An extended nut, and musings on individuality of sound

I think I’m going to get one on Stevie next time I take him in for a tune-up. I didn’t want to do it now because I didn’t feel like waiting even longer to get him back after an already unpleasantly fiddle-less week-and-a-day. But ultimately, I’m going to want to get that string length down to something manageable, and the extended nut is the way to go. I lean my hand back far enough that I don’t have a real physical landmark for first position anyway, so I don’t think it’s going to impair me hugely to have a half-inch shaved off the string length near the scroll.

Jesus. I get a viola, and I’m planning maintenance on it for the rest of my damn life. Oh, well. The fingerboard replane is something that I’ve known I had to get done since the end of last year, so the new nut is probably the only real biggie before I can settle into a standard-for-me viola and just get used to him as is. The replane didn’t cost very much at all; I was expecting to part with a lot more money, so that was a pleasant surprise.

I don’t think he’ll be the best person to bring the pochette to, though. He seems very focused on making the instrument behave as much like a semi-standardized orchestral viola as possible, which is reasonable considering that most of his clientele is probably orchestral players. That’s one of the biggest advantages I think of the fiddle-oriented luthiers and players, is that they all seem to regard the violin/viola more as an instrument that is either meant to stand on its own, or else play with a small band, not with seventeen other similar instruments in a big synchronous section. They seem more tolerant of individuality in sound as a result.

I feel like I’m a very odd type of viola student in that I love classical music to bits and prefer that style of instruction, but I don’t feel the need to sit in a big group of dozens of other people all playing the same notes as me. As a consequence, I think I’m happier not only with a viola but with the idea of a viola that doesn’t blend or sound like it’s “supposed to.” I don’t consider an instrument ideal only if it sounds as much like a calibration orchestral instrument as possible. I like the woodsy, bottled sound of a d’amore or a “lower quality” viola. I love baritone violins. They sound textured and intimate.

I want my viola to sound like an individual. There’s lots of wonderful singers around, and they don’t all have standard classical voices. As long as they’re on the center of the note, good art can be made with a musician’s approach to any voice, and at least when David Bowie opens his mouth, you know WTH it is.

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