Smaller viola makers
Instruments: Recommendations about good smaller viola (15"-16")makers
From Harriet Y.
Posted November 17, 2007 at 11:48 PM
Does anyone at v.com know of excellent smaller viola (about 15"-16") makers? The viola would be able to project well even though it would be smaller. I have heard that violas with wider bouts at the bottom would help to compensate for the smaller size of the instrument. Any suggestions/ideas? I would greatly appreciate any feedback.
From Ingrid Popp
Posted on November 18, 2007 at 12:11 AM
Ted Skreko at Indianapolis violins (you can find contact info in the violin shops section of this website) makes a fabulous 15 1/2" viola model that sounds great and projects well. His larger models are great as well. I myself own one of his 15 1/2" models and most people who play it are very impressed by the sound. I don't know what price range you are looking in though his sell for around $12,000.
If you want a really nice old viola, small ones are a bit of a goldmine. From about 1775 to 1850 the standard size for a viola was in the 15-1/4 to 15-1/2 range, but this is a very hard size to sell now, so if you can find one the price may be surprising.
I have an old Juzek that I play on for gigs and that I've used this semester in my quartet at school. It worked out really well for the quartet, which I think is saying something since we're all graduate performance majors (I'm a violinist principally, so I have a small viola so it's really easy to switch back and forth). I think that especially with small instruments, it's really important to spend a lot of time getting a GREAT setup for it. Find the strings that work best, make sure all of the fittings work/resonate well with it, and get the soundpost in an optimum location. Especially since you can usually get small violas for less money than big ones, it's definitely worth spending some extra time/money getting an awesome setup for a small instrument. Good luck!
I know Sderci made a few smaller violas 15.75> inches. My Sderci is a "beast" as my teacher calls it. It is 17 1/8 inches.
Maybe you can find a Sderci you like, but you really didn't mention your price range so yeah.
From Gary Kroll
Posted on November 18, 2007 at 05:14 AM
I know a little German viola maker who is about three feet tall.
Also check out David Rivinus
16 inches is pretty common among the several sizes that most makers produce.
Smaller than that, a little more rare.
From Sue Bechler
Posted on November 18, 2007 at 08:38 PM
I just bought a viola by Sean Peak of Chicago. 15.5", wide at the lower bouts for more airspace, balances well. I was having shoulder pain with an nice old Penzel 16.25". Sue
What David said.
Under sixteen inches, you have to commision the instrument with lot of makers. Smaller ones are tuff to sell, or sell to a smaller group of players. So it's a risk for a maker to just build one and hope that someone comes along to buy it. They are fun to build,though.
From Sue Bechler
Posted on November 19, 2007 at 12:17 AM
The shop I work with has a standing order with Sean Peak for his violas. They have a list of people waiting for the 15 and 15 & half. Lucky for me I'd talked to them a while ago about the topic, so they were willing to consider that put me at the top of the list. I am happy with the deep, round sound, as are the several friends who've played on it. Sue
From Aaron Boyd
Posted on November 19, 2007 at 01:12 AM
Actually, funny that this thread comes up; I had just decided to sell my beautiful 1730's viola made by Antonius Gedler in Fussen. If I am not mistaken, Beethoven also had a Gedler viola that is currently in the collection of the Beethovenhause in Bonn. Anyone interested in seeing my viola is free to contact me. It has a very warm, pleasing sound, and is fabulously perfect for a violinist who occasionally plays the viola.
to be honest I have never met a smaller viola maker. They all seem to hover around the 1 meter 76 mark.
From Peter Kent
Posted on November 19, 2007 at 02:59 AM
Just bought a Sam Shen 16" with wide lower bouts...haven't been able to extract it from my shoulder...big tone, just the right pinch of nasal so it doesn't sound like a big fiddle, and with plain old Dominants, it's easy to play and responds to all the bows in my stable. Upper register is powerful and retains tone even in soft dynamics...under $3,000 with a case.
Paul Strelau in Fairport NY sells 'em. He's also got smaller sized ones.
From Mendy Smith
Posted on November 21, 2007 at 04:03 AM
Harriet, you are quite close to Johnson Stringed Intruments (google their website). They have many fine smaller violas to try out.