I Really, Really Want This Viola!!!

May 3, 2017 at 12:53 AM · Giant frikin' 47cm body!!

Yita M19+ 18.5 inch viola!!

Replies (36)

May 3, 2017 at 01:17 AM · What's this thread all about? Why would you want such a big viola? You could play it, but only if you hold it like a cello...

May 3, 2017 at 02:40 AM · Why say that Ella? I'm a shortie 5'4" guy with smallish hands (but very flexible), and I can manage tenths and facility on a (lighter) 17 inch viola.

Quite a few great violists are on the short/average side... Lillian Fuchs was about 5', played a 16 3/8 viola! :D

@Brian: How tall are you? Without super-stretch hands, that size (provided not heavy) should be fine if you are 6' or taller. :)

May 3, 2017 at 03:35 AM · That's true, A. O. It's just I've never heard of anyone wanting a 18.5" viola...

May 3, 2017 at 03:52 AM · That instrument is huge. How tall are you? You are going to have to be pretty big to be able to manage that. It kind of seems like overkill to me. I definitely wouldn't order such a huge instrument online without trying it first.

May 3, 2017 at 03:58 AM · I just received an 18" from them last week. The neck is short enough to make it quite playable (I'm 6'2"). The stop length is 380mm.

I also have a 17" from them that actually has a greater stretch and stop length of 390mm.

Go get the 18.5"!

You only go around once, and Yitas are quite affordable.

My 15.75", 17", and new 18"

May 3, 2017 at 04:59 AM · I agree that you shouldn't buy it without trying it. The only reason I can think of for ordering an enormous viola if you're not a supreme giant is because you intend to hold it like a cello, which kind of sounds crazy.

May 3, 2017 at 05:23 AM · I suppose you could use Cello fingerings, and prop the scroll on the chair in front of you. jq

May 3, 2017 at 11:09 AM · Buy it!

May 3, 2017 at 11:17 AM · Those f holes look bad both in position and in size (the are bit in a wrong angle to imo, that angle could maybe fit a Stainer like f hole)

May 3, 2017 at 11:28 AM · When you are young, perhaps you can handle a big viola. The problem is that, as time goes by, you can develop serious physical problems with that.

And if you are small it will be very difficult to play some pieces that requires the C and G string in upper positions.

Auditions for orchestras are tough, and it is much more difficult to play those pieces in a big viola.

The good thing about big violas is that the market for them is bad, so you may find good ones for very reasonable prices. On the other hand, their resale value is very low too.

May 3, 2017 at 11:28 AM · double post

May 3, 2017 at 02:52 PM · sounds like some people feel the same way about fiddles as other people do about cars.

May 3, 2017 at 03:21 PM · My arm span is just over 27 inches. And I'm 5'10"

I play on a 16.75" Yita Strad copy and the stop length is right at 15.5 inches

I have a West Coast Strings 16.5 Gauneri Copy but the String scale is something like, 14.75 inches and the sound feels really tinny and trapped. It's a Jocelin VA-6 and it just isn't opening up, maybe it's because of the Helicores that came with it, but the wood feels a lot heavier and makes some neck strain.

This monster has a scale length of 15.79 inches so that doesn't seem too much of an extra stretch, but the body looks like it might be cumbersome for a guy my size...

May 3, 2017 at 03:25 PM · I'm going to take a look at those F-holes and body shape again. It didn't seem too off, just like it was a symptom of having such a massive body.

May 3, 2017 at 03:25 PM · For large violas... I don't understand the risk of injury to people, is it something from muscle imbalancing?

Serious question, I developed the strength pretty fast for moving on an upright bass, but I thought of it as the same conditioning in a gym; run for a day, strength train the next, and take some period of rest between the workouts.

May 3, 2017 at 03:57 PM · Regarding the F-holes: The distance between the bass bar and the holes is immense. Its like they used the holes for a smaller viola on this one without adjusting anything.

