Fast Facts You Need To Know About the Viola for Your Viola Lessons

It is a sad fact that violists or viola players are a rare breed.  The viola is even maligned as ‘the Cinderella of the orchestra”.  And yes, there are so-called ‘viola jokes’ and stereotypes. Do not let these unfair remarks discourage you from taking viola lessons.  Examine the facts.  The spotlight may not always be on the viola, yet it has its own shining moments.

There has been a resurgence of interest, respect, and repertoire for the viola.  Declared by the annual Berlin music festival as 2014’s ‘Instrument of the Year’, the viola is back in vogue.  In fact, it has a rich vault of interesting credentials.


Fast facts about the viola:

History:  The viola originated from Italy and was built in the 15th century.

Shape and Size: The viola’s shape and method of playing is almost identical to the violin.  However, the viola’s size is larger and has thicker strings.  It does not have a standard size.  It ranges about 15 to 17 inches; or some are as small as 11 inches.


  1. The viola has a rich, mellow, and low pitch.  It is often played in harmony with the rest of the string instruments in the orchestra.  It just blends-in.  It rarely gets a ‘solo’ spot, unlike its more famous sibling, the violin.  Hence, people got the impression that the viola will always be playing second fiddle to the violin (no pun intended).  It was only in the late 1800s to 1900s when composers discovered its beauty and gave the viola its rightful place and the recognition it deserves in the orchestra.
  2. In viola lessons, you will learn how to enhance the sound of the viola by playing with a vibrato.

Music:  The number of compositions for the viola pales in comparison to the huge library of music of the violin or cello.  However starting from the 20th century to the present, music written for the viola has grown in leaps and bounds.

Famous Violists: This may come as a surprise.  Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, and Haydn were viola masters too!  They composed music with and for the viola.  Here’s a bigger surprise — Jimi Hendrix, the famous rock guitar god began his career as a musician playing the viola!  Another renowned contemporary violist include Scottish violist William Primrose who has written numerous viola solo arrangements.

Modern Pop Music:   The viola has been elevated to rock star status as well.  Several contemporary pop, rock, and alternative artists have featured the viola in some of their most recognizable hits.  Here’s to name drop a few:

  1. Baba O’Riley” by The Who
  2. Dust in the Wind” by Kansas
  3. Hello, Goodbye” and  “Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles
  4. “Venus in Furs” and  “Heroin, Sunday Morning” by The Velvet Underground
  5. “It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons

Career: An orchestra always needs a violist.  There are very few really good violinists. Ergo, violists are in-demand.

If you’re taking viola lessons and happen to have viola jokes thrown at you, fret not.  You know who gets to laugh all the way to a place in the orchestra.

Viola lessons can give you lots of advantages and opportunities in the music industry. Not only would you have the right to play in an orchestra you also have the option of just playing the versatile instrument to amuse yourself and entertain your friends or family. It can be a lucrative career to someone who is good at playing and performing. Having a viola education also qualifies you to teach other students to know and play this wonderfully under-appreciated instrument. So begin exploring your many options now and start a thrilling adventure of learning this terrific musical instrument.