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The 5-String Viola
Issues More Specific To 5-String Violas
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (2 votes) 
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ELCBK
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March 28, 2022 - 4:03 pm
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https://www.lornebair.com/pictures/20660.jpg?v=1464898650

Well, I'm now only a couple days shy of having Edgar for 2 months! 

HUGE difference in the way we sound together, compared to only a couple weeks ago! 

Just realizing there may be issues unique to 5-string Violas, so here's my thoughts. 

 

Attaching a tuner to a 5-string Viola.

There's been recent talk of people having issues with a tuner attached to 4-string instruments and I'm also having my fair share.  First of all, I don't think tuners are really meant for 5-string violins or violas. 😳

I have the 5 strings on my Viola like on my Violin, but I didn't have as much of an issue with the extra sympathetic overtones when tuning as I do now with the 5-string Viola.  They resonate SO MUCH MORE - making an accurate reading hard to accomplish.  My 1st tries were attached to the scroll, then the pegs and last, the bridge! 

Yesterday, I finally decided to quit fooling around - used video tones on my laptop from YouTube.  Started to realize I hadn't been listening very closely... wondering if I was hearing anything right anymore - certainly don't trust my ears enough to tune by strings alone, even though I watched videos on how to do it.  🤔... guess I'm getting too much practice attempting to play in-tune on an out-of-tune instrument. 🙄 

Oh, what I'd give to have perfect pitch!  Oops, sorry folks, you're ALL probably wishing I had it, much more than me. (lol)

So, this all made me start listening more closely to what videos I end up playing along with (or Alexa).  Wow, took me all this time to realize some of them are NOT tuned to standard A=440Hz!  Another reason to use 4th finger instead of open strings, but I haven't really decided if I want to completely give up getting nice easy ringing tones.  Guess that depends on what I'm playing - being inherently lazy, don't think I'm alone not wanting to mess with good 4th finger tone, well any more than necessary, on a fast reel?  Slower pieces do make more sense, to me. 

Anyway, appears I won't be looking to my tuner for anymore intonation guidance on Edgar.  

 

...hope I can focus on playing more in tune. 🤞🏼  

- Emily

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ELCBK
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March 28, 2022 - 4:04 pm
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Now, strings and bridge on 5-string Viola. 

I mentioned differences I noted between the bridge shape of my Violin vs Viola in ABitRusty's thread.  New Viola Day Thread

https://gifimage.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/gif-bug-3.gifI'm slowly getting used to the wider string spacing and the difference the higher arch of the bridge on the Viola vs. Violin, but one thing was still bugging me.  C, G & D strings are thicker than on my violin, which isn't really an issue in itself, but the skinny Larsen A string is!  It's VERY skinny, like the E string - and Larsen uses the SAME 'A' string in ALL it's Viola sets (that I've found so far)! 

Now, an issue arises because my thick D string (Larsen Virtuoso is thicker than the Larsen Originals) sits on the peak of the bridge arch - making my DA & E strings VERY close to a straight bowing plane.  I've been getting more used to it, but probably could be easier if the bow angle were the same in relationship to ALL the strings, but as it, the A string is the hardest to play. 

I hate the idea of removing a tiny bit of the bridge to lower the D string (🤔 still thinking about it), cause one thing can possibly lead to another, etc... 

So, next best thing... I installed a Zyex 'A', last night! 🤗 It's thicker than the Larsen - MUCH better for playing! 

 

...yeah, only beat my head against the wall how many weeks? 🤪 

- Emily

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ELCBK
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November 3, 2022 - 1:07 am
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From the New Viola Day Thread: 

Some of this info may at least be helpful to others with Glasser instruments - and btw, I STILL LOVE BOTH OF MINE! 

