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Thread: What's up with this viola?

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    Senior Member Argus's Avatar
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    Default What's up with this viola?

    It looks a viola from a Salvador Dali painting.

    3:56 in this video.



    Is there a practical reason for it to be like that or is it purely aesthetic choice? Or perhaps the owner left it on a radiator and it warped.

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    Senior Member Weston's Avatar
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    It's a Flying V-ola.


    I don't know the real answer but it occurs to me while watching this video that people make damned silly faces while playing Stravinsky.

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    Senior Member kv466's Avatar
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    It looks like the Jo Merrick of violas

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    Senior Member World Violist's Avatar
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    It's supposed to be an acoustic thing. Viola's aren't acoustically proportionate to their pitch range, so there are makers who add lobes and stuff to try to make it more acoustically accurate (if violas were acoustically proportionate, it would be something like 22" instead of 16-17"). I haven't played on one of these...can't say I really want to, I'm happy with the 17" I've got.

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    Senior Member Meaghan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Weston View Post
    I don't know the real answer but it occurs to me while watching this video that people make damned silly faces while playing Stravinsky.
    Haha, it's a little distracting, isn't it? (Maybe that's just me.) But woodwind players make damned silly faces all the time. I know I look like the Grinch when I play clarinet. I think double reed players are perhaps the most apt to induce inappropriately-timed giggles at rehearsals and concerts--bassoonists look like they're talking and oboists just looked kind of distressed.

    And all the fast cutting between various close-ups of Serious Musician faces at weird angles made me feel kind of edgy. But I guess the music should do that anyway.

    That said, I think this is an interesting Rite of Spring, and would like to hear the rest of it!

    And yes, odd viola.

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by World Violist View Post
    It's supposed to be an acoustic thing. Viola's aren't acoustically proportionate to their pitch range, so there are makers who add lobes and stuff to try to make it more acoustically accurate (if violas were acoustically proportionate, it would be something like 22" instead of 16-17"). I haven't played on one of these...can't say I really want to, I'm happy with the 17" I've got.
    Before Primrose came under Heifetz's sway, he played a 'big' viola. Do you happen to know how big?
    I spent a fortune on deodorant before I realized that people don't like me anyway.

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    Senior Member World Violist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hilltroll72 View Post
    Before Primrose came under Heifetz's sway, he played a 'big' viola. Do you happen to know how big?
    I didn't think Primrose ever played a big viola. He started as a violinist and later wrote about always liking the "mezzo-soprano" quality over the "contralto" quality of the viola sound.

    The violist that comes to mind when speaking of a big viola is Lionel Tertis, who played a massive 17 1/8" Montagnana that eventually caused him bursitis (he was a small man, after all).

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    Senior Member Argus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by World Violist View Post
    It's supposed to be an acoustic thing. Viola's aren't acoustically proportionate to their pitch range, so there are makers who add lobes and stuff to try to make it more acoustically accurate (if violas were acoustically proportionate, it would be something like 22" instead of 16-17"). I haven't played on one of these...can't say I really want to, I'm happy with the 17" I've got.
    I thought it might be to do with lowering the resonant frequency of the soundbox so to be better driven by the strings, but it's just weird that it's so asymmetrical rather than spreading out the size increase over the whole instrument.Anyway, it does look cool like that.

    If they are louder than an ordinary viola or it enhances the fundamental frequency better, then why have so few professionals picked one up? I'm thinking for solo and chamber pieces they might be in their element or would the 'mix' be ruined by an overpowering viola?

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    Senior Member World Violist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Argus View Post
    I thought it might be to do with lowering the resonant frequency of the soundbox so to be better driven by the strings, but it's just weird that it's so asymmetrical rather than spreading out the size increase over the whole instrument.Anyway, it does look cool like that.

    If they are louder than an ordinary viola or it enhances the fundamental frequency better, then why have so few professionals picked one up? I'm thinking for solo and chamber pieces they might be in their element or would the 'mix' be ruined by an overpowering viola?
    Yeah, I'm not entirely sure. I mean, it might well just be the visual aesthetic of, say, a string quartet being thrown off by a viola with an extra lobe like that. I don't think the "overpowering" effect would be an issue, seeing as violists have to put in a lot of effort in the first place to make a solo be heard. So really, if this is supposed to be "louder," then that would be fine.

    The other thing to wonder about is tone quality. Viola has the biggest difference between instruments of any string instrument I know of. Two violas of the same size can have wildly different kinds of tone, and I wonder if the extra lobe on this one somewhat "throws off" something about the viola sound. It's a really versatile instrument partly because of its acoustical instability, and this might cut down some of that versatility. All of this, of course, being pure speculation on my part.

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by World Violist View Post
    I didn't think Primrose ever played a big viola. He started as a violinist and later wrote about always liking the "mezzo-soprano" quality over the "contralto" quality of the viola sound.
    [...]
    Just going by what I read somewhere. Supposedly, Ysaye had persuaded him to use a large viola, but when he started working with Heifetz, the latter wanted him to make a different sound. Possibly just a vicious rumor?

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    Senior Member World Violist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hilltroll72 View Post
    Just going by what I read somewhere. Supposedly, Ysaye had persuaded him to use a large viola, but when he started working with Heifetz, the latter wanted him to make a different sound. Possibly just a vicious rumor?

    The way I heard it, Ysaye just encouraged Primrose to make the final switch to viola. After all, I don't know if Heifetz could have convinced Primrose to change his instrument; Primrose was a stubborn guy.

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    Senior Member Argus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by World Violist View Post
    The other thing to wonder about is tone quality. Viola has the biggest difference between instruments of any string instrument I know of. Two violas of the same size can have wildly different kinds of tone, and I wonder if the extra lobe on this one somewhat "throws off" something about the viola sound. It's a really versatile instrument partly because of its acoustical instability, and this might cut down some of that versatility. All of this, of course, being pure speculation on my part.
    Changing the shape of the body will definitely change the resonant modes of the internal chamber, meaning the timbre will most likely be different. Unless the viola maker compensates for this somehow by messing with the soundpost or whatever, I'm not sure. I'd guess if it was made by a serious luthier all the acoustic problems would have been took into consideration to try and get a tone quality as close to that of a regular viola.

    I did read up on the acoustics of violins a while ago but there was too much info to take in at once.I do remember that the main wood resonance was around A440, the open A string, so the extra size in that weird viola might be to get the resonance to match the same placed string on the viola, the D string, at D294.

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    Here's a solo piece on a similar shaped viola Magyar Rondo played by Rudolf Haken. Actually the composer is a friend of mine, and the score for that piece can be downloaded from contemporaryviola.com.

    As for the shape I haven't really got anything further to add, it just seemed to me a way to add to the internal volume of the body while keeping the feel of the playing aspect similar to a traditional shaped not-too-large viola.

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    hey - thats a viola d'arco I think, its a type of viola or something or its kind x

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    The 5 strings is a viol thing, yes? the sound isn't viol though (pun intended).
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