Thinking about OCTAVE VIOLIN

December 2, 2022, 2:19 PM · I am thinking about putting octave strings on a student violin I picked up in a secondhand shop years ago. It’s a solid and rather heavy instrument in good condition. I used to keep it in school for rehearsals before I retired, and I have used it for playing out of doors. Has anyone done something similar? If so, any recommendations, advice etc?

Replies (9)

December 2, 2022, 7:22 PM · "Octave strings" are intended to be used on violins (or violas) to sound one full octave lower than their intended pitch. Unfortunately the instruments are not designed to support those lower frequencies in good ways. I have had Octave strings for both violin and viola and was not happy with the resulting sound.
December 2, 2022, 11:30 PM · You won't be happy with it unless you have an electric or a pickup. Either way, the strings will be super fat and not fun to play on. Consider an octave pedal instead...
Edited: December 3, 2022, 3:36 AM · I turned a large viola into an octave violin by tuning its C, G and D strings up to D, A and E. For the bottom C I used a cut-down A string from a 1/8 size cello. It worked well enough for the bass line in renaissance music which often doesn't go below G. Obviously a smaller instrument won't produce much sound down there no matter what strings you use.
December 3, 2022, 12:41 PM · Thanks for the replies. I realize that the sound of an octave violin is going to be relatively small, and the tone on some of the recordings that I have heard is a bit hoarse or gruff. That's not true of all though, so I have heard some encouraging recordings. It's an experiment that I have been pondering for a couple of years, and it cannot do damage on a Liz-Trussian scale, so I'd like to go ahead with it. One strings manufacturer assures buyers that their strings are not excessively thick, and the pressure on the instrument is not an issue. It seems I'll need deeper slots in the bridge (possibly a new, heavier, bridge) and deeper cuts in the nut. Rather than tinker myself, I'll take it to a luthier if I go ahead with it. Additionally, a lot of 'octavers' on video recommend a viola bow to draw out the graver sound.
December 3, 2022, 4:20 PM · I did the same with a viola as Steve but with an octave viola string for the G which you cannot get anymore as far as I know. I do use a pickup with it and it's decent. One of the things that I think helps whether you use a violin or a viola is to take out the hanging part in the center of the bridge and also shave down the extra parts on the side. This makes a regular violin shrill but works well for lower strings. A regular violin may not give the biggest tone but when you think that electric violins are sold as 7 string going down to Bb. Also, Eric Aceto of Ithaca Strings makes acoustic six string violins going down to F which sound very good.
December 3, 2022, 6:00 PM · I agree with Cotton. Pickup. Octave pedal.
December 4, 2022, 7:34 PM · Octave pedals sound terrible on the violin. Pickups almost always sound bad on an acoustic fiddle.
Edited: December 5, 2022, 12:13 AM · Renewed thanks for the replies. Christopher, I shall certainly relay your advice about the bridge to the luthier when I take the violin in for its conversion. I am fairly set against anything electronic - I have never much liked the sound of music processed and performed through mics and amps, so for now that's an unlikely route. I think I'd mainly use the resulting V8º for early music and folk.
December 5, 2022, 3:28 PM · I have a large viola set up as an octave violin. I tried it as octave viola first, but the octave C is really fat and difficult to play - it was like walking a tight rope - the flesh of the finger did not contact the fingerboard. And the sound was too weak. But as an octave violin it is surprisingly good. My son has been using it a lot for folk music. Sure it does not have the sound of a cello, but much better than I feared.
I use the no longer available sensicore octave strings for the bottom 3 strings and a viola D for the top E. I am surprised that a 1/8 cello A was thick enough to use for the bottom G, Steve.

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