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Violin versus Viola
Comparison for learning
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (2 votes) 
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JohnBAngel
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July 4, 2020 - 10:40 pm
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Greetings fellow Fiddlerman folks!

I have recently picked up a student model viola and have been alternating my playing between this viola and my violin. I am finding that doing this has been beneficial to me from an ear training and technique standpoint. I am surprised at the quality of this viola, which I bought for $40 on Marketplace. I experienced a similar effect when I play my guitars- if I alternate playing on my different instruments, I improve across the board on all of them. Can anyone help explain this phenomenon? Is it something similar to cross-training for physical sports activities?

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AndrewH
Sacramento, California
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July 5, 2020 - 1:36 am
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It is.

At conservatory level, many violin professors require all their students to learn the viola if they do not already play it. I think there are two benefits for violinists:

1) Getting used to a different finger spacing means being forced to listen for intonation rather than rely too much on muscle memory.

2) The viola is less forgiving with errors in coordination between the hands, because the strings don't respond as quickly to the bow. In addition, it needs more attention to tone quality in general. All this makes it extra important to pay attention to the bow hand.

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ELCB
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July 5, 2020 - 1:50 am
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JohnBAngel - Awesome to be Human, isn't it?

Our complex system of perception & how our brain manages to turn all that information into equally complex actions is something to cherish.

I'm no expert, but sounds like your ear training is paying off.  All string instruments have similarities and you have been training yourself to find notes - this is reinforced.  I look at the differences in the instruments as new (refreshing) brain games of "find the note/notes".  By switching back and forth I think you sharpen your senses.  Just keeps getting better... be aware of what you do & how.

If you look close I think you'll see similarities in cross-training for sports, too.

Good attitude!

Just make sure you protect your hearing. 

I'm sorry if I sound condescending - I don't pretend to know your age.

I'm sure you'll hear from many of the great multi-instrument players here on the forum.

 

- Emily

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Irv
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July 5, 2020 - 10:20 am
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@JohnBAngel and others.  Are you playing a viola of a similar size to the violin (14” corpus) or a more substantial brethren?  

It is almost too bad that the viola makes use of different scale notation.  Always another thing to learn.  

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

It is unpleasant to be thought so uncleverly unclean and capable of poisoning a whole city.—Sir Walter Scott

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JohnBAngel
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July 5, 2020 - 12:16 pm
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Thank you all for your valuable opinions.

I should have noted that the viola I am playing is 16 inch.

For some reason, my brain migrates to the lower ranges of these instruments.

Maybe a 5 string violin is in my future.

Thanks again!

John B Angel

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
July 7, 2020 - 11:53 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 15154

Irv said
It is almost too bad that the viola makes use of different scale notation.  Always another thing to learn.  

Maybe in a way, but understand that the viola is a fifth lower than the violin. It would be difficult to read those small lines below the G all the way to C in treble clef. This is what a simple scale would look like. Imagine many notes jumping up and down in confined spaces....

On the other hand, high notes are often notated in treble clef when writing music for the viola.

Viola-Low-C-to-G-in-Treble-Clef.pngImage Enlarger

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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cid
July 7, 2020 - 12:58 pm
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You get used to it, Irv. We have 3 to learn with cello. I Have had all three in one piece. Bass, treble and tenor. Then my viola has alto. I still have to look at my sheet once in a while for tenor and alto and mark the notes if I haven't used either in a while. Tenor is a little easier because it is easy to find C, and I have used it more than alto. I hope I didn't mix the tenor and alto up, I do that often when referring to them. Tenor - cello. Alto - viola, I believe.

Viola Time! 

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JohnBAngel
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July 7, 2020 - 10:14 pm
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Thanks for your thoughts Fiddlerman.

I get the added benefit of moving down into the alto clef, which should help me with my reading ability.

I am practicing the same tunes on both instruments, so I am getting the advantage of being able to play violin scales on the viola, albeit in different positions.

Then the benefits go back to taking these other positions on the viola and moving back into the violin ranges.

Can't begin to tell y'all how much I appreciate your expertise.

JohnBAngel

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
July 10, 2020 - 2:48 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 15154

My pleasure!!!

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Gordon Shumway
London, England
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July 23, 2020 - 11:27 pm
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Yesterday was interesting.

A copy of Hindemith's Meditation for viola and piano arrived (a dollar+shipping!).

So I was playing, on the violin, the alto clef for the first time ever, sight-reading and simultaneously transposing up a fifth in order to play the same string number I'd be playing on a viola.

After about 15 minutes of that my brain felt like mashed potato, and I decided to "put it on the back burner" and maybe wait until I buy a viola! Or maybe that was just defeatist. Maybe I was just about to break through the wall!

Solutions:

I could keep at it.

I could find where I put my manuscript books and write it out, transposed, in the treble clef a line at a time.

For me the hardest thing about the alto clef is where those semitones are.

When you are used to the treble clef and that middle line is B and the next space above is a C. The way that semitone becomes a tone (C to D) is the hardest thing for me.

I wonder if I pretend it's the treble clef and transpose up an augmented fifth that will be the easiest solution! Nope, that won't work at all - some notes will need to be transposed up a 6th. (e.g. the D, looks like a treble C, but needs to go up to A)

Two-set have got it all wrong - violists are evil geniuses. This could be a conspiracy that makes the X-Files look like Sesame Street!

dazed

Andrew

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ELCB
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July 23, 2020 - 11:59 pm
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Gordon Shumway - Wow!

You have a lot of intestinal fortitude to attempt all that in your head - bravo!

Just today mentioned in another thread that if I'd bought a viola instead of a 5-string violin I'd just play violin parts... but lower.

Most of the music I play isn't as complicated/long as what you play, so easy for me to play around in alternate Keys.  I would definitely have to transpose a piece like Hindemith's to play it differently.

 

- Emily

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