Switching From Violin to Viola

If you are a violinist, you have probably been asked this question at some point during your musical career:

Can you play viola?

For some, the answer is a resounding “NO.” For others, this question leads to them taking on the viola as a secondary or primary instrument. This can happen at any point, but many students are asked around middle or high school in an effort to even out the sections in school programs. Since the violin is more well-known and recognizable, many students or families initially choose it over the unknown viola. Whenever or whatever reason the switch is happening, here are some important things keep in mind:

Be careful when choosing a viola size.

The viola is unique in that there is no “full size,” unlike other string instruments. The viola began as two separate instruments: alto viola and tenor viola. Technically, in order to achieve an ideal tone the viola should be much longer than it is now–upwards of 19 inches. That length would make it impossible to play. The tenor viola was the closest solution to this issue; however it was still so long that unless you had very long arms and fingers, it was too painful to play for an extended period of time. Modern violas fall closer to the size of the alto violas, with makers striving to recreate the sound found in the tenor violas of the past.

Today, the viola typically ranges in size from 15” to 17”, with most players falling between the 15.5”-16.5” range. Some 14” violas do exist (the same length as a full-size violin), but they do not have the same sound quality/depth. For new players, your best course of action would be to start by trying a 15-15.5” instrument and adjusting up or down from there. You do not want to feel like you are straining to play. It will feel larger, but should still be comfortable.

Learn to read or transpose the clef.

This may seem obvious, but it can be easy to rely on your ears to tell you exactly what you should be playing, especially if you are working on familiar repertoire. Violists primarily read alto clef and it is one of the only instruments that does so. It lies between treble and bass, with the middle line being middle C. This accommodates the instrument’s range well. Like learning another language, practice and immersing yourself will help you learn faster and more completely. Your treble clef skills will still come in handy, as viola music sometimes switches between the two. There are books that can help you make the transition into reading alto clef, which can be found on our website.

Your position will need to change.

It may look like a violin. It may still be held on your shoulder. It may even feel the same.

It isn’t.

Keep in mind that violas and their bows are heavier than violins and this will change how you support the instrument. Your arms will be more extended and the finger-spacing of your left hand will be more spread out, which will necessitate changes in your overall position and posture to prevent tension. The best way to discover what you will need to change is:

Find a teacher who plays viola.

Find a teacher who really plays and works as a violist. Even with only one or two lessons, they can be an invaluable asset in finding a position without tension. Many violists are former violinists and will be able to help  you with the transition.

 

Keep your eye on the Johnson String Instrument blog for more posts, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Tips for Instrument Care

First time player or parent of a first time player? We have everything you need to take care of your instrument, as well as some tips:

Clean your instrument with a soft cloth, as well as the stick of the bow.

This is something that should be done every time you finish playing in order to prevent rosin buildup. Make sure to wipe down the strings, fingerboard, wherever you see rosin on the body of the instrument, and the stick of the bow. If you want to polish or clean your instrument, only use a compound made for string instruments like our JSI Cleaner and Polish.

Keep your instrument’s environment consistent.

The easiest way to accomplish this is to keep your instrument away from extreme temperatures. This means storing it in an insulated room away from vents, heating or air conditioning units, and windows. Do not leave your instrument in an unattended car, especially during the height of winter or summer.

Another factor to keep in mind is that string instruments are sensitive to humidity. Too much will cause the wood to expand, causing problems like immobile pegs. Conversely, too little humidity will cause the wood to contract, increasing the risk of open seams and cracks. Consider monitoring the humidity levels with an in-case humidification system to prevent damage.

Store your instrument properly.

When you are done playing, make sure to take off all shoulder rests/sponges and store them safely. Strap or tie down the neck and make sure any accessories like rosin or pencils are in an accessory pocket. Loosen the bow every time you put it away to prevent the stick from warping and to extend the life of your bow hair.

Do not attempt your own repairs.

It may be tempting to glue an open seam back together or straighten a warped bridge yourself, but performing your own repairs can become more damaging and costly than the initial issue. Particular methods and materials are used to fix stringed instruments; when you use a material that is not normally found on a string instrument, this can harm it. If you suspect something is out of place, please pay a visit to our workshop and let our luthiers assess the instrument.

Use your eyes and ears.

