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jennifer steinfeldt  warren

Tune-ups for the instruments. Getting ready for another year.

January 8, 2007 at 12:14 AM

Well, it is the new year. The new year seems to bring my instruments into needing new accessories, new strings, adjusting, repairing, upgrading...
Violin and Viola. To prepare them for the work ahead, I guess, and being kind to them for the rough year they just survived!

I am STILL trying to find a comfortable set-up with my that will cause less pain, be more consistant, and allow me to move forwards with the music. I have felt very stuck musically as I wrestle with the instrument.

The first thing, was a new bow. A carbon Fiber CODA aspire. I had a let down the first few days with the bow. It is heavy, thick along the stick, has an awkwardly sized/ratio'd grip/winding/frog. My playing was a mess. But with a few days of hard adjusting and experimenting, I decided that this is a good bow for me. The heavier bow brings out much more sound from the instrument. After I realized that I don't have to use my body for weight,it has it's own weight on the strings, things turned up immediately. It really was one of those magical moments. It also allowes a good strong sound above third position, most noticeable with the double stops in the Walton. Soo....getting used to the bow.

Then there was the issue of the shoulder rest and actually holding the instrument.I had tried my violin rest (A Mach) before my first rest, right after getting the instrument, and it didn't work, and fell off all the time.

Well, different year, different results??? The amount of tension needed to support the viola in the jaw/neck/shoulder/back/head....drastically dropped! It still isn't what I'd like, but, well, I'm not complaining (except for the painful bruise it gave me on the chest, one of those ribcage bones below the callarbone).

Then...I think my strings died, or I killed them. SOO much effort and strength needed to depress the C string, and the only pain-free way to do it, renders my hand angled badly for vibrato. It was really frustrating. They are Obligatos, which when they get old, get really stiff, thick, and unresponsive. Urgh. My strings have such a short life. An expense of keeping up two instruments is definately the strings. SO I spent about five hours on the internet researching strings. I've got one shot to get strings that will work better on my instrument, not choke it, but sound rich...low tension, soft, thin, but not steel. I finally settled on Corelli Alliance, light, 4/4 for 51 bucks. At five a.m.

And.....budum, ching! I'm taking lessons starting in a few weeks. So excited! Have spoken with the teacher, and am now getting jitters like I used to before a semester started. Weird.

I might have a good lead on an orchestra that I could get a viola position in, that pays twice what I get now anywhere per service. That is one of the reasons I'm going ahead and spending some money getting my viola set up well. I also got some new rosin. I'm trying Thomastic Soft rosin, violin/viola.
Sticky goodness.

Bwlaahhhhhggrrrhhh! Wow. That is a long blog about, well, not a whole lot.

I'm enjoying my viola lit:
I listened to an amazingly beautiful version of the Bach chaconne played on viola...I want to try that! I am going viola practice crazy. I missed it so much between Oct. and Dec.17 when I had to really spend all my time on the violin.

I play Beethoven 7th Symphony on violin this month. I found my score, and am going to listen to the recording with the score tonight. The part (vln1) doesn't seem particularly difficult, no tricky fingerings or anything. But I'm not fooled. I know it will be hard to put it together and give a clean, clear, high level performance (mostly strings blending in the section).

Also working on the Dvorak Romance. Hoping my Obligato violin strings arrive tomorrow! Those strings have been dead for a few weeks....

Right now, though....writing a song with my christmas present guitar (used Fender acoustic). Relaxing. About to sing for my husband (unless I collaps in a bundle of nerves). Funny how controlling nerves for performing violin doesn't transfer well to nerves where the voice is depended on....

Sing, sing, sing today!


From John Chew
Posted on January 8, 2007 at 3:08 AM
Wow, there's the Bach Chaconne for the viola? Who's the artist? I have to buy it and listen to it!
From jennifer steinfeldt warren
Posted on January 8, 2007 at 8:02 AM
Rivka Golani, viola
They have it at Naxos library online. It is with a disc set including the cello suites as well.
Yea, it is really neat to hear it on viola. Quite different!


