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Violas Buying Guide

The viola section is a vital part of any symphony orchestra .  The instrument , which closely resembles a violin , is commonly associated with orchestral music, though it is also often played in classical string quartets.  If you're planning on buying a viola--whether it's your first or a replacement--you should know a bit about its anatomy and the different styles available so that you may live up to your potential as a musician  with a quality instrument by your side.

Viola Size

Luckily, most stringed instruments  come in various sizes so that players of all statures and body shapes can play properly.   Make sure you get the proper size viola for you.  

  • If your viola is too large, it can cause discomfort and even tendinitis.
  • Adult-size violas typically measure around 38 centimetres or longer.
  • The proper viola size for you is determined by your arm length, calculated by measuring the distance from the center of your neck to your palm.  When taking this measurement, extend your left arm, keeping it level with your palm facing up.

Types of Violas

Student Violas 

Student violas are specifically designed for beginners and are most often produced by a machine. They are made of materials that are durable and can withstand the wear-and-tear of travel and play, but are somewhat less attractive.  This makes these models very affordable and well-suited for the early stages of musical development.

Intermediate Violas 

Intermediate violas feature wood and workmanship that is a step up from student violas.  Most of the manufacturing is done by hand, causing the instrument to sound better and thus accommodate the needs of a more advanced player.  Extensive hand graduation on the top and back of the viola also helps to create a more refined sound, while ebony pegs and fingerboard finish off a sleek look.

Professional Violas 

Professional violas are made with premium woods and are always hand-crafted with fine attention paid to detail and construction.  Very few individuals are actually skilled enough to create professional level violas, putting these models at a particularly high price point.

Body Materials

  • Spruce.  Straight-grained spruce is used on the top of the viola because it is strong enough to handle the stress of string pressure.  Spruce also helps ensure proper resonation and should be aged for better sound creation.
  • Maple.  The back, sides and neck of the viola are often constructed from maple, which adds strength to the body of the instrument while being aesthetically pleasing.
  • Ebony.  The fingerboard and pegs should be ebony or a similar wood that is both stable and dense.

Viola Accessories

Related Guides

Cellos

Clarinets

Violins

Flutes

BassoonsViola Tuning Pegs