Back in post 48, I mentioned the strings I started out with:

https://logos.flamingtext.com/Name-Logos/Edgar-design-hogwarts-name.gifMy Glasser Viola came with Larsen "Original" strings.  First, I swapped out everything but the E string for D'Addario Ascenté, which felt nice, but didn't quite do anything for me sound-wise.  Next I put on a set of Larsen Virtuoso Viola strings (all except the E string) - the A string supplied in the set is the same as the Originals. 

I ended up trying the Virtuoso 'Soloist' C, G, D, Zyex A, Larsen E - and I liked them, but wasn't completely happy. 

  • I love the Larsen E, except it tends to corrode fairly quickly in the areas with the most skin contact.  It's just a metal wire, not wrapped - does anyone know if metal polish can be used to treat & protect the dull tarnish areas of an E string?  @Fiddlerman ?
  • I tried both the Virtuoso & Virtuoso 'Soloist' C, G & D - they are VERY THICK strings.  This left me with A string problems, because all Larsen A strings are the same - VERY THIN!  It caused me some extra problems while trying to play cleanly on the A string and with double stops.
  • I changed out the Larsen A for Zyex - it's the largest diameter A string I could find (maybe the ONLY synthetic core Viola A).  I've been thru several, because the Zyex Viola A only lasts about half the time of the other strings, and it's not quite what I want to hear/feel in comparison to it's neighbors. 

A couple months ago I tried the Rondo C string - and liked it!  Seems similar to the Virtuoso & Virtuoso Soloist - a little better response.

So, tonight I put on Rondo G & D strings & like them so far, but I need to see how long they last!  Better response & sound good - AND bonus, they are much THINNER, so I was able to go back to the Larsen A, without the original issues of string height I had. 

I'm still using another Larsen E - it's great, until it shows some dark signs of corrosion.

My nemesis seems to be the A string - just like on my violin, so I have good reason to try the Rondo A next, but I think this may be my permanent set up.

I can say, without a doubt, this new combination of Rondo & Larsen strings is also more focused, without any harshness - and right out of the package!  Definitely MUCH EASIER to play clear, clean notes!  I had been feeling like everything was sounding muddy & had to work extra hard to get thru it - what a nice difference! 🤗

...would love to hear from anyone else who plays a Glasser 5-string Viola!

- Emily

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ELCBK
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November 3, 2022 - 1:50 am
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THIS IS A FIRST!!!

Just a string update: I put on a Rondo Viola A string yesterday - after it's initial tuning, it was STILL IN TUNE TODAY (all day)!  ...I've NEVER had a new string stay in tune before!!! 

I hate to pay the price and I sincerely hope they last longer than my other strings (not holding my breath), but this is actually the first time I've found a COMPLETE 4-string set (Viola or Violin) I like! 

I still have to buy a separate Larsen Viola E - and LARSEN NEEDS TO MAKE THESE WITH A MORE DURABLE FINISH!!!  

Got sidetracked, so haven't used any Renaissance Wax on my E string, yet - I better at least try a little of it up in 1st position area.

So, the RONDO STRINGS sound great from the minute installed, with little or no break-in time & have exceptional response!  Too bad they don't make a Viola E string. 

These Rondo strings feel wonderful to play - just pricey... but I wasn't looking for a rubber biscuit!  😎 

Btw, I smoothed the top edge of my CF bridge, because I was having a problem with the string wrapping separating at the bridge area - especially on the D string. 

I'm still going to have to sand down a little to lower the D string - there's definitely a substantial difference between the height going from A-to-D vs. D-to-G.  It makes fast string crossings among those 3 strings noticeably harder, AND VERY FRUSTRATING!  🤔... don't think I can wait until my next string change, either.

- Emily

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Fiddlerman
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November 4, 2022 - 1:19 pm
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ELCBK said
From the New Viola Day Thread: 

I love the Larsen E, except it tends to corrode fairly quickly in the areas with the most skin contact.  It's just a metal wire, not wrapped - does anyone know if metal polish can be used to treat & protect the dull tarnish areas of an E string?  @Fiddlerman ?

