introverts and the viola

August 11, 2013 at 05:37 PM · is the viola the instrument of choice?

Replies (18)

August 11, 2013 at 07:21 PM · Of course hands down YES! I've played both violin and viola so I'm not too biased but viola is just better. You have to work just the smallest amount harder (in my opinion) for viola to sound as good a violin. Plus the viola can achieve a richness that a violin simply cant have because of physics!....Viola rules :D

Edit: most violists I know are not introverts...some are far FAR from it.

August 11, 2013 at 08:14 PM · If my viola teacher had had no room for me, I would have chosen the 'cello! But I have played and taught far more violin..

I was "seduced" by the Sammons-Tertis 78rpm discs of the Mozart Concertante. I now explain that the viola is like a violin, but more beautiful..

I really enjoy the viola's role in chamber music: an individual voice in a team of soloists. And in orchestras, I enjoy hearing everything happening all around me (unless I am just in front of the timpani, the trombones , or the piccolo!)

Introvert? Yes, but not self-effacing!

August 12, 2013 at 04:47 AM · Introversion has nothing to do with viola unless it inhibits you from performing. If you do it just for yourself and never perform that's obviously different.

You can indeed be introverted! But onstage introversion fails the music. Let performing be your outlet, and practicing be your refuge if you are an introvert. . But being introverted onstage cannot happen.

Dont be timid, you are 25% of a string quartet!!! No one wants to hear 3/4 of the harmonies in Beethoven quartets!

Music is so emotionally charged. On stage one must wear their heart on their sleeve, and do everything at 600%. Even quiet stuff. The whole range has to be exaggerated to be perceptible! The softer softs draws an audience in!

Similar to broadway actors. They look ridiculous 2 feet away and might seem melodramatic, but by the second row it seems natural.

And the viola is no exception! Why play dramatic music introvertedly if you can help it? Instead be yourself, but try just in this one area to enote in a deep and profound way that words cannot- the most extroverted people should be jealous!

Introverted yes, timid and never the star, no. If anything compensate for the unique nature of our instrents and the fact that everything has to be exaggerated to be noticed by the audience. You aren't playing for you, it should be made perfect for the person in the last row of the hall.

Introversion is fine if you can be naked onstage so to speak. Never conservative or giving too little. It should be s taxing as 1st violin, soloist, anything.

August 13, 2013 at 09:11 PM · i started off on mandolin and gradually came to the violin. the mandola never appealed to me but - imagine my surprise and delight - the viola touches me in ways that none of the others have.

i have played viola in public, informally - medieval and renaissance dance tunes, mostly - but what prompted me to ask about the possible appeal of the viola to the introverted is its slightly reserved, understated tone ... its "low spark."

mine is a nameless, chinese-made instrument without shoulders - cost me a little over €350. i love its smooth, figure-8 shape.

August 14, 2013 at 01:37 AM · Glad you enjoy it! Welcome to the wonderful weird world of alto clef

August 14, 2013 at 07:39 AM · another thing i'd like to hear from we few ... we happy few ... is a sound sample of a really bad sounding viola. i'm sure they exist - just haven't come across any on youtube, soundcloud, etc..

scratchy, dull, horrid sounding violins there are aplenty.

August 14, 2013 at 08:18 AM · Haha I bought a cheap viola and carved a random bridge to fit and tried setting the post. It's awful. Why do you wanna hear that?

August 14, 2013 at 09:18 AM · I'm currently at Interlochen adult chamber camp - and this must be where violists go to breed, they are all over the place! I find them as a group (forgive the generalization) they are not really introverted at all - they are often outgoing, but definitely reserved. They have much in common with second violinists - who, not violists, are probably the most introverted set. Surprizingly, some of the first violinists are both reserved and introverted (OK, with a lot of exceptions :) }.

Maybe Interlochen is just where the quiet people go!

With all the violas, for once there is NO difficulty forming a quartet. Wish I could live here...

August 14, 2013 at 08:41 PM · Elise,

"adult" chamber camp ?!

Congregating with viola players?

What are you up to?

August 14, 2013 at 10:21 PM · Rocky:

Jealous? I've never seen so many musicians sporting G strings. [An old canard, for sure, but its less well known that where the G string crosses a bridge its know as the G spot*.]

Also did you ever wonder how the violin strings were named?





Compare that to those for a viola:





No wonder violinists have all the fun...

But sorry, don't rush, its too late - better book your slot now for the 'Interlochen Adult chamber music camp 2014'.

[* least it is from now on ;)

PS Rocky - you should be here, you really would be in your element.

August 15, 2013 at 06:07 AM · "gogo dancers and the erotics" is a great name for a group.

how about:





August 15, 2013 at 08:00 AM · hehe - definitely should have its own topic





August 15, 2013 at 07:27 PM · Charlie



Alto clef

What's the problem getting a quartet together? As long as I'm there, there's a violist around.

I once took my viola to a bluegrass jam, along with my violin (ahem, fiddle). That turned a few heads. Instead of giving them the sound of a lonesome train whistle, I gave them a ferry boat horn.

August 22, 2013 at 01:59 PM · Introversion-extraversion is not the only dimension to consider.

According to Myers-BRiggs, other dimensions are:

Extraversion (E) – (I) Introversion

Sensing (S) – (N) Intuition

Thinking (T) – (F) Feeling

Judging (J) – (P) Perception

Other 3 dimensions can significantly determine one's preferred way of engaging with other people, together with music performance.


August 22, 2013 at 04:45 PM · It's worth pointing out that the terms 'introverted' and 'extroverted' in regards to myers-briggs have a different meaning than in the common speech.

In MBTI it's to do with where one 'gets their energy' from. Events, people, outside activity = Extroversion. Ideas, perception, internal reflection= Introversion. (tragically oversimplified) MBTI 'introverts' are capable of being every bit as outgoing as 'extroverts'.

I'm a violist, I've routinely scored as INFJ, (and not the results of an interwebs test, but the source of routinely inflicted tests that the progeny of clinical psychologists must bear) and I can safely say I have no difficulty being heard in any sense of the word, and no difficulty compelling people to a course of action or interpretation. (for better or worse, I make mistakes too)

MBTI would be interesting to play with in regards to which instrument one chooses, but I have a strong suspicion it wouldn't lead to much. Too many variables. Cum hoc ergo propter hoc,


Any results from a study of that nature would be questionable at best.

However this discussion puts me in mind of an interview/show I saw with Yuri Bashmet a loooooong time ago while I was still in elementary (primary) school on Bravo...back when Bravo's programming wasn't atrocious.

Bashmet talked about the nature of the violin and viola. I think the grievously oversimplified gist was that the violin is dramatic, while the viola is more philosophical.

I know there was more to it, I saw it an embarrassingly long time ago. But the observation has stuck with me. I should really look into whether or not it's still available in some format...I know Schnittke was also a part of the interview and there was also some commentary about economics re; Russia and capitalism v communism, how they had the worst of both, etc. etc. Really interesting stuff.

Anyways, I think that's true, in a sense. Certainly the violin can be thoughtful and profound, as much as the viola can be dramatic and capricious. But I think that playing one or the other can lead to certain characteristics being brought out in a person.

And now I shall join the catty and snide. Because really, what am I, a Saint?


Do you try to lead a section or impose a musical idea, even when you don't have the melodic material?

Are you put out when you have to play syncopations and off beats and feel like the cellist is messing with you by moving the pulse?

When doing intonation work, do you see cellists and violