Audience members at Ginger Ibex shows who know at least a little about standard violins frequently do a double-take if they look closely at the instrument Betty plays, because it is definitely NOT standard!
So, what IS it?
It’s a 6-string mezzo viola, built for Betty in 2009 by luthier Eric Aceto of Ithaca Stringed Instruments. Since it was custom made for her, she got to choose some of the appearance details such as the color of the varnish and a custom-carved cat head instead of the usual scroll at the top.
What’s the difference between this and a standard instrument?
Standard classical orchestra string family members each have only four strings. Some modern fiddlers use a 5-string violin. Electric violins are available with as many as 8 strings – but that is possible only because an electric violin does not depend on having a hollow body to produce acoustic amplification of vibrating strings. Betty’s acoustic instrument has six strings.
What are the six strings, and how do they compare to a regular violin?
Here are some sound samples for comparison. All strings are tuned a 5th apart:
– A standard violin’s four strings are, from high to low, E (above the C above middle C on a piano) –A – D – G
– A standard viola’s four strings are the same A – D – G as a violin’s, but the lowest string is C below middle C
– The mezzo viola has ALL of the above strings: E – A – D – G – C plus a low F string
Why does Betty need six strings?
Well, she doesn’t need them 🙂 But it allows her to play half-way into the range of a cello, which is useful for some our our songs and/or when a cellist isn’t available.
If you have any more questions about Betty’s mezzoviola ask us in the comments!