Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Newest Member of the Family
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.
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.