Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Newest Member of the Family

Did I need another stringed instrument? No. It's almost embarrassing already, as the total including guitars is now approaching 10. I've decided to sell my beloved violin because it's just not getting any use. If this new viola pans out, I can let go of my first viola too.

This is an interesting one. As part of my discovery of Oliver Schroer, I found out that he primarily played a five-string violin. My curiosity piqued, I picked up a cheap-o 5-string electric from a company in China that was listing on eBay. As I had my eye on five-string violas as well, I asked them if they'd be able to make an acoustic one to my specs, and they gave me a very reasonable price. After some back 'n forth, fits and starts, they finally got it built and sent it out across the planet. It blows my mind that I can exchange some e-mails with someone in China and have a custom-made instrument shipped here in a few weeks.

It arrived on Monday -- the woodwork is beautiful, exactly like I had hoped. As expected, the fittings and setup are poor -- this is apparently the story with nearly every instrument imported from China, as if they've figured out the wood part, but not much else. By the time I put good strings on, get it adjusted and set up properly, it won't be such a bargain any more, but hopefully the sound will make it worthwhile. My plan is to string it with a low F, giving it a range nudging into the cello world...or if that doesn't work out, the standard tuning plus a high E string to cover the range of the violin.

viola-back

Dec.7 Update: I've been playing this beast daily for a few weeks now, and it's getting better. Different strings improved the sound a lot, especially a very expensive (rare) F string. I wouldn't say it's better than my old one, but not worse either. I've been working on a half-dozen songs lately, and recorded them with the camera, since I don't have a proper audio recorder yet. So this isn't compelling viewing, but if you're curious about the kind of music I'm composing right now, this gives a pretty good overview. My challenge now is to envision how other instruments might join these tunes, ideally meaning that the viola could fade into accompaniment at times -- I'm thinking that these could be arranged for a small group of three-four instruments, and crafted into 2-4 minute instrumental songs. Some percussion would be great, some plucked strings, and something to fill in the bass end.

4 comments:

Dianne said...

Congratulations on the latest addition to your musical "family" of stringed instruments. It looks gorgeous!

Jeremy said...

Thanks, Mom. If it sounds half as good as it looks, I'll deem this a successful experiment.

Jone said...

How intriquing. I playes a long time ago. And just bought an violin from an antique shop to play with last summer.

Jeremy said...

Cool, Jone. Have you been playing it much?