recommendations on a carbon fiber 5 string violin

September 9, 2020, 5:31 PM · Hi there,

I have left the 4 string world and play exclusively on a wooden 5 string that I quite like. I recently took it on a camping trip and it may have suffered from the heat/cold (e string peg lost traction and wouldn't tune up). so, I am interested in finding a carbon fiber 5 string for, mostly, Americana/bluegrass/old time/blues (not so much classical in the woods).

When I played 4 string, I had a Glasser for the same purpose. it was fine for what I needed and impervious to the weather. it was heavy, though. I tried a 5 string glasser, but it was even heavier, generally muffled sounding, and the C string was particularly unexciting.

I have only found Luis & Clark and Gayford in my searches (the mezzo forte doesn't seem to permit replacement of the chinrest, and I would need to replace the chinrest). Anybody have any experience with these instruments? does one sound or play better than the other (I prefer as dark a sound as possible)?

Are there any recommendations for other carbon 5 strings? if there's an acceptable option (other than the glasser) that's less expensive than the L&C or Gayford (~6k for each), I would much prefer to spend less on a woods fiddle.


Replies (19)

September 10, 2020, 3:09 AM · I have the 5-string Glasser that you didn't like. But the reasons you give for not liking it were part of what I was initially disappointed with. I've got the acoustic-electric version, so it's got the added weight of the pre-amp in the tailpiece.

However, I solved the "muffled sounding" aspect easily. The Glassers are not set up properly -- when I got my instrument I played it a couple of days and realized that it just wasn't sounding as vibrant as it should. Knowing that Alex DePew had been in on the development of it and that he loves it I figured there was something not quite right about mine. So I compared the vibrating string length and found that the bridge wasn't in the right spot, compared to my properly set-up wooden violin. The vibrating string length was about 4 millimeters too short, so I moved the bridge and the instrument's sound immediately opened up. But that meant that the soundpost was no longer in the correct spot, relative to the bridge. I took the instrument to my luthier who agreed I had moved the bridge to the correct spot, and then he moved the sounpost and the sound opened up even more.

Just recently my violinist wife (I'm a dabbler, she's a professional) played it and was amazed at how much more open it was compared to when she played it when it was new a year ago.

I say all that so that you might reconsider a properly set-up Glasser.

The only others that I know about other than the ones you mention are the cheap Chinese imports which according to my luthier are real junk, even when properly set up.

So you have a choice -- spend a lot of money for an instrument to take to the campground, or reconsider the much less expensive Glasser again.

September 10, 2020, 6:51 AM · Lyndon might recommend that you consider antique German CF 5-string violins ...
September 10, 2020, 10:12 AM · David Bailey: were you able to get a good sound out of the C string once you adjusted the glasser?

Paul Deck: the antique German and cremonese CF 5 strings are out of my price range . . . :)



Edited: September 13, 2020, 7:42 PM · similar experience to David, but with the 4-string Glasser. It was set up properly in a shop in Az with an ebony TP w/o fine tuners and played better than the other ones I had tried. I just put on a ConCarbo harp tailpiece with a MI & VI Ti tailgut. It feels less heavy and is more open (much less stuffy.) I also tried and liked a Wittner center chinrest, but went back to a Flesch with rubber pads like those Andrew V. recommends because of my security with that shape despite the mass. The sum total affect is much more acceptable than the stock Glasser. I even use it to practice on, saving my 130 y.o. svelte, dark, almost viola-ish sounding primary German violin from my hacking on etudes and more boisterous works.
September 14, 2020, 1:48 AM · I really should try to get my Glasser properly setup...
September 14, 2020, 10:35 AM · thanks for the advice on maximizing the potential of the glasser. I'm on the fence. the pricing structure of carbon violins is somewhat annoying. $500 vs $6000, without really anything in between.
September 14, 2020, 1:44 PM · going with the glasser. will try the recommended tweaks, maybe try some different strings also. any particular recommendations on strings? I am currently using Larsen tzigane G-A, thomastik vision E, and Kaplan short viola C on my wooden instrument.
Edited: September 14, 2020, 2:30 PM · Tzigane is allI have tried so far. I might put on some Obligatos or Kaplan Amos. I think I have a set of Warchal Ambers in my box too.
September 15, 2020, 3:36 PM · Sang Shin, I think it's a good tone on the C string, full and rich. Not like a true viola C string, but not boxy or stuffy.
Edited: September 17, 2020, 8:23 AM · OK, you don't want to spend 6k on a Gayford, but here's what they sound like.
Edited: September 18, 2020, 1:43 AM · interesting. he appears to have something plugged into the jack on his pickup. I wonder if the recording is from miking the room or from the pickup.

a little off topic (and not the best recording quality), but here's Michael Cleveland playing sally goodin with billy strings.

