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I recently purchased a 15” pawnshop viola. It needs new strings. For now, I put a set of used Jargar Strings that were in a 16” viola onto it. I am not sure that will work well. Not sure yet because I need to get a new tailpiece with fine tuners. I have issues using turning pegs to actually tune instruments properly. I can get close, but that is it.
The viola has a tailpiece with fine tuners for the D and A strings. I am getting one with 4 fine tuners. I am wondering if I need to get a set of viola strings for a 15” viola? I have searched and searched and cannot find the information I need. I also cannot find many brands that make a string for a 15” viola. Most are for a 15 1/2”-16” viola. On the C string I noticed that the unwrapped part made it up to the tuning peg. I had noticed that they were wrapping around the peg a lot more and I had to redo the winding on the pegs to make room. This was especially the case with that C string and the A string.
I know common sense says to get the 15”, but I am also wondering how much of a difference it will make in the sound quality. Would I be able to use those longer strings to test the viola when I get the new tailpiece to see if it is worth spending money on 15” strings? If not, I will go ahead and get the strings, if I can find them. Choices are pretty slim, even in Amazon. I would like to find Prime offerings so I don’t have to add shipping costs to it. This is a test and I don’t want any more expense than required.
The viola itself did not cost much at all, but, I don’t want to spend money on strings needlessly if I can find out if it has good sound without that added expense. I don’t intend to purposely search for a 15” viola, this sort of landed in my hands. So buying 15” strings when these strings will give an accurate quality test, is not something I want to do. Most likely will not get another 15” viola landing in my hands to use those special sized strings. But, if to get a good test of the viola I need the specific strings for a 15” viola, I will continue looking.
Cello and Viola Time!
Whether a standard length string works seems to vary by brand. But I think most brands' standard strings are actually usable for 15" to 16-1/2" violas even if they list a narrower range. The main question is not where the silk ends. It's whether the string needs to overlap itself on the peg, which with thicker strings may interfere with tuning and wear on the floor of the pegbox. If you can't get the string up to tension without overlapping more than one turn, the string is too long.
As for tone quality, whether the regular length and short length differ may depend on the brand as well. Some brands use the same diameter for all lengths, I've heard that some use a heavier gauge for short-scale strings. (I have no experience with shorter strings, the only two violas I've played have been 15-1/2" and 15-3/4".)
@Mouse and others. Since you want to purchase a new tailpiece anyway, why not get a 4/4 violin tailpiece and use it on your 15 inch viola. You will get the extra length you need and you will also get more string after length. Sounds like a win/win situation to me.
Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible. —Frank Zappa
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Well, we went to the violin shop this afternoon. I had a Wittner tailpiece installed on the 15” viola. He also shaved the bridge a little. It sounds pretty good. I have, however, decided to donate the viola to a school. I don’t have a bow for it, but, the instrument and hard case will have to do with them providing the bow. I don’t think I will ever play it. I didn’t rescue it from the pawnshop to have it sit around.
My sister-in-law is going to check with the music head in our school district. We don’t have an orchestra at our school, but she said many of the students play stringed instruments and some want to but can’t afford the instrument.
If the music director in our school district does not know of anyone, she is going to contact her daughter who teaches at the city closest to us. They have an orchestra. She will find out if there is a needy student, or if they would like one on hand at school in case someone forgets theirs.
Either way, the viola is theirs for free. The strings are good. Apparently the 15 1/2”-16” strings are fine, if wound properly. The luthier said that sometimes it is hard to wind the strings made specifically for the smaller violas because at the 15” length viola, sometimes the strings are too short. He re-installed my strings after he put the Wittner tailpiece on it. His windings were a little better than mine.
So, my issue has been solved. I wish I could include a bow, but there is none. The instrument will have to do.
Cello and Viola Time!