Interesting Viola Facts That Are Sure To Strike A Chord! | Kidadl


Interesting Viola Facts That Are Sure To Strike A Chord!

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Violas are an integral part of Western Classical Chamber Music.

Famous composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Johannes Brahms favored the viola over its more illustrious cousin instrument, the violin. In a string quartet, violists take an essential position, along with two violinists and a cello player.

Keep reading to find out more about this versatile musical instrument.

History And Origin Of The Viola

The history of the viola goes back to 16th and 17th century Europe when the term 'viol' was used to denote either of the two types of stringed instruments: the 'viola da braccio' and the 'viola da gamba.' The former was used to indicate the instruments that were 'played on the arm,' and the instruments for which the legs were needed for support were classified under the viola da gamba group.

From the early years of this string instrument, the viola has been used primarily to fill in with the harmony parts of an orchestra. However, with time, the smaller violin rose in prominence, resulting in the viola becoming less critical in orchestra music.

To the joy of viola lovers worldwide, the beautiful instrument has found its place again in orchestra and chamber music in recent times. The contemporary western symphony orchestra has at least six spots for violists.

Different Parts Of The Viola

All violas follow the same basic design. However, the kind of music each individual viola produces depends on the type of materials used during the making of the instrument.

A viola has a feature called 'scroll' at the very top of the instrument. It looks like a spiral and mainly has a decorative element. Right below the scroll lies the pegbox, consisting of four holes where the pegs are fitted. Each viola string is held tightly with the help of tuning pegs, which work in conjunction with the pegbox. Next in the anatomy of the viola comes the 'nut.' It helps to raise the viola strings to an adequate height above the fingerboard so that the musician faces no problem while playing the instrument.

The viola part that a player has to use the most is known as the fingerboard. This is where the musician places their fingers to produce musical notes and thus create the right kind of music.

Difference Between The Viola And The Violin

Both the viola and the violin are musical instruments belonging to the violin family. A bow is required to play both of these musical instruments. From the physical aspect, a viola is larger in size. It requires the viola player to be more physically aware of its weight. While a violin has strings arranged in the order- G, D, A, and E, with G being the lowest note, the viola player has a lower sounding middle C instead of an E on his instrument.

A viola instrument measures around 1-4 in (2.5-10 cm) longer than a violin. The total length of a violin ranges from 15-18 in (38-48 cm). In the earliest phases of the instrument, the viola used to be broader and heavier. Its bow used to be shorter then its current size and curved in the center. It was only sometime in the 18th century that the individual dimensions of the violin and the viola were more or less finalized by the leading instrument makers of the time.

The viola is very popular in Romania.

Tune And Notes Of The Viola

Violas are fitted with four strings. From the highest to the lowest note, the strings are tuned in the order of C, G, D, and A. The viola's body is made from the same material used to create a violin. Ideally, wood extracted from the maple or spruce tree should be used to manufacture high-quality violins and violas.

Since violas use the lower-sounding string of C, it produces a type of music that is mournful and sweet-sounding. Many musicians prefer the deeper sound produced by violas than the higher-pitched music of the violins. Even though a viola and a violin share three identical strings- G, D, and A- the instruments' music sounds different. To amateur musicians, the tonal quality may seem the same, but experienced violinists and violists will identify the difference in tone quite easily.


Q: What is an interesting fact about the viola?

A: A hybrid instrument between the violin and the viola is called viola d'amore. It has all the strings that both devices have and extra strings, known as 'sympathetic strings.'

Q: Who made the first viola?

A: The first viola was made either by Andrea Amati or Gaspare da Salo. They were both makers of string instruments and lived in 16th century Northern Italy. Amati hailed from the region of Cremona and da Salo had his workshop in Brescia.

Q: How many strings does a viola have?

A: Violas have four strings, starting from the lowest string named 'C' to the highest string called 'A.' This string instrument is played by violists, who use the alto clef symbol rather than the treble clef while performing a piece of music.

Q: Should I get a violin or viola?

A: Both the viola and the violin are string instruments of the violin family. It is always wonderful for a budding musician to learn a string instrument. Violins are known for their high-pitched treble sound, which produces a vibrant variety of music. On the other hand, violas produce a lower and more earthy sound because of the presence of the middle C among their strings. So, you can opt for either the violin or the viola, depending on your personal preference.

Q: What is viola short for?

A: Viola is short for the Italian term 'viola da braccio,' meaning 'played by the arm.'

Q: Is the viola easier than the violin?

A: The viola and the violin belong to the violin family and have many similarities. However, the viola is bigger than the violin and needs better hand-body coordination to play correctly. Hence, some musicians believe that the viola is the harder of the two string instruments.

Q: What do you call a person who plays the viola?

A: People who play violas are variously called violists, or simply viola players.

Q: Is a viola easier than a cello?

A: Both the viola and the cello are equally challenging to learn and could take years of practice and dedication to master. While the viola is played usually while standing up, the cello is always played in the seated position.

Q: Is a viola a fiddle?

A: No, the fiddle and the viola are slightly different from each other.

Q: Did Charlie Daniels play the viola?

A: No, Charlie Daniels used to play the fiddle along with the guitar, banjo, and mandolin.

Q: What is the viola made out of?

A: The viola is generally made of maple or spruce wood.

Written By
Moumita Dutta

<p>A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.</p>

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