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I always thought, "never the twain shall meet," as muscle memory will suffer, so I was pleasantly surprised to see fiddlerman play the viola.
I'm guessing that if fiddlerman were still a pro violinist, he wouldn't play viola, but why do it now?
I'd be interested in his reply, as I can make various guesses: -
a) it's nice
b) he tries anything and everything musically (but maybe not the cello)
c) (more cynically) it expands his business model
The five string violin looks nice too, but I'm not sure how I'd cope with one. Do you sometimes play violin music and sometimes viola music on it? Or do you tend to improvise? I'm no good at that - I need the dots in front of me.
I assumed I'd stick to the fiddle, but maybe I'll think about a 5-string one day.
Actually, the majority of professional violists also play violin regularly and many professional violinists play viola regularly. I've seen professional string quartets where three members double on violin and viola and rotate. Pinchas Zukerman is notably well-known as a soloist on both instruments.
A number of conservatory-level violin teachers are known to require all their students to learn the viola concurrently. The viola is less forgiving on technique in many ways, and certain bad habits are much more noticeable on a viola, so the idea is to force students to learn better technique. Once muscle memory is set on the violin, playing viola won't hurt it.
I am primarily a violist, and play violin occasionally. It takes only a few minutes for me to get used to the smaller finger spacing on a violin if I'm asked to play it, and no time at all to switch back to viola.
I know one pro violist, and she is almost allergic to the violin, lol, but that doesn't mean everyone is the same.
It is true I don't find it a problem switching between soprano uke and classical guitar, but then they are fretted. But I suppose it does seem likely that muscle memory is able to compartmentalise (i.e. distinguish between) the instruments.
Perhaps I am remembering string-playing schoolfriends who were still learning, so careful to avoid different sized instruments?
Perhaps. Again, the violin teachers I'm referring to who require students to learn viola teach at conservatories, so their students already have well-developed technique.
I play in a semi-pro orchestra and am principal violist in an amateur orchestra, so I have a lot of contact with pros these days. I know a few pro violists who refuse to play violin and two who have never played violin, but most play both instruments; I've also heard local pro and semi-pro violinists perform chamber music on viola a number of times.