My old pochette

I need to get that damned thing out and screw with it a little bit. I forgot I had it. The viola is too big and heavy to do a damned thing with at this point, but that old pochette might be fun.

I know what’s going to happen. I’m going to pick it up, mess with it, and then put it right back down and pick up my flute. 🙂

You see, the problem with the pochette …

… is that it’s so much lighter and easier to play, even with the same interval distance as my full-size. I need a low-profile center-mount chinrest, and … and it pains me to say this … I may want a 15″ viola. I’ll let it sit for a while and see how long I feel like this, but I could do a fucking vibrato with the pochette, and couldn’t even begin to do it with the full-size. The lightness, the relative ease of playing, even with not-ideal sound, the flexibility of instrument placement allowing more flexibility for my scroll hand … Weight, scroll hand placement, arm placement, everything is easier even with the large interval distances.

I want a low-profile center-mount chinrest on my full-size for starters. We’ll see what happens from there. I don’t want to start stacking these goddamned things up like cordwood. I still like the idea of an octave violin strung like a viola, but one of the things that worries me is the bridge size and the bowing I’ll have to learn with a smaller bridge. I still remember holding my teacher’s violin for just a few seconds and being amazed at how tiny the bridge was. I like having the strings nice and far apart on a real bridge instead of a postage stamp. It really was small.

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.

The pochette is here!

My rosin is not though, so I can’t try him out yet. He’s lovely, and lightweight, and the carrying case also weighs next to nothing. An airplane-friendly viola! Wonderful! I need to make a luggage tag for him though, that says THIS IS A BACKPACKER FIDDLE, or else the TSA is going to think it’s a pipe bomb or something. 😛

I also got a Coda Diamond NX viola bow with him, and I’m more looking forward to giving that a run on Stevie than on the pochette. I’ve always heard about the difference that a good bow can make, and I’ve only ever used one bow, so it will be neat to feel and hear if there is a difference.

A left-handed viola-scale pochette. 🙂 Probably not too many of those in the world!

Hoping to score a pochette …

It’s a bit dicey to get a viola-scale one, though — happily, they tend to be rather symmetrical without the normal internal complexities of a full-scale instrument, so the only change to be made as a lefty is to ream out the pegbox the other way around. We’ll see how it goes.

This is the one I’m looking at — a Mountaineer III backpacker fiddle from Adventurous Muse — and the maker Don Rickert has contacted me quite promptly and pleasantly and remarked that he’s made many a lefty fiddle, so he’s up for it. 🙂 Tonight, I’m going to take a look at my own and let him know the free string length. (I’ve measured it before but forgot.) After that, we can talk budget. I’d really rather not go too far over $1500 but might have to go higher since it would not just be a lefty but also just larger. This does of course mean that my pochette would be more expensive than my actual fiddle, but it’s worth it to be able to travel with it, and I’m acutely aware of the fact that I am incredibly fortunate to be able to say that something that costs that much is “worth it.”

I’d also get a travel bow and a case as well. Imagine! Being able to fly with a fiddle! He decorates them too, and I would dearly love having a Journey winged scarab put on the side.

I have already purchased a tenor recorder for a travel instrument (I cannot handle one of those hideous squeakmonster things that I played as a freshman in high school, so a tenor it is), but a pochette would be a tremendous travel instrument and would go a long way to keeping me sane when I travel for work. To some extent, the current state of the economy puts the muscle in my corner when ordering one since most makers of these instruments are hurting financially. I hope that will help me pry one out of the makers I’ve contacted.

Update: No prying required, it appears! Again, he was happy to make a viola-scale lefty, so things are looking up, even though this does apparently have some internal complexities that will have to get mirrored.

I had also contacted another fellow who sells travel violins for about $315 and asked him; he was still uninterested. Oh, darn. I thanked him and did let slide that another more adventurous luthier is going to make roughly $1700 off me counting the case and possibly a new non-take-apart bow. Hey, if I have to get a new bow anyhow, I might as well snag it from Rickert. Snooze == lose. 😀 And since Rickert also makes other instruments and has demonstrated himself to be prompt and pleasant … who knows? I about died when I found out that he makes d’amores as well; I’d always figured that a lefty d’amore was never going to happen, but again … who knows?