E2 String for Viola??

November 8, 2019, 9:27 AM · Kind of a strange request. I recently purchased a viola and put sensicore octave strings on it, essentially turning it into a "chin cello." It sounds amazing, but the low C string is SO deep that it's almost not practical to play, and I find myself hardly ever using it. I also find myself wishing I could hit higher notes, and I'm constantly going way up high on the A string.

Since I'm originally a violin player, it would be the best of both worlds if I could find an E2 string that fits a viola. This way, I could get rid of the low C string, shift the other three down, and put the E2 string on. Then I would essentially have an octave-down violin, but on a viola body, for a bigger sound.

So I have 2 questions:

1) Would an octave-down violin E string harm a viola? I read somewhere that since the viola body is bigger than what the violin string is intended for, the E string would have to be stretched tighter than it's supposed to in order to reach the correct pitch. Sounds kind of harmful.

2) If the above would be a bad idea, does anyone know of someone who makes fully customized strings? So I could literally order a totally custom E2 viola string?

Thanks a lot!

Replies (7)

November 8, 2019, 9:40 AM · In the past for my viola-based "octave violin" (I prefer "viola profunda"..) I used an ordinary viola D-string tuned up to E for the top string. For the rest, rather than sensicore octave strings I used an ordinary viola G tuned to A, viola C tuned to D and a quarter-size cello C string for the C. I didn't experience any problems, but it was a terrible old viola so I didn't mind taking a small risk. And since the music I was playing was early baroque consort music I could justifiably have tuned a semitone lower!
November 8, 2019, 9:54 AM · They make viola e strings for 5 string violas, but you're talking about e an octave lower, so what Steve said.
November 8, 2019, 10:09 AM · Thank you Steve and Lyndon! Steve, would you say it wouldn't be bad to shift my current strings down like I said and then take a regular viola D string then and tune it up to an E for the top string? Or would that be bad because that would be the only string with extra tension?
November 8, 2019, 10:19 AM · You could use a light gauge viola D to compensate
November 8, 2019, 11:48 AM · Robbie - I really couldn't say. I've no experience of Sensicores but I gather they're much thicker than standard viola strings so if you use a standard D tuned to E there could be a big difference in timbre not to say finger pressure as compared with the other 3. Of course my "solution" also involves one maverick string out of 4, but being the bottom one could be more acceptable.
November 8, 2019, 3:51 PM · Just as Steve said you can use a standard D string tuned up to E. I have a viola set up just like that. I also found the octave down C string of the sensicore octave viola set to be a very strange beast - it was like tightrope walking on a sausage rather than pressing a string onto a fingerboard. So as you suggest I moved the upper 3 strings of the octave set over and used a long scale D string for the E. It works just fine.
Edited: November 8, 2019, 4:21 PM · To answer the question about fully customized strings - Vienna based Thomastik Infeld does things like that. I know of violists who needed that because of their ZMT tailpiece (which needs an extra long C) on an already medium sized instrument. The daSpalla-community also does business with them, AFAIK. It's just a matter of size of your order that will determine the price-per-piece.

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