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5-string Violin

Instruments: I'm curious about 5-string violins... Is the neck and/or bridge wider than a regular violin's to accommodate the C string? What is the exact spacing between strings?

From Timothy James Dimacali
Posted March 5, 2004 at 05:21 PM

Hi from a newbie, everyone!

I'm curious about 5-string violins... Is the neck and/or bridge wider than a regular violin's to accommodate the C string? What is the exact spacing between strings?

I'm asking because a friend of mine wants to make a 5-string violin himself (an electric one, if I'm not mistaken), but we can't find any here in the Philippines for comparison.

I'd really appreciate your input! Thanks!


BTW, thanks also to all the regulars here at Violinist.com for being such a source of inspiration and camaraderie :)

From Nancy Foreman
Posted on March 6, 2004 at 10:45 PM
There is no standard for 5-string violins. I have one with neck identical in width to a 4-string, but other models have wider necks.
From Mike Harris
Posted on March 7, 2004 at 05:13 AM
yes, some put a small viola fingerboard on a violin neck. You can also convert a 14" viola rather than a violin, getting a little better sound from the C string because of the wider ribs. I've not cared for the standard violin fingerboard for a 5-string--the strings are too close together.
There should be some 5-string discussions in the archives of this site, no?
From Stephen Perry
Posted on March 7, 2004 at 12:48 PM
Also important to distinguish 5 string violas with a deeper sound and large body. Another option.

The conversions don't do as well as a specifically 5 string instrument. I'd like to make one, but I don't have time to do such things on spec.

From Timothy James Dimacali
Posted on March 10, 2004 at 07:50 AM
Nancy, Stephen, Mike:

Wow, thanks for the insights! Really big help.

Is a 5-string much harder to play than a regular violin? Do you have to "reach" higher with your bowarm just to get to the C string?

From Kevin Daugherty
Posted on March 10, 2004 at 04:36 PM
Yamaha makes a five string electric violin if you want to compare. Just go to their site. The specs are given for all their violins, and maybe they would even answer any questions you have.

Kevin

From Fred Ott
Posted on April 26, 2004 at 03:03 PM
I converted my Cremoma violin and viola to 5 strings. Any good repairman or maker could do it on your existing instrument if there's room. Send me an email to mr_v8horsepower@msn.com and I'll send you some pictures of the completed project.
From Dumitru Lazarescu
Posted on April 27, 2004 at 11:18 PM
Yes, the neck is slightly wider than the 4 string. I am making plans, as we speak, for a 6 string electric violin, E-A-D-G-C-F from highest to lowest. If you simply want to sound lower than a regular violin, then putting violectra (or octave violin) strings on would suffice. I have a ZETA solid body violin and I put strings on it like this:

Replace the E string with a violin D string and tune a whole tone higher (to E);

Replace the A string with a violin G string and tune a whole tone higher (to A);

Replace the D string with a viola C string and tune a whole tone higher (to D);

For the G string, you need to have a cello C string and cut it accordingly, tuning it to G. This takes a little experimenting to find which brand works best for you. Beware of both fittings, at the peg and at the tail piece, where the cello string has to go in.

There is a more expensive way, simply buying the Violectra (or Octave Violin) string set from Thomastik.

The whole violin will sound an octave lower, and will sound great if amplified.

Good luck.

From Timothy James Dimacali
Posted on June 9, 2004 at 07:38 AM
Hi, all.

I haven't visited this thread in a couple of months, so I'm pleasantly surprised that it's still going.

Mr. Lazarescu, your suggestion to use larger strings is interesting. I'll try it out once the instrument is complete. :-D

To update everyone who might be curious, my luthier friend showed me a prototype a some time ago. He opted to go all-electric, and I gave him what meager advice I could give plus all the tips I received from all of you.

You've all been a great help! Thank you so much :-)

Interestingly, his electric system includes a magnetic pickup under the strings AND a transducer pickup embedded in the body. A switch on the violin's shoulder allows the player to engage and disengage the transducer, which changes the sound from bright to mellow, respectively.

His "bridge" is a metal extension of the body itself (also made of metal). What we're working on right now is how to set the curve of the bridge in relation to the curve of the fingerboard.

On a standard violin, whereas the fingerboard exhibits a regular curve, the bridge is curved in such a way that the lowest (G) string rests higher above the fingerboard than the highest (E) string.

We're wondering: is this curve really necessary in an electric violin?

I haven't seen the revised instrument, but my friend has assured me that it's in its "finishing stages" --whatever that means, LOL.

Once again, thanks for all your help and support. I promise to post pictures and (if possible) a sound clip for everyone to see when it's done. Honestly, it's slow going but easy does it! :-)

From Barry Dudley
Posted on May 15, 2010 at 02:05 PM

I have specialized in making 5 string violins and there are of course there are differences in the spacing of the strings. Either the strings have to be closer together or the neck has to be wider. The third option is a little of both.

I have a standard width/spacing that most people like, but many clients ask for certain spacing that is comfortable for them.

From Roland Garrison
Posted on May 15, 2010 at 04:07 PM

I've played a couple 5 string violins, and I think the neck width must be a personal preference. One I purchased sounded wonderful, but I sold it, as the neck was too narrow for my fingers. I loved the sound, the C was not as difficult to access as I was expecting, but the strings were too close.

I had the opportunity to play another, a CF by Stuart Rochon, and I loved the spacing. It was wider, and the C was very comfortable to play. The player that was evaluating it before me felt the neck was too wide; it may have been for her, but for me it was perfect.

One other consideration aside from width is the neck shape and depth. The CF neck was very easy to play, and I did not have as much trouble on the C of that as I have with the G of my favorite violin. The depth and overall shape of the neck is the reason.

From Barry Dudley
Posted on May 16, 2010 at 11:22 PM

Roland I think you are correct on both counts. Each player has their favorite size and shape.

The thickness as well as the  width makes a difference.

Ilya Gringolts

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