I don't think that it will protect it moving forward but I do believe it will make it look better.

It turns dark right?

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

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ELCBK
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November 4, 2022 - 9:13 pm
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https://i.pinimg.com/736x/53/5f/89/535f89e992c141da450040c20666b155.jpg

@Fiddlerman -

The Larsen E string doesn't just tarnish darker where my fingers touch in 1st thru 3rd position - there's a definite rough textural change that can be felt.  I hear/feel the difference in performance & have to change it out at least twice as often as the other strings.

From what I remember (correct me if I'm wrong), corrosion makes metal more brittle - so I'm pretty sure that effects the way the string vibrates. 

I mentioned my thoughts (in some other thread?) on trying a little Renaissance Wax  for just those areas of the string.  ...I've used this wax on metals & other components in jewelry making & also to protect some antiques.

 

Of course I never think about it until I want to play & there's a dry/cure time involved, which just hasn't been convenient. (lol)  So, been thinking I'll just prepare to apply it on the next new E string, before I take the old one off - will be easier to apply & won't interrupt my practicing. 😁

Instructional pdf attached. 

- Emily

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Fiddlerman
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November 10, 2022 - 3:44 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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ELCBK said
@Fiddlerman -

The Larsen E string doesn't just tarnish darker where my fingers touch in 1st thru 3rd position - there's a definite rough textural change that can be felt.  I hear/feel the difference in performance & have to change it out at least twice as often as the other strings.

From what I remember (correct me if I'm wrong), corrosion makes metal more brittle - so I'm pretty sure that effects the way the string vibrates.

I really don't know. All I know is that when I personally have had this situation I have used a very fine wool to polish the strings and haven't been able to tell the difference.

I couldn't notice the more brittle metal, but I imagine the decomposition is minuscule.

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

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ELCBK
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March 6, 2023 - 1:02 am
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Been thinking more about Octave strings for a 5-string viola - maybe not for Edgar, but possibly for an electric 5-string viola.

The fairly recent lack of strings now has NOT helped a few high-profile musicians who like to use them, and certainly doesn't attract potential new users of Octave strings. 

Was really glad to hear Fiddlerman/the Fiddlershop making an attempt to fix this shortage issue (Violinatron - SUPER A/E Violin? Thread)! 

In the meantime, I've looked at possibly using ⅒ size Cello strings - which still doesn't help me with an E string, but I'm having a hard time finding a set of actual cello strings that size - not sure, but maybe they just use long-scale Viola strings.  I can find ⅛ size cello strings, but they have a vibrating string length of 48cm. 

16" Violas only have a 38cm vibrating string length, 17"+ have up to 40cm. 

Found one other viable option for Octave Strings - in strings for the Violoncello da Spalla!

They can have a vibrating string length between 39cm - 45cm!  At least these are closer in size, made FOR bowing, and they are available in synthetic core... but VERY slim pickings! 

I don't even know if Thomastik and Aquila are still making strings for Violoncello da Spalla.  Read there is a string maker in France that makes them, but handmade silk & silver strings are WAY out of my budget!

...still just thinking. 

https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-4mHWK0LqH4w/Tx2174g8s3I/AAAAAAAAAJM/oIAQTdhgfJs/s1600/TEAL-LETTER-E-BCZ.png

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ELCBK
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March 6, 2023 - 4:50 pm
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So, I changed my strings to include a low F (Thomastik Vision).  

This means I had to throw my E String out the window and say good-bye forever. 

Several days later, I'm still having E string withdrawal anxiety! 

Yes, I normally use the E string to learn new Fiddle tunes, and for play-along, but I can just learn in a different octave... still miss it. 

 

I'm enjoying the low F string - it is a little harder to play than the C string, but that just makes the C string seem easier! (lol) 

The 5-string Violin is easier to finger notes, but the 5-string Viola sounds better.

 

Okay, I can say it now... I regret not getting a '6'-string Electric/Acoustic VIOLA! 

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