unique violin family instruments You got to play.

February 11, 2017 at 08:51 PM · Hello,

my current luthier, she peaked my interest when she made and a viola d'amore, and I decided to just explore her workshop while looking for a bow. At the time, I complimented the bridges she put on her instruments because 2 other luthiers I've seen seem to have put less effort or time into the bridges they've cut for me.

Since then, I actually invited someone over for lunch just because they had a kit-fiddle and viola d'amore and I actually got to play his instruments.

Last night, I poured boiling water onto my carpet floor instead in my tea cup watching to this video on youtube:

Violoncello da spalla This got me to start thinking, how many unique violin-family instruments are out there. Please share your experiences with them.

Replies (25)

February 11, 2017 at 09:07 PM · 5-string violin/viola. Never tried one, but sounds interesting.

February 11, 2017 at 09:44 PM · I tried a 5-strings fiddle once. It was ...grotesque to play! ;P

February 12, 2017 at 08:12 AM · I took a 1/2 size cello and played it that way. I've yet to take it to any rehearsals.

February 12, 2017 at 04:15 PM · I've tried out a five string violin, and found it very beautiful, certainly not grotesque, though a bit difficult to get used to the fingerboard. Deep C string felt powerful and rich, & the whole thing resonated thrillingly. I understand it may be difficult for the builder to get them in balance though -- danger is that the top end may sound weak. Not so with this one, which was made by a luthier friend of mine who thought carefully about it, and has made several of them. I was strongly tempted to buy it. Excellent for improvisations, folk, some fiddle music, and jazz, etc. In the hands of the late Oliver Schroer (Camino) the 5 string sounds like some strange Renaissance instrument: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-_sjz6Iazo

I'd also love to try one of those Scandinavian fiddles, the Hardanger, for example. Or a viola d'amore!

February 12, 2017 at 04:50 PM · What about a 3-stringed kontra, or the new violin octet, or a vielle? I've read that they exist, but they're probably really rare.

February 13, 2017 at 09:10 PM · I'm so facinated by all the alternative string instruments there are.

I would love to learn how to play them all. :-)

Here is one a hurdy gurdy - so weird, but awesome !


February 14, 2017 at 05:34 AM · Kimberly, I actually saw one on my luthier's work bench once and my reaction was "What is that?!" and she was surprised that I didn't know what it was.

February 14, 2017 at 11:23 PM · The viola pomposa is, apparently a viola with an extra E string, so the 5-string violin has the same range. Importantly, it is one of the instruments for which it is claimed BWV1012 was written, so Parker, over to you!

The arpeggione would come in this category, but I'm told nobody knows how it was tuned.

February 14, 2017 at 11:51 PM · I've heard rumour it has 6 strings and tuned like a guitar. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

February 15, 2017 at 12:05 AM · Does merely wanting to try an instrument count? A couple of years ago I saw a guy on the Metro in Paris playing jazz on a Violon Trompette. It's also known as a Stroh Violin, after the inventor. I had to look it up, as I'd never seen or heard anything like it. The guy was clearly part of a Roma street band, a skilful performer, and his sound was brassy and quite compelling. I'd certainly give it a try if I could ever get my hands on one! Watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ibIpex2tKY

February 15, 2017 at 03:37 AM · I want a nice pochette fiddle for having a portable practice aid and on-the-spot subject of conversation.

There is also the tromba marina, which is played exclusively using natural harmonics.

Paganini imitated its trumpety tone and ease of harmonics of tuning the G to B flat, placed in the slot for the A string.

This is why his G string pieces, especially Napoleon Sonata and the Moses Fantasy, seem so unreponsive in regular setup when playing the high harmonics (the sonata goes up to the highest F (pitch 7th ledger line) on the G(!!!) String).

February 15, 2017 at 05:01 AM · A.O. Pochette fiddle is extremely different from playing a full violin. First, you put the endpin to your chest apparently. I've seen a guy playing it quite well that way. I tried it myself, I really didn't know what I was doing.

