Viola 16

December 26, 2015 at 07:10 PM · Hello

Are there any difference in sound between a 16" inch Viola and 16,5" inch ?

Replies (21)

December 26, 2015 at 09:01 PM · There is a difference in sound between ALL violas, partly because there is no standard viola size (or sometimes even shape!). The "potential" is there for a bigger sound because of the larger vibrating air cavity in the sound box; however a good luthier can sometimes do marvelous things even with a smaller violas.

December 26, 2015 at 10:08 PM ·

December 26, 2015 at 10:56 PM · To put it briefly, the resonance around F/F# on the D-string depends on the length of the body (wood and air "column"), while the A/Bb resonance on the G-string comes fromthe air volume and the size of the F-holes.

E.g. in the genuine Tertis-Model violas, the D-string resonance is still F, but the air resonce is pushed down to F on the C-string; the result is booming low notes well-separated from the woody resonance by a whole octave insted of the usual 5th.

December 26, 2015 at 11:01 PM · I agree with Joel- and so you should also have some thought as to one's hands and abilities. I'd suggest trying sizes before buying, and that IS difficult isn't it? The overall gradual trend has been to make a larger size available. Where will it end? People keep growing bigger! You may not of course.

That's one plus for lesser priced instruments- you can find what suits you before spending more money. Too bad the market on used violas isn't that great, but they do well on ebay.

December 26, 2015 at 11:26 PM · All else being equal, the 16.5" will sound a half inch better than the 16.

December 27, 2015 at 02:17 AM · Not always. Like Joel said, it depends on the instrument. The quality of sound depends partly on size, but not always. You could find a 15" viola that sounds great and a 16" viola that's not all that great.

December 27, 2015 at 06:33 AM · An awesome 15" isn't going to sound as great as an awesome 16".

Sure, a dynamite 15" can surely sound better than a plain Jane 16".

But why hunt around for a dynamite 15", when you could be looking for a dynamite 16"?

Like, I'm sure there are some terrific 3/4 sized violins out there. That may sound fantastic. But when push comes to shove, size actually does matter and people wil search for a full sized anyhow because it gives a bigger sound.

December 27, 2015 at 11:16 AM · Then why aren't violins bigger ? :)

December 27, 2015 at 01:34 PM · @Brian

Now, that's a good question!

I know there is a member here who has a contralto violin that is larger than a 4/4. But, it seems with violins you simply can't mess with Tradition.

With a viola, they are all mutants and freaks, so anything goes.

December 27, 2015 at 04:22 PM · Violinists usually want a "soprano" rather than a "mezzo" sound.

Carleen Huthchins designed a Mezzo violin: 15" body but with standard violin string length. Apparently rather over-powering..

Robert Speer's version in only 14-1/4".

I'm doing to mount my 15-3/4" JTL as a violin (14" string length, so a special E-string), so I can show my young female students how to place their slender hands on a 4/4 violin..

Sort of VA2VN!

December 27, 2015 at 08:46 PM ·

December 27, 2015 at 09:35 PM · the question is for the same instrument but different size only.

for exemple, Stentor Conservatoire 16" and 16,5" !!?

December 28, 2015 at 01:39 AM · Amine - I think you need to consider first which one feels most comfortable. If you are small, it may make sense to go for a smaller instrument. Second, as many people have pointed out, you need to consider how they sound because the larger one may not sound better than the smaller one. Once you have considered these two issues, you can make a choice. A final issue you may wish to consider is whether it really matters for you. It is possible that even though the larger instrument may sound better if a professional plays it, you may not be good enough for there to be a difference, and other considerations (relative price, comfort, etc.) may be more important. There is no magic to having the largest instrument you can find. Good luck!

December 28, 2015 at 05:21 AM · @Adrian:

That VA2VN sounds like an abomination of nature!

Surely the local townsfolk will be at your door with pitchforks and torches protesting the grotesque monstrosity you created!

A 15 3/4" violin! Egads!

December 28, 2015 at 05:29 AM · @Amine:

Tom's advice is really the heart of the matter.

Is have both a 17" and 17.5" viola from the same maker. The vibrating string length is exactly the same for both, so there isn't much penalty for me to go with the slightly larger one for that slightly larger sound. For me, that works. If the larger instrument had a significantly more difficult playability due to a longer stretch, I'd definitely go with the slightly smaller instrument, as bring able to hit your fourth finger notes is going to sound better than not quite hitting them on a larger instrument that will then only serve to amplify your mistakes.

December 29, 2015 at 10:34 PM · My luthier (Bernard Sabatier) has made a 15" viola out of poplar wood (back and belly) to lower the wood resonances, and smaller f-holes to lower the air reonance. A great success, which was sold before I could try it..

It has the 2-cornered outline of Gasparo's Lyra-Viola in th Ashmolean's Hill Collection: almost no middle bout, and a wide upper bout but with very rounded shoulders.

December 30, 2015 at 10:03 PM · Going from 16" to 16.5" will lower the F# resonance on the D-string by Half a semitone (ca 3% in frequency), but maybe louder. However, if the body depth and width increase in proportion, the contained air volume will increase much more than 3%, and the air resonance may lower by a full semitone or more.

December 30, 2015 at 10:59 PM · It will depend on the instrument... I am mostly a viola maker, I've made many 17 and 16.5 violas but now I am making just the 16 inche model, I find it sounds as good as my bigger ones.

Bear in mind that playing confort is not only linked to body size, weight, rib depth, how wide are the upper bouts, string length etc. are quite important for playing confort too.

Another thing about a 16 inche viola is that it is much easier to resale, a 16.5 viola is much harder to sell.

December 31, 2015 at 01:40 AM · "it seems with violins you simply can't mess with Tradition" - True to a point. But some Maggini style violins seem to be made slighty larger than normal.

December 31, 2015 at 02:21 AM · @Manfio: Did you move up to 16" as your new "standard" size? I thought 15.5" was your "standard"?

December 31, 2015 at 12:00 PM · My two violas are 15-3/4", with similar Bb and F# resonances. String length 14" for my ageing tendons..

One is a narrow "Strad" model, with small F-holes: its tone is pleasant but slightly nasal.

The other has a deep and wide body, but the much larger F-holes keep the air-resonance at Bb but with more power and spread than on the narrow viola. The overall warmth of tone "absorbs" the more nasal resonances.

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