It’s not an easy choice.
The violin and the viola are very similar. But there are a few key differences.
Plus, they both have unique advantages for players who choose them. The key to deciding on either the violin or the viola is figuring out which instrument’s advantages are more important to you. And which one’s disadvantages are easier to live with.
Once you have that figured out, you should be able to choose one over the other. And the nice thing is: if you change your mind later, it is easy to switch. The instruments are very similar to play and the main difference is actually in reading the sheet music.
Should I Play The Violin Or The Viola?
Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of each instrument.
Advantages of the Violin
- The violin requires less strength to play. This goes both for the strength needed to hold it firmly in place and the additional pressure needed on the strings.
- The violin is much more prestigious. Its role in an orchestra is similar to the lead guitar.
- Many pieces are written exclusively for the violin, giving violinists far more opportunities to step into the limelight.
- The violin is extremely versatile. You’ll find it everywhere, from modern pop or rock music to jazz to classical pieces written hundreds of years ago.
Disadvantages of the Violin
- It is more difficult to learn than the viola.
- Because it is more popular, there is much more competition, both in terms of numbers and skill level. Most musical prodigies choose the violin; very few, if any, choose the viola.
Advantages of the Viola
- The viola is easier to learn for a beginner; if you can play the violin, you can also play the viola.
- There is far less competition with the viola, making it much easier to get a spot in an orchestra.
Disadvantages of the Viola
- The viola requires more strength to play. It is larger and heavier and thus more difficult to hold in place. You also need to apply more finger pressure to the strings.
- The viola does not allow the performer to shine. This is an instrument that fades into the background. In fact, in many pieces, most audience members can’t even hear the viola at all.
- The viola is played in alto clef, so you have to relearn to read music. Or if you haven’t learned yet, you would learn a clef used by virtually no other instruments.
I can’t answer your question for you. Only you can decide whether you should play the viola or the violin. But hopefully, breaking down the advantages and disadvantages like this will help you come to a decision. Just in case it could be helpful, I will now briefly cover some of the key differences between the two instruments.
Comparison Between The Violin And The Viola
- The viola is a few inches larger than the violin. It comes in four different sizes, while the violin comes in 9 different sizes.
- A viola bow is heavier than a violin bow.
- The violin is pitched higher. The instruments have three strings in common (G, D and A), but where the violin has the E string as its fourth, the viola has the C string.
- Violas use the alto clef (G clef), while violins use the treble clef (C clef).
- Violas have thicker strings and larger bodies, giving them a deeper, more somber tone.