Article by Gabriel Passov, Roman Denissov
In modern bowed instruments the degree of
curvature of the top edge of the bridge and bow design provide the
possibility of playing on separate strings and on two adjacent strings
Why a chord viola? The interest of musicians and composers in the possibility of playing
bowed instruments has not vanished since these instruments were
integrated into the European musical culture.
The application of a "German" bow for the execution of three and
four-string chords is known from music history. The great Johann
Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), himself possessing this technique, meant
its use (not arpeggio) in his
compositions for solo violin (http://www.baroquemusic.org/barvlnbo.html).
the possibility of performing the chords is provided with a bow design
bow stick with sagging strings. The control of hair tension is carried
out by the
thumb. Such bow allows playing on one string, and even on four, but
possibilities of performance to slow compositions only. Besides, the bow
done by the thumb, while simultaneously keeping the highly arched bow in
position, poses great difficulties; therefore such technique
interesting that in the 1930s a group of enthusiasts who gathered
around the Nobel
Prize winner Albert Schweitzer tried to revive the use of the "German"
bow in performances of Bach’s compositions for solo violin. However,
initiative wasn’t supported by the musical community and by the '50s it
came to nothing.
Niccolo Paganini, according to some contemporaries,
performed on his violin playing
three and four-string chords. Unfortunately, the only thing we know is
the bridge of his violin was flatter than others of his time.
(I.Yampolsky. Niccolo Paganini, Life and creativity. Moscow. Publishing
"Music" 1968 p. 263). We can see on the Karl Begasa’s lithograph
showing performing Niccolo Paganini using a bow, approximately three
higher than the bows widely used at Tourte’s bow time (Tourte, 1790).
Paganini’s technique meant simultaneous modification of the bow and
Nevertheless, it seems to us that these modifications were insufficient
three and four-string chords. Most likely, his bow in addition
device for fast easing and tensioning of the hair.
mentioning the gypsy three-stringed viola, bracsa, which was used in
southeast part of Europe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viola). This accompaniment bowed instrument is a normal
viola on which the c string
removed and the top edge of the bridge has a straight flat
configuration, i.e. all
three strings lie on one line. The a1
(440 Hz) string is
replaced with an
a (220 Hz) string. Such alteration
provides the opportunity to play basic chords using the standard fingering
reduce an ensemble from a quintet to a trio.
Andrea Amati in the middle of 16th century created the violin design
has remained until our time, further attempts to enrich the musical
palette of bowed
instruments by using chords concentrated on variations of the bridge top
edge profile or of the bow hair tension.
suggested here by us has been applied to a viola, thus creating our chord viola. This method is characterised
by a mechanism built into the bridge. This mechanism allows
switching between the usual position of strings to the possibility of
chords (three strings are on one line).
In addition, another mechanism located under the
tailpiece maintains the
necessary strings tension.
bridge has a curve-shaped top edge on which the strings а1,
d1, g, c are placed, in grooves 1-4.
In our chord viola bridge a pin,
on which the d1 string rests, passes through groove 2. Thanks to the lever mechanism, the pin, and with
the string, can move up and down and be fixed in
positions: for usual playing (top) and for chord playing (bottom, three
photos below, the lever positions correspond to the string positions for
solo performance (left) and for chord playing (right).
chord viola solo performance
chord viola chord playing
necessary for this switching, including tension compensation, is about
additional fifth groove was made to the right of and below groove 1 to
standard fingering and the possibility to play the basic chords.
The а1 (440 Hz) string was
installed in groove 5, and the а (220 Hz)
string was installed in groove 1.
relative positioning of strings a
enables to play double notes with an octave interval by a single touch.
it becomes possible to play solo and the
basic three-string chords with the use of standard fingering. It is important to note that no modifications
have been made to the body of the instrument and the acoustic
qualities have not
been affected. Violin, cello and bass can be
subjected to similar modification.
proposal is presented to patenting.