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Thread: Mandola to Viola

  1. #1

    Default Mandola to Viola

    Anybody make the jump from mandola to viola or mandolin to fiddle? Got any tips or advice? I'm thinking of taking the plunge.
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    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Mandolin to Viola

    My advice is mandolin > viola. The viola has essentially the same scale length as a Gibson mandolin, so the neck will feel much closer to what you are used to and you won't have to scrunch up your fingers in the first position. (Besides, viola just sounds better, at least to my ears.)

    NH

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    Default Re: Mandola to Viola

    I "switched" from violin to mandolin. Still play them about equally half my life later. Guitar is good, too, and cello. If I could get my hands on my mom's nice viola, I'd love to play that. Then there's all the cittern and bouzouki variants. Many are compromises between tone and playability or playability and tone.

    Every combination of body size and scale length lends itself to different tunes and different interpretations.
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    Unfamous String Buster Beanzy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandola to Viola

    I went from ‘cello to mandolin, then mandoloncello, then violin.
    Viola would have been a better fit for my hands, but the fiddle was such a direct swap it was too tempting.
    We now have a very nice viola in the house which my son has on loan from a trust, but I daren’t touch that.
    It sounds incredible & I really do want to make that move sometime.

    Advice wise I would say; spend ages and ages bowing open strings to really work the corrcect bowing position into your memory. Also to get get a feel for just what a great sound the instrument can make under your bow. Really spend time listening to the subtleties. Then make loads of interesting games for yourself by doing all sorts of sub-devisions of the bow, patterns etc. If you do enough of that then nothing will take you by surprise or distract you from focussing on the subtleties of your bow control. The left hand normally tends to get too much attention because of finding notes and ornamentation, but those will tend come with the practice of pieces and exercises you get from your learning materials. I find it is the effort I put into my bowing that tends to define my satisfaction with my progress.
    Eoin



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    Registered User DougC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandola to Viola

    Advice? Beanzy is absolutly right. You really have to want to get over the hurdle of using a bow the right way. If you do it, get a teacher. You can't know everything from a book or video because you can't notice your movements from the side and back. (even in a mirror, but that helps.)
    Professor V on youtube has some good videos on bowing.
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  8. #6

    Default Re: Mandolin to Viola

    Quote Originally Posted by mandocrucian View Post
    My advice is mandolin > viola. The viola has essentially the same scale length as a Gibson mandolin, so the neck will feel much closer to what you are used to and you won't have to scrunch up your fingers in the first position. (Besides, viola just sounds better, at least to my ears.)

    NH
    Scale length isn't the only consideration - arm position matters a lot. I've got a modified guitar that's tuned like a cello, and the chords in the Bach Suites can be much harder on the guitar than on a cello, even though the cello's scale length is two inches longer! My own personal experience is that my viola feels much larger than my mandolin, though my viola is admittedly on the large side. If you got a 15.5" or even a 15" viola, that might change.

    As far as which sounds better, well, it really depends on the instrument, the player, and what music you want to play. The instruments are a lot more different than you would think if you aren't familiar with them both.

    A lot of the question comes down to what you want to do with the instruments and what you already know. As with the mandolin vs. mandola, the violin has a well-established role in a lot of musical areas, while violists kind of have to figure things out for themselves sometimes.

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    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandola to Viola

    My 16" body viola has a scale length of 14 1/2". This is much closer to mandolin scale than most mandolas, which I find unplayably long.* The reason reaches on the guitar are harder than the cello is not only arm position but the wider fingerboard. My 10-string mandolins are 14 1/4", shorter than my viola's scale, but feel a bit more difficult for reaches.

    *Why are mandolas so long? Bass players add a low string without needing a longer scale, ditto 7-string guitars. Both are fairly popular, although 7-string guitar is most popular in Brazil. Early violas were either short like violins or hugely long. Eventually the best compromise between playability and tone was the 16" body with a scale length of 14.25" to 14.5" Mandolas sacrifice playability, for me, solely for a strong C string. Viola players made a different choice, but lacking a big sound on the C turns out to be less important than being generally useful. The body size turns out to be the main thing affecting low range tone, so mandolas should have a generous body but keep the string length to 14.5" at most.
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    Default Re: Mandola to Viola

    As a studio strings teacher who also taught school strings, work on the bow and BE PATIENT! I tell all my beginning adult students to be a like a 10 year old...yes, you will squeak and make scratchy sounds, but if you wince every time and get super picky, you will never get better. Don't be a perfectionist; the more you play, the better it will get. Learn to play with longer bows and let yourself go. Play things like Twinkle, Twinkle and scales with many rhythmic patterns so that you get to know bowing well. The fingerings will be no problem for you! I'd get some beginning viola books and just play, play, play!
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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandola to Viola

