Slightly larger than a violin, the viola is yet another bowed instrument played in a similar way to a violin playing. It takes up the position of the alto or middle voice of an orchestra as it has a lower and deeper sound than its smaller sibling.

Much like the violin, the viola is played under the chin and can be performed with either by standing or sitting. If you want to see the best way to play this string instrument, then try googling images or watching videos of famous violists to get a good picture in your head.

Do you know which other instruments are in the violin family?

Tips For Viola Players

Our single tip is straightforward.... to practice!

The more you practice, the better you will be at playing the viola.
It is so important to keep practising. Photo credit: Unhindered by Talent on Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA

Learning to play any fiddle or string instrument is no easy feat, and the viola is no different in that respect. The key is practice, and to spend as much time as possible getting it right. Check your posture regularly, get a routine and record yourself so you can play it all back and refine!

Take your time, relax, and enjoy the process. If you are finding practising a chore, move on and have a go at something else. Learning an instrument is always hard work, but it should never be frustrating or upsetting. Remember it's OK to have a break, just make sure you come back to it again later on.

Holding a Viola: The Specifics

This is the part where we tell you how you might like to play your viola, not how you should play it.

Music is an art and is all down to your interpretation so who are we to tell you how to hold it and how to make the strings vibrate when you can figure out your own methods and style all on your own? That said, the below may help you get on your way with playing the violin or viola as a beginner.

Holding the Viola

Traditionally, the viola is held upside down, back facing you, and you can purchase a shoulder rest to make playing it more comfortable. Most violists place the instrument on their left collarbone and will either sit or stand with a straight back.

So, to get into playing position, you'll grab hold of the base of the viola's neck and place it on your left side, as above, with the pin from the underside of the instrument pointing toward the middle of your neck.

Rest your chin on the built-in chin rest for some support when playing by tilting your head down a bit. Your chin and shoulder should support the viola but not grip it.

Finger Positioning

Without studying another violist, it can be hard to know what to with your fingers when attempting to play viola for the first time.

You should hook your left thumb round the reverse side of the neck, keeping it close to the C string. Slide your left hand toward the scroll, near the tuning pegs, curling the rest of your fingers over the neck. These fingers will be used to press on the strings and play the notes you intend to play.

When you're not playing, your fingers can simply rest on the fingerboard, with your thumb and index finger resembling a backward C shape.

Holding the Bow

Before you can even think about picking up your viola to play it, you must tighten your bow. The bow hair would have been loosened after your last practice session to prevent it from getting damaged, so rotate the screw at the end of it clockwise to tighten it back up.

It's wise to count how many turns you make when loosening it, so you can roughly estimate how many turns will be needed to tighten it up correctly again.

You don't want to overtighten the bow as the hair may break.

With your right hand, place your thumb between the leather and the frog. The frog is the bit at the bottom of your bow which holds the hairs in place. The frog should be on your right, meanwhile, the tip will point towards the left. You should not put your thumb in between the hair and the stick.

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The viola has changed since the first ever models.
Do you know the difference between the violin family members? Photo credit: Free Public Domain Illustrations by rawpixel on Visualhunt / CC BY

Your middle and fourth finger (or ring finger) will be on the flat side of the frog. Wrap these around the bow so that they are opposite your thumb. Ideally, your fourth finger will be on top of the dot that it is on the frog.

Next, curl your little finger on top of the bow's stick and apply a little bit of pressure, which will help to support the weight of the bow.

Finally, wrap your index finger round the stick of the bow. You should not touch the hair with your fingers.

Now, you are ready to play!

Where To Buy A Viola?

Beginner musicians will usually opt for an acoustic violin or similar, so let's consider where you might look for a beginner viola.

Being acoustic, this means that no part of their sound is from an electronic source. As a result, all of the sound emitted comes from the vibrations of the violin bow on the violin string, so it is absolutely vital that you buy a quality instrument if you want the sound to match.

Sizing your instrument is one of the first big considerations when looking for a violin, so going into a music shop is the best way forward as it will enable you to try some out and see which size is most appropriate to you. Hiring or buying a violin of the wrong size can lead to much discomfort and will, in turn,  hinder progress. Even if you're buying for a child, we don't recommend buying one for them to 'grow into' as it will not encourage them to develop their skill in the correct way.

Regardless of whether you're renting or buying, you should be able to comfortably hold the scroll of a viola in the palm of your left hand.

Looking for a music shop near you?

Start by running a search on Google for your nearest viola stockists, or even violin experts. Alternatively, you could ask your music teacher for advice on buying a viola for the first time.

How Much Should I Spend On A Viola?

So, if you’re a beginner looking to purchase your very first violin or viola, how much money should you be prepared to part with?

There are many ways to find out which are the best student violins for beginners, such as approaching violin specialists at your local music shop or looking for advice online.

Generally, you should spend no more than £100 for your first instrument, however, you may wish to spend a bit more if you waant a quality instrument that you can keep for a very long time. Some of the top quality violas on the market cost around £300.

Which Violin Manufacturers Are The Best?

Windsor and Antoni are reputable student brands of violas, so these may be your first port of call. Meanwhile, Stentor and Forenza are among some of the violin makers which develop instruments for intermediate string players.

That said, don't be swayed by brand names because the best known are not always the best. It's always best to try out your instrument and make a decision with your heart instead of your head.

Find A Viola Tutor With Superprof!

Always available for your learning needs, Superprof features a range of music tutors with varying levels of experience and offering different rates. You can search the website for viola tutors now.

With this platform, you can either choose a tutor based in your area, one who either has a studio or will come to your home. Another option would be online classes via video link, which could save you money in the long run - no travelling time to and from lessons, and your tutor might give you a discounted rate because s/he won't have to travel, either!

Do you want to find a tutor who can help you progress?
You don't have to go to class to find a great tutor! Ty Superprof today. Photo credit: starmanseries on Visualhunt.com / CC BY

You might also be interested in knowing that most Superprof tutors give their first hour of lessons at no charge, just to see if you two would learn well together. With such an offer, how could anyone not choose that option?

Learning the viola or any other instrument from the violin family over Internet connection is also great for those who have busy lives and need to schedule in lessons with minimal disruption to their routine like having to travel to a studio or tidy up in preparation for a visit from a tutor.

Are you interested in knowing how to play the cello?

Would you like to know more about the double bass?

Viola Challenge Time!

How about a two-week challenge?

Any great musician will tell you that practice is so important, so...

Week One: Practice your viola playing for 30 mins every day

Week Two: Practice your music for 1 hour each day

Just wait and see how much you come along in a fortnight!

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Vanessa