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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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Mouse
June 30, 2021 - 4:19 pm
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@JohnG, Ash Telecaster will be getting a video badge.

For all members, the video badge does not have to be in the Share a Video. For the Critique badge, it has to be in the Crtique section. You have to be asking for a critique there.

Also, please do not double or cross post. Only post a post in one topic thread in one forum group. I have noticed this happening, and will have to start editing them out if it happens again, others have been doing it, also. It will not be hard, but I will be choosing which forum group it remains in, not the original poster. If you have a video, simple post or photo in one section you can reference it in another forum section with a link to that thread, but do not repost. Just decide on a spot, and post it there, then, if you need to, you can link it to a other post without starting a discussion there, but it really is not necessary. Most members check for new posts and will find it wherever it is. Hope this helps.

You will confuse people and the discussion thread gets spit between multiple posts.

Please do not comment on this post in this topic thread, This is Viola Questions. Just post it in the Forum Assistance. I wanted to mention these things here, because it was brought up. Thanks a bunch. 

The Bumblebee Flies!

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stringy
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June 30, 2021 - 4:42 pm
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I am very impressed with your intonation at such an early stage, I can also hear your tone coming through already. 

To develope your arm you need to move your forearm from the elbow joint, yoir upper arm shouldnt go further back than your side if that makes sense, eg, if you stood with your back to a wall thats how far back your arm should go, what you are doing is called sawing, everyone does it at the beginning, I still do it if I dont concentrate all the time, mouse is coŕrect about flexible wrist and fingers as well, this also takes a lot of practice. te fingers should move in whats called jellyfish bowing which means they act l springs and give a smooth sound, dont worry, all this takes time and practice

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

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ELCBK
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June 30, 2021 - 6:24 pm
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@Ash Telecaster -

OUTSTANDING! 

It's very hard to relax everything -

especially when trying to record yourself! 

Try to remember how much you enjoy playing your Viola. 

You'll get more flexible in your wrist, and your fingers

as you become more comfortable playing. 

It's great what you've accomplished! 

Thank you for sharing this! 

giphy.gif

CELEBRATE!

- Emily

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iFIDDLE
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Thats pretty darn impressive Ash!  congrats on your progress and whatever youre doing keep at it!  what are you working on now?

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Ash Telecaster
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June 30, 2021 - 10:39 pm
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Thanks everybody for your encouragement and advice and videos! If you had just told me I was bowing from the shoulder with a stiff wrist I would have taken it with a grain of salt but watching the video its soooo true!!!! And that was me trying not to be so unruly with my bowing. I'm going to have to really bear down and concentrate on my bowing and getting the technique right.

Emily, I am having fun...that's my game face! I look grumpy but I'm not.

GregW, I'm itching to take on more material but decided to mostly focus on technique for now. So far I know Bach Minuet's 1 & 2, The Road to Lisdoonvarna, the C, D, G, and E scales and jam to major and relative minor backing tracks.

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Ash Telecaster
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July 9, 2021 - 7:57 am
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Hey everybody,

I've been drilling my bowing pretty hard. Some days it's a sea change, other days it's like the first time I touched a bow.

I have a few more questions... 

I'm not sure how much pressure to use. When I play light I get less noise and artifacts and the bow kind of glides across the strings but the tone is whispy. If I add pressure the tone is better but I get more scratches and squeeks, etc.

I'm still trying to get my bow hold together. Especially my pinky finger, it always wants to go straight at the middle joint. And I find I tend to place it beyond the back of the frog. How far should the thumb go through? Should it be like pinching with my middle finger? And how far should I choke up on the bow? I See some people choking way up and others not.

What do you think of the Strad vs pannette vs tirtus style viola's?

Thanks! 

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Irv
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July 9, 2021 - 10:17 am
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I enjoy my Tirtus.  Another form that might interest you is a Sabatier (see provided photo).  

9220C061-2F1E-4116-9B18-EB1A98FC3E6A.jpeg

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

The future is already here—it’s just not very evenly distributed. —William Gibson

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Mouse
July 9, 2021 - 10:40 am
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Neat viola, Irv.

Ash, I have seen many violists hold bows in different ways. I am not sure. Instructors say you have to hold it a specific way, but then when you watch others play, they seem to hold it in a way that works best for them. I don't know, if when learning, if it is necessary to force yourself to hold it the way it was held at the inception, so to speak, or to hold it in the way it is most comfortable and works best for you. 

I am pretty much a rule breaker and the, so-called, proper hold does not work for me. I can't have a loose wrist, fingers tense up. I just tighten right up. I hold it in the way it works for me. It is hard enough for me to play the instrument, I don't need to fight to hold the bow in a way that prevents me from bowing straight, getting a sound I want, etc. I have seen experienced violists (and violinists) just put 4 fingers on one side and the thumb on the other. Were they "allowed" to hold it that way when learning and decide to do what works best later, or were they allowed to do what worked when learning? I have no idea. That said, I would say, whatever hold you end out with, stick with that. Again, my disclaimer, many more in the forum have more expertise than I do. 

