small violas and their strings?

Monica Johnston said: Apr 16, 2012
Monica Johnston
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Wan Chai, Hong Kong
2 posts

Hi!

I’ve been teaching Suzuki violin for almost 4 years now, and traditional violin and viola for 6 years. This year I started my first 3 year old viola student! What do you typically do for stringing a small violin like a viola?

Thanks!

Alissa said: Apr 16, 2012
Alissa Rieb
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Viola
61 posts

So glad you opened this thread! I’ve been told by more than one trainer not to re-string a violin. I have not enjoyed the results of the two I had before taking this advice… They’ve suggested doing violin until at least half size or finding a small viola, but I haven’t found any small enough for a 3 yr old…

said: Apr 17, 2012
 48 posts

There was a really good thread about this here. See especially the long and detailed comment by RaineJen, but there are many other good points as well.

We started with a re-strung 1/8 size violin, so presumably not as small as your three-year-old would need. In retrospect the sound was not great. But my daughter loved it. Then, when we moved up to an 11″ viola a year later, it sounded a bit better. And each subsequent new instrument sounded even better.

For the re-strung violin, we got the local shop to take a high-quality C string and cut it down. I would prefer that to some of the suggestions from the other thread (about moving the E string to the C string position, or adding a second G string) because if the child knows that violas are supposed to have a C string, it may not feel “right” to them without one, and they might not develop the strong bond with their instrument that my daughter developed with her re-strung 1/8 size. But that’s just speculation.

There are other disadvantages. If you don’t have many viola students, group class becomes a bit problematic later on.

I can’t speak about 3-year-olds. But for this family, starting on viola at age 5 was absolutely the right thing.

Julia said: Apr 18, 2012
Julia ProleikoViolin, Piano, Viola
Saint Louis, MO
22 posts

I don’t start a viola student until they are 1/2 size, usually that means starting on violin first, unless they are ready for a 1/2 size. The sound is just ugly and I wouldn’t want them to quit for the ugly sound.

With that said, at the ASTA convention in K.C. there was a maker named Peter Zaret’s & Sons that put in a special bass bar in the smaller (and full) sizes and they sounded AWESOME. (I tried out some little ones and was astounded.) I’ve not tried having any refitted personally as viola is usually something I suggest to parents when they are bigger rather than vice versa, but if it ever came down to it and my parents were buying their instruments as opposed to renting, then I would have them go to these guys. Their # is 1-888-violin2. (btw, I am not affiliated with them in any way, but I do keep their information on file because their instruments made quite an impression on me.)

Robin Lohse said: Apr 19, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello, Viola
Souderton, PA
29 posts

What about Scott Cao’s small violas(11″) as an option? These modestly
priced violas can be set up with dominant strings and an Aubert bridge.
They make a decent sound certainly better than a violin trying to sound
like a viola. I have tried both ways with my son and with my students. I
have been favorably happy with Cao’s 150’s and 01’s student violas models.
When my son wanted to play a viola it set me off on a quest fro a better
sounding viola and that is when I started researching student violas. That
was about ten years ago and there are more influx of instruments from China
over that time.
Just another experience,

On Wed, Apr 18, 2012 at 1:05 PM, SAA Discussion
wrote:

Robin Lohse

Alissa said: Apr 19, 2012
Alissa Rieb
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Viola
61 posts

What size does this 3 yr old need? I think 11″ would be too big for my tiny ones. How was the transition from violin to viola for yours fpmusic? That is what I have done as well and reading has been rough with one because he had started reading for violin and finished book 1 before switching. Did you have the mind of switching them when they started? Did you do things differently?

JoAnn said: Apr 19, 2012
 Violin, Viola
20 posts

Hi!
Regarding reading- Violists need to know how to read in treble clef and start doing so in the Suzuki Bk II already. Violists constantly switch between treble and alto clef by book IV. I do not think it is a problem to start reading in treble clef—and keep it up!- when switching to the viola clef. It could actually be more helpful than hurtful if handled well. It is sometimes quite grueling to get violists who have started on viola and only read alto clef for a number of years to start reading in treble clef.

If you are talking about a three year old, or even a little older. By the time they actually start doing a lot of serious reading, they may already be large enough to make the switch to small viola anyway.

In my small ensemble with mostly middle schoolers, I sometimes give the violins and violas melodies and simple harmonies in both alto and treble clef and have them play both, switching back and forth. The violists love it when the violinists have to read in alto clef and feel their pain! and of course… it does not hurt for every violinist to be able to read alto clef!
This also lets me rehearse each part with both groups and not have one group wait.

JoAnn

Julia said: Apr 19, 2012
Julia ProleikoViolin, Piano, Viola
Saint Louis, MO
22 posts

Never so far have had any issues in transition…as long as base emphasis was on training the ear. I teach reading through understanding what the clef means and then reading intervalically. With that, clef should not present too much of a problem. I agree with JoAnn…we should all be able to read multiple clefs.

Jennifer Visick said: Apr 20, 2012
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

Since I posted a while back on that other thread that Jon referenced, I’ve found a local luthier who will perform the “hole-in-the-heart” operation. It works, and we’re now using Shar Hoffman Etude violins down to 1/8th size, with hole-in-the-heart operations, properly sized violin strings for A-D-G and the shortest C strings we can find in the U.S., cut down to size.

Corelli makes small viola strings, smaller than we can find in the States. Apparently sold in Europe. Expensive to buy in Euros and import… Sabatier violas (wish we had the money to invest in those!) use them.

I emailed Shar and asked them about stocking the small viola strings. This is the email response I got:

Hi Jennifer!
It seems that Corelli makes the small viola strings. I am still looking for a US distributor for you. Can you help me narrow the search? The products made are:

Set 210: LV25/28 cm which converts to 11.02 inches
Set 220: LV28/30cm which converts to 11.81 inches
Set 230: LV30/32.5cm which converts to 12.75 inches

Which one would you like to have and how many would you need? It may be possible to add to our next shipment but delivery would take some time since this come in from France. I ideally would like to find them in stock somewhere for you.

Let me know what looks like it might work.

I emailed them back about a month ago and haven’t heard a response. Perhaps if those of you on this board, who live in the U.S. are interested in having Shar stock these smaller C strings, you can email them too. Maybe the more people who ask about them, the sooner they will get on to ordering them, and maybe even “regularly” stocking them !

Here’s the Corelli website describing them (in french), but you can’t buy them direct from Corelli. http://www.savarez.fr/anglais/corelli-small-instruments.html#petitalto

Sue Hunt said: Apr 20, 2012
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
391 posts

The strings you are looking for are Corelli Crystal fractional sizes. Peter Zaret stocks Corelli Crystal. Perhaps they could be persuaded to sell the fractional sizes.

Have you tried Carbonbow.com

For violins under 1/8 size, I put another D string on as a bottom string and tune it down to middle C.
Music in Practice

Jennifer Visick said: Apr 20, 2012
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

Lots of places stock Corelli Crystal. It seems, however, that no one in the U.S. (that I have found yet) stocks the little tiny ones.

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