Pseudo-mezzo

July 11, 2020, 3:05 PM · In a now-archived thread I raised, in passing, the possibility of stringing a small viola G-D-A-E. After a few days that idea still hadn’t been pushed out of my head by better ones, so now I have a 15” Fiddlerman Artist viola strung with Helicores. The G, D, and A are standard medium-tension viola strings, I assume made for a medium scale because I assume that’s what a 15” has. The E is also a Helicore; it’s made for a long scale viola but works well on the 15”.

The whole setup is noticeably better than I expected. To my ears anyway, the pseudo-mezzo has more depth and, for lack of a better word, body than my similarly set up violin. Of the two lineups in which I usually play, the main one consists of bass guitar, guitar, uke, and viola / mandolin / violin, with me on any one of the latter three depending on exactly what song we’re defacing covering at the time. (I get that there were probably good reasons for, say, CCR and Pink Floyd to seldom if ever feature mando, fiddle, or for that matter uke in their material, but none of them have told us explicitly what those reasons were so we’re going with “ignorance is bliss” here.) Unless the guitar player or the ambient noise level get really out of control, I need make no deliberate effort to play FF.

My actual 16” viola viola is strung with Dominants, and now I’m toying with the idea of putting synthetic core G and D strings on the pseudo-mezzo to see how that sounds. Before that, though, I also want to try this thing out in my other (and rather more serious) keyboard / viola / clarinet combo just to hear how (or if) it meshes.

Curiosity. Where would we be without it?

Replies (3)

July 11, 2020, 7:26 PM · I’ve always wanted one of Robert Spears’ instruments. I mostly play second and viola in chamber and orchestra..How is the neck on yours? I have been too concerned it would be too chunky for fast violin work.
Edited: July 11, 2020, 9:14 PM · The neck on mine is definitely chunkier than on any of my violins, but not insanely so. I can get around it well enough considering. It doesn't seem to hinder my speed much in normal playing, but to comment really meaningfully on the more theoretical possible speed limit I'd probably want to bust out a metronome.

Seventh position on the two lowest strings, for me, is somewhere between problematic and dark comedy--definitely trickier than on a conventional violin--but that's more due to the overall greater size/width of the instrument. Fortunately I never have to go there.

I've ogled Robert Spears' mezzo violins from afar, but have never had the opportunity to play one. I'll admit there might be one in my unwritten back-of-the-mind wish list, though.

EDITED to add: But tenths are a definite difference. For me right now, on conventional violin, they're tricky enough to be impractical, especially in first and second position, but at least they're possible. On the 15" they're flatly impossible, though there may be a trick I don't know.

July 12, 2020, 5:41 AM · My 15.75" violas both have a VBL of 14" (35.4cm).
I strung the narrow, brighter one as Jack decribes (Tonica viola G,D,& A, +a Lenzner "viola" E!)

This allowed quick swapping with no intonation problems, but also gave me "small" hands on the violin when my slender-handed young lady students filmed me on those smartphone thingies.


Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Sejong Music Competition
Sejong Music Competition

Find an Online Music Camp
Find an Online Music Camp

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases

Fiddlerman.com

Fiddlershop

Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Violin-Strings.com

Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine

Subscribe