Inside the instrument case – What the viola needs

By Annette Zerpner Sept. 6, 2022


© Tobias Kruse / OSTKREUZ

“What’s in your instrument case?” we asked various musicians of the Konzerthausorchester. Violist Pei-Yi Wu showed us some useful, beautiful and curious things.

You can fit more things into a viola case than you might think. Importantly, “we string players always need to carry more than one extra set of strings. Different brands produce different sounds,” says Pei-Yi. The viola player also likes to have a few used strings on hand. “If a string breaks in the middle of a concert, a string that has already been played will adapt to the instrument more quickly than a new one.”

Two types of rosin specially created for violas are also among the provisions found in Pei-Yi’s instrument case. This sold form of resin ensures the bow hairs adhere strongly to the strings, securing the tone. A bottle of cologne is used to clean rosin residues from the strings after the concert. Practical and always part of her gear: earplugs to protect sensitive ears at a station or on the train. A small sewing kit for last-minute emergency repairs to concert outfits. Nail clippers, because string players always need to keep their fingernails very short. A tuner. And a measuring device for humidity and temperature, as string instruments are highly sensitive to these factors. Pei-Yi’s case also contains a photo of her childhood dog and a handmade talisman. “A friend in Japan gave me this bunny after a concert.”

But what are those strange little combs with wide prongs in the middle of the picture? These are mutes, Pei-Yi explains. They are placed on the strings and help to create different sound effects. Here are various kinds of mutes up close:

Of course, a Konzerthaus pencil (with or without a lead protector shaped like a carrot) should always be on hand in an instrument case, as you always need it to jot things down on the score during rehearsals!

Violist Pei-Yi Wu comes from Taiwan. She's been playing in the Konzerthausorchester Berlin since 2009.

Photos: Tobias Kruse/Ostkreuz (cover); Markus Werner (viola case in the Große Saal); Marco Borgreve (rehearsal); Pei-Yi Wu (details)


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