Viola string help?

December 11, 2017, 8:57 PM · I am a senior in high school and have a 16 inch Otto Benjamin viola. I am looking for new A and D viola strings - I would do C and G as well, but those are still relatively new strings and we are only trying to spend $60-70 this Christmas rather than $120+ haha.

On my A and D I have Obligato strings. I’ve had them for about 9 months and I think it is time to retire them soon. On my G and C, I have Kaplan Forzas... I used to use the Obligatos there as well but the Forzas sound a little darker on those strings in my opinion (but not on the A and D). The Forzas are 6 months old.

The issue with my viola is that it’s too small to get a really dark, rich, sound that a lot of larger violas have. I have always struggled with fourth finger as it is, so moving up a size is definitely out of the question until I grow again. My viola is not super tinny or anything, but it is just a bit too bright for my taste. I love the overtones from my Obligato A and D, but it seems that when I got a new chinrest a few weeks back it made my viola even brighter sounding, so I am looking to get some darker A and D strings to hopefully enhance the sound as much as possible.

Do you guys have any ideas? I know I can’t be certain unless I try them myself, but I want to know where to start. Once my Forzas wear out, i will probably be looking for a darker, G and C as well, as the chinrest has really made the sound a lot brighter.

Replies (12)

December 12, 2017, 12:51 AM · I heartily recommend the Kaplan AMO set.

Edited: December 12, 2017, 12:57 AM · The first set I would try is Warchal Karneol, which sounds lovely on many violas. It will tame an overly bright instrument and add some texture and color. Only $42 for a set!

December 12, 2017, 2:55 AM · If you find that the viola is too bright, go with OBLIGATOS.
December 12, 2017, 5:14 AM · Your new chin rest didn't change the sound of your viola. It changed the position of your ear relative to your f-holes.
Edited: December 12, 2017, 6:26 AM · Buy the warchal karneol on eBay should get them even cheaper . I have used their long scale strings on 18"viola they are not bad for a cheaper set . I personally like zyex strings really good and reasonable price . I think it is more likely that the set up of your viola is preventing it from making the sound that you require . Have you got an old fashioned practice mute . I have quite a few in deferent weights and materials . If you put different mutes onto the bridge and listen carefully to the effects they give other than volume. This can be a good clue as to whether you need a different bridge . Move them about about as well i.e. treble side base side . If you want to be really adventurous try attaching a small weight like very small coin to the back of the bridge with blue tack . If you come up with the sound you want take your viola to an experienced set up person and tell them this the sound that you require . People often give up on an instrument that has an arbitrary set up with out really exploring the possibilities.
December 12, 2017, 6:41 AM · Have any of you tried the Larsen A? My A string gives the “whiniest” sound of all my strings with the exception of 3rd finger D. The A and C# sound very tinny compared to the rest my viola, but I’m sure thats just how my viola is set up (A on the D string is also pretty horrible).

I’m considering a Larsen A and a Kaplan AMO D-do you think this would be a good combo with the Forza G and C? I’ve had a lot of bad luck with A strings (I’ve had Prelude, Zyex, Helicore, Forza and Obligato and Obligato is definitely the only decent sounding one on my viola) so I’m hesitant to try the AMO As. I wish there was some type of trial allowed for strings. There’s so many factors and so many to choose from haha.

Are there particular bridges that make a specific instrument darker, or is it just how they respond with the instrument? That’s probably a dumb question. The only shop within 30 minutes from here is Music and Arts (my instrument is from there) but I have heard bad things about their instrument repairs. There is one about 45 min. from here where I got my bow rehaired and a new chinrest this past weekend.

Edited: December 12, 2017, 7:35 AM · Setting up a violin or viola is a very skilled job requiring special training and experience . If your viola sounds good on all strings except the A my personal opinion is that it is quite likely that you need a heavier bridge . This will probably make your A less winey and will bring more resonance in the bass. From what you say it's possible that this kind of tweaking is too sophisticated for your local shop . Have you tried googling to see if you've got a luthier working near by
December 12, 2017, 7:41 AM · I'm interested that many of you describe the sound that you want from a viola as dark . I always think of it as round . Has anyone else got a good adjective ?
Edited: December 27, 2017, 6:22 AM · Thomas - check out this paper, if you can find it: Catgut Acoustical Society Journal Vol. 3, No. 4 (Series II), Pg. 52, November 1997 -"Tuning the A0 Mode Without Changing the Body or f-hold Size" by J.L. Miles .***

The gist is that if you can make the "throat" of the ff-holes thicker (or "longer") it will increase the resistance to airflow in and out of the ft-holes and shift the A0 mode of a viola to get a darker tone on the low notes. (It does not work on violins or cellos.) You can achieve this effect with a 3/8-inch magic tape lining both sides of the ff-holes (protruding INTO the viola body so it is not very visible). You only have to do this along the long curve of the ft-holes not around the little circles at the ends.

I've done this with the better of my 2 violas for the past 20 years -only changed the tape once in those years (and probably did not need to).

*** I have a PDF of this paper and can email it to you if you can find my e-mail address. But if you understand what I have written above you will find the paper only of interest, not of practical use.

December 12, 2017, 10:36 AM · Andrew how interesting . Thank you I will look up the paper .
Edited: December 12, 2017, 3:32 PM · If you want a less tinny sound, try synthetic A strings (e.g Tonica). In your particular case, a new instrument may be in order. Violas really vary, so try a variety of affordable violas of various sizes and pick your fave for both playing comfort and sound.
December 27, 2017, 2:30 AM · Pirastro's Aricore-Eudoxa A (polyester core with aluminium winding) has a sweet, singing tone on my violas, right up the fingerboard.

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