You may be familiar with the violin: A wooden 4-stringed instrument that follows the G-D-A-E pattern and is commonly chosen as the first instrument for musicians everywhere. There have been many different engineering capabilities with the instrument, like the evolution of the electric violin and the acoustic-electric violin.
However, you might wonder if there is much difference between a standard violin and a 5-string violin. They are, of course, part of the same violin family, with one main difference being that the 5-string has (you guessed it) an extra string known as the C string.
This may lead you to want to pick up and learn how to play the 5-string, but maybe you want to know more about it and its differences. Here’s some info:
What Is a 5-String Violin?
As stated, a 5-string is exactly what it sounds like, but why the extra string? Here is a little information as to why this came to be. Instruments like violins, violas, upright basses, and cellos were created to be able to cover a wider range of sound. A violin features and projects a fantastically sharp E string but is unable to match the lower sounds of a viola. But why if you took the lower C string on a viola and added it to a violin? What does that get you?
The C string is placed right before the G string on a violin, so you will see it in this order: C-G-D-A-E. By adding another string, you are giving the player more range and possibilities to play different parts and produce sounds that a regular violin is incapable of. Now you have an instrument that is capable of going beyond the violin’s usual range.
The Differences Between a 4 and 5-String Violin
A 5-string features a wider neck to accommodate for the added string, whereas a 4-string has a narrower neck. Its narrowness means narrower string spacings. A 4-string will feature more space in between strings because it does not have to make room for the additional string.
The addition of the lower C string may have its player experience string crossings. To clarify, string crossings can occur when a bow hits any other neighbouring strings as opposed to playing on a standard violin.
However, according to 3D Varius, there are numerous tests in the works to correct the issue of string crossings and spacings to create an overall better experience for the player, even in the 5-string electric violin realm.
As a performer, you will have wider access to more notes while playing a 5-string violin. The added benefit is that you can get the full sound and range of both the violin and viola.
A bonus for any musician is that playing double and triple stops becomes a lot easier and means that there will be more possibilities to play around with different genres, like jazz, swing, and country.
Why You Might Want To Play a 5-String
If you already have a background in playing the violin or simply want to pursue the 5-string through taking online music lessons, you might want to know some information about the possibilities of pursuing a career or interest in this instrument.
If you are someone who enjoys arranging, writing, and composing music, the 5 strings can be extremely helpful to you, as it boosts the possibilities and ranges that you, as a musician, can reach. If you extend your lower range with an added string, you will gain access to several extra notes, including half steps.
With the addition of the 5th string, you can find your overall preferred timbre, which is essentially the tone of music you want your instrument to create. You may find that a richer and darker tone can be achieved when you play on a 5-string.
You do not necessarily have to stick with a wooden 5-string violin, as we live in a world that has progressed to 5-string electric violins. These violins may provide a better sound if you are going for a lower tone across the range, especially with a 5-string acoustic-electric violin, as it can produce better sound quality.
A great added benefit of using a 5-string violin is that you will find the ability to cover parts that a guitar can typically play. This will give you the ability to cover guitar solos and rock songs and can all be achieved with the addition of that string.
Along with the guitar parts, you will also be able to cover parts that the viola can play as well. While it will be an octave higher, you will be able to cover more ground and become more versatile when it comes to playing in gigs or music shows.
Are They More Expensive?
If you are serious about pursuing this instrument, investing in a violin will save you a lot of time and hassle. It will, however, cost money. There can be a difference in price when looking at a 5-string, but the same can be said about a 4-string as well. They can go anywhere from $1000-$3000, but that is not to say you cannot find less expensive methods. Renting instruments or buying them second-hand may be an alternative to you, but when it comes down to quality, you will want to make sure you are choosing wisely. Local music stores can be a huge help in aiding your instrumental needs.
How Much Work Is required?
If you are already used to a regular violin and want to make the switch over to a 5-string, you may be concerned about how much more work it would be for you to adapt. The same can be said for anyone who has never touched a violin at all.
Because of the size of the violin and its neck, the addition of another string is something a violin player will have to be aware of, especially with their bow placement on the strings themselves. As stated before, the placement of the strings is much closer together than they are on 4-stringed instruments like the violin or viola. You may have a few slip-ups when you first learn how to play by accidentally rubbing against or hitting the accompanying strings. It will take some time, but it is an issue that can be corrected and avoided.
You may want to consider what strings and bow you want to move ahead with. Some musicians may decide to use viola strings on their – string violin, which are thicker and may require more pull from the bow. However, a regular violin bow may not be strong enough to create the full sounds that a 5-string can produce. Some opt-out for viola bows instead, as they are heftier and can give the player more control over how they play.
Like any instrument, your 5-string violin will require a great deal of practice to perfect and get the hang of it. The only added difference of practicing when it comes down to a 5-string violin is just the extra string. The more times you play, you will come to find how quickly you can adapt to a new instrument.
Do not let more strings be a concern of yours when it comes down to practice. Just look at the guitar or other musicians that make the switch from a violin to a viola. Additional strings and size will not affect how you learn to play your instrument as long as you take the time to practice.
Luckily for aspiring musicians everywhere, you will not have to go about learning any stringed instruments on your own. There are many resources and places in your community that you can seek out for violin lessons. Learning about string theory, the history of music, and your instrument will boost your understanding of the instrument. Many courses and methods can aid you in playing and practicing.
The 5-string violin is a magnificent instrument with a lot of potential and possibilities to find. If it is something you want to seriously consider, then sign up for lessons, as they can be the first stepping stones toward conquering a new instrument.