Written by The Weekend Vote
Published: June 13, 2014 at 4:52 PM [UTC]
Certainly the violin and viola have a strong relationship to one another, and many (perhaps most?) violists begin their learning on the violin before they switch to viola. Or one learns both instruments for teaching purposes. For many, they fall in love with the lower viola sound (and better job prospects) and never look back. Or, the viola becomes something they just play when needed, but they still primarily play violin. Some musicians play both instruments equally well.
So our question of the week is: Do you play the viola? And if so, is it a primary or secondary instrument?
Is there a support group available????
I do remember as a kid being told that 'a good violist is always in demand', but the problem is that kids everywhere back then were being told that.
I think the reason, in many areas, that there is no shortage of violists is because many violin teachers over the years advised their students to "learn the clef," as if that's really all there is to playing the viola once one knows the violin, and thereby get more freelance gigs. And maybe most audiences these days can't tell the difference between a switch-hitting violinist and a "true" violist, if ever they could. Blame Zuckerman, I guess.
As to the question of whether the viola is just a lower-pitched violin or a different instrument, I lean toward the latter. Yes, there are similarities. But when I first picked up a viola I tried to play it like a violin, and it just didn't sound right. Only when you learn to "think viola" can you bring out its natural, rich sound.
A viola has quite a bit of heft to it, compared to a violin - you have to put more work into it to really make it sound. I've noticed (especially when I first took it up) that my left arm tends to get tired more than with a violin. This probably has something to do with the tennis elbow I've developed in my left arm. Fortunately, there's a newly-developed eccentric exercise that researchers have found to be quite effective at relieving the pain.
I still have a lot of fun playing the violin. But the viola is something special. And if you can play viola you won't have a hard time finding opportunities to play (especially if you can play violin too).
Like my banjo-playing bluegrass buddies, you do have to be ready for all the jokes. I try to beat people to the punch. For example: "Someone tried to tell me violists can't play 32nd notes - so I played one."
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