February 15, 2017 at 01:04 PM · I've played: viola d'amore, medieval fiddle, baryton, and several sizes of viol. All on the same day - there's an Early Music Festival in London each year, where a couple of dozen makers come to exhibit. Well worth dropping by to satisfy your curiosity!

February 16, 2017 at 02:03 AM · Forgot about the Yo Bow!!! (Was going to mention the String Tuba, but that belongs in this week's vote)

February 17, 2017 at 11:35 AM · Every time I pass the sellers barn at the national folk festival I hanker aftwr a nykelharpa - all those symparhetic strings...

But then i think about how badly hurdy gurdy players curse about tuning (it really is the case of players soending half their time tuning and thd othef half out of tune) and go buy some cds instead!

February 18, 2017 at 12:05 AM · I too have lusted after a nykelharpa. Right, it must be hell to tune! But such a great sound.

February 18, 2017 at 12:18 AM · Parker, I think you and I would agree if we started sending request mails to invite some of these instrument players to NAC here in Ottawa? I was at the concert Yesterday Evening, when they had the touring organist.

February 18, 2017 at 05:50 PM · Some amazing instruments here, medieval & modern. I'd love to see and hear some of them in concert!

February 18, 2017 at 08:37 PM · No unusual instruments, but I have lately become enamored of baroque bows--it is so much easier to play quick string crossings & chords, Vivaldi, Telemann etc. with a baroque bow! Wonderful! I was amazed. Hope you all get a chance to try one.

February 21, 2017 at 12:44 PM · https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLjnHTHQBzk

Some of our cousins having a good time...

February 21, 2017 at 03:38 PM · That film makes me want to revive my old Erhu building project....

I played a Hardanger fiddle once, and I own a nyckelharpa (a very bad one, but still). Here in Sweden a lot of people have built their own nyckelharpa. One thing I found confusing playing it is that you have to move the left hand down to get to the keys for the lower strings. The opposite direction of how you would move on the violin.

Another instrument I play (not violin family although it is bowed) is the musical saw. Good party trick, and it is always interesting to see peoples reactions - they dont expect it to be possible to play in tune on the saw.

Another project of mine (still in the planning/waiting phase) is to convert a chinese violin to the Swedish cousin of the Hardanger fiddle. These violins had up to eight sympathetic strings and two rows of pegs instead of the Hardanger fiddles extended single row. Also they had the same body as a standard violin where the Hardanger has a different construction around the f-holes. On the Hardanger you can see through the instrument from one f-hole to the other.

February 21, 2017 at 05:27 PM · Viola d'amore, which seems very "ordinary" compared to that video!

February 21, 2017 at 05:41 PM · I wouldn't call a 5-string violin or viola at all unusual, especially an electric. I play a 5-string electric violin for jazz/rock/busking, and there's a shop in my area that exclusively sells them. Most unusual bowed string instrument I've played is a double bass with sympathetic strings.

February 22, 2017 at 08:17 PM · I have Johann Reiter's last Oktav-Geige (#104 of 104, the "octave violin" invented by him). The parts, which carved by Reiter, were actually assembled after his death by his apprentice, Erick Sandner, who took over Reiter's Mittenwald shop after Reiter died. The body shape is proportionally based on the cello (very deep), but the length is like a 16" to 16-1/2" viola. Because it is so deep (thick), it can't use a regular chin rest. It has a thin piece of wood covering only the purfling where the regular chin rest would normally go in order to protect the top from sweat and pressure. The strings are an octave lower than the violin. The sound is like that of a cello--big, and gloriously sonorous. The original strings were from Otto Infeld; however, they are no longer being made, so I was glad to hear of newly-available violin octave strings (not meant for the Oktav-Geive, but possibly usable by it) in last month's Violinist.com.

February 23, 2017 at 01:54 PM · That reminds me of when my youngest niece started playing the cello at age 4. I could play her fractional instrument like a viola (after removing the end pin!). The bridge height was challenging. Is the bridge on the Oktav-geige more like a viola?

There are also octave strings available for Viola. The length may suit your instrument better. I have a set on a large chinese viola and the sound is surpricingly good. But it is very strange to play on these thick sausages.

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