What are they?
An Octave Violin is an instrument tuned one octave below a standard violin and is sometimes called a baritone violin.
An Octave Viola is tuned one octave below a standard viola, which is the same tuning as a Cello.
The body of the instrument is typically larger than that of a standard violin to help reproduce the lower frequencies. This can be achieved using a bespoke body design or more simply and cost effectively by using a viola body that has deeper ribs. For violin players using a large viola is often not a practical option, I use a 14 1/2" viola which gives a very similar string playing length to that of most standard violins.
What Strings do they use?
The strings are specifically designed to play at the lower frequencies. I fit Super-Sensitive Sensicore strings which are metal wound Perlon cored strings. The tension is similar to standard violin strings so there is no additional load placed on the instrument, the mass is greatly increased so these strings look more like Cello strings and you have the feeling of you finger sitting much more on the string rather than the fingerboard. You can fit these strings to convert any violin, however the peg string holes, nut grooves and bridge grooves will all need enlarging; often the bridge will need to be higher and/or the fingerboard given more relief. All these adjustments will prevent premature failure of the strings and rattles and buzzes. Strings are available from the SHOP.
What do they sound like?
If you watch the video I play both the octave violin and viola, both acoustically and amplified.
The octave violin works surprisingly well acoustically, however the low C string on the octave viola is realistically beyond the capability of a violin size instrument as it is difficult to generate enough power to balance against the other strings. If you wish to use an octave viola acoustically then a larger body is required - typically at least 16".
What about amplification?
These instruments really start to make a lot of sense when amplified, the need for a large body to project the sound is replaced by the PA system and the deep tones inside the body are fully captured and released, even the low C string comes alive with a little hard work with the bow. Do not think though that you can use a solid bodied "Electric Violin", the acoustic body is needed to generate a full tone, I had played "Electric Octave Violins" before starting Sonic Violins back in 2003, those experiences gave me little hope of success when I built my first Sub Sonic Octave Violin, but I was blown away by the amplified sound and could barely believe what came out of the Sonic Chincello. My instruments are available in the SHOP