Experiment that paid off as a Five-string viola!
I had originally begun this little viola ten years ago, wondering what effect it would have to go extra-wide on the lower bouts without changing much else: I was sidetracked with other, more pressing projects, so the little viola sat, partially completed, for ten years. I was somewhat disinclined to complete it, now, because my skills have increased significantly over the intervening years, and I can’t undo some of the “marks of the amateur” which now glare at me accusingly. But, I also felt the need to get some 5-string violas going, and if it didn’t work then I could still toss it out, or whatever…at any rate, it was just an experiment.
I completed the little 5-string viola about the time I completed the recent commission, so I numbered it accordingly, and set it up. It has a great big voice, and is balanced and clear across all five strings! What a surprise!
Accidental Imitation of a famous instrument
I sent pictures to a violist friend, and her immediate response was “A 14” Tertis! Bet that would have made the old boy mad!”
I had heard of Lionel Tertis, and his famous contribution to the viola world…but had never actually seen one of his instruments. So I looked up photos on the internet, and, to my surprise, it really does look like my little fiddle! So, I inadvertently retraced the steps of Mr. Tertis, and produced a fairly powerful little “Tertis-style” 14″ five-string viola! He, of course, was on the other end of the spectrum, trying to achieve a very large, but still playable, viola. (My apologies to the Maestro! I wasn’t being deliberately irreverent!)
Here are some photos:
The back, ribs and neck are Big Leaf Maple, harvested near my home, and the belly is Sitka Spruce. I used spirit varnish, as usual.
Thanks for looking.