I do have issues with straight bowing, but that is the case however I hold it, but I prefer the less painful way, and the bowing is straighter that way.

The Bumblebee Flies!

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Ash Telecaster
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July 9, 2021 - 9:12 pm
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Irv said
I enjoy my Tirtus.  Another form that might interest you is a Sabatier (see provided photo).  

9220C061-2F1E-4116-9B18-EB1A98FC3E6A.jpeg

  

Wow, that's crazy!

I like it!

Does the Tirtus live up to the theory, good upper register access, improved low frequency tones? 

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Ash Telecaster
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July 9, 2021 - 9:45 pm
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Mouse said
Neat viola, Irv.

Ash, I have seen many violists hold bows in different ways. I am not sure. Instructors say you have to hold it a specific way, but then when you watch others play, they seem to hold it in a way that works best for them. I don't know, if when learning, if it is necessary to force yourself to hold it the way it was held at the inception, so to speak, or to hold it in the way it is most comfortable and works best for you. 

I am pretty much a rule breaker and the, so-called, proper hold does not work for me. I can't have a loose wrist, fingers tense up. I just tighten right up. I hold it in the way it works for me. It is hard enough for me to play the instrument, I don't need to fight to hold the bow in a way that prevents me from bowing straight, getting a sound I want, etc. I have seen experienced violists (and violinists) just put 4 fingers on one side and the thumb on the other. Were they "allowed" to hold it that way when learning and decide to do what works best later, or were they allowed to do what worked when learning? I have no idea. That said, I would say, whatever hold you end out with, stick with that. Again, my disclaimer, many more in the forum have more expertise than I do. 

I do have issues with straight bowing, but that is the case however I hold it, but I prefer the less painful way, and the bowing is straighter that way.

  

I've watched a lot of people but have seen, as you suggest, a lot of variation. Viola man, Pierre, has a pretty good video on it. I guess what I'm dealing with is how ackward it seems and how everything ends up shifted after a minute. 

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AndrewH
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July 10, 2021 - 4:20 am
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Ash Telecaster said
Hey everybody,

I've been drilling my bowing pretty hard. Some days it's a sea change, other days it's like the first time I touched a bow.

I have a few more questions... 

I'm not sure how much pressure to use. When I play light I get less noise and artifacts and the bow kind of glides across the strings but the tone is whispy. If I add pressure the tone is better but I get more scratches and squeeks, etc.

I'm still trying to get my bow hold together. Especially my pinky finger, it always wants to go straight at the middle joint. And I find I tend to place it beyond the back of the frog. How far should the thumb go through? Should it be like pinching with my middle finger? And how far should I choke up on the bow? I See some people choking way up and others not.

What do you think of the Strad vs pannette vs tirtus style viola's?

Thanks! 

  

 

Regarding bow pressure: the first thing I would say is to be careful about how you are applying pressure to the string. Generally you should rely mainly on gravity rather than on your arm muscles; the bow, the string, and your arm should be roughly in a plane. It's very common for beginners to raise their elbow and try to force the bow into the string, which creates tension, can result in scratching and squeaking, and makes it hard to adjust bow pressure on the fly. The idea should be to think of pulling the bow down across the string, not pressing it into the string, with pressure controlled by your fingers and wrist rather than your arm. Keep in mind that the amount of pressure needed varies over the length of the bow, simply because your hand is at one end of it.

@Mouse, I think you've had an overly rigid teacher -- we've already noted that your teacher's ideas about the left hand were ill-suited for most violists or for violinists with small hands.

There is no single "correct" bow hold. There are two widely-used classical bow holds for the upper strings ("Franco-Belgian" and "Russian") and many variations on each, and many people (including me) use something in between the two. A good teacher helps find what works best for the individual student, rather than teaching their own bow hold as "correct." The most important thing is that all the fingers should be relaxed and gently curved.

As to viola shapes, there is a great variety of them because different makers have come up with different solutions for getting a better sound out of an undersized instrument, and for allowing the left hand to reach high positions. I personally play a 15.75" Tertis pattern viola because I have small hands, and the shorter vibrating string length allows me to just reach an octave double-stop with 1st and 4th fingers in 1st position. I'm extremely happy with it. It's very much a soloist's or principal violist's instrument with its quick response and ability to project over an orchestra, and it has a great lower register. Perhaps it loses some tone color in the upper register compared to other viola patterns, but I think technique and string choices can compensate well enough.

