Tag Archives: instructor

Switching from violin to viola

violin to violaLearn­ing to play vio­lin or vio­la can be very reward­ing. Once you learn to play one it is actu­al­ly sim­ple to become pro­fi­cient on the oth­er instru­ment as well. There are just a few minor dif­fer­ences one should know when switch­ing from vio­lin to vio­la.

The vio­la is just a bit larg­er than the vio­lin; the notes are a lit­tle far­ther apart on the fin­ger­board, so one has to stretch the hand a tad more. How­ev­er, the fin­ger pat­tern and posi­tions are the same. The bow is slight­ly heav­ier for the vio­la but you still use the same bow hold.

Per­haps the biggest obsta­cle one might face when switch­ing from vio­lin to vio­la is chang­ing the clef. Most peo­ple have some famil­iar­i­ty with the tre­ble (or G) clef, which the vio­lin uses, while the vio­la uses the alto (or C) clef. Some peo­ple claim the alto clef is hard to read; actu­al­ly it is no more dif­fi­cult to read then the G clef. Like any­thing in music, you have to prac­tice to mas­ter it.

I high­ly rec­om­mend that what­ev­er instru­ment you decide to play you learn aspects of the oth­er and become a “switch hit­ter”. The big ben­e­fit is you will always be in demand, espe­cial­ly on the vio­la. Orches­tras and cham­ber ensem­bles always need vio­la play­ers, while find­ing a gig as a vio­lin­ist may be dif­fi­cult from time to time, as there always seems to be a glut of vio­lin play­ers, so if you can play both you will always have a place to play.

Both instru­ments have a rich reper­toire. While there is less vio­la music if you like to play Baroque and Clas­si­cal Peri­od works, the com­posers of the Roman­tic peri­od, such as Berlioz, Dvo­rak, Brahms, Wag­n­er, Mahler, and Richard Strauss wrote won­der­ful parts for the vio­la. Dur­ing the 20th Cen­tu­ry up to the present such com­posers such as Hin­demith, Elgar, Wal­ton, Bar­tok and Pen­derec­ki wrote many beau­ti­ful works for the vio­la. One of the great­est musi­cians today, Pin­chas Zuk­er­man, switch­es back and forth from both instru­ments on a reg­u­lar basis. What­ev­er instru­ment you pick to learn, you will gain years of enjoy­ment, but if you learn both you will more than dou­ble your plea­sure.