    Quote Originally Posted by Em Tee View Post
    Anybody make the jump from mandola to viola or mandolin to fiddle? Got any tips or advice? I'm thinking of taking the plunge.
    You might want to reach out to bratsche who, like us, is a South Florida resident and someone who made the opposite jump as a professional violist to amateur mandolist.
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    MandolaViola bratsche's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandola to Viola

    I see little, if anything, to add to the great comments already offered by others. Get a teacher, as bowing is an exacting thing, difficult to learn on one's own; don't confuse the body length of a viola (it's most usual size descriptor) with its scale length, which is going to be shorter. Whether you decide on violin or viola is entirely personal - though I am biased toward viola. The sounds of a viola are somewhat more forgiving of beginners than a violin, particularly if you're not spending too much on the instrument (cough *e string* cough).

    Take it easy and deliberately, as it's going to require effort, don't expect it to be a cakewalk, and there will be some monotony and frustration along the way. But if you enjoy the journey of learning, then go for it!

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandola to Viola

    Quote Originally Posted by Em Tee View Post
    Anybody make the jump from mandola to viola or mandolin to fiddle?
    Got any tips or advice? I'm thinking of taking the plunge.
    I just note there are several sizes in the bowed string world 4/4 is full, 3/4, and so forth also are still violas,
    like in violins and basses and so on..





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  18. #12

    Default Re: Mandola to Viola

    Are there any forums similar to Mandolin Cafe for the violin family? Trying to figure out what kind of viola to buy and it's a little difficult to figure out quality. Thus far I have it narrowed down to luthier Nikolai Tambovsky. But honestly don't know if there are better choices in my price range (about 2k for the entire outfit)
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    Default Re: Mandola to Viola

    Quote Originally Posted by Em Tee View Post
    Are there any forums similar to Mandolin Cafe for the violin family? Trying to figure out what kind of viola to buy and it's a little difficult to figure out quality. Thus far I have it narrowed down to luthier Nikolai Tambovsky. But honestly don't know if there are better choices in my price range (about 2k for the entire outfit)
    There's forums at violinist.com, maestronet.com and reddit.com/r/violinist. The latter's relatively newbie friendly, they always give the same advice, "Rent instrument/bow and find private teacher"

    I think you should consult with a teacher or experienced player about bows and instruments, buying a too large instrument is an ergonomic mistake, getting correct string set (often get A string and others from different brands), chin adn shoulder rest have to be fitted, variances in bow weights/stiffnesses, carbon/pernambuco/brazlwood etc
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    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandola to Viola

    Em Tee, have a look at Shar Music, Johnson Strings, and Southwest Strings.

    All three companies are well-respected and have a variety of instruments and outfits available.

    Better yet, find a local shop, if there is one around that specializes in bowed strings, and buy from someone who can help you in person. Violas are odd instruments. No such thing as a standard size—they're sold by the inch. Trying different sizes and configurations before you commit to anything is wise. An experienced sales person can help you find something that is sized appropriately. Violas are not ergonomically friendly, so buy wisely. Check on trade-in policies. If you get serious about this and want to upgrade in a couple of years, many shops will let you apply much of the purchase price to an upgrade.

    Don't skimp on your bow. In the price range you are looking at, you will probably end up buying a carbon-fiber bow. Spending about 1/3 the price of the instrument on a bow is an oft-quoted rule of thumb. With a $2000 budget, you're looking at +/- $1350 for the viola, $450 for a bow, with a couple hundred left over for a case and shoulder rest.

    I absolutely agree about getting a teacher.
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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandola to Viola

    I started on violin at 10 years old (ancient and over the hill by today's standards). I took up guitar about 5 years layer, and bluegrass fiddle, then electric bass. I played all of these throughout my high school years. About 10 years ago (at 45) I took up mandolin. It was startlingly easy after having a violin and guitar background.

    I became drawn to the viola and now play that almost exclusively when I play fiddle (I have a few 5 course 16" viola "fiddles" now). I also play a 10 string 16.5" scale mandola. I have not gotten serious about becoming fluent in the alto clef, yet....

    As others have said, learn to bow properly with actual in-person lessons. Rent a few instruments before you buy - this is an advantage with orchestral strings not found with a lot of other instruments. I think the Fiddle Hangout is a pretty good forum.

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