THE TONAL COMPARISON OF VIOLAS USING RECORDED MUSIC EXCERPTS

Pekka Mikael Laine
2009-10-23

English translation: Max Savikangas

The viola tone comparison at hand was made in May 2009 in the Sipoo Church, Finland. The aim was to find out tonal differences of the four violas built by Pekka Mikael Laine, by listening to recorded music excerpts. For that purpose Max Savikangas played on all the four violas four excerpts of music: from his own composition Extraterrestrial for solo viola (2001), from the first movement of Paul Hindemith's Sonata for Viola Solo Op. 25 No. 1 (1922), from the viola solo of the Adolphe Adam's ballet Giselle (1841), as well as from J.S. Bach's Violoncello Suite No. 1, Allemande (ca 1715). All music excerpts were recorded by Pekka Mikael Laine. They are in AAC (m4a) format and were not normalized - hence the volume differences between the music recordings correspond with the volume differences of the live situation.

The violas compared:

  • Pekka Mikael Laine 1/2002
  • Pekka Mikael Laine 1/2003
  • Pekka Mikael Laine 1/2004
  • Pekka Mikael Laine 1/2005.
  • Music excerpts, viola Laine 1/2002:

    Strings:

    c: Pirastro Oliv Eudoxa
    g: Pirastro Eudoxa
    d: Pirastro Eudoxa
    a: Pirastro Eudoxa

    Music excerpts, viola Laine 1/2003:

    Strings:

    c: D'Addario Zyex
    g: D'Addario Zyex
    d: D'Addario Zyex
    a: D'Addario Zyex

    Music excerpts, viola Laine 1/2004:

    Strings:

    c: D'Addario Zyex
    g: D'Addario Zyex
    d: D'Addario Zyex
    a: D'Addario Zyex

    Music excerpts, viola Laine 1/2005:

    Strings:

    c: Pirastro Eudoxa
    g: Pirastro Eudoxa
    d: Pirastro Eudoxa
    a: Pirastro Eudoxa

    Short description of the instruments' tone:

    Laine 1/2002:
    The tone is focused, even and alto voice-like. The tone of the lower register is slightly horn-like, more nasal and softer than the tone of the upper register, which is open, distinctive and rich.

    Laine 1/2003:
    As a whole the tone is solid and open, but not very rich. It is neutral, balanced and slightly grainy. The tone of the upper register is slightly masked.

    Laine 1/2004:
    The tone is somewhat on the sharper side, but even and strong. The tone of the lower register is slightly closed and nasal, while the tone of the upper register is nuanced and distinctive.

    Laine 1/2005:
    The tone is strong, soft and dark, slightly masked and baritone voice-like. The tone of the lower register has depth and the tone of the upper register has brightness. However, the tone of the upper register is also somewhat masked.

    Viola 1/2002 has been played continuosly since it was built, violas 1/2003 and 1/2005 have been played occasionally and viola 1/2004 has been virtually unplayed. The tonal differences between the instruments were due to the the slight differences of the measurements and shapes of the instruments, to different strings used in the instruments and also to how much the instruments had been played on since the date of build. The tonal qualities of the four violas made by Pekka Mikael Laine were compared, but not arranged in rank order. When one compares from recordings the tone of the 2002 Laine Viola as a new-built instrument to the later recordings made with it, one can clearly notice that the tone of the instrument has opened up during time. This has also been confirmed in concert. It can be expected that the other Laine Violas will develope tonally in the same manner, their tone will open up when they have been played for a longer period of time.

    Home page of Pekka Mikael Laine: http://www.lainetti.net/strings
    Home page of Max Savikangas: http://www.fimic.fi/fimic/savikangas