New/Old way to string a viola?

Edited: October 23, 2018, 10:32 AM · So, I was browsing around my local violin shop yesterday, and came across Whistler's "From violin to Viola", and thumbed through it quickly. One page leapt out at me, as it talked about how violas had the strings arranged differently in the peg box. Same C G D A position on the fingerboard, but the C and G strings switching which pegs they go to in the peg box. It claimed that this was to overcome the sharp bend in the particularly thick C string. Here's the pic from Whistler, and my before and after on my own viola that I just switched around for kicks. Anybody else string their viola up this way?

Replies (12)

October 23, 2018, 10:53 AM · That would drive me crazy trying to tune. No, thanks.
October 23, 2018, 11:04 AM · Right. But are you a violinist or a violist? Violists are already outcasts from society, so we may as well do everything a bit different, don't you think?
Edited: October 23, 2018, 7:13 PM · I know a folk fiddler, an engineer by profession, who got fed up with the process of replacing his violin A every few months - trying to persuade an A string into a dark hole in a black peg in the dark confined space at the far end of the peg box was a pain. I well understand this (thick fingers from a lifetime of cello playing), and my solution is to always have a pair of tweezers to hand in the violin case.

My fiddler friend, being an engineer, applied engineering thinking to his problem, reasoning that since the steel E only needed changing once every two or three years, but the A did far more frequently, then the obvious engineering solution would be to swap the E and A strings between their respective pegs so that the A would be much more accessible for easy frequent replacement. And did so. Problem solved!

Never lend such a re-strung instrument, violin, viola or whatever, to a colleague, no matter how esteemed, without dire warnings!

October 23, 2018, 12:08 PM · Since string tension is determined only by the vibrating portion of the string, then how would stringing that way affect the sound?
October 23, 2018, 12:34 PM · I don’t think it is purported to affect the sound.
October 23, 2018, 4:11 PM · I replace my E string more often than the A, so Trevors suggestion would not be useful. I have heard of violists stringing like you describe, but would not do it myself. Too high risk of accidently turning the wrong peg.
October 23, 2018, 4:36 PM · @Bo "Too high risk of accidently turning the wrong peg."

Which is why I would recommend that anyone who goes down that route does all their tuning from a fine-tuner tailpiece, where each tuning control corresponds to the actual string and not the peg. Sorry, plain gut users!

Edited: October 23, 2018, 4:51 PM · I did that when I installed OCTAVE strings in my 2nd viola. Just switched back to normal strings yesterday. It was too hard for me to read bass clef on a chin instrument (I'm a cellist before I'm a violist - and a violinist before that) and the C string response was too puny..
October 23, 2018, 7:30 PM · I used to do this when I was in college. If it is your only instrument, you get used to it quickly and there is no issue with turning the wrong peg. I did feel it improved the sound of the C string to some extent. But for some reason, I kept having issues with the G string breaking -- I'm not sure why. I could understand the extra-stretched C string breaking, but I don't know why the understretched G became problematic. In any case, my son mostly uses the viola now, and primarily plays violin, so I've switched it back to the normal configuration.
October 24, 2018, 12:55 AM · The problem is that I also play the violin and I don't want to restring the violin the same way.
BTW the C string is not stretched any more than it would be on the normal C peg. But a slightly longer part of it is stretched.
Octave strings on viola are an interesting experience. I was surprised how well the instrument worked for the low notes. But that C STRING is FAT!! The fingers are balancing on top of it without any contact with the fingerboard. I moved the strings over one step and installed a regular D string on top tuned to E. Now it is an octave violin and my son is often using it in his folk music group.
October 24, 2018, 5:26 AM · It may give more punch to the C string, depending on the instrument.

If string afterlength between bridge and tailpiece makes a difference in the sound, it may cause a difference on the other side of the string too.

If I am not wrong, I've seen photos of an Andrea Guarneri or Amati viola strung that way.

November 2, 2018, 1:23 AM · Some bassists do that to avoid a sharp bend on the thickest string. Personally, I hate it when I get a bass like that- keep retuning the wrong string.


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