Stringing violin with viola strings

November 6, 2018, 5:12 PM · Does anyone string their violin with viola A,D, and/or G strings? Would there be any reason to do this?

Replies (19)

Edited: November 6, 2018, 6:07 PM · NO! NO REASON TO DO IT.

Regular viola A, D, and G strings are too long for a violin. If you could tune them up to pitch they will be too tense and likely break or break the violin.

However HELICORE makes violin-size viola strings for a 14-inch viola that can also be used on a 5-string violin. So - you could just string a violin with violin A, D, G strings and add a Helicore 14" C string and have a sort of 14" viola. But I would not expect too much from that C string. Small violas have trouble with the low range (more than regular-size violas).

November 6, 2018, 6:07 PM · Why would you contaminate an innocent violin with viola strings?

The added tension will probably choke any violin—and may even damage it.

Edited: November 6, 2018, 6:32 PM · Why are you thinking of putting viola strings on a violin? This is something that should only be done for kids. If you do intend to restring a violin as a viola, perhaps for a child or something (although children's size violas are available but scarce in some regions), use violin GDA and a viola C. Try your best to get a fractional size C string. If that isn't possible, a full-size C will work just fine. I know others would disagree with this, but that's what I did and it worked for me. If you are going to use a full-size C string, I would lean towards synthetics, although a good quality steel string like Helicore should be fine. I tried a crappy steel C on a restrung violin and the pitch-bending issues it posed drove me absolutely insane. Synthetic Cs don't pose this problem in my experience.
Edited: November 6, 2018, 6:46 PM · With the viola C string isn't there the possibility that it may be too thick to pass through the hole in the violin's G peg? The hole would therefore have to be enlarged, but only attempt this if you have real carpentry skills, otherwise you may experience the drama of a peg splitting under the action of an inexpertly wielded drill!
November 6, 2018, 7:17 PM · Trevor, I have restrung violins as violas before and I have had no problems fitting the C string into the peg. I have heard others claim that the bridge and nut grooves have to be modified. This has not been necessary in my experience.
Edited: November 6, 2018, 7:29 PM · I was curious to know. I never heard of anyone doing it but I read that Julian Rachlin used a steel viola A on his Stradivarius in combination with Rondo strings. See http://www.thomastik-infeld.com/artists-product/38


Edited: November 6, 2018, 9:28 PM · Putting viola strings on a violin is something typically only done for kids who aren't big enough for a full-size viola due to a lack of fractional violas in some areas of the world, and restrung violins are still common in areas that have lots of fractional violas, too.
Edited: November 8, 2018, 4:02 PM · Anne Sophie Mutter reportedly uses a viola A string at least occasionally. She normally plays a dominant g, d with a gold or orange silked e. Supposedly, she’s had Corelli and dominant viola a strings on. Some of her videos show a much longer than normal silk on the a.
You can contact her website for more info.
November 8, 2018, 4:18 PM · Viola strings are not to tense for violin they are designed for a longer scale so they would be not tense enough for 14" violin, a shorter scale requires less tension not more!!
November 8, 2018, 4:55 PM · Lyndon is right (!) since the OP asked about putting viola A,D & G on the violin, not the C; so he is not trying to tune a D up to A etc!

To convert a violin to a 14" viola, I use violin A,D & G, to get sufficient tension, and put a thickish viola C for the same reason.

November 8, 2018, 4:57 PM · Please do not use a full-sized violin as a fractional viola for a child unless there is absolutely no other option. A fractional viola is proportioned differently from a full-size violin; it responds differently; it is a different instrument!
Edited: November 8, 2018, 5:45 PM · Funnily enough, someone on the Fiddlerman forum wants to put violin strings on a viola. It's OK - you can shift the viola's GDA along, and d'Addario make a viola E string.

The tension is not likely to be a problem, unless it's too little, as Lyndon says. In the case of the viola strings on a fiddle, their girth if larger will increase the tension a little bit, bringing it up to a playable level, if you're lucky.

The tension is proportional to the square of the scale length, not the string length.
If the violin doesn't resonate well at low C, it may sound pretty lousy, but I don't know if 5-string fiddles have bigger bouts for that.

November 8, 2018, 5:46 PM · How exciting! I like a person who tries everything! I have no exact experience but I did switch the tuning of my lira da braccio down from soprano to alto (switching from violin to viola strings) AND (in defiance of the few texts I have found on the instrument) --and although I am not satisfied and will change it when I return to that instrument, there is no substitute for experience and we (aspiring, in my case) artists must combine respect for tradition with experimentation and exploration.
Edited: November 8, 2018, 10:41 PM · Just watched a more rececnt Mutter video. I could swear that the a string had a longer solid purple silk than the e (both with fine tuners). Could that be a steel PI viola a string?
Maybe she’s adopting and adapting what Warchal is marketing as a steel pair on the e and a (Russian and Avantgarde steel violin a strings.)
My understanding is that by matching the e and a better, upper position playing becomes more consistent and maybe even easier, while sacrificing a little of the transition to the d.
November 9, 2018, 10:16 AM · Mary Ellen, you are right of course, but some violins are already appropriate. My Nicolas Morlot is oversized, with higher ribs (I had to choose a case with extra space); When I blow across one of the f-holes it gives middle C, like some 15"violas, instead of C# or D like most violins.
A real violist's violin!

My viola students' luthiers have usually chosen a suitable 14" instrument.

November 9, 2018, 5:31 PM · There is nothing wrong with putting viola string on a violin if you properly check the websites for the size of string and the tension. I have used a viola Eudoxa G and A to get a little more juice out of the instrument since Eudoxa is already incredibly low tension. Another reason to use a viola string is if your peg keeps slipping. Slightly winding the string against the pegbox will keep the peg better in place, and sometimes you will need a viola string for that extra string length to wind.
Edited: November 9, 2018, 5:43 PM · Mary Ellen is right, although I have to agree with Adrian as well. I used to use a 4/4 violin with viola strings and it was impressive for its size. It wasn't built like a viola but it had a relatively deep sound. Even the C string was rich and juicy. Of course it didn't sound as deep as a real viola but it was nice. Plus, it was quite a good student violin. I checked some YouTube videos of 14" viola samples. Although this is not a particularly accurate measure of sound quality, I wasn't toally impressed with the sound quality and didn't think there was anything special about it soundwise. I have to admit that sometimes it may actually be better to restring a violin as a viola if the only fractional violas that are commonly available are entry-level student models that are quite crappy. This is, unfortunately, the situation in my area, so sometimes it's much easier and much cheaper to find a decent violin and put viola strings on than to spend thousands of dollars on a fractional viola.
November 9, 2018, 6:41 PM · Almost any violin with a really deep sonorous G string could be strung as a 14" 3/4 viola, but use 3/4 viola strings, they are heavier gauge than standard viola strings to compensate for the shorter scale.
November 16, 2018, 5:10 PM · When I was eight, my father shifted the sound post of the full size Stainer style violin that had been left me by mother's old headteacher, and strung it up as my viola, and so it remained until I was ready for a full size violin. Although he put the sound post back, the tone of the violin remained "dark" for some years. It was quite a surprise when I discovered that the instrument no longer sounded "dark", and Eudoxa were better for it than Golden Spiral.


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