Sunday, February 16, 2014
MORE VIOLA NOODLING FOR JERRY FRESIA
Jerry, the various items I removed are all unattached to the main body of the viola, save by friction and such. The strings are wound around the pegs [top of the photo] and attach to that darker wedge shaped piece at the bottom either by being inserted through slots in the wedge shaped piece [the strings have metal knobs on the end that catch and hold the string in place] or by a little loop, in the case of the A string, farthest to the right in the picture, which loops over the manual adjustment knob. [To tune the viola, you either rotate the pegs to loosen or tighten the string, making it lower or higher in tone, or you rotate the knob for the A string, same principle.] The wedge shaped piece itself is attached by a loop [which you cannot see] to the bottom of the viola, where there is a knob. It is held in place by tension. The bridge -- the thin light colored piece of wood that the strings go over -- is held down onto the viola by pressure from the tightened strings. The man who made my viola -- Marten Cornellissen -- very kindly puts little marks on the surface of his violins and violas to mark exactly where the feet of the bridge are to sit. The chin rest -- black think, lower left -- is held onto the viola by a clamp that you cannot see in the picture, but which fits to the underneath side of the viola. Two adjustable rods tighten to hold it in place. I just inserted a very thin metal rod in holes in the sides of the columns and turned them to loosen the chin rest until it came off easily. This fact about the construction of the chin rest allows a violist to adjust the precise place where it is set on the viola -- same thing for a violin. Note, by the way, that baroque violin and viola players do not use chin rests. They also use baroque bows and gut strings, and the combination of these two differences results in a softer sound, quite different from the brilliant sound of a modern violin or viola with metal wound strings and a modern high tension bow.
When all of those various pieces had been removed, what remained was just my viola itself, which I then polished with a soft cloth and a very little bit of Mr. Hill's varnish cleaner. The challenge came in reassembling it all, which took me a good deal of time and much angst.
By the way, since we are deep in the weeds here, all violins are the same size but not all violas are. They vary in the length of the body [the lovely amber colored main part], from as small as 15 3/4 inches to as much as 17 inches or even -- lord help us -- 17 1/2 inches. I play a 16 inch viola, which is considered small. I stand in awe of those who can play 16 1/2 or 17 inch violas. If you want to sound really knowledgeable, ask a violist after a concert whether he or she plays a sixteen and a half or a seventeen.