A while back I bought a violin with five strings, i.e. there in an extra low C on it. However, as the body of the violin is the same size as that of a normal violin, so whenever I play on the C-string with even moderate force, the note goes sour. If I play with low force, however, the note stays clean. I assume this is because the tension on the string is too low due to the shorter body of the instrument.

Spontaneously, I would guess using a thicker string would give the string the necessary tension to maintain the tone. So my question is, could this be a solution? If not, is there another way I could go about it?

  • I think you will be thwarted :-( The interest and production of five string violins with the extra low C string grew up with amplification and electric violins. I think that without the extra body size the physics of producing the lower frequencies without external amplification is not on your side.
    – dumbledad
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 8:46
  • That's too bad. I guess my best option, apart from trying to sell it, is to repurpose it to only use four strings then. Thanks a lot! Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 9:05

4 Answers 4


The string length of a viola is not all that much more than that of a violin (if it were "in scale", it would need to be 50% more than that of a violin). Naturally, you don't want a rededicated G string, but with a "proper" C string, there will not be all that much of a string thickness variation to work with.

The main problem is that a violin body is just too small for giving the C string a nice acoustic support. Nice-sounding violas tend to be at the bulkier end of the viola range.

You can probably let a luthier look over your instrument to make sure it is set up properly, with closed fittings, well-attached bass beam, properly fitted sound post and bridge. Any problems there will affect the way stuff gets picked off and transmitted.

  • Okay, so the problem shouldn't be the string itself? I am pretty sure it already is a C string, but I'll double check when I get home. I might add that if I play with low force, the note is clean, but if I put moderate force into the stroke of the bow the note turns sour. Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 8:23

Please tell me you didn't end up repurposing the instrument! I'm sad nobody on the thread previously mentioned buying a true violin C string. They do exist. I own a wonderful 5 string violin and have a Thomastik vision violin C. Not the cheapest, but sounds gorgeous! Daddario also makes Helicore violin C strings, which are used widely and less expensive. You can also buy short scale (13-14") viola strings that should work well. Please tell me you didn't give up on your instrument!

  • I'll corroborate that. The Thomastik string for this purpose- it's called a 1/2 viola C string here- are really quite good. Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 11:15
  • Thank you, I will have a look at that! I actually still have it still, but I have been thiniing abot selling it. I'll have a look at your suggestions and see where I go from there! Thanks! Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 4:48

There are C strings and there are C strings. I have set up small violins to be "violas" for children who were starting Suzuki viola at a very young age. Most C strings sounded the way you describe, but I was able to minimize this effect with a particular choice of string. It's been a while, so I'm not sure -- maybe it was a Dominant.

Also make sure you are using a string that is sold for a smaller instrument.

  • Thanks for the answer! I am not going to settle for minimizing the effect though, so I've decided to just rebuild it to a normal 4-string violin. Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 12:09
  • What a shame. Why not try a different C string before you resort to that? I can give you two more ideas for strings besides the Dominant (shortened with utility scissors, if you can't buy a shorter string) -- Corelli Crystal in a small size (might need a special order) was recommended on a Suzuki site. Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 13:13
  • Well, I guess it couldn't hurt. It's less effort to change a string that it is to change the finger board and bridge I suppose. I'll give it a go and come back with results! Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 13:17
  • If you want to work with someone in person, find a luthier or violin/viola teacher in your area who has experience setting up a small viola for a young student. Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 13:22
  • I'll see if I can find one, although I don't think I have ever heard of anyone here in Sweden who started playing the viola before they could use a full sized one. Anyhow, I found these. Would you recommend I use strings which are made for an instrument the same size as my violin, or should I go lower? Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 13:34

5 String Violin Set D'addario Helicore 4/4 Scale Medium Tension 5 String Violin Strings to the rescue (Model Number HE310-5 4/4M). The Helicore Strings (generally speaking) are a bit thinner to make bowing the instrument easier. The Scale Length on the 5 String Violin is 13 inches & there are 14 inch Violas too w/ the same scale length. The C String of the Helicore Short Scale Medium tension Viola set has 11.1 lbs of Tension, & it's the same for the C String of the Helicore 4/4 Scale Medium Tension Violin set, 11.1 Lbs of tension.

  • 1
    Thinner? I can't find an answer about their gauge easily, but D'Addario does list their tension; the C is 11.8, same as their viola C for "medium scale" (15"-16"), medium tension. To get the same out of a shorter scale, wouldn't it have to be thicker? Commented Jun 17 at 16:54
  • Helicore Strings are a little thinner to make bowing on the Violin Easier. In this case rather than make the string thicker, they actually used an extra tungsten winding to make it denser. Generally speaking, 5 string Violin C Strings & Viola C Strings have a tungsten winding beneath the outer silver winding to make it denser. Commented 2 days ago
  • Actually Andy Bonner, it's not 11.8 lbs of tension it's 11.1 lbs of tension & I looked at both the Helicore Violin Tension Chart as well as the Helicore Viola tension Chart comparing the 4/4 Scale Medium Tension Violin C String to the Short scale Viola C String. Commented 2 days ago

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