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Should I learn the violin or viola?

Differences and similarities between violin and viola, decision-making aids for pupils and parents



In the past:
Until 10 years ago, there were no children’s violas; at most, viola strings were strung on small violins, the tonal result was rather modest. Children started with the violin and later switched to the viola. Usually, when viola players were missing in the school orchestra, weaker violin students were asked if they would like to switch to viola, which led to a devaluation of the viola and its players.

But a lot has changed in recent years: The image of the viola has improved greatly, not least due to well-known viola soloists.
Various manufacturers now offer small sizes for pupils, from 1/4 size up to 3/4 size for children.
String manufacturers also produce strings especially for children’s violas.


String manufacturers also produce strings especially for children’s violas.

Are there arguments for and against learning the viola additionally or generally from the very beginning?

What do the violin/violin and viola/viola have in common and what are the differences?

Similarities between violin and viola

The posture and playing style of the violin and viola are basically the same.

Differences between violin and viola

1. the tuning of the violin and viola are different: The violin is tuned to g-d’-a’-e” and the viola to c-g-d’-a’. The viola is therefore tuned a fifth lower than the violin. It therefore sounds lower and darker than the violin.
2 The violin has a standard size of 4/4 for adults (35.5 cm body length on average). The viola is larger: there are three different sizes, called small (38.5-39.5 cm), medium (40.5 cm) and large (42 cm) violas. Depending on body height, arm length and hand size, a suitable viola can be selected for the respective player. Intermediate sizes are also possible.

  1. 3 The violin bow weighs on average 60-62g, the viola bow is 10g heavier, 70-72g. You therefore need a little more strength and a little more pressure when playing the viola.
    4 The violin corresponds to the human soprano voice, the viola to the alto voice.
    5) The violin part is notated in treble clef, the viola in alto/viola clef.
    6. the spacing of the fingers when fingering is greater on the viola than on the violin.
    7. the viola itself is somewhat heavier than a violin.What are the advantages of the viola?1) Many people find the sound of the viola more pleasant to the ear because it is less shrill.
    2. there are far fewer violists than violinists.
    3. the viola is in great demand in the orchestra and as a chamber music partner.

    What are the hurdles?

1. you also have to learn a new clef.
2. you need a little more strength when playing, a little more bow pressure as with the violin.

To summarize, it is of course a bit of work to get used to the viola and the other clef, but it is definitely worth it to be able to do both and it only has advantages.
If you want to try out whether you like the viola first, you can of course rent an instrument as a first step.
The violin maker can adjust the instrument to your individual size and make it easier for you to get started.

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