This will have effect on the sound and I assume it wont be a good one. I did have the chance to test a violin where the holes got changed twice (so three tests) and the sound changed with every step.

"My" luthier also told me a story about a customer who had his F-holes enlarged "to get the sound out". He made a new top on that violin because it was sounding bad after that crazyness. I peronally would have refused to touch that violin again and would have asked to put my label out.

Than again, on a $500 viola the f holes might be the last concern.

May 3, 2017 at 04:19 PM · @Brian: Big violas are rare because they are usually heavier, and reaching for the higher positions or any other acrobatics becomes tiring very quickly.

Also, viola bowing is more arm-sinking in based, and most people jnless rather tall do not have arms tht are naturally heavy/long enough to bow such a big viola without eventual strain.

I mentioned that I can manage a '17, but it was too heavy and slightly too big to be eminently playable.

The biggest size I could consistently manage was '16.5, but remember that the maker can make a large viola sound in a smaller one (that maker was probably not going for that as such).

Luis Manfio used to make '17-'17.5 violas, he now makes '15.5 ones that have the same quality of sound, so I would go for that option instead.

As comparison, I once tried a '18.9 (remember: I'm just 5'4"!), amd the effort needed by my bowing arm to get a viola sound of the C would have surely given me tendonitis in short order (although the sound was very deep and dark). :)

I would say maybe ask Luis to make you a '17 viola that sounds like a '19-19.5 one, that would be very close to the perfect sound. :)

Although, the violin is actually too small to support the first few notes on the G (since it was added on after the violin only haf 3 strings) so the scale length would probably be this in theory:

Violin: '15.5

Viola scaled exactly in pitch by a 5th: '23.25

So, if violas were made actual standard, you would get a spike viola of old, unless you are possibly as tall as a basketball player. :)

May 3, 2017 at 06:39 PM · @Marc: "Regarding the F-holes: The distance between the bass bar and the holes is immense."

How could you know where the bass bar is? It has to be different distance from each f hole. Please explain?

May 3, 2017 at 07:55 PM · Does Manfio sell violas for under $500??

May 3, 2017 at 08:05 PM · I took a flyer on this one. ~$450, delivered.

OK, not so much a flyer, because it is my 6th viola from them, of which I have been pleased with all of them.

I'm just a beginner, so you professional types out there may require something a bit more refined. But if Brian is just looking for an interesting viola at a rather bargain price, then I say "go for it!"

Here's me playing in my windy "recital hall" this morning on my new 18".

May 3, 2017 at 08:41 PM · @Erin: Of course I am talking about the left f hole. You are right, I cant see it, but if it is placed to the bridge in any usual way it is way of the hole.

May 3, 2017 at 11:28 PM · Craig, is it hard to play in tune on that beast? I don't want to hurt you, but intonation wasn't perfect.

May 3, 2017 at 11:46 PM · I gave a look on the photos and the f holes upper eyes distance is too big indeed, that is not orthodox at all. F holes seem to be too small for the model too. Just my too cents.

May 3, 2017 at 11:54 PM · @Ella, I've only been playing for about four years or so, I'm more to blame than the instrument! And I've only had it for less than a week, so I'm still finding out what notes go where...

May 4, 2017 at 12:00 AM · @Marc and Luia: Thank you for the bass bar/f hole info!

May 4, 2017 at 12:57 AM · Thanks Craig. Now I understand. Getting acquainted, huh?

May 4, 2017 at 02:50 AM · Right!

My three violas are all quite different in finger spacing. And the bridge curve is also different, so yes, need to get to know each other better...

Plus, I'm just not that good to begin with!

May 5, 2017 at 10:05 AM · Well, Brian, make the most of it while you can! But keep in touch with your osteopathic doctor.

A long viola will need a stronger left finger action, and a wider vibrato. Combined with the extended left arm, we have Viola Elbow!


May 5, 2017 at 10:05 AM · My viola (inpired by the Gasparo Lyra-Viola) has a body of 40cm (15.75") but a vibrating string length of only 35.6cm (14").

