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The New Violin Family Orchestra

October 14, 2009 at 7:30 PM

I don't usually blog often, even on my own web site. I prefer to spend my time making violins down in my Dungeon (that's the name I gave to the friendly confines of my basement workshop). But the word "violin" has a different meaning to me than it probably does for you. That's because the smallest violin I make has a body length just over twelve inches, while the largest has a scroll to endpin length well over six feet. Some of you might know of the late Dr. Carleen Hutchins and the New Violin Family-- a set of eight scaled instruments with the tonal qualities of the violin in every one-- but I'm guessing that many of you have never actually seen or heard any of the instruments in this "rational octet." O.K., time to deal with that! :-)

The last few years I've finally had enough instruments made on my third-generation models to lend to a group of players in an orchestral setting. I thought that you might enjoy seeing and hearing the results by viewing some videos I posted on YouTube not long ago. You can search on the keyphrase "New Violin Family" (without the quotes). You can also access my YouTube channel directly at

Briefly, the instruments are tuned at half-octave intervals. The lowest open string is either C or G, except for the basses, which are possible to tune in a variety of ways. Seven of the eight New Family violins are used in the New Violin Family Orchestra (NVFO). Only the tiny piccolo violin is absent because most music does not call for such a high range. Here's a list of instruments:

piccolo: low GDA (880) E (an octave above the standard violin and about the size of a 1/2-size violin)

soprano: low CGDA (880) (a fourth above the violin and about the size of a 3/4 violin)

mezzo: low GDA (440) E (a grand-scale violin with a rich and dark tone)

alto: low CGDA (440) (a viola the size a viola should be; played vertically on a pin)

tenor: low GDA (220) E (an octave below the violin; the missing voice of the family returned)

baritone: low CGDA (220) (think of it as a cello that can stand up to a grand piano)

bass: low GDA (110) E (Two octaves below the violin; short-scale neck; easy to play)

contrabass: low BEA (55) D (in fourths; a bottom end that won't quit; clear, incisive)

Enjoy the video(s), and let me know what you think!

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