Violas with Narrow Upper Bouts and High Ribs
Hi everyone, I'm just curious, but are there violas with narrow upper bouts and high ribs? Theoretically, I think it might be the best fit in a way for both playability and sound. What do you think?
There are also asymmetric violas with the right upper bout narrower than the left - also easier to play advanced lit. The 15-15.5" violas I have seen seem to be thinner also seem to have higher ribs than my 16". Certainly easier to play for people with shorter arms and smaller hands.
From listening to many examples I have the impression that such shapes can lead to a boomy base with a reedy treble.
I think this description is more or less the idea behind the Tertis viola, isn't it?
It is, I think. I forgot all about it. We don't want a reedy upper register, but it can be a good way to add depth to a small viola plus the wide left bout.
I mean there is probably a way to combat the reediness, but not owning or having played a Tertis there is very little I can say from first hand experience.
Look up Robert Spears’ ergo viola. Also, rib height is misunderstood by many. It really does not make that much of a difference compared to things like plate tuning and choice of fittings and rests.
Good point, Edward. I was thinking that rib height can increase depth of sound to an extent, but plate tuning and other factors contribute as well. I used to think that exceptionally deep sounding violins had exceptionally high ribs, but I learned that I was wrong by comparing the rib heights of two exceptionally deep sounding violins and noticing a difference in rib height, as well as two violins with different levels of depth with the same rib height.
The Tertis model is mainly identified by being more pear-shaped than the standard on account of having a wider lower bout and a flatter tail end. I've tried a few including one by Tertis's original maker Arthur Richardson which I thought sounded rather hollow, but it would be dangerous to generalise. Since the standard viola of up to 17" is technically too small for its pitch range (as compared with the violin and cello) many makers have attempted to find their own ideal compromise between depth and brilliance of sound and playability, but you really can't fit a quart into a pint pot.
Bernard Sabatier (Paris) makes two original models.
The violas Andrew talks about, with wide left upper bout and narrow right upper bout, sounds like a good idea, plus wide lower bouts, standard middle bouts and high ribs. Is it easy to get into the higher positions on Sabatier's violas? Is there lots of body to get around?
The assymetrical ones are easy, the "Lyra" models less so, but the tone is worth the trouble of finding ways of creeping up the fingerboard!
High ribs in the neck root can make the instrument uncomfortable in high positions. It may feel not good under the chin too.
The assymetrical ones are best for the fractional sizes. The Lyra model is amazing for ca.16" violas.
I beleive that the one person I know who bought an asymmetrical viola just got rid of it. Can’t remember the exact reasoning. Want to say it’s name started with a p.
Everyone has different preferences for comfort levels.
I have a Tertis model by Arthur Richardson at home.
What do you think of the sound? It must be hard to play up high, right?
I don't play it much. Almost every dimension is unusually large, except string length. It is indeed hard for me to play up high. I have a friend who's about 6'6" and he finds it comfortable.
I read that that Richardson's Tertis-Model violas have a string length of 37mm, suitable for many of us, but Tertis later wanted 38.5cm (with a longer neck) and steel strings, which somewhat reduced their popularity.
Andrew, in suggesting thinner plates to avoid nasality, my logic was faulty! Lowering the wood resonances may well bring a "projecting" formant (e.g. +/- 2kHz) down into the nasal region (e.g. +/- 1.5kHz).