I ordered the Glasser, should arrive soon, will try to work with it to get an acceptable sound.

thanks for all the advice.

September 19, 2020, 9:48 AM · From the viola side, generally steel C and G like Spirocore Tungsten are more responsive and have a bigger sound on violas smaller than 16”. It’s what I use on my violas after trying a wide range of strings. Others I would recommend trying are the steel Kaplan short scale C and G for viola on your violin. Although I am generally not a fan of Helicore, I might try thet short scale C and G as they are more svelte than most atrings and may feel more violinistic.
September 19, 2020, 4:57 PM · are the spirocore tungsten strings made in short (13") lengths that would fit violins? I didn't see any at Shar or amazon, but I may have missed something.
Edited: September 19, 2020, 7:24 PM · Spiro-not in tungsten, I think they do silver c in the shorter scale. They also make a tungsten and silver violin G, but that may not be what you are looking for. The steel Kaplan’s will be a little brighter, but similar in playability. I prefer them to the slinkier Helicores. Pretty sure that Both Cs will be tungsten.
September 24, 2020, 7:39 PM · One problem with these 5 string instruments is string spacing. The 5 string instruments I have owned don't have the proper amount of space between each string. The spacing is too close together. It makes playing double stops and chords problematic, to say the least.
September 25, 2020, 2:17 AM · I have one of Gary Bartig's London 5 violins, as well as a Yamaha electric 5 string (which I use unplugged when I need to play quietly - the ultimate mute). both of them have a wider fingerboard to accommodate 5 strings at near normal spacing. I didn't find the string spacing, in general, difficult to adjust to. I'm playing through the Bach adagio and Biber passacaglia at the moment, and there are several (3, to be exact) 3 note chords which are difficult to sound cleanly with the 5 string because of unintended touching/damping of adjacent strings. this has, however, forced me to pay particular attention to the arch in my fingers, how vertically they are coming to the strings, and how precisely they are landing on the strings. it appears to be improving slowly and I anticipate them not being a problem at some point - and it appears to be helping with my other "easier" chords.

what was much more difficult for me was adjusting to the different, narrower, and much less forgiving, bowing planes with the extra string. took several trips to the luthier to shape the bridge. and I found that playing the 4 string, even for short periods of time, resulted in bowing confusion when returning to 5 string. this is partly why I've transitioned completely to 5 string. interestingly, when reading music with sections that transition rapidly from string to string, the mental confusion of finding the G vs the C lasted longer than any physical accommodations. and this did not happen when not reading music (either playing from memory or improvising)

on the plus side:
-the extra c adds a lot of resonance. the c on the g string, in particular, sounds glorious.
-when playing with singers and other instruments that sit more in vocal ranges, it's nice to be able to get under their range and give them space.
-when the improvisational muse wants to go low, it's nice to be able to go into that extra lower fifth rather than figure out a transition to bring the line back up without breaking its coherence.
-doesn't seem to interfere with playing classical pieces, just ignore the lower string.

September 25, 2020, 3:04 AM · It’s interesting to read your comments, sang shin, as I (a relative beginner) bought a Yamaha electric as a practice instrument as I can often only practice late at night.
I being a ‘fries with that ‘ person, I got the 5 string , thinking that would give me more ways to experiment when I become more skilled. But I hadn’t thought through enough the difficulties with bowing , swapping from 4 to 5 strings and for a while , thought I might have made a big mistake.
September 25, 2020, 10:36 AM · hi rosemary,

2 other thoughts:

1) the bowing planes get even tighter once you go above 4th position, or so. pressing down on the strings high up along the fingerboard results in more downward deflection of the string and it gets easier to accidentally sound an adjacent string. on the other hand, the problem goes away with practice. I notice I have my bow tighter to compensate a bit for this. also, I very much prefer the sound of notes in lower positions, anyway.

2) I limit how much practicing I do with the electric, I worry that it will mess with my intonation. the body is inert so the strings are the only things generating sound. it is harder to hear/feel the resonances that help me to track my intonation and I worry that I'm slightly "off" without realizing it. I imagine this might be less of a problem (or not at all a problem) if I amplified it with headphones, but I have not been able to find a headphone setup which doesn't sound awful, can't bring myself to deal with the sound and all the cables dangling around. sound is not too bad amplified through amp/PA, although doesn't sound like an acoustic violin. the London 5, on the other hand, has a pickup built in (I think into the bass bar) and sounds very much like an acoustic when amplified.



October 2, 2020, 1:26 PM · received glasser, sounds good, much much better than the last one, definitely good enough for the woods and bad weather. maybe it was a setup issue, maybe these instruments are subject to manufacturing variances and some sound better than others.

unfortunately, the string notches at the nut are spaced unevenly/irregularly. considered having the notches filled and refiled, but that would preclude returning the instrument if it didn't work out. so, it's back to the shop for an exchange.

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