Steve Mason Luthiers
The Alferd Packer Memorial String Band

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Stock #: 440

Price: $975

Description: This 15" five string viola was made, to my specifications, in China.  Ebony fingerboard, Rosewood fittings.

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5 String Viola

 There are plenty of notes on a violin.  If you want to play the melody there is no finer instrument.  It's real loud. Its right under you ear.  You can always hear what you're doing, even in the noisiest jam session.  But, if your true love is playing harmonies to those fiddle melodies it's sometimes nice to have a C string.  A violin is tuned E A D G (from highest to lowest).  A viola is tuned A D G C.  A five string viola gives you the full range of both instruments.  Five string violins have been popular for a long time with country and swing players (Johnny Gimble and Byron Berline play them).  But the body of a violin is not big enough to produce a good low C pitch, so five string violins must be electrified.  The electronics can produce a C as well as they can produce any pitch (that's another story).  For the parking lot picker electronics are not an option.  Also, you can raise the pitch of a string by shortening it or by tightening it.  So, the longer a string is the more tension it takes to bring it up to pitch.  A violin neck is just too short for a low C string.  The string is floppy, like playing on a rubber band.  Enter the 5 String Viola!  This is a 15" viola with 5 strings.  The larger body and slightly longer scale produce the low C and there is no problem producing the high notes. 

 If you have a string tuned to a C you can produce a C# by stopping the string at 1/18 of the distance from the nut to the bridge (essentially shortening the string to 17/18 of it's original length).  To get a D you stop the string at 1/18 of the distance from the C# to the bridge.  To get a D# you stop the string at 1/18 the distance from the D to the bridge etc.  The finger placement is proportional to the string length.  The longer the string the more widely spaced the finger placement.   A standard violin is 14" long (length of the back of the box of the instrument).  The string length of a violin, from nut to bridge, is about 13".  The string length of a 15" viola is about 14".  The stretch is bigger on the 5 String, but not as big as on a 16" or 17" orchestra viola.  A fiddler can adjust easily with a little practice.  I have been experimenting with 5 String Violas for the last 25 years.  I would be pleased to answer any questions you might have.


3809 W 24th St
Lawrence, KS  66047

(785) 841-0277 or
(785) 331-6000



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© Copyright 2010, Steve Mason