Sunday, May 13, 2007

Buying Guide for Violas

The Viola, along with the rest of the String family, (violins, cellos and basses) is an integral part of the Symphony Orchestra. It has four strings producing tones a fifth lower than the corresponding strings on the violin and is slightly larger.

The instrument is commonly associated with classical music, and is found in orchestras and string quartets.

The viola is particularly child-friendly in that it comes in a variety of sizes. As a student grows, the instrument can be traded for larger sizes

It’s critical that a student has the proper size instrument. A viola that is too large in proportion to the size of the student can create a very uncomfortable situation. In extreme situations, this can lead to tendonitis leaving students discouraged and turned off to the instrument.

A viola with a body length of 15-inches or greater is considered to be “full size”.

Other Necessary and Helpful Items

Strings and rosin are a just a few of the items that are need ed to play, and a shoulder rest makes playing much easier. There are also accessories to properly clean and maintain your violin in good working order.

There are 2 basic areas of the viola:

* Body – The “box” part of the instrument. The top is generally made of a thinly and precisely shaved piece of spruce, the back and sides (ribs) are generally made of maple. The top and back may be made of a single piece of wood or a bookmatched piece.

* Neck Assembly – The structure that attaches to the top end of the viola body. It is generally made of maple. The top-end is called the “peg box” where the strings attach to the tuning pegs. Applied to the top of the neck are the fingerboard (where the left-hand fingers press down to alter the pitch of the strings) and the nut (a small piece of wood that supports and separates the strings just as they pass into the “peg box’).

Parts of the Viola

* Bridge - a specially shaped and fitted piece of hard maple that sits between the strings and body of the instrument and transmits the majority of the string vibrations to the body.

* Soundpost – a small cylindrical piece of wood that is fitted and wedged inside the instrument between the back and the face. Its placement has a great effect of the sound.

* F-Hole – Two holes precisely cut in the top of a stringed instrument to permit the sound to be projected from the interior.

* Button – a small round piece of wood fitted by pressure into a hole in the bottom ribs of a stringed instrument. It serves as the anchoring point for the string adjuster (tailgut), which is attached to the tailpiece.

* Tailpiece – a long, tapered piece of material suspended above the top of the instrument by the ends of the strings at the bridge end, and the “tailgut” at the “button” end.

* Tailgut – the long strand of material that attaches through two holes in the bottom end of the tailpiece and then passes over the bottom edge of the instrument, looping around the button as its other anchoring point.

* String Adjuster (optional) – a small mechanical device attached to the tailpiece of a stringed instrument to make fine adjustments in string tension.

String Selection

The single most influential factor (after playing skill) of sound quality produced by a stringed instrument is the choice of strings. There is no “correct” type of string for all players under all circumstances. Each type of string has its own qualities that make it more appropriate for different situations (i.e. solo vs. orchestral performance; country vs. classical performance). Other factors such as cost, the player’s individual preferences and the way a particular string sounds on an individual instrument also come into play.

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Buying Guide for Choosing Strings

Buying Guide for Choosing Strings

Strings for violins, violas and cellos can be identified by the silk windings at the peg and tailpiece ends. Most strings, other than the E-string on a violin, are produced with a “ball-end” at the tailpiece end. This ball-end slips down through the appropriate hole in the tailpiece so that when the body of the string is slid up into the slot, the ball prevents the end of the string from coming through.

Because the sound produced by a string is a complex interrelationship between string length, string mass, tension and material used, fractional size instruments should be strung with strings specifically designed for that size instrument. Using strings designed for other size instruments will not produce a desirable result.

On a violin, the E-string usually is offered with either the ball-end or a simple wire loop-end at the tailpiece end. Nearly all E-strings are steel and react with large changes in pitch to very little change in string tension. For this reason, most instruments have a mechanical fine tuner mechanism attached to the tailpiece to accomplish the small changes in tension needed.

On a viola, the A-string is occasionally offered with either the ball endor a simple wire loop endat the tailpiece end. Some viola A-strings are steel, and react with large changes in pitch to very little change in string tension. For this reason, some instruments have a mechanical fine tuner mechanism attached to the tailpiece to accomplish the small changes in tension needed.

Fine Tuners

Where the string attaches to the fine tuner is one of two designs:

* A simple round shaft or hook over which the simple loop would be placed, or…
* Two vertical prongs between which the string winding is placed with the ball preventing the string from coming through.

The following categories are a general guide to initial string selection. The player is encouraged to experiment with different strings to find the one that is best for them.

Gut Core String – Made of thin strands from sheep or lamb intestines, they typically have a richer, warmer sound than other strings. They also respond slower and take longer to stretch and stabilize when replaced. Gut Core strings are sensitive to temperature and humidity changes and require special care and attention. Most modern gut core strings are wrapped in a thin metallic winding to improve playability and increase their life expectancy. Because of the amount of stretch needed to change the intonation of the string, fine tuners at the tailpiece are not used. Most of the time, Gut Core strings are used by pro’s looking for a very specific sound. They are usually 3 times the cost of Synthetic Core strings and commonly have about 1/3 the lifespan.

