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The B-Rex II 5-String Octave Viola, discussed and demonstrated on this page, has been replaced by the T-Rex Octave Viola, which is available at the Don Rickert Musician Shop. The new T-Rex is available in either 4-string or 5-string configurations.
David Thames Demonstrating B-Rex 5-String Octave Viola (aka Chin Cello) (Link to YouTube Demo)
B-Rex II 5-String Octave Viola (Product Listing at the Adventurous Muse Store)
Introducing the NEW B-Rex II 5-String Octave Viola (Informational Article)
The B-Rex II 5-String Octave Viola by D. Rickert Musical Instruments has proven to be an extremely popular instrument for fiddlers, violinists and violists looking for a powerful acoustic low voice tuned EXACTLY like a full-size cello, with the added benefit of a fifth string at the high end tuned to the high E of a octave violin.
The B-Rex II 5-String is a 15” or 15.5” body* viola that is tuned an octave lower than a violin (the first 4 strings), making it quite large-bodied octave violin (i.e. tenor). Strings 2 to 5 are tuned an octave lower than a viola (i.e. identical to a full size cello), making it a “chin cello” (i.e. baritone) as well. You can think of the B-Rex II either as…
- An octave viola with an extra octave E string at the high end
- A big burly octave violin or fiddle with an extra octave C string at the low end.
* Note: with violas, the standard 4/4, 3/4, etc. size designations used for violins do not apply; rather, one refers to the length of the instrument body in inches, even today, when the metric system is the international standard.
With top and back dimensions about the same as a smallish standard 15” or 15.5” body viola, making it ergonomically feasible for most adult players.
- Upper bout width: 7 1/8"
- Middle bout width: 5 1/4"
- Lower bout width of the body: 9 1/2"
- Rib depth: 45mm (an increase over the 41mm ribs of the original B-Rex)
The dimension that differs radically from a regular 15” body viola is the depth. The B-Rex II 5-String has a rib depth of 45mm (>1 3/4"), compared to about 36mm (1 3/8”) of a typical 15” Viola.
- Translates to an incredible approximate 55 additional cubic inches of air volume inside the sound box!
How the B-Rex II is Different
Several characteristics differentiate the B-Rex 5-String from a regular small viola strung with octave strings.
- Extreme sonic power and deep timbre throughout its entire range (even the low C string)
- Ergonomic features that make it possible to actually play!
- Adequate string spacing at BOTH the nut and the bridge
How the incredible sound is achieved
For the B-Rex II, it is primarily a matter of body size, specifically the large air volume inside of the instrument body. Other factors for the B-Rex II’s powerful sonority include:
- A specially graduated top
- The design of the bass bar
- A neck angle allowing for a high bridge
- A composite (spruce, ebony and maple) fingerboard that is more resonant than the usual
- A sound post that is cut and placed in just the right place
The Finest "Old School" Classical Italian Style Varnishing (and non-toxic / zero VOC to boot)
Specially graduated fingerboard to accommodate the large diameter C-string
- Allows for arching of the nut and bridge that affords for ease of playing while avoiding string buzz.
Wider fingerboard to allow for better string spacing at the nut and bridge
- Adds to the playability benefits of the specially graduated fingerboard
- Fingering and/or bowing adjacent strings unintentionally is a thing of the past.
Choice of Fingerboard
- Ebony-maple composite
Innovative New Peg Box
- Designed specifically to avoid the frequent breakage of strings typically associated with 5-string octave violas
Tuning Pegs (Graduated Sizing: the right size for each string)
- The B-Rex II is fit with Wittner FineTune internally geared pegs.
- Rather than using one size of peg for all of the strings, the pegs on the B-Rex II are graduated in size to match the extreme variation in string diameter from lowest to highest.
- The pegs range from a small cello peg for the cello-sized C-string down to a normal viola peg for the e string.
Given the size of the B-Rex II, we work with the customer to determine the ergonomically correct combination of chin rest and shoulder rest to match the musician’s physique. We apply a $100 credit to the chin rest and shoulder rest. For the most common setup of the new Everest ergonomic shoulder rest and a Strad or Guarneri over-the-tailpiece chin rest, there would be no additional charge.