I wish I could decide whether the intense emotion I feel about the viola is love or hate. I can’t seem to make up my mind. It’s like what a writer I knew once said about Emmenthal cheese slices. You eat one, and you can’t make up your mind whether you like it or hate it, so you eat another, and pretty soon you’ve finished an entire package of Emmenthal cheese slices and you still can’t figure out whether you love it or hate it.

I know that the scale would tip slightly toward the “love” end of the spectrum if I would just bite the bullet, tell my inner macho to STFU, and get a 14″ viola. Gliga doesn’t make a 15″-er. I think Singing Woods does, though. I need to go find out again.

Damn it. All this for an instrument that I can’t decide if I even want to play it or not.

Someone bought my old viola. :-)

Checking out the Gliga link and I noticed that my old 16.5″ viola was absent. I hope he was bought by someone who can play that tank, because he sounded wonderful.

They had a couple lefty violins with bird’s-eye maple backs, too. Thank dawg they had no 15″ violas with similar backs. I wouldn’t get another 16″, but a 15″ with a beautifully figured bird’s-eye back? I might have some trouble with that.

Update: Crap, he’s still there. He weighs like the back end of a 747 and his neck feels like a caber, but he sounds like Franco Corelli. 😦

Ultimately, but I’ve got a ways to go.


And I wonder if I could fit it with a low F instead of a high E?

At any rate, not for a couple years. I’m prioritizing the following:

1) Geared pegs and an extended nut on Stevie.
2) 15″ viola unless the extended nut makes my life easy enough.
3) Shedloads of practice so when/if I finally get the above instrument, I won’t be a sad poser with GAS.

I’ve been curious about them for some time, but the oddball tuning sort of put me off. This one’s tuned in 5ths obviously, and I’ve got a book by Harry Danks about the viola d’amore that reviews all sorts of stuff that was written about it historically, all the way back to the 1600s. Several of the sources he quotes say that it’s usually tuned in CM or Cm, although some people tune it in 5ths. That last was all the excuse I needed to just tune the thing in 5ths (when I ultimately get one) and not apologize for being anachronistic.

My favorite tuning would of course be F-C-G-D-A, with the sympathetic strings tuned to optimize the key of what I’m playing by emphasizing the tonic, dominant, subdominant, and if the piece uses it a lot, the relative minor. So for example, if I played something in A, I’d probably tune the sympathetic strings to A, E, D, B, and an F#, likely in the order F#-A-B-D-E or A-B-D-E-F#. And I don’t know if the low F is doable, really. Even the DM d’amores are tuned only down to an A below a low C, not quite down to an F. Octave violins go down to a G, though — so maybe.

Regards GAS: I’m not unaware of the fact that I have precisely ZERO GAS when it comes to the piano. I have negative GAS about pianos. I resent expensive instruments, almost as much as the people who push them. It has not escaped me that there is probably an inverse correspondence between ability level and GAS severity. It can be very tempting to distract oneself from the work one must do in order to improve by buying junk one doesn’t need.

Bowing is different on the pochette, but damn this thing’s fun.

It’s quiet, intimate, and lightweight. I’ve never played a violin before in my life, and the one and only time I had one on my shoulder it felt like it was made of balsa wood. As a result, I tend to underestimate the weight of a viola since I have nothing to compare it to. But the pochette is quiet, sweet, and just a lot of fun to noodle around on.

The way I have to hold it makes it a bit rough to go very far down on the C string; since it’s quite narrow I can’t move it forward and balance it on both my collarbones. It’s on the right collarbone only, so rotating my elbow to get to the C isn’t as easy as on the full-size. But it’s doable, and as I started piffling with it last night, I found a pretty decent way to hold it. I had to take the shoulder rest track off the back, but I still have it in case I opt for it later.

The chinrest/tailpiece would make my viola teacher’s eyes bleed, but it’s clever and easy, and this is so lightweight that I don’t have to put much pressure on it with my jaw to pin it down. I might want to try a center-mount chinrest on Stevie as a result.