Synthetic Core String - made of a strand or strands of synthetic materials that are engineered to have the flexibility of natural gut without the sensitivity to temperature and humidity, these strings are used by 99% of the more experienced players. The most common core material used is Perlon. Most modern gut core strings are wrapped in a thin metallic winding to improve playability and increase their life expectancy. Because of the material properties of Synthetic Core strings, sound quality can vary widely. Tuning wise, they tend to stabilize rather quickly and become reliable in a matter of days instead if weeks. (Like Gut Core)

Steel Core String – Made from a strand or strands of various alloys of steel wire, these strings are generally wrapped in a thin metallic winding on the lower strings on a violin. They are favored by “fiddle players” as the tone tends to be simple and bright, and response is nearly immediate. Steel strings tend to be long lasting and are relatively unaffected by changes in temperature or humidity. Most violin E-strings are steel with various coatings or metallic wrappings occasionally used to tone down the inherent tendency to hiss as well as produce a defined tone. Steel strings tend to be lower priced due to the materials and manufacturing methods used and are recommended for beginners due to their price and stability. Fine tuners at the tailpiece are a necessity because of the lack of stretch in steel strings.

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Buying Guide for Bows

Choosing your Bow is important to your performance. Next to a new set of strings (or increased practice time) the biggest improvement a player can make to their performance is upgrading the bow.

A good bow should not be too heavy and should be able to sustain decent tension on the hairs without over tightening the screw.

Rosin – Rosin is a substance you rub on the bow to help produce the right amount of friction between the bow’s horse hair and the violin’s strings to create the vibration of the strings. Without rosin, there will be little, if any, sound.

Materials - Bows are made of a wide range of shaft materials: Brazilwood, Pernambuco (preferred for wooden bows), fiberglass and graphite-fiber (or a combination of graphite, fiberglass, or carbon-fiber). Virtually all bows sold today include natural horsehair.

Here is a list of materials used to make bows:

Fiberglass - Available for all instrument sizes, fiberglass bows are best for younger students and other performers (such as bluegrass) where durability and costs are a priority. These bows frequently utilize plastic frogs and grips to keep costs low. Fiberglass bows are even available that can be easily rehaired by the consumer to cut down on maintenance cost.

Brazilwood - Many step-up and intermediate bows are made from Brazilwood and often Ebony is used for the frog (the part you hold in your right hand) rather than plastic, as well as genuine leather, wire and simulated whalebone for the grips. Brazilwood tends to be lighter and more responsive than fiberglass and makes a very good beginner to intermediate wood bow. One should be aware that due to the fragile nature of the wooden shaft, Brazilwood bows can break fairly easily if mishandled.

Pernambuco - This wood has the sound qualities and physical qualities that make it ideal for making high quality bows, combining rigidity, flexibility, density, beauty and ability to hold a fixed curve. They are suitable for advanced students and professionals.

Graphite-fiber (or carbon-fiber) - Generally, these bows offer performance comparable to good wooden bows at a fraction of the cost. Borrowing from the world of high-tech tennis racquets and golf clubs, the carbon fiber bow combines craftsmanship and modern science. They are made from a combination of reinforcement fiber and a matrix, or resin. This mixture has mechanical properties that far exceed the capabilities of the separate ingredients. The result is a highly durable, stable but very flexible carbon-based material that is perfect for bow making.

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Item Number: HV-200

* Tops, backs, sides and necks are handcarved and properly graduated from well-aged, select, German tonewoods
* Tops are carved from even, fine-grained spruce
* Bookmatched, highly-flamed Bavarian maple back and sides.
* Delicate, inlaid purfling
* Highly polished, beautifully carved, solid ebony fingerboard and fittings
* Beautiful, shaded-amber finish
* 4 VP-14 Series finetuners
* Shop adjusted

Suggested Retail Price: $395.00



New and Improved, the HV-300 violin outfit is meticulously hand-carved from the finest German spruce and highly flamed maple and is skillfully shaded to resemble a fine old masterpiece. Not only does this instrument have a distinguished look, but its matching tone would fool even the most seasoned veteran into thinking that this instrument was made by the hands of a master.

* Top, back, sides and neck are handcarved and properly graduated from well-aged, select, German tonewoods
* The top being fine-grained spruce and the back and sides are of bookmatched, highly-flamed Bavarian maple
* Inlaid purfling
* The finish is uniquelly varnished in a light brown which gives the instrument an aged and well played look
* All fittings are highly polished and beautifully carved of solid rosewood
* Th fingerboard is of the finest ebony
* Includes (4) gold plated finetuners
* A well-balanced, J. Lasalle LB-12 bow with an ebony frog, silver-plated wrap, and genuine unbleached white horsehair
* To complete the outfit, the violin is protected in an oblong-style, Superior C-3950 multi-ply hardwood case with a brown nylon exterior and a plush lined red velvet interior
* Shop adjusted