A Viola the Size of a Violin

AUGUST, 2017

It was about 20 years ago that I started making normally small violas [between 15 and 16 inches] and because of the demand for good sounding instruments of this size, since then I have made more smaller violas than ones over 16 inches.

Building a successful small viola is definitely more difficult than a large one, which is probably why so few violin makers attempt it, there being a number of important considerations which need attention to ensure the instrument works well, particularly on the C string.

The body length of this instrument, as well as the neck length and string length are the same as a violin, so it feels like a violin to play, but the width, the archings, and aspects of the fitting up are like a viola, so it sounds like a viola.

My original intention was to make an instrument to rent out to a young person who definitely wants to play viola, but isn’t yet big enough for a larger instrument, but I have also had interest from adults who are principally violinists, but who occasionally play the viola or have problems reaching to the C string on a larger instrument.

Drawing on my experience with small violas, this very small viola has all the features of my usual small violas, but with the obvious additional measure of not having any corners. This makes the instrument quicker to make, but it also frees the plates to move more easily in the lower frequencies, so that an instrument this small really does sound like a viola.

December 2017 update

This viola has now been bought by the Benslow Music Trust loan scheme, so will be loaned to a succession of young violists – an ideal home for it.