5-String Viola Conversion Result Feedback

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I finally got some publishable feedback!

Earlier this year, I converted one of my classical 16-1/2″ violas (Instrument #18 (viola #7) on this page)  to a 5-string, for this young player. (Story here.)

I shipped it to him and it arrived just after his birthday. He has been playing it ever since.

Happy Player

The young man truly has been pleased with it: He loved the tone, loved the balance, etc. But he was reluctant to allow me to publish a video of him playing it. He wanted more time to practice.

He just had a hard time getting used to having five strings. Quite a few classically trained players have told me that this was a problem.  They felt that strings just seemed to appear in the wrong places. (I can understand that: there is a string right down the middle of the fingerboard that wasn’t there before! Besides, the angle in string crossings demands more of the player: it is much flatter, requiring more precision.)

Achievable Goals

He sent me several “progress reports,” over the next few months.  All of them sounded good, to me, but he was still working on “getting comfortable” with the new instrument, and did not want them made public. Until today, I did not have his blessing to share any of them.

One of his stated goals was to be able to play Bach’s Cello Suite #6 on the viola. It was originally written for a 5-string cello: A very good cellist can play it on a four-string cello. But, the best violist cannot play Suite #6 on a classical 4-string viola in the original key.  The classical cello used “thumb-position” fingering to play it. “Thumb-position” is not usable on a viola.

The young man bought the 5-string viola to overcome that specific hurdle, so he is working on that piece in this video :

I especially appreciate this video. It showcases both ends of the range of the Viola, and it shows that the instrument speaks quickly and easily, in fast attacks.

He hasn’t “spoken up” online yet (and he may not) but the music tells me he is happy with the instrument.

Hope you enjoy it.

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