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Violin or Viola: Which One’s Right for You?

The Decision of Sound

The violin and viola are both members of the string family. Traditionally, both have 4 strings, they look quite similar, including the chin rest, bow, and tuning pegs, but looks can be deceiving. You can’t always make a decision by looking, sometimes you need to hear the sound an instrument makes in order to feel the connection. Some artists make the switch later in their careers, but often, you’ll want to make a choice early on. There are a few key differences between these stringed instruments to consider that may help you pick the right one for you.

Violas are Larger than Violins.

Violas do not have a standard size. The body of a viola is usually between 38cm – 43cm in length, while a standard violin is 35.5cm. However, violin bows are approximately 1cm longer than viola bows. While you can purchase a variety of sizes of violas, since there is no standard size, it allows violists to explore other, more comfortable options with ease.

The Strings and Tuning are Different.

Your everyday viola and violin will have 4 strings (electric versions can have up to 6 strings), both instruments use a soundpost and bridge, but the tuning is not the same. Violas play at a significantly lower register. Unlike the violin’s G, D, A, E standard tuning, a viola will have C, G, D, A tuning. Because of this string difference, the viola is almost always tuned one fifth lower.

It is important to note that since the viola is larger, the strings are thicker. While a heavier bow is preferred when playing a viola, there is virtually no difference in construction of violin and viola bows.

The Violin and Viola Sound Different.

The viola has a much deeper, more mellow sound than its counterpart. One reason being the C string as an option on the viola, allowing for these soothing notes to be played. There are many notes that are shared – G, D, and A – but when played on a viola, the sound that is created is somber and resonates due to the larger size of the instrument. If you’ve ever enjoyed the music of an orchestra or symphony, you may recognize the harmonic elements of this wonderful sound.

Treble and Alto Clef.

The clef is a symbol used to indicate the pitch of the notes from the corresponding line of music. Violin is played in the treble clef, whereas the viola is played in alto. Violins are recognized for their high pitch and is known for being the “soprano” of the ensemble. The viola is one of the rare instruments which uses the alto clef.

Find the Sound That Makes Your Heart Sing.

You're never too old to pick up a new skill, or to introduce the youngster in your life to a world full of beautiful music. Get your child started on a string instrument today! At Violin Pros we are dedicated to your success and will happily help you every step of your journey. Helping you find the right instrument is our specialty.

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