- Max Kuehn
The viola vs violin vs cello are all string instruments that are played with a bow. The viola is the largest of the three, and it has a deeper, more mellow sound. The violin is the smallest and has the highest pitch. The cello is in the middle, and it has a rich, full sound. If you’re trying to decide between a viola, violin, or cello, this article will help you make the best decision for you. We’ll compare and contrast the three instruments so that you can find the perfect fit.
Let me give you a few basics about the viola because I handle violin-related issues on my website.
After the violin, the viola is the second highest-pitched instrument in the bowed string family. It bridges the high-pitched melodies of the violin with the low-pitched cello in symphonic and chamber music. That’s why it’s commonly used to fill harmonies.
While there are some solo viola compositions from the baroque and classical periods, current composers are more likely to use the instrument. It is also used in popular music by bands such as The Velvet Underground.
The cello is the larger of the two instruments and the most expensive. On the other hand, many students adore the sound of the cello and are ready to forego comfort and practicality in exchange for its musical characteristics. Keep the following points in mind if you’re thinking of learning to play the cello and taking cello lessons.
The cello has several benefits over the violin, including:
While the cello’s distinctive tone may lead you to believe that the works you may perform on it are limited, the truth is that you can learn and play a wide range of musical pieces on this instrument. The violin may have more alternatives, but the cello has plenty of them. There are many solo works to play on the cello and several ensemble pieces.
Lower Register – Many musicians prefer the cello to the violin because of its lower register and tonality, whilst others prefer the violin because of its higher register.
Demand for Cello Players in Group Performances: Because fewer students study the cello than the violin, there is a stronger demand for cello players in ensemble performances. Even if the number of cellists required to meet chamber or orchestra criteria is smaller, this is frequently the case.
Although the cello has numerous advantages, there are a few drawbacks to consider, including:
Bulk: The cello’s substantial size is one of its significant drawbacks, making it challenging to handle and travel for many performers. This is usually more of a problem for younger artists, who are often the same size as the case.
Cost – Because of their bigger size, cellos are more expensive than violins, making them less desirable if you’re looking to save money on your instrument.
The violin, like the cello, is a popular instrument among musicians and those seeking string instruction. The violin is a smaller, more portable instrument than the cello, and it is far more popular due to its versatility and higher register. The following are some of the violin’s distinct benefits and drawbacks:
The following are some of the advantages of playing the violin rather than the cello:
Violins are significantly smaller than cellos, making them easier to transport, especially younger musicians.
Violins are also less expensive than cellos, in addition to being smaller. The violin is generally more enticing if you don’t want to spend much money on an instrument, especially starting as a musician.
Repertoire: While the cello has an extensive repertoire, violins have an even larger one, with many ensembles and solo violin works. These instruments have been around for 400 years; thus, there are works from four centuries to discover.
Opportunities: If you want to play the violin in an orchestra, you’ll probably find many openings because violinists are among the most numerous.
Although the violin has numerous advantages, one potential challenge you may face is competition. Violins are more popular among musicians than the cello, making it more challenging to advance in ensembles.
You should have no trouble landing a position in a second violin section, but be prepared for the higher overall competition, making it more difficult to advance.
Viola Vs Violin Vs Cello: Full Comparison
Violins are slightly smaller than violas. A full-size violin is around 36 cm (14 inches) in length, whereas a full-size viola is approximately 40 cm (about 16 inches). Even though the size may vary, it is no less than 38cm in length. As a result, it is still larger than a violin. The instrument’s body is also wider and more profound.
Even though it is not the largest of the family, the cello is substantially larger than the violin. A full-size violin, often known as a 4/4 violin, is roughly 40 cm (16 inches) long. A full-size cello measures roughly 120 cm (47.5 inches) in length. That’s three times the height of the cello, making it the bigger of the two instruments by a significant margin.
Because of the size difference, the violin is easier to carry and handle. A cellist must carry a weight of 7 kg (15.4 lbs) or more when including the case, whereas violinists need to carry something somewhat heavier than a handbag.
Of course, smaller versions are available based on one’s growth, but the cello is heavier and takes up more space, making it more difficult to carry around (e.g., on public transport or a bicycle journey).
Because the viola is larger, it has a larger quantity of material in its structure, making it heavier than the violin. Even if the viola’s playing mode is identical to the violin’s, it will take more arm effort to support it. A viola weighs approximately 580 grams, while a violin weighs 460 grams.
Because the range and tone of a violin are similar to those of the human voice, many people may relate to it.
When you go to 7th and 8th position, and potentially even higher when you are more advanced, the violin’s sound is much higher and can get rather noisy.
The cello’s tone is richer and deeper, and the music is written and read in bass clef.
When a cellist progresses to a higher level, however, they can choose to learn three clefs rather than just one to achieve higher notes.
The viola produces a lower and deeper tone due to its bigger size and usage of a lower string. This sound is generally described as softer, rounder, mellow, velvety, and richer for the upper and mid ranges.
The violin has a larger musical repertoire. The violin has always played a prominent role in the works of great composers. The violin plays the melody in an orchestra, whereas the viola usually serves as an accompaniment instrument. It frequently doubles the violin’s melody and imitates the cello’s bass.