Your powers of observation are your best asset when it comes to taking care of your instrument. If something does not sound or look right, it most likely is not. If you hear an unexplained buzzing or rattling, see an open seam or a crack, or notice anything else out of place about your instrument, bring it to your luthier to have it checked out. If problems are ignored, they can easily get worse and more costly to correct. A little preventative care will allow your instrument to remain in good working order.

Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Cellos & Cello Bows Exhibit!

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Carriage House Violins has designated March 2015 as Cello month and will be offering an expanded selection of cellos and cello bows for sale.

Selected cellos and bows are now on display in our Contemporary Cello & Cello Bow Exhibit, featuring some of today’s finest makers (see below). For trial information, please contact our cello sales consultant Robert Mayes at rmayes@carriagehouseviolins.com or 617-262-0051 ext 306. If you are shopping for a cello or cello bow, now is a great time to buy!

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Cello makers featured in the exhibit include Michele Ashley, Paul Crowley, Nicolas Gilles, James McKean, David Polstein, Guy Rabut, Benjamin Ruth, Arthur Toman, Gregory Walke, Lawrence Wilke, among others.

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Bow makers include John Aniano, Emmanuel Begin, Jon Crumrine, Pierre-Yves Fuchs, Éric Gagné, Jianfeng Lee, Rodney Mohr, Eric Lane, Georges Tepho, and many more.

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Visit the Carriage House Violins facebook page for featured instruments and bows in the exhibit! We will post a featured cello or cello bow daily throughout March.

To view complete listings of instruments and bows for sale at Carriage House Violins, please visit carriagehouseviolins.com. You can always contact one of our knowledgable sales consultants to schedule an appointment to play the instruments in our shop, or set up a home trial!


Also during Cello Month, Johnson String Instrument is having a sale on select cello music and accessories. Check it out!

'March is Cello Month! See our website for lots of cello music & accessories on sale: http://www.johnsonstring.com/catalog/sale/index.htm'

Click here to see more events scheduled during Cello Month at Carriage House Violins.

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We hope to see you!

Carriage House Violins location and store hours


March is Cello Month!

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It’s Cello Month at Carriage House Violins!

Throughout the month of March, Carriage House Violins—Johnson String Instrument’s sales division—will host a number of exciting events especially for cellists. Lectures, performances, and an instrument exhibition are among the upcoming events, all taking place in the concert hall at Carriage House Violins in Newton Upper Falls, Massachusetts.

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The Concert Hall at Carriage House Violins


Cello Month Events

Click here to visit the Cello Month page on the Carriage House Violins website to see the list of remaining events. We are excited to present a number of performances, including a concert by the sensational Boston Cello Quartet, a concert by pioneering cellist and composer Mike Block, an all-Schubert concert to benefit Music For Food, and a concert to honor long-time principal cellist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Jules Eskin. Also, don’t miss a lecture about cellos in the 18th century presented by Guy Fishman, principal cellist of the Handel and Haydn Society.

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The Boston Cello Quartet

Friday, March 13, 2015 – The Boston Cello Quartet – Blaise Déjardin, Adam Esbensen, Mihail Jojatu, Alexandre Lecarme, cellos.  (SOLD OUT)

Saturday, March 14, 2015 – Mike Block, cellist – solo performance

Sunday, March 22, 2015 – Jules Eskin Tribute

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Jules Eskin

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 – All Schubert Concert  to benefit Music for Food, with cellist Blaise Dejardin, pianist Andrei Baumann, and  The Muir Quartet with cellist Robert Mayes.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015 – The Cello in the 18th Century – Gallery Talk and Demonstration


Contemporary Instrument Exhibition

During Cello Month, an expanded selection of cellos and bows for sale will be offered at Carriage House Violins. These instruments will be on display in an instrument exhibition featuring renowned modern makers. If you are shopping for a cello or bow, this is a great time to visit us to try the instruments in the collection, and speak to our knowledgable sales consultants at Carriage House Violins!

Click here for the full listing of cello makers, and here for the listing of bow makers featured in our Cello Month Instrument Exhibition.

You can also learn about featured Cello Month instruments on the Carriage House Violins facebook page!


The Boston Cello Society

We’re pleased to announce the founding of the Boston Cello Society by the Carriage House Violins cello specialist, Robert Mayes. Click here to learn more!

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