I also love the geared pegs! I’m tempted to get them on Stevie as well, but I’m a bit leery of it only because they are a permanent fixture and because they are only really relevant after putting new strings on. After the strings settle in, you barely need to move the pegs at all.

Anyway, if any nonexistent readers are interested in conventional or unconventional instruments, righty or lefty, check out the Adventurous Muse link in the blogroll. He’s a good guy with great customer service, very responsive and pleasant.

Okay, let’s state the problem.

  1. I’m interested in seeing if I can get a viola someplace that will let me tone down on the piercing quality of the D and A strings.
  2. I don’t want to lose too much on the G and C strings.
  3. I’d also like it to be quieter.
  4. If it’s also got a smaller body and string length, making it more ergonomically friendly, I wouldn’t complain.

I don’t know if all of these things are possible with one instrument. I’m thinking that any decrease in size to make it quieter and more playable will cut low-frequency components out, making the bass strings less resonant and the treble strings … just as trebly but thin-sounding.

I’ll have to tread carefully here. These things aren’t cheap.

New strings (Corelli Crystals) and possibly an octave violin strung like a viola

And I’m giving some new ones a try — they’re cheap enough that I can do that. Savarez Corelli Crystals. Johnson described them as mellow, warm, and rich, so they sound like a good possibility. I’m going to work downwards from the A and see how they sound. I don’t mind my C or G string (that much), so if these are as “mellow” and “rich” as the website claims they are, then I might end up with Corelli Crystals on the D and A, and Obligatos on the G and C. I’m frankly curious about warm gut, but I’m not good enough to play on gut at this point, not at all. (Not without geared pegs, anyhow.)

And they were only $36 for a set, so it’s worth a try. I can always just go back to a full set of Doms, which sound pretty good on this thing.

I do not know how fiddlers stand it with steel strings on the whole thing, up high, right next to their heads. My own A string feels hideous at close range.

We’ll see how it goes at any rate.

I’m also still having fun improvving on this thing. Improvving is a snap and a half on a single-note instrument! It’s cake! I’m having so much fun with it! I’m also amusing myself with all the triplet rhythms I keep going for. Yep, I listen to a lot of Baroque music. Does it show? 😀

I also contacted a rather nice seller from a luthier named Gianna Violins about working up an octave violin with viola strings. I let him know what I was after — a quiet, dark, dusky, chamber-music sounding viola with the easier playability of a violin, and asked whether an octave violin might be a good way to achieve this. He agreed that it would sound good and be worth trying. As magnificently gorgeous as the NUVO Baroque is, it was reported on a fiddle forum to be very nice and very loud. In other words, maybe not ideal for me.

I’m also rather amused in general because I sent him this link and said, “At the risk of sounding like a weirdo, this is what I want it to sound like. Clean but dusky and a bit oaky, chamber-musicky.” I thought that his last name was Gianna or something — that he was a paesan.

Turns out his name is — wait for it — Steve Perry. Seriously. The luthier is named Steve Perry. And I didn’t find this out until after I sent that link.

So I’ve got that going now. Although I’m also still going to wait for the pochette and see how that goes, because that luthier, Don Rickert, also makes octave violins, and if the pochette is very good, I can go with him as well. And he also does rosing, which would allow me to get a nice scarab on the back side of the upper bout, with a dark chianti-and-chocolate varnish.

Both make lefties.

So there’s that going on, although if I do it, it’s not until the first of the year.

The results of the fingerboard work

This is the work I had done over the week before Labor Day weekend. I hadn’t anticipated it being that big a deal, or at least only in terms of reaching the C string more easily. But it’s made a significant difference. Nothing I can put my finger on (hah!) but it feels better to play on him and it’s easier to get around on the fingerboard. My intonation’s better than it was. Between the replane and finally figuring out the most comfortable way to hold the thing so that I don’t get tired or put a dent in my collarbone, things are really looking up. I keep saying this, but I may actually be a violist someday. (And I might even play things that aren’t in CM! Wowza!)