Advantages of Playing the Viola

In a Fark thread about a teacher hitting a viola student, Thuper Ranger described rather accurately what the audition process for most orchestras is when you’re a violist.

Thuper Ranger: May I be in your orchestra?

Conductor: Well, we have a long application procedure with 3 rehearsal trials. It usually takes about 2 weeks. What do you play?

Thuper Ranger: The viola.

Conductor: We meet every Tuesday. Here’s your music. Welcome to the team.

Having played the viola for a few years, I can confidently say he hit the nail on the head. In fact, violists are often so rare that bad violinists will be forced to play the instrument in order to fill the ranks, as a punishment by conductors. Also, bad violinists tend to run away to the viola section in order to escape being made obsolete.

I know I haven’t asked this before, but if there are any violists reading this I’d like to hear from you. How did you get started on the viola? What are some interesting observations you’ve made? Also, if you have any corny musical jokes (let’s face it: they all are), go ahead and share them here.

9 thoughts on “Advantages of Playing the Viola

  1. I started the viola about a year ago. I’m young and am in middle school so last year was my first year and I got tired with choir so I thought why not join orchestra. I wanted to play the violin at first because at the time I hadn’t heard of the viola. The director took my hands and said my you have large hands…I’m a girl haha. So she pointed me to the viola and I tried it and fell in love with it. I hate how violins are so common and there is little acknowledgments for the viola but, you learn to live with it. Plus, I realize that I really hate how high the violin is and the viola is perfect for me….yep. Go violas hahaha

  2. I was in 5th grade and i didnt know what to pick violin or viola. I was gonna pick violin but then I herd the E string and i was never mind. So when i herd the viola I loved it so much. But when the year passed on I started to notice that in my music for the concerts where kinda boring. So i told my teacher why is the music is so boring and he said because the violins get the melody. So then the next sheet music came in and violins sill get the melody then more music came in and violins still get melody. I got so mad i felt like quitting viola. But then I decieded to stay in because the viola makes a beatufil sound but it takes time to show it. But by the end of the year i found out how to play violin and viola but my main instrument is viola. 😀

  3. i switched to viola in 5th grade. im now in 9th grade and thinking about colleges, so i think that if you waant to get places, you should play viola. the fact that i play viola has opened many doors for me. quartets, symphonies, and getting principal chair in school orchestra.

  4. I started in band (on flute) in 6th grade. In 7th, I begged my mom to join choir – if I did, I wouldn’t have to be in gym. She said no… so I had to be in gym. I had three good friends in orchestra – two of which were the only viola players at the school – and so in 8th grade, being as one of those two friends is remarkably convincing, I picked up an utterly run down viola. Now that my viola is $3,000, I imagine picking up that old “instrument” would be like drilling the core out of a stick along with a few finger holes and calling it a flute.
    In 8th grade… I wasn’t precisely a remarkable player. I didn’t know what a C-string was. Or a G-string. And I could play a grand total of 4 notes. It’s now the end of freshman year. I’m not sure what managed to change in that time. I’m really not. I’ve been told “I just have talent.”
    I doubt that, but either way, I now take weekly lessons, am second chair of 6 violas – second only to the girl who first got me into viola, and happens to be a remarkable player in every way – and, against all odds, I no longer suck.
    It’s true, by the way, what you said about conductors asking outcast violinists to play the viola… third chair in our section – practically by default – has remarkable intonation. That’s the end of the pros of her playing. Fine, she has nice tone. Her vibrato is lacking, her sight reading atrocious, her participation so lacking that for around half of our rehearsals, I glance back only to find that she is sitting, watching us all play. The music – which is pitifully simple – is too challenging for her musically inept brain. Even with songs we’ve had for ages, it’s hopeless. We were recently on an out of country trip, and only the two of us could afford to go. She was sometimes an entire MEASURE off. In a part that was pathetically simple, and contained no rests, she played every other note – or didn’t play it – as a rest. During a piece in one of the concerts, I had to sightread a piece (the conductor did not allow us to move during a piece which I was supposed to play flute on) and was better than her. Anyway, several years ago, the conductor asked her to join the viola section because there were no other violas in the school…

  5. I started playing the violin when I was in the first grade. I loved it a lot but when I reached sixth/seventh grade it was like weekly torture. One day I quit but luckily classes were canceled that day so I gave it bit more thought. I continued playing the violin for a few months until we got a viola teacher in our school. My teacher suggested that I should switch to viola. I know it might sound cheesy but when I did it was like I feel in love all over again. I’ve been playing it a year now and it’s been so great. It has a unique sound and the orchestra part in my opinion is the most beautiful.

  6. I played violin for Suzuki in 1-5 grade. Then, we started reading music in 6th grade and started orchestra. At the time, there were only a couple of Viola players so our conductor asked for people to volunteer to be Viola players. I made the spontaneous decision to do it and I have never looked back.

  7. I started the viola when the orchestra teacher from my local junior high came to my elementary. She brought the violin and viola. Before that day I have always wanted to play the violin, I thought it was beautiful. But as she played both instruments I heard that I liked the deeper and lower sound of the viola more than the high pitched violin. I have been playing for about four years and I have that same orchestra teacher for all of those years. I am so glad that I chose the viola. I feel like playing the viola takes more social courage too. You hear so much crap about the instrument (thank you violins) and saying how you play the viola, you have to face the facts that some people may make fun of you. But I love the viola, and we can go reasonably high up on our instruments…but the violins will never be able to get as low as us. ?

  8. I started viola 6 years ago when I desperately wanted to join an orchestra in year 7 (I had played piano prior to this and was incredibly lonely). Since I had a music background, I picked up the instrument fairly quickly and I’ve made so many friends playing. It’s the best!

    Also, none of the violists from the orchestra I’m in have ever played violin, and we actually have an over-abundance of violas! Violas are a pretty popular instrument where I’m from.

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