Can you name all the components of an orchestra? From well-known instruments like the violin to the more obscure euphonium, each instrument in an orchestra contributes something special to the final performance.
That’s why it can be confusing when different instruments appear, at first glance, to be nearly identical. When it comes to types of string instruments, the violin and the viola are two that look very similar. But the characteristics of a violin and the characteristics of a viola are actually quite different.
To learn more about the difference between a violin vs viola, keep reading below. You’ll quickly understand why each is an irreplaceable part of any string ensemble!
The most noticeable difference between the violin and the viola is the difference in size between the two instruments. A full-sized violin is about 14 inches long. This full size, which is referred to as “4/4,” is made to fit adults. Smaller sizes are available for children and people with smaller frames or shorter arms.
Violas, on the other hand, do not have one standard full size. They are made to fit the musician. In general, they are closer to about 16 inches long. They are also wider and deeper than violins.
The larger size of the viola allows it to play lower notes.
The body of the violin and viola is not the only part of these two instruments that differs. It’s harder to tell from looking, but they also have different strings.
Standard violins and violas have four strings. On a violin, those open strings are G, D, A, and E, with G being the lowest string and E being the highest. On a viola, they are C, G, D, and A.
Viola strings are also slightly thicker than violin strings. Along with the larger size, the thicker strings contribute to the viola’s comparatively rich sound.
When reading music for the violin, you read it in the key of G. When reading music for the viola, you read it in the keys of C and G. This means that sheet music made for the violin uses the treble clef but sheet music made for the viola uses the alto clef.
On occasion, sheet music for the viola will switch to the treble clef for higher notes. For this reason, many violists are able to read music in both the treble and the alto clef.
Understanding Violin vs Viola
If you’ve ever asked yourself “what is a violin” or “what is a viola,” this guide might have helped you. In the violin vs viola debate, there’s no one instrument that is better than the other. Still, it’s good to understand the differences between the two.
Next time you attend a concert or enjoy a piece of classical music, think about the many stringed instruments that contribute to the rich final sound.
For more articles on everything from birthday gifts to DIY decorating ideas, check out our website. We’ve got information on everything related to entertainment and lifestyle!