions. I have never used them myself.

Post a video of yourself playing and people on here will try to give any help they can , its difficult from just hearing rather than seeing, I am no expert we are all learners apart from one or two who have been playing a very long time, but you do pick up things along the way which could save you a lot of trial and error.

No one will give snide comments or laugh, we all go through the same struggles, and everyone tries to help everyone else.

Keep at it, good work, dont waste money on new equipment it would be of no benefit to you yet, much better to practice. ;)

Bit more, bit more, snap #*÷?×[email protected]?#[email protected]

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June 28, 2021 - 5:41 pm
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dang Ash thats really good!  great progress!

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JohnG
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@Ash Telecaster - As noob myself (2 months), I have only two comments. First you sound much better than I do, and second this is a great group to share your talent with. They have given me encouragement even from the very beginning when I posted a video of the first scale I played after over 58 years from my first experience in a one semester, group class in junior college.

Welcome to a great place to learn.

The old curmudgeon!

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Ash Telecaster
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June 28, 2021 - 7:13 pm
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Thanks all, 

I appreciate the encouraging words. 

Hi Emily, I will definitely check out the videos. I watched a few today already. I Will also play with bow tension. 

Stringy, I do not use tape. I was determined not to even watch my left hand so that I would more quickly get a feel for it. I don't want the crutch of needing to watch my fingers.

I have an advantage of already being decent on another instrument but honestly thought I would advance faster than I have on Viola. I thought the skills would translate. It's hard going back to grade school level musicianship! That's okay, I just have to learn to be patient and keep working at it. It's a very challenging instrument! That makes it all the more worth while.

James

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ELCBK
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June 28, 2021 - 8:31 pm
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@Ash Telecaster -

Since motivation is so important, hope you will check out our "Party Room"

All Parties are ongoing - you just have to be able to record yourself playing and post it (unlisted YouTube, or Google Drive, etc...).  Encouraging comments are welcomed.

The person who starts the Party describes what it is to try to play - anyone can start a Party, hint... hint!  Even if you can only play part of a tune or make it your own version - any participation is A GOOD THING. 

It's all just for fun, where we can get some encouragement to try new things out - which helps to keep us all motivated. 

Party Room Thread

giphy.gif

Can't wait to hear more of you & your Viola!  

- Emily 

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stringy
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June 29, 2021 - 2:04 am
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James I had exactly the same idea, I thought my playing of other instruments would help, but it didn’t do anything, lol. I actually took up violin as a challenge though, just didn’t realise what a challenge and an obsession it would become, hope you get the same pleasure out o fit as I have, never get discouraged it’s a long road, but very enjoyable.

Bit more, bit more, snap #*÷?×[email protected]?#[email protected]

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Ash Telecaster
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June 29, 2021 - 4:40 pm
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I recorded a video as somebody suggested. However, when I watched back I learned something. I thought my bowing was pretty straight and right in the middle. When I watched the video it looked like I was in a light saber battle with Darth Vader. Not good at all. I'm not posting the video. laugh

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@Ash Telecaster -

Smiley Broke Apart Smiley

That's why we encourage video recording! 

We always learn something from it! 😊

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stringy
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its always a shock when you first watch yourself, all violinists record themselves playing, so they can see were they are going wrong and hear also. dont worry post the vid I told you no one on here will judge I have posted some appalling vids an gotten good advice. no one can be expected to look and sound like pagannini, everyone gets wandering bow as well, one of the things you learn very quickly is that if yOu dont concentrate all the time you quickly lose it, trying to concentrate on everything at once like bow hold sounds, intonatìon is very difficult , I spent an hour and a half tonight wworking on smooth bowing and arm movement, as well as an hour on scales and arpeggios, and still sounded awful after, but this is how you gradually get better, it happens very slowly, like a snail racing down a hill

Ash Telecaster said
I recorded a video as somebody suggested. However, when I watched back I learned something. I thought my bowing was pretty straight and right in the middle. When I watched the video it looked like I was in a light saber battle with Darth Vader. Not good at all. I'm not posting the video. laugh

  

Bit more, bit more, snap #*÷?×[email protected]?#[email protected]

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stringy
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June 29, 2021 - 5:47 pm
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by the way to learn how to bow straight the most common method is watching yourself in a mirror, tricky but works, its also down to arm movement, fore arm and wrist as well as upper arm.

Bit more, bit more, snap #*÷?×[email protected]?#[email protected]

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Ash Telecaster
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June 30, 2021 - 3:38 pm
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Okay, here is the video

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JohnG
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@Ash Telecaster - Lookin' (and soundin') good. Thanks for sharing. You definitely did better at keeping the bow in the right area than I did in my last video.

The old curmudgeon!

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JohnG
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@Ash Telecaster - And, btw, if you post the video in the Share  a Video forum, you too can earn a badge like the one I have as can be seen above!

 

The old curmudgeon!

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June 30, 2021 - 4:16 pm
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@Ash Telecaster It looks like you have a stiff wrist. I have issues bowing straight, also. It is deceiving when you watch yourself bowing. For some reason, it always looks straight. 

I am just a student, so I may be wrong, but it doesn't look like you are using your wrist at all. It looks like most of your movement is coming from the shoulder joint. 

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