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  • #2657 Reply


    What are the differences between the Viola and the Violin, besides size?
    Do you play it differently?

    #2743 Reply

    Michael Sanchez

    The violin and viola are similar in look but have these differences:

    1. The strings – The violin has strings – E, A, D, G. The viola has strings A, D, G, C. Do you notice how they both have three strings in common? So the difference is that the viola has a “C string,” instead of the “E string,” while the violin has the “E string” instead of the “C string.” Because of this difference the viola is lower in pitch. One thing you can purchase is a 5-string violin which accommodates playing violin and viola music. If you are interested in a high quality 5-string, I highly recommend my Damiano violin (available in both 4 and 5 string).
    2. The size – A full size viola ranges in size from 15″-17.5.” The most common size people play is a 16″ size, while all violins are 14″. Finger spacing on a viola is wider than a violin.
    3. The Bulkiness – The ribs on a viola are wider than a violin. This gives the inside a little bit more space to accommodate a deeper sound.
    4. The music – Viola music is in alto clef while violin music is in treble clef. The note at the bottom of the music staff in trebel clef mode is a D. If you are reading the same note in viola (alto) clef, it is an E. One of the hardest things to get used to when switching from the viola to the violin is getting used to reading the music clef.

    Regarding technique of playing, both instruments are very similar. You have to get used to the length of playing the viola regarding the finger spacing and reach, but other than that, it isn’t that difficult to transition over. Getting used to the music reading is the most difficult part, but usually doesn’t take longer than a few months to get used to.

    Here is a video of both instruments being played. Notice how the viola is more the harmony while the violin is more the melody. The viola is deeper than the viola.

    #2748 Reply

    Carmen Moore

    Did you mean the viola is deeper than the violin??

    #2749 Reply


    Thank you Michael – that was very interesting! I kind of new that basically, but never heard it fully explained.

    #6118 Reply


    @ Carmen Moore:
    Yes, the Viola is basically “one string”, that means a fifth, deeper than the violin.
    If you play a tune in A major for example on the violin, you could then play it exactly the same on the viola, except that it now would sound as D major.

    #7010 Reply


    I’ve always wanted to play the viola in addition to the violin. Maybe I’ll get around to it, someday.

    #7477 Reply


    Is the viola easier to record than a violin ?

    #7493 Reply


    There are a lot of similarities. I personally found that when I started playing the Viola it helped me with my Violin playing.

    #8083 Reply

    Chris Guleff

    It’s funny, the transition to the viola seemed really easy to me — I was in high school and took a viola home for the summer. I had a mental trick to read alto clef: I just pretended I was playing the violin in 3rd position until I got used to the clef. Another difference is bow pressure — having to dig in a little harder and taking longer strokes. I liked that because I always was a little heavy-handed on the violin. What I really like is the depth and intensity of the viola sound.

    #14964 Reply


    Viola also has a sound similar to the cello, a lot of pieces for the cello can be played on the viola.

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