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viola Overview

Instructor Todd Markey Holding ViolaThe viola is larger and sounds lower than the violin. Many people have a hard time telling the difference between the two because they are so similar. A full sized viola is usually two inches longer than a violin. It has one lower string and can play seven notes lower. It was invented along with the violin around 1550 by the Italian instrument maker Andrea Amati. They were patterned after a similar instrument called the viol.

The viola typically plays an accompanimental role in orchestras and in various chamber ensembles, though they do get the melody line on occasion. There are many great solo pieces for the viola, such as the Concerto in G Major by Telemann, the Viola Concerto by William Walton, Harold in Italy by Berlioz, and the Sinfonia Concertante by Mozart.

Music that is written for the viola uses the alto clef, which no other string instrument uses. Higher instruments use the treble clef and lower instruments use the bass clef. The viola is perfectly situated in the middle meaning that the alto clef works just right for the majority of the viola’s range.

Many violists start out on violin and then switch over to viola later. Often, the student dislikes the high, bright sound of the violin E string and prefers the rich, warm sound of the viola. As a violist, you won’t get to be the star of the show nearly as often as a violinist, so if you are the kind of person who appreciates having a role that is more supportive and don’t feel the need to always be the center of attention, the viola may be just what you are looking for. Because there is usually less competition among viola players, some choose the instrument for practical reasons. For instance, it tends to be much more likely to win auditions and get scholarships if you are a skilled viola player than a similarly skilled violinist.

Some of the great violists of the past are Carl Stamitz, William Primrose, and Lionel Tertis. A few of the greatest performers of today are Pinchas Zukerman, Kim Kashkashian, and Atar Arad.

Viola for Beginner Playing


Learning the viola can be great fun and requires a lot of practice. We believe that the best way to get started is to play music that you like right away. You’ll need some instruction on the proper way to set up and tune your viola before starting and also how to learn from The String Club scrolling tablature videos. Watch the videos below and then try your hand at some of the beginner songs that we have selected if you are just getting started on your journey to viola playing.

What to Watch First to Get Started

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Viola Songs for Beginners

A great way to get started on the viola is to have a fun experience with playing music you know.  Our scrolling tablature viola videos are like playing a video game, except you are learning real music!  Try playing along with these easy songs to get used to following the scrolling tablature.  It is the easiest way to start learning fun music right away and you get to play along with backing tracks for a richer musical experience.

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Articles for Beginner Viola Students

Here are some articles that will help you practice the right way, develop the right attitudes for success in music, and assure that you are on the right track for your musical growth.  Its important to learn proper playing techniques, but it is equally important to "learn how to learn" a musical instrument.  If you have poor practicing habits, you may find that getting better at your instrument is an extremely slow process even though you are committed to it and practicing regularly.  Practicing the right way can supercharge your learning!

Can Adults Learn to Play a String Instrument?
The Reality of Starting to Learn Violin, Viola, Cello, or Double Bass as an Adult I have heard and read people claiming that adults struggle when they start learning violin, viola, cello, or double bass because …
What you MUST, Should, and could buy for your violin, viola, cello, or double bass
What accessories do I need to start learning? If you are beginning to study a string instrument, there are some important accessories that you should have to make your playing better, your practicing easier, and your …
Why Are You Practicing That? Four Questions You Should Answer About Your Practice Time
Students sometimes feel a bit lost when practicing.  They aren’t really sure why they are practicing the piece or exercise.  This happens more often when a teacher has the habit of assigning every etude in …
The 7 Best Ways to Succeed in Music
Everyone would like to know they are on the right path when pursuing something important. The following seven items are the most important things a music student can do to stay on the road to …
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For More Advanced Violists


Have you already been playing for a while? If so, you may be ready for some more challenging pieces. Here is a selection of enjoyable music to get accustomed to our scrolling tablature videos. Some of the music here will require more challenging hand shapes, faster notes, and shifting into higher positions.  The great part of playing along with the scrolling tablature is that you can slow the music down to focus on the skills you need to build and make a practicing loop to work on the hard parts over and over.

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