V.com weekend vote: Do you also play an instrument that has more than four strings?

February 11, 2017, 10:14 AM · This week I had a special opportunity to see Rachel Barton Pine's viola d'amore up close after her concert with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and to see what it was like to draw a bow across the strings.

That's all I can claim to have done -- I could see right there that it's pretty complicated to play a 14-stringed instrument, even if just seven of those strings are the "playing strings."

viola d'amore strings

All the intervals between the strings were different, and I could sense that I'd need some major orienteering to get adept at feeling which string was where. In fact, I completely missed the top string the first few times I tried to play all the strings as a chord! It was at such an unusual angle that I didn't drop my arm far enough to find it. But what a beautiful instrument, and I felt honored to get such a close look.

This made me think about what it's like to play instruments with more than just four strings. On the same day as I met Rachel's viola d'amore, I was revisiting the idea of getting an electric violin, which raises the question: four-string or five string? I simply decided: five-string! Why not? You only live once. I just may actually do that.

One of my students actually has a five-string electric violin, and many artists who perform on electrics have a five-string. I was curious, do a lot of people have instruments with more than the traditional four strings of a violin or viola? I'm sure many people have a guitar on the side, so I've thrown that in there. For the vote, if you can say "yes" to more than one category, then pick the category for the instrument which you feel is the most unusual among them.

I'd also welcome advice on how to learn to play on an instrument with more than four strings!

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Replies

February 11, 2017 at 05:18 PM · Yes! 230 strings or so. It's the piano. But I had to choose "just the four strings" because the piano is neither bowed nor plucked.

February 11, 2017 at 06:00 PM · Yes! I play the electric guitar and I actually transcribe violin music to the guitar because I like the way it sounds but most importantly to test the capabilities of the instrument when playing something that was not written for it as in the case of the Cesar Franck sonata, amongst other things. I will leave a link here in case you are curious:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KsMwIrwni8

February 11, 2017 at 07:22 PM · I have a mandolin that I pluck at a bit so I said "yes another plucked". Really I can't claim to truly play it but if I ever had the time to learn proper pick work...

February 11, 2017 at 11:19 PM · Besides playing the violin and the viola I also play a 6 string electric violin.

It is confusing sometimes with all those strings.

February 12, 2017 at 03:53 AM · I don't play Violin. I play Viola and 7 string Bass Viol a little.

February 12, 2017 at 02:10 PM · Yes, I also play Mandolin, Guitar, and Banjo (clawhammer). I would say the 5 string Banjo is the most unusual because I use several different tunings.

February 12, 2017 at 03:31 PM · My main instrument is violin but I also studied harp.

February 12, 2017 at 04:51 PM · Beginning level mandolin is very easy to learn for someone who already plays the violin. I do that, and I am also taking guitar lessons.

February 12, 2017 at 05:02 PM · ....all I can do to play 4 strings halfway decent!

February 12, 2017 at 06:47 PM · My first instrument was the mandolin. Training wheels for fiddle/violin. Paganini's father played mandolin and late in Nicolo's life it was said there was often a mandolin around and maybe the guitar and mandolin helped strengthen his left hand without the "electricity" required for the violin.

February 12, 2017 at 07:36 PM · When I decided to purchase my electric violin, the NS WAV-4, by Ned Steinberger, my luthier had also suggested the NS WAV-5, the 5-string version of the same model.

I discussed it at the time with my teacher. However, I had only recently reprised the violin after a 35-year hiatus, I decided to purchase the 4-string model because I needed to focus on recovering basic techniques and an additional string was too likely to complicate matters. My teacher agreed.

The decision was the correct one for me at the time and recently I performed on my electric violin with a large Gospel band.

February 13, 2017 at 03:20 PM · I have been wanting to learn to play the Viola da Gamba!

February 13, 2017 at 06:13 PM · Yes, I have violin, guitar and baglama ( Turkish folklor insttument)

February 14, 2017 at 10:21 PM · Steve, does your mandolin have more than four stings?

5.176.210.183, disappointed the system doesn't take unicode, so when you paste the soft-g from wikipedia, you see it, but when you've submitted your post, the soft-g comes out in your post as a normal g.

February 14, 2017 at 10:31 PM · I chose "Yes, another kind of plucked instrument:", because if and when I try a harpsichord I'm sure I'll be able to play it after a fashion (as I play piano after a fashion).

February 14, 2017 at 10:35 PM · And what about a de-boned duck tied together with more than 4 strings?

February 16, 2017 at 02:10 AM · And how could I forget the String Tuba!!!

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