From Man Wong
Posted on January 8, 2007 at 9:14 AM
Cool! Bach Chaconne on viola -- and it's a Naxos label w/ the Cello Suite included too? Niiiice!

And how did I know that John would be the first one to post a comment on this? :-)

Thanks for sharing your beginning adventures w/ the viola, Jennifer. I'm just a very new adult beginner w/ the violin -- not quite 1 year yet -- learning it alongside (and ahead of) my kids via the Suzuki method. And I got tempted into getting a nice 16" viola myself as well on an awesome deal off eBay -- and John actually tried it out recently. :-) I just love it, and it's actually helped open up my lefthand flexibility on the violin a bit as a result. I find my viola to be a bit too tall for comfort though and am looking for a lower chinrest or maybe go w/out one. And that fix would probably also help me in other areas since the 16" viola size seems to push the very limits of what I can possibly handle. I'm not sure if I will take lessons for the viola -- I might go for combined violin/viola lessons w/ my current teacher, but we'll see.

BTW, did I also mentioned that I went a little nuts and also bought a decent cello on a good deal off eBay? :-) Maybe I'm thinking too far ahead about that little family string quartet I'm dreaming about w/ our 3 kids even though 1 of them is just a newborn who won't be ready for any lessons for at least 3 years yet. :-)

Anyway, have a blast in the new year w/ your viola...



From Richard Hellinger
Posted on January 9, 2007 at 2:59 AM
You String Murderer!!! Just Kidding.

Corelli Alliances for $51, that seems a little much, I would research it more. Is that with or without shipping? Go here... Corelli Alliance. It is sold by Johnson String instruments and it is only $37.60 + $5.95 Shipping Which equals $43.55 total.

I am starting lessons with a new teacher in a few weeks!! What a coincidence! It is the teacher I have wanted for years and I think she is going to be a perfect match. Good Luck!

From jennifer steinfeldt warren
Posted on January 9, 2007 at 8:40 PM
Viola strings are a little more expensive than violin strings :)


From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on January 10, 2007 at 11:56 AM
I think the switching back and forth between violin and viola can really do a number on your body. I also played violin only for most of December and coming back to viola has been nice mentally and hard physically.

I'm now starting to notice tension in my neck and back too and the instrument feels heavy and clunky again. I'd mostly gotten over that feeling in November and now I have to do it again. And I'm still struggling with the bow (It's not a carbon fiber, I checked more closely. It's just heavy. But the bow may be one big reason my viola sounds so much richer than my violin. So I think I have to be open-minded, not jump to unfair conclusions, and make friends with the viola bow).

I like reading your blog about physical difficulties associated with switching back and forth between instruments because it makes me feel like I'm not alone, even professionals have these issues.

From Man Wong
Posted on January 11, 2007 at 6:50 PM
Hi, all.

I frequent the forum on, and there are a few advanced amateurs and semi-pros(?) who also switch between violin and viola. One longtime violist over there actually switched to the violin in recent years. And even he prefers to (and does often) play a smaller viola for comfort even though he should be plenty tall enough for a >=16".

Our current primary Suzuki violin teacher had a very bad car accident 10 years ago that left her unable to play a 16" viola on a regular basis now. She normally plays a smaller viola instead. Not sure about our other Suzuki violin teacher who's also a violist -- she probably plays a 16" since she seemed to like my 16" Juzek just fine w/out mentioning size.

So far, I guess I'm still too new to both violin and viola to find the switching to be too problematic though I still could use a lower chinrest (or none at all). I'm sure I will notice more problems as I advance in technique, etc. FWIW, my 2nd hand viola outfit came w/ a modest pernambuco bow (E Dupree apparently from, and it's quite thick and hefty compared to a regular violin bow. I actually tried using it on my cheapy (but decent quality) beginner's violin, and boy, does it play slow w/ long sustains on the violin. :-)

Kind regards,


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