Is Viola More Difficult to Play than Violin?

Viola vs. violin is the age-old battle of the stringed instruments. While the viola sometimes is referred to as a “big violin,” there’s more to their differences than that. Along with the size of the viola, it also has a lower pitch and greater depth of sound than its more famous cousin.

Due to the violin’s popularity, it can commonly be thought that the viola isn’t as important to the orchestra or symphony as whole. In fact, the viola is sometimes mockingly called the “Cinderella” of the orchestra. However, the viola is not a fallback for failed violinists; in fact it’s an extremely important part of any string ensemble and as a solo instrument.  

Learning to play viola is…

As previously stated, there’s a rumor that the viola is for musicians who want to avoid the dedication it takes to play the violin. However, the viola is actually often more difficult to play than the violin. Some of the reasons for this are the viola’s larger size and commensurate heavier weight. Holding up the viola through a lengthy concert can be more tiring than carrying the smaller violin, and the strings on the viola are also further apart, which requires greater flexibility and dexterity than on a more petite instrument. 

Whichever instrument seems harder to play, string instrument lovers and musicians should reject the idea that it has to be viola vs. violin. Of course, there are points to be made on both sides. But in the end, they complement each other, and both are integral to the sound quality of an orchestra or symphony.

Ignore the jokes

But really, if you had to choose, viola vs. violin: which instrument wins? Reviewing the facts, the viola’s unfair reputation as a second-class instrument belies that it is more difficult to play as well as that it can be harder to learn. Not only do violists need to be able to read and play effectively in treble clef, they also have to be able to master alto clef. 

Creating the rich tones of the viola takes more effort and a stronger bow arm than creating the higher pitches of the violin. As with any instrument, dedicated practice makes perfect, so it’s time to start ignoring the jokes about violas and viola players and recognize the skill required to play this challenging and expressive stringed instrument.


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