Violin or Viola - least pressure to bow?
Just a quick question I am asking on behalf of an elderly relative who wants to learn some basic scales on a string instrument, etc just casual stuff. She has some tendonitis in her hands, particularly the right hand - not severe but an issue.
Do the violin and viola require the same amount of grip on the bow, and the same pressure applied by the right hand on the strings?
I have read conflicting things on this across various forums and would greatly appreciate some specific, definitive advice from a specialist forum like this.
With kind regards
Viola really depends on a few things, but in general it takes marginally more pressure on the bow. The viola bow is generally a little heavier than the violin bow, so this helps to counter that. The viola speaks a bit slower and takes a bit more to get started than a violin.
Thanks Michael - this is very kind of you to reply so quickly. From what you say I think the violin may be the better choice. I think the important thing here is we're looking for whichever requires the lighter grip with the right hand when bowing, particularly thumb pressure, and the least downward pressure on the strings to make a sound. We had some confusion because we wondered if a lighter bow would demand more pressure to make a sound, but you can see we know zero about this!
That's not untrue Jay, but there are more factors to account for than just the weight.
Thanks for the extra tips, Michael - being more responsive to lighter strokes hits the nail on the head, so I think we have a winner!
I have a few comments on this:
I feel that 15-inch violas should not be looked down upon because some tiny women are forced to use one. I agree that violin is the better choice because viola (especially C string, I think) needs a more intensive bow stroke.
Viola is a bit heavier and requires more stretch of the fingers. The C string, being thicker and heavier, requires a bit more pressure and bow speed, especially in economy instruments.
I have seen some 15-1/4 and 15-1/2 inch violas that sound VERY good, but in general, they are rare. 16" and above is where you find the most good-sounding instruments, and many say that 16-1/2 is the lower limit in size. I personally play on a 16-3/8" viola that sounds good to me.
My thanks to Andrew, Ella, Carmen and Karl as well as Michael for your kind replies. I think looking over these posts the consensus is that the violin is probably the less strenuous on the hands, particularly the right hand. The ensemble point about the viola is very interesting but we're looking at some simple tunes and exercises, maybe some basic music theory just for personal ambition etc. To me, it's looking like the violin might be what we're looking for. And this is a great forum by the way!
A good viola will have a quick response too, in the same way of a violin.
Thank you, Luis. This is good to know, but I think if I consider overall size and weight of both instrument and bow, the violin seems to come out on top. Add to this the fact they are generally a little cheaper, plus cheaper strings, plus more sheet music. In many respects I prefer the tone of the viola, but this is more about practicality I think. If any violists here can make the case that the viola is just as easy on the hands and arms (specifically the bowing hand/thumb) then the debate is thrown open again!
Holding a viola bow is not necessary more work than holding a violin bow, but it's more about how physiaally taxing playing the viola is, generally speaking.
Thanks Ella, and my reading of this thread is that the viola will be harder work. We're looking for whichever of the two instruments' bows will be easier/lighter on the hand when trying to produce a note. This is all about how much pressure must be exerted with the right hand. Whichever allows for the lighter grip and least pressure when producing a decent, even note is what we need :)
Jay, As I said - you can play a violin with a viola bow. actually you can also playa viola with a violin bow - but you have to work harder to do it. The weight of the bow helps with the playing of either instrument. The thinner strings of a violin are more sensitive so for the most vigorous playing that instrument requires less pressure (force). Too much bow force into the strings destroys the sound quality - which is why so many newbies sound so awful - in addition to being out of tune.
My thanks to everyone who has contributed to this thread and offered such wonderful advice. Andrew - your argument seems to be that there is no real difference if the bow hold is correct, which is encouraging, but I think given other factors such as instrument weight & dimensions, fingerboard size and the ubiquity of violins/strings/sheet music we will probably start with violin and see what happens. As I mentioned, this is just a fun hobby and not a serious commitment so there's nothing riding on this decision.
For those who are arthritic, it is generally regarded that the most ergonomic of the stringed instruments is the cello.
Paul - I didn't know it was "generally regarded" thus, but from my experience it is so --but you have to carry the damn thing, not trip on it or drop it, set it up, and not stab yourself. Also from my experience ---none of these are trivial! I've done them all - which is why I use a hard case, not a cello bag.
Playing the cello is ergonomic, more so than violin or viola, but lugging that damn thing is an effort. That's why I don't play cello. I'm sure I would love playing the cello, but transport is a problem. The gamba sounds like the best choice, but finding a gamba and finding instruction is very tough, even more so than viola and the rarest orchestral instruments.
I'd go to a good violin shop that gives good advice and hires out instruments. That should help the decision.
For most amateurs 95% of your playing is in the exact same room of your home. I would think that it would be easier to find someone to help you for five minutes to load your cello into the car, for your lesson or whatever, than to struggle with the dastardly ergonomics of the violin for hours on end.
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