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Mendy Smith

The Jury is in...

February 1, 2006 at 5:32 AM

Took the adjusted 15" to lessons tonight. My teacher played it, I played it, she did, I did, and so on and so forth. After going on like this for an hour discussing the merits and demerits of what I have now, the decision is to get a new instrument. We are going shopping this Saturday - for her a bow re-hair, for me - starting the long arduous process of picking out a new instrument.

As for the size - that was another long discussion. 16" if I want to go professional, 15 1/2" if I want to continue to enjoy what I'm doing now as a hobby and irritated at not having the sound that I want (current 15" is at it's limit). So, probably will be a 15 1/2".

One good side affect of playing a 16" for a few days - my intonation hit the nail each and every time. She thinks it's because on my old viola I was in "autopilot" mode, and getting all out of whack muscle memory wise with a borrowed 16" forced a reliance on my ear instead. I joked about inventing an adjustable device that would change the extension of the arm (lengthen the whole instrument) for ear training if the result was so good! I was admonished to NOT lose what I inadvertently picked up.

The saga continues....

From Jim W. Miller
Posted on February 1, 2006 at 5:40 AM
There's no way I could play a frickin viola. I have average-sized smallish male hands like surgeons hands and I think they're not big enough to be optimal for even violin. But then Midori or Chang or both are supposed to have little rat claws so where does that leave ya. My nephew has perfect violin or viola hands with literally the longest fingers I've ever seen. But he never took violin and is off studying to be a diplomat or something.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on February 1, 2006 at 8:14 AM
Your teacher sounds very nice, going above and beyond the call of duty to accompany you and help you try out new violas. A teacher like that is so valuable.
From Neil Cameron
Posted on February 1, 2006 at 3:15 PM
Mendy, I wouldn't get too locked into the size thing (NO this is not meant to be a freudian statement). My teacher has played viola professionally and her (expensive) instrument is only 15".

I think I'll take my dirty mind and bail out of this post before I get into real trouble.


From Bill _
Posted on February 1, 2006 at 5:08 PM
Some 16-1/2" instruments are very light and have relatively short necks. Other 15ish" instruments are heavy and have relatively long necks.

It isn't the weight per se, but the distribution of weight, that will affect you.

It isn't the size that matters, but how far you have to stretch out your arm.

So I would not lock onto the 15-1/2" thing--or the "if you want to be pro" thing. Violas vary all over the place.

If you want to see the most progressive violas, go to David Rivinus. For instance

From Patty Rutins
Posted on February 2, 2006 at 3:25 AM
One of the coolest things about violas is that they're so non-standardized, relatively speaking. I just love all the different shapes and sizes, not to mention tone colors.

My local luthier is well-known for his violas -- don't know what your price range is, or what his price range is, but I've heard his violins (very nice indeed!) and his violas are supposed to be better. If you're interested, check out Geoffrey Ovington.

Good luck in your search! Keep us all posted. :)

From Mendy Smith
Posted on February 2, 2006 at 4:33 AM
Bill - that is the strangest viola I have ever seen in my life, odder than the new electric violins!! Weird. I don't think I could play seriously on one of those - I'd be laughing each time I take it out of the case. I can already think of what I'd name it "Quasi Moto" :)

Thanks all for the input on the size thing. We'll be trying everything from 15 to 16" to begin with, and narrow down from there. I've got a $5K budget just for the instrument, no need for a bow or case. I figure this will take awhile.

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