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Viola Buyer's Guide

Viola Buyer's Guide

When it comes to buying a viola, it is never a one-size-fits-all matter. Unlike the violin, the viola does not come in a standard size. Even among violas of the same size, there might be differences in their sound due to their different details like strings, wood materials and so on. Amateur and professional violists have all encountered problems when getting the perfect fit – size, acoustics, projection and comfort. So how do you go about buying a viola? What should you consider when buying a viola? What viola brand is right for you?

 Viola Categories 

▪ Student Violas: Normally made by machine, student violas are crafted specifically for beginners. Maple is occasionally used for high-friction parts like the pegs and fingerboards, but it is dyed black to look like ebony, which is normally found on violas. Student violas are quite affordable, and superb for players still in the early stages. 

▪ Intermediate Violas: The quality and workmanship of an intermediate viola is higher than a student viola, and they're crafted mostly by hand. For this reason, they sound better, and in some cases they're even used at more advanced levels. The pegs and fingerboards are typically constructed with ebony, and extensive hand graduation of the violas top and back creates a warmer, sophisticated tone. 

▪ Professional Violas: Crafted from only the finest woods, an extraordinary amount of attention to detail is to a professional violas construction. Due to the rare amount of skilled craftsman, along with the high quality of materials used to make a professional viola, they're typically quite expensive.

 Body Materials 

▪ Spruce – For the top of a viola, only straight-grained spruce is used. Since most of a violas sound comes from the top of the instrument, a naturally aged, straight-grained spruce is the only material firm enough to handle the strings heavy attention, and ensure a rich sound. Five years is the minimum age preferred of viola makers, but the longer the natural aging, the better. 

▪ Maple – To enhance a violas stability and beauty, the sides, neck and back are typically constructed with maple. ▪ Ebony – To ensure that a viola doesn't feel top heavy, a strong yet light wood is needed for the pegs, tailpiece and fingerboard. For this reason, ebony is the preferred choice. 

▪ Other woods – To enhance a violas beauty and sound characteristics, exotic woods such as rosewood and boxwood are sometimes used for the pegs, chinrests, and tailpieces.

Viola accessories To make playing easier, accessories like rosin, strings, and a quality shoulder rest are ideal choices for any viola player. A sturdy case and practice mute are also great options to consider. An essential part of the symphony orchestra, the viola consists of 4 strings that create tones a fifth lower than a violins corresponding strings. Somewhat larger than a violin, the viola is associated often with classical music. Although they are usually found in string quartets and orchestras, violas are also used occasionally in classic, indie and folk rock music. 



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