There are other wide-body patterns designed to increase the volume for a given body length, though; the Brescian pattern of Maggini and Salo is common. Also, there are a number of modern shapes designed to give the left hand more space in high positions: consider the Iizuka pattern and the Rivinus "Pellegrina" pattern. I've played in an orchestra with someone who had a Pellegrina viola.

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stringy
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July 10, 2021 - 7:55 am
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Andrew has said it all, all you need now is practice. It all sounds a lot easier than it is, good luck, and dont swear too much;)

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

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Irv
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July 10, 2021 - 11:35 am
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I have a sabatier (an older one while they were still made in France), but I need to repair a crack before I can play it.  I also want to have it x-rayed to see length and overall shape of bass bar.  The shape has a fairly wide following for young viola students, since fractional viola tend not to sound very well.  These do.  I think the concept could also work well as a violin, but I do not think the maker ever made a violin version.  Perhaps violin strings could be placed on one.

I love the sound from my Tertis viola and mine is not an expensive one.  A similar model adapted to five strings would be a wonder.  But there are limits to even my experimental daring.

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

The future is already here—it’s just not very evenly distributed. —William Gibson

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Ash Telecaster
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July 11, 2021 - 2:50 pm
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Thanks, trying to be a complete student and learn about these things. I appreciate you folks taking the time to share your thoughts.

I have heard it said, on this thread and others, that the bow is super important. Its kind of hard to believe there are $1500 bows. That being said, I have the Fiddlerman CF bow that came with my Concert Viola. It seems mechanically sound to me. The vinyl is peeling a bit but I've been playing it a lot. It retails for about $75. And I know my tone issues are at least 98% in my fingers but I'm contemplating a bow upgrade.

My awesome instructor, Aubrey, suggested I try a Codabow. I was thinking of going with the Diamond NX just to get out of the entry level. $475!!! I can see this is going to be an expensive hobby! But I am thinking it would be better to get something to grow into rather something to grow out of.

Dang, now I see the Concert is available in 17". I tend to feel like my 16.5" Viola is small. That's probably because I am used to playing much larger instruments. The concert now being available in 17" tells me there must be some market demand for that size. So maybe I'm not crazy thinking that size might work for me.

I have decided to incentivize myself by buying a new Viola when my skill level becomes worth the investment. So I have been working pretty hard because I have serious gas for a new V-axe!

Right now I am eyeballing the Fiddlerman Soloist but I have to admit my shallowness, I really like the way it looks. I am trusting it will live up as an instrument but I will start asking a lot of questions about it around the time I'm ready to buy.

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stringy
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July 11, 2021 - 4:11 pm
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even a 1700 dollar bow is considered cheap in the violin world. Bows can retail for hun dreds of thousands of dollars, my own bow cost about two hundred dollars, seriously, trust me your bow will make no difference at the moment to your playing, maybe in a year or two time it will do some good, but I am trying to stop you wasting money, there is no magic formula with viola or violin it takes a vast amount of time and practice, just getting a smooth bow arm can take a year, you have to be patient, progress unless you are a three year old child is ponderously slow. 

You are doing great with intonation, in first position, stick with it, please dont waste money. work on your technique, 1 minute bows, playing in front of a mirror, long slow bows on one string trying to keep the sound perfectly even all the way from tip to frog, these are the things you need to practice to get better sound.

Very slow playing of each piece is essential to getting better sound.

Keep at it, enjoy it, none of us will ever be soloists, enjoy it for what it is.

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

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JohnG
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July 11, 2021 - 4:46 pm
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stringy said
 

... none of us will ever be soloists, enjoy it for what it is.  

Speak for yourself, I plan on being first chair in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a year, and featured soloist, the year after!!!!!

 

LOL - j/k

The old curmudgeon!

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stringy
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I hope you do it John, and when you do I expect a free ticket to come and watch,  ;)

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

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Ash Telecaster
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July 11, 2021 - 5:37 pm
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Friends don't let friends drive drunk on GAS! laugh

You're right of course, I've been window shopping again!

But "earning" that new viola is a motivator. I'm putting time and energy into it. I do not anticipate ever playing with an orchestra, love playing Bach though, but I do intent on recording with it and who knows maybe even jamming acoustic style on occasion. The quicker I develop some competence the quicker I get a new V-axe! As you suggest it will take some time but I'm determined so who knows how much time.

I'll probably get the bow when I get the viola. Not a bad idea to do some research though and formulate some ideas on the topic.

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AndrewH
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stringy said

Keep at it, enjoy it, none of us will ever be soloists, enjoy it for what it is.

  

 

Not full-time touring soloists, perhaps. But I've already been a featured soloist with a community orchestra, and my long-term goal is to be competitive in professional orchestra auditions. (Don't have to win the seat, would be satisfied with reaching the second round of a professional audition.)

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