Long-scale strings on smallish viola?
I've been thinking about trying Kaplan Amo strings on my viola, and it turns out I have a problem: anything other than long scale seems to be available only directly from D'Addario at much higher prices. My viola's VSL is 362 mm. The long-scale Kaplan Amo is designed for 380 mm VSL and I'm wondering whether this is too much of a difference.
I've already worked out actual string tensions on my viola by converting manufacturers' tension charts to my own 362 mm VSL. In pounds, all after conversion:
Kaplan Amo medium scale (limited availability)
A 17.8, D 11.6, G 11.8, C 11.8
Kaplan Amo long scale, medium gauge
A 16.8, D 11.6, G 11.8, C 11.8
Current set (Vision Solo + Larsen A)
A 17.3, D 12.4, G 12.1, C 11.8
So it looks like long scale should be OK as tension goes: compared to what I have now, it's the same C string tension with lower tension on the other three strings. This means the C string shouldn't buzz. (Nor should any of the others, they're all higher tension than Dominants which I've used in the past.)
But are there other reasons not to use the long-scale strings? Too much string length in the pegbox? Other concerns?
Andrew, this reply probably won't be of much direct help but I noticed that the VSL of my 18th century violin is also 362mm (14.25" in old money). As far as I know it has never been strung as a viola, but the sound from the G is closer to that of the viola than most violins. The bout widths and rib depths are pro rata larger than that of the standard 14" violin, which may account for the deeper sound.
My experience with guitars and ukes is that if you are forced to get long-scale strings for a short-scale instrument, then it's best if they are UHT. If they are not, then it's an experiment that may fail, and at some considerable cost if it's viola strings we're talking about. Are you not happy with any of the strings you've used in your long career?
I've had to deal with a similar issue when setting up a fractional violin as a viola for a young player.
You can use Carmen's equations to figure out how much detuning of your present strings will give a result proportional to that expected with the Kaplan Amos. If the result is OK, you will probably be OK.
You can use long scale strings and the instrument will be playable. The longer they get, the flabbier they’ll feel at standard pitch. If they take up too much room in the pegbox they can be cut down, although I generally try to avoid cutting strings down unless it’s necessary.
Carmen and Andrew: as I noted in the original post, I already used that equation to convert tensions before posting. The listed tension for the long scale C string is 13 lbs; all the tensions I listed are after conversion from the manufacturer's listed VSL to my viola's 362 mm.
Gordon: I've actually tried very few strings in the 19 years I've played viola. I've only ever used Dominant, Vision, and Vision Solo, plus the Larsen A.
Interpreting Andrew to mean "calculate what the difference will be in semitones for the same poundage, not pounds for the same note" then I like that advice. If you find it's only semitone, then there shouldn't be a problem. If it's more, then you can detune your strings by that much and see what effect that has.
If you live in the states check out southwest strings. They have the short scale Kaplan amo strings as well as the medium and long scales.
Thanks! I couldn't tell because the entire Southwest Strings website was down when I checked earlier.
It appears you've basically got a 3/4 viola, so no, long scale full size viola strings are not appropriate.
Lyndon, it is definitely not a "3/4 viola". Standard Thomastik-Infeld strings are designed for 370 mm VSL. D'Addario long scale is 380 mm and medium scale is 360 mm. I am quite shocked that you, as a dealer, would not have at least a general idea of this. (My viola is 15.75"/40cm with a relatively short VSL for its body length, but not that short.)
Someone earlier mistakedly thought the string length was the back length, sorry.
Oh, OK. Honest errors happen. My apologies for my less-than-civil immediate reaction, which I am removing from my earlier post.
no problem, maybe I wasn't reading carefully enough
Also, thanks, Rich -- I overlooked your post until after Christian mentioned Southwest Strings. Wasn't sure about cutting down strings because I remembered seeing someone cautioned against it before. Fortunately, it looks like I won't have to worry about using long scale strings at all.
I have been cutting the ends off strings for decades - especially when I remount a previously used string and the end is a bit frayed. I have never had a resulting problem, there are just too many forces stabilizing the winding before it gets past the nut to the vibrating region.
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