Noah is growing. Though still quite small for 11, he’s at last outgrown his half-sized (12″ vibrating string length) viola. His spanking new 13″ Sabatier arrived today. He is thrilled. The A-string has a lovely viola timbre. His smaller instrument sounded very much like a violin on the upper strings, and of course there’s more depth, more volume, more ‘oomph’ all the way down to the bottom of the C-string, as expected. The finish is lighter and yellower his old 12″. Otherwise, though, it’s obviously the big brother to his old one — it has that distinctive Sabatier workmanship and shape, the light weight and the curiously strong sound.

He got it out of the case and tuned it up. Oddly enough, he decided to test it out first by playing an artificial harmonics scale! Of all the things … I can’t imagine anything less likely to show off the tone and timbre of a new viola. But to each his own. For what it’s worth, the harmonics are at least twice as easy to play on this instrument. And once he’d tried that out, it wasn’t long before he was playing a meaty ‘forte’ on all four strings, pushing to find the more distant limits of his newly available sound.

Here you can see the unique shape of the instrument. Noah’s equivalent-to-3/4-size viola is on the left, and my full-sized violin is on the right. I think the resonating volume in his is a little bigger than that of a full-sized violin, even though length- (and weight-) wise his is still clearly a 3/4-sized instrument. The resonating chamber is pulled over to the ‘low’ side of the instrument, under the C-string, all of which makes for a very viola-type sound. This is definitely not a violin dressed up like a viola, it’s a viola to its core.

The biggest difference to Noah with the new size is in the bow that came with it. His 1/2 sized viola came with a clunker of a fibreglass stick, which was heavy and got a decent sound from a viola when playing basic strokes but didn’t do much else. This time around he’s got a responsive octagonal wood stick which, wonder of wonders, actually likes to perform ricochet, spiccato and sautill√©! Noah is thrilled. The bowing techniques which were causing him grief last month are suddenly so much easier.

Life is good in our little corner of viola-land.

A boy and his new viola

5 thoughts on “A boy and his new viola

  • September 3, 2008 at 1:44 pm
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    his is on the left as we look at it, yes? it is a v unusual looking instrument, have to say i have never seen one like it!

  • September 3, 2008 at 5:47 pm
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    Oops, yes, on the left. Off to edit. Thanks, Helen.

  • September 9, 2008 at 6:02 pm
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    Noah’s harmonic scale test rang a bell with me. The only complaint my son has ever had with his beloved 1/4 Sabatier is that it doesn’t manage harmonics as well as his violin (a mediocre Nagoya Suzuki) does. You can bet Noah knew what he was doing in trying out those harmonics!

    Sylvie

  • September 13, 2008 at 11:15 pm
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    Hey Noah and Miranda,
    I am so glad that viola was all good congrats. I see that Noah is using the comford cradle shoulder rests, does he like it!? I asked Allistair to bring those up to Canada, I think they’re great for a lot of kids.
    Anyway Noah looks good!!
    Love, Anna

  • September 13, 2008 at 11:21 pm
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    Hey, Anna, yes, the viola’s great. Thanks so much for your help on that. As you can probably tell, we’re also enamoured of the bow. The Comford we bought 18 months ago from Shar. It doesn’t fit the Sabatier very well, especially not this size, and Noah isn’t finding it particularly comfortable we’re thinking of going back to a Kun or something different. Maybe the regular (full-size) Comford. Trial and error, as usual.

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