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Micah David

Can Violinists improve by practicing on Violas?

August 1, 2010 at 7:50 AM

 As much as I hoped this would be my personal hotspot for writing about music, I don't have time to write in here 24/7... Let alone put down a single entry! So lately, new ideas have been coming to mind, my Violin concerto I wrote got really difficult and so I decided to put it aside for a second and listen to everything else. Lately, I had been hearing an interesting tune in my head that I couldn't quite put my finger on, so I decided to write a collection of themes all in the same key, with middle and lower voice accompnament. 8 hours later (and still needs more work), I finished writing what I call the "David little quartet no. 2 in a minor". As far as I can describe it..It's really intense and dramatic--Most often it reminds me of Mendelsohn(sp?) and Beethoven put together. Personally it does come from the heart though..All of the wild emotions that have been surrounding me lately inspired me to exploit some of my feelings. I guess this is a musicians way of expressing himself. Rather than being all emo and writing pointless poetry, a musician writes his own quartet piece that sounds as intense as the Shostakovich no. 8! (I wish mine was as nearly as good!) Well, I can't think of anything else to say, since I'm brain-dead being awake at 3:43 am... I just hope my violin concerto eventually turns out good! I've been working VERY hard on it, and I was going to ask my Orchestra director if he'd let me play it with my highschool symphony.

Oh by the way, here's a REALLY random question for all of you Violinist/Violists out there who actually read up on this entry (which I doubt anyone will)

Well okay, this is a really random realization... or technically an assumption I made--and I'm wandering if there's anyone out there who can tell me the TRUE answer. 

So, here goes.. I just so happen to own a 16' viola, being a violinist (oh no!), and I practice on it occasionally. I think it's safe to say because of it's relatively larger size than a violin, it takes a lot more effort to produce a lovely, resonating tone. Well after practicing viola for a good hour, I switch back to violin... and---WOAH! All of the sudden everything is way easy! My vibrato feels really easy, smooth, responsive and resonating! I feel like I have full control over my violin--more control than normal--well that's a good thing! So...I conjured that if I always practiced viola for hours on end, I would own at violin just because the instrument requires less energy and it feels... overall... lighter. The best way I can compare it is like saying you'll run faster if you walk around and do everyday activities while wearing leg-weights. The minute you take those babies off, you'll be like a speed demon. So my question is, Does anyone seriously think I can become a MORE well-rounded violinist by practicing on viola?




From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on August 1, 2010 at 3:05 PM


I started as a violinist and picked up the viola as an adult.  I have had a similar experience going back to playing the violin after playing the viola--it feels small, kind of like a toy.  I have ongoing issues with my vibrato--it gets tight and too fast--and I do find that practicing vibrato on the viola does help with it on the violin.  I have to slow it down and even if it is a little tight for viola it sounds pretty good on violin.

I also found that I was more confident playing solo on the viola.  Your mileage may vary on that one.  But for some reason, maybe because I left some baggage behind, I was able to go out and do some busking at a Farmers' Market and play in church on the viola and not be as debilitated by nerves as I had been when I was younger on the violin.  

 Some of the increased comfort and confidence in playing has translated back to the violin, and I'm actually taking a break from the viola now because I have too much to do on the violin.  Switching back and forth between the two instruments on a regular basis is a tough way of life.

From Micah David
Posted on August 2, 2010 at 9:57 AM

 Thanks for the input! And yes, I do agree, I'm only in High school and I'd have to say it IS a tough lifestyle--switching back and forth while simultaneously balancing violin-related etudes, concerti, scales and other repertoire literature.

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