What Musical Style Or Form Today Continues The Folk-Music Tradition How I Made My Vertical Viola

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How I Made My Vertical Viola

This is an article about how I made my upright viola. I first became interested in upright viola when my hands gave me trouble playing the viola. My string teacher mentioned something about a 20+ inch viola that was an alto and showed me a picture that got me interested enough to look into the history of the upright viola.

I went online to look up the history of the upright viola. I discovered that the upright viola is also called an alto violin. During the 1960s, an instrument maker named Carlin Hodgins claimed that the vertically played viola could be enlarged. She concluded that a larger viola would produce a better sound. Based on these principles, she designed a viola about two and a half inches longer than the standard viola. This new viola is designed to be played vertically like a cello. It also allowed cellists to play an instrument that was tuned one octave higher than the cello.

The basic acoustic principle underlying the alto violin is that the main resonance of the wood of the instrument should correspond to the second highest string, and the main cavity resonance of the instrument should correspond to the third highest string. On the viola these strings are D and G, respectively. The standard viola is too small to achieve this matching of string frequency to resonant frequency.

After some investigation I discovered that if I wanted to play a viola upright, I would have two choices. Either I would have to purchase a fully handmade instrument, very expensive, or I could go with the idea that a cello would be shaped roughly like a viola, except played an octave lower. With this logic I decide to find a small cello and overcome any adjustment problems.

I started with a 1/8 cello and found my viola strings too short. I had to find strings long enough to fit my new alto violin. I found a small company located in Florida that makes octave violin strings. They were long enough for my new project but I was about an inch short. After consulting with a violin company I found that I could get a rack long enough for the baby cello.

The next problem I had was realizing that by changing the dynamics even slightly, my bridge would have to be redesigned for the new instrument. I discussed this with my designer and found out that he is willing to make me a new bridge for this project.

After stretching and moving things, I finally got everything to fit. Bowed my first scale on the new vertical viola. Using the 1/8 cello version is quite a challenge as it is just a bit on the long side for the alto string. However I found the tone to be much deeper and the quality of the viola to be very rich and at the perfect pitch.

My next attempt at the upright viola was to use a 1/10 cello and I found that it suited the string size better as well as the bridge.

I sold the 1/8 vertical viola of my cello. I still play a 1/10 upright viola. I have the satisfaction of shaping my upright viola as well as the pleasure of playing all my stringed instruments.

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