Carnatic violins

Edited: December 15, 2021, 7:19 AM · This question is about the instruments, not the music played on them (although partly their pitch range is a bit mysterious too). I can't tell from photos what size they are, and I have a suspicion they might be viola-sized, just called "violins" by convention. Anyone know anything for certain?
Maybe they put viola strings on violins?

Replies (8)

Edited: December 15, 2021, 8:33 AM · I don't have a ton of experience with this -- they just occasionally pop up when we have attended cultural gatherings. These days they are mostly regular violins that are held differently and tuned differently. Actual Indian-made violins tend to be heavier, primarily just because of the types of wood used, but these days most of the people in India just play the far cheaper Western violins. Tuning is highly variable and changes depending on the piece, usually in octaves and fifths. So, for example, if the piece is based on C, the violin will likely be tuned C-G-C-G with the upper strings an octave higher than the lower two. As a result, you often do get a viola-sounding quality on the lower strings.
Edited: December 15, 2021, 8:56 AM · I was told by a former student family (learning western classical from me, carnatic separately) that they tuned GDAE violin strings down to FCFC. Quick internet search yields credible-looking sites that suggest EBEB or DADA, the latter of which is not far from CGDA. I think they had a 1/2 size for carnatic violin but I sized her at 1/4 for Suzuki. She was just about at 3/4 when they moved on but already had a full size for carnatic. By my limited observation, I could see that it would be "easy" to base a child's instrument and tuning on violin (more accessible) and also that larger instruments could be more common/acceptable generally. The viola idea seems quite reasonable although I don't know anything, of course.

edit: That makes sense that the tuning is based on the "key". My student had been playing carnatic for 1-2 years before starting with me. Especially for a young beginner, I'm sure there was also an aspect of seeing what's practical with the available equipment.

December 15, 2021, 8:45 AM · I was listening to a piece earlier that could easily have been tuned FCfc, but I read that they can go down to CGcg and I'd have thought that would sound flabby without viola strings, although I haven't actually tried it yet.
December 15, 2021, 2:23 PM · There's a somewhat enlightening forum discussion of strings for Carnatic music here:

It appears from the linked thread and others on the same forum that Carnatic violinists recommend using only steel core strings because synthetics don't do well when tuned below the pitch they're made for.

Edited: December 17, 2021, 5:53 AM · Thanks, Andrew, it took me a while to read all of that and understand it.
Basically it seems steel violin strings on a violin tuned down to CGcg on occasion. I've got some Helicores somewhere. I'll put them on my Stentor and see what they are capable of.

"Indian-made violins tend to be heavier, primarily just because of the types of wood used"
I was browsing Indian shop websites the other day out of morbid curiosity.
Mostly junk, tops either "plywood spruce" or "solid maple"?! I assume that is rubbish, but maybe not.
God only knows the origin of Carlos Marshello gear (Mendini?), but the oblong case might not be too bad, although I've seen similar for the same price on Amazon.

I know this is only a drawing, but that has to be a viola, unless the artist is really bad. And if it sounds nice, why not, since the tuning is that flexible?

December 17, 2021, 10:14 AM · So, what's this? I can't tell.
December 17, 2021, 11:29 AM · Violin. It doesn't look like a viola to me, from any angle. The side view shows low ribs.
December 17, 2021, 11:49 AM · I like the way the drummer at the end simply picks up his drums to indicate the piece is finished!

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