Octave violin finished

August 31, 2005 at 02:58 PM · Just finished an octave violin. First one I've done. 14" body, a few tweeks here and there. Super Sensitive Octave strings. Rather more focus, volume, and ease of playing than I expected. The projection is remarkable for such a small box. I ended up putting a plastic Wittner chinrest on. Ebony ones vibrated my eyeballs!

Anyone else have one of these? This one is for a client, but I'll be doing another for myself. I might make them a standard part of my line of instruments. Very easy to see how to fit these into a supporting role, down around the cello range. Easier to carry than a cello! Sounds great on double stops.

I notice this is easier to play with a cello bow. I'll be trying a bass Incredibow as well.

Replies (9)

August 31, 2005 at 08:25 PM · Stephen, would you please explain what an octave violin is?

August 31, 2005 at 10:07 PM · From what he's said it sounds like a violin tuned an octave below the string, but I thought the octave violin was a small violin that sounded an octave above the strings. There's one used in one of the Bach Brandenburg concertos - though it might go by a different name.

August 31, 2005 at 10:24 PM · Is it good for solo work or more for say, basso continuo since it is an octave lower ?

September 1, 2005 at 12:40 AM · Not directly related to Stephen's instrument but related in theme none the less:

The tiny violin one octave up from normal is known as the "treble violin". There is also a "soprano violin" tuned a 5th above normal. These are the instruments currently in existence as part of the Hutchins Violin Octet--a concept developed by a luthier, Carleen Hutchins, some decades back. An interesting story, in terms of music history, science, and the art of instrument development.

The whole series of violins in the Octet:

Treble, Soprano, Mezzo (a normal violin although I think they now tweaked it a bit) alto (viola position) tenor (octave down), baritone (cello position) small bass, and large bass. The large bass and small bass are tuned in 4ths but I think the large bass is one octave down from cello--you can check it out at



September 1, 2005 at 04:48 AM · Bill, do you have a website about your octave violin? Could you give us a picture of the instrument?

September 1, 2005 at 04:42 AM · Pauline, I have used the Super Sensitive Octave (also known as baritone) Strings on my old (second) violin to get a rich, deep sound. As the name implies, the strings are a heavier guage which pitches them an octave lower, designed to be used on a normal voilin.

My teacher loved the sound and ended up borrowing it for a couple months. I used it at an Irish gig, trading it off with my regular violin, for a couple of the slow pieces where the low sound added a haunting dimension, very cool. The thickness of the strings, and extra bow effort means no jigs for the Octave strings. At least with my abilities. :-)

Stephen, I'd love to hear the voilin you made! I really enjoyed playing with the octave strings, though as you mentioned, it takes more bow to vibrate the strings. What's your take on the extra force that the thicker strings exert on a standard violin? I finally took the Octaves off because I was afraid the tension might be too hard on that violin which is almost 200 years old. It has a crack down the length of the back which has been repaired. At the time the luthier warned me not to use steel strings on it. Though it's mostly a violin of sentiment since it's been handed down through my mother's family.

You just might have a winner. Hope it's very successful for you!

September 3, 2005 at 12:33 PM · Sorry about the delayed response - this work stuff gets in the way. Quite a number of people are interested in these instruments, so I've decided I'll make more and stock them. I'll be hanging a web page shortly and will probably put out a press release.

I like this solo and was also using it quite effectively in an improvised duet yesterday with a normal violin.

It is indeed a tenor, an octave below. I kept the body at 14" mainly so it would appeal to violinists (same scale) and fit in violin cases. I've made a few obvious changes, such as neck angle and rib height. And some less obvious ones. As usual for me (being too busy to do everything), I had the body made for me overseas (eastern Europe) and then did the final work here. I'm using the Super Sensitive Octave strings.

I'm considering widening the body and fingerboard, then fitting another string to make this CGDAE. Sort of a shoulder cello.

I'm finding a viola bow works better. Tempted to try a cello bow. I also have a bass Incredibow I need to test on it.

Overall I'm very pleased. The instrument proves very difficult to get back from everyone who tests it. They keep playing and playing.

I've been doing slower Scottish and Irish music, fiddle tunes, and a bit of Bach. Rather intuitive to drop back and play a supporting line. Doubling the melody played on a violin seems effective, if a bit odd. Gives sort of a violin type 12 string guitar sound (12 string guitar lower courses are often strung with heavy and light strings an octave apart).

I'll post a link to a page when I get it up.

Thanks for the interest. This is fun.

September 3, 2005 at 01:04 PM · I first heard of octave strings when I went to a workshop given by Darol Anger. He uses them on a regular violin.. but your specialty instrument sounds like a good idea! I'm sure that the heaver bow is a good idea, too. Should be fun finding ways to use the lower blend of sounds!

Happy music making!


September 3, 2005 at 02:36 PM · I would think a viola, even a 14" viola (with wider ribs) would work well for this, no? Has anyone tried this?

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