Updated: May 24, 2019
Less is more, might say many, but if we talk about violins then one more string is a sure benefit.
Disclaimer – I am not selling violins and I do not promoting any Lutherie. I am writing about my source of inspiration that I have found in a five string violin.
My way towards a 5 strings violin wasn't straight at all. My first 5 stringer was an electric Yamaha E-205 with a neck of a normal size, therefor strings were sitting pretty close to each other. I got as a present around 2004 and allthough I was really excited to have it I didn't really found a use for it. Not because of a narrow neck but because I never really adopted to playing with an electric violin. I really have to hear the sound of a body next to my ear, independantly from how loud I am in a monitor. Without the sound of a body I feel disconected form the instrument and can't enjoy a concert.
A five string violin or quinton, as it called in a propper historical way isn't such a new idea. In the times of baroque luthiers experimented with various forms of instruments and you could easily find a five, six, seven or whatever number of strings instrument which were played with a bow, plack or bare fingers. The only reason that actually a four string violin got to be canonised is because of it's loudness. A five string violin acoustically not as present as a four string instrument, and in the times of Baroque and basically in any times till amplification was invented, loudnes was a crutial parametr for an instrument to survive. So my first five stringer wasn't much in use cause I still prefered to play an acoustic violin with a pick up, though with just a four strings. And so it was till one day quite by excident I simply broke this violin of mine (and a piece of my heart) during a gig. The which I played for more than ten years was now broken. To say honestly, allthough it this violin had a discent sound and accompanied me in a plenty of gigs, tours and recordings, it wasn't one of those violins which worht a lot, it was just one that happen to sound good enough. For quite a long time I was thinking about getting a new instrument, so I decided not to fix this one but to buy a new one. And that how I came to my second five stringer – Yamaha YEV-105, which was a beautiful instrument with a very discent sound, wider and very comfortable neck and even a volium knob, though it is a passive instrument (means you don't need any electricity sourse to make it work and control the volium level). I really enjoyed to play it at home on my speakers or headphones, and made a couple of recordings which I were extremley happy about. If you are curios you can hear some examples here, here and here (links to Audiojungle and Youtube Aziza). So why there is such a difference between a 5 and 4 string violin? There is simply one lower string which literally only gives you four extra notes, or seven extra semitones. Can it really make such a difference? The question is – what are you going to do with it. Since basically all the classical repertoire is written for a a four string violin, as a classical musican it will change nothing for you, simple cause there is no music written for such an instrument. The best advantage can be that with a five stringer you can also pick up some gigs of the viola players ;) But If you play jazz, pop, rock or any kind of world music – the advantage is huge. How many pieces you play which are writen in keys like C, D E, E flat and F? Well, I know some. But a normal four string violin simply does not have these tones in its lower register. And this is quite dissapointing, because many melodies are simply ending with its ground tone, because when playing a solo you will some times finsh it up high and some times you wanna bring it dowm, because when playing an accompaniment you want to use those juicy fifths in a low register and also simply because this C string has such a beautiful cello like tone which is silly not to have if you can. So I was playing my electric Yamaha YEV-105 with 5 strings, but I was still not satisfied because when playing live I was missing the sound of the instrument next to my ear. It was perfect for home practicing (finally I could simply grab my violin and play at 3 o'clock at the morning if I wanted so) but on stage it gave me a lot of frustration. So I started to research and quickly realised that I am not alone in my search for an acoustic five stringer. There are many musicians who have same desire as myself and there are a few pioneers who are building five string acoustic violins. Some of them also realising that it will be mostly used by non classical musicians, so those instruments coming with a build in pickup, therefor could be used in practically any possible situation. To avoid this article of mine looking as a commercial, I will simply list in the end of it all the lutheries which I foudn which are building a five (and sometimes more) string violins. Here I put a picture of my instrument created by Gary Bartig from Minessota The only thing which is slightly problematic is a lack of repertoire. But hey – do you make music to play only what the others wrote for you? Experiment, compose your own music, make it fun and creative and express your ideas on an instrument which opens you so many borders. As I said, I am not prmoting any particular Luthier, but me myself I was getting a long way to find this information, so here I make a list of violin makers who are primarly building five (and sometimes more!) string violins. 1. AES – where I bought mine. Pick up included http://www.acousticelectricstrings.com/
2. Quintone – a classical version of a five stringer - quintone.de
3. This guy from FB https://ithacastring.com/ 4. and this peter from https://electricviolinlutherie.com – he builds mostly electric violin but at our last conversation he said he is working on his first six string acoustic violin, so I am happily adding him to the list.