The number of violins in an orchestra is higher. Two violin sections will be present, but only one viola section will be present. Note that violins are the only instruments in an orchestra having two divisions; all other instruments have only one.
The bows used on the violin and viola are different. The violin bow is more extended and slimmer than the viola bow, and it weighs roughly 10 grams less. Because the viola’s strings are heavier, this is the case. To generate a clear sound in the lower frequencies, you’ll need a heavier bow.
Cello bows are shorter than Violin bows but have a larger frog.
The contrast in the bow’s frog, which is chunkier and typically curved compared to the straight edge of a violin bow, is hard to see. This has to do with holding the bow in each instrument to achieve the desired sound. These may appear to be little adjustments, but they make a significant difference to an experienced player.
What should I do?
So, which of these two options do you prefer? Well, it all depends on your preferences and what you’re looking for.
Both instruments are difficult to master in terms of difficulty. However, many individuals claim that the cello is easier to master because of the playing and hand position.
The violins’ position under the chin, on the other hand, can make hand positions problematic at first. Finger placement is also more problematic.
The cello is a better choice if you want something that is comparatively easier to master. If you want to learn how to play the violin, read our article about the finest models for beginners.
While there are five-stringed violins and violas, we’ll stick to four-stringed instruments for the time being.
The violin strings are G – D – A – E starting with the lowest. The viola, like the violin, is tuned in fifths, but instead of a high E, it has a low C that is one octave below the middle C. Viola strings are also a little thicker than violin strings.
The highest and thinnest string of a cello is A, followed by D, G, and C, which is the lowest sounding and thickest string. The tailpiece at the end of the cello holds the strings in place as they are strung down the length of the instrument, over the fingerboard and bridge.
What clef are they playing?
Another significant distinction between the Violin and the Viola is the clef in which they are played. The viola has a mid-range alto voice and is the only string instrument that uses the Alto Clef for notation. Note C is represented by the middle line of the Clef symbol, which is why it is known as the C Clef, or Alto Clef.
You can determine the other notes up and down the staff once you know where middle C is. The Violin is the highest-pitched stringed instrument in the family, and it is played in the Treble Clef. Violins are noted as the orchestral or ensemble’s “soprano” voice.
Playing Position and Technique
The violin and the cello have similar technical challenges: neither instrument has frets, so you must concentrate on playing in tune. This means that making decent sounds will take some time, and the other challenges I discussed in my piece “Why is playing the violin so difficult?” will apply.
On the other hand, the cello is played standing up and between the knees. The endpin bears the brunt of the weight while the bow is drawn horizontally.
The left hand sits on the cello similarly to the violin, except that the hand on the cello is vertical. On the other hand, cellists frequently place their thumb on the fingerboard while in high places, which never happens when playing the violin.
Finally, some individuals believe that the playing position of the cello is more natural than that of the violin. Learning to play the violin can indeed be difficult at first, and it can take some time to get used to.
When playing the cello, you sit with your legs apart rather than standing with the instrument against your neck, which is unquestionably more comfortable.
Violas are slightly larger than violins and require different techniques, including different fingering. The musician must lean more heavily on the strings because the viola’s strings are heavier, and the bow is heavier.
The violin is several sizes smaller than the cello, so this is a no-brainer. When it comes to transporting the instruments, the violin is more convenient. You may easily travel them on your back and even on public transit.
You can also choose which to learn by following the steps below:
Listen to both instruments’ versions and pick the one whose sound you prefer.
Hold both instruments in your hands and try to figure out which one you like.
Violin or Viola: Which is Easier to Play?
That is dependent on your abilities and what you find more convenient. Violinists frequently seek a job as violists for various reasons, one of which is that viola parts in ensembles are typically easier than violin parts, which typically have the most solos or get to play the melody line.
On the other hand, the viola is equally difficult to learn as any other instrument. While not as extensive as the violin’s, its solo repertoire is maybe just as challenging.
Many violinists believe that playing the viola is easier, so you’ll hear a lot of viola jokes in music circles; however, this is a myth. Every instrument has its own set of challenges, and each one should be valued for the function it plays and what it can provide.
Is It True That Violas Are More Expensive Than Violins?
Within the same quality range, violas are usually more expensive than violins. Because the viola is larger than the violin, it costs a little more, but not by much. Because violas are offered in fewer numbers than violins, a slightly higher price could be due to supply and demand.
Who Should Take Cello Lessons?
Of course, individuals who like lower tones and bass sounds to higher-pitched instruments will enjoy the cello. More importantly, if you prefer less competition, the cello is your instrument. It’s far easier to make a name for yourself as a great cellist than to make a name for yourself as a great violinist.
Nobody can tell you whether you should play the violin, viola, or cello since it is a matter of personal preference. All instruments have their own set of benefits and drawbacks. Of course, no one says you can’t learn both, but Fidlar wouldn’t recommend doing so simultaneously. We hope that this information has sparked some ideas and will assist you in determining whether to learn the violin or the cello, or the viola.