With high arching, wide bouts, and long f-holes, it has depth, power and warmth across the four strings; but its short body gives it a deep contralto sound, rather than the more baritone quality of the long violas.

May 5, 2017 at 10:50 AM · It is always good remembering also that Chinese factory made violas in general will need good strings (Chinese strings are unplayable)and some work by a luthier (new bridge and soundpost, peg and upper nut adjustments, etc.).

May 5, 2017 at 11:46 AM · There are a series of youtube videos where Richard O'Neil plays 33 violas from contemporary makers. He made some interesting comments about viola geometry...

- 16" body seems to be a sweet spot for creating a powerful viola that is still comfortable to play.

- The size of the body is less important for comfort than the stop length. He held up violas of different sizes and showed how the stop lengths were nearly identical.

- Related to the above is the length of the neck. If the neck is made in the same proportion as that of a violin, the viola becomes very difficult to play as the left arm needs to be overly extended in lower positions. I noticed that Craig's 18" viola video appeared to have a proportionally "short" neck. His left arm position seemed comfortable because of it. Thanks for the video Craig.

- Another interesting comment was about the width of the upper bouts (shoulders). If a viola is made with a similar lower to upper bout proportion as a violin, there is a danger of the upper bout being so wide that is difficult and uncomfortable to play in upper string positions.

My take away is the a big viola is very playable as long as the stop length and upper bout width are kept to reasonable sizes.

May 5, 2017 at 01:10 PM · Craig: Good job! Thanks for the demo! I appreciated it! :D

May 5, 2017 at 04:56 PM · manfio brings up a very good point: these definitely need some setup work. Being that they are under $500, I choose to do all my own stunts...er...setup...

Here is an unscientific video I made before and after installing a new bridge on my 15.75" viola.

I didn't intend to make a comparison, I just happened to find a previous recording that I used to illustrate before/after.

I apparently deleted the original movie, so it's onlt available on FB, so I hope the link works.


May 5, 2017 at 05:06 PM · And to show a direct comparison between the 18" (on the left) and 17" (on the right), here a split picture that shows how the 18" actually has less of a reach than the 17".

The trade off is that, as mentioned above, the higher positions (even just starting at 3rd)get affected by the large body to neck ratio.

You can also see that most of the extra 1" of the 18" vs the 17" is happening in the upper bout. Both longer and wider.


May 5, 2017 at 09:01 PM · OMG... the 18 inch looks so, so stubby!!!

My 17" T20 has the stop length at 393mm at it has such a great warmth.. My 16.5"(West Coast Strings) is made of a much more dense wood and sounds trapped and nasally even though the instruments are relatively the same sized body.

I think this thing would sound very warm in the pocket! And the scale length is only 8mm more...

May 5, 2017 at 09:10 PM · Aha, I didn't realize that you also had a 17" Yita.

You seem to suffer from the same Yita Aquisition Disorder as I do...

The specs said that my 18" was supposed to be 400mm stop length. But as you can see, it is much shorter than that, and measures out at 380mm.

I downloaded and scaled the pictures (Yita is very consistent in their photo views). That was how I determined that the 18" would be manageable.

I also did a mash up pic with the 18.5" you listed, as I almost went for that one. I don't have that on my home computer, so it'll have to wait until Monday if you want to see that comparison.

The neck is indeed "stubby". 1st position feels fine, 4th finger isn't as big a stretch as it is on the 17". But things start bunching up at 3rd position and above.

An interesting article below on alternative viola dimensions such as a Maggini design (Yita also sells one of those, which I had for a while). 16.25" body, but very short stop length. It sounded nice, and was great for the left hand, but the way the bridge is biased toward the top of the C bout made me keep bumping my bow hand knuckles into the upper corner there. Then again, that was a couple years ago, and I was even MORE of an abject beginner, perhaps my bowing style has smoothed out and that would no longer be an issue...

I sold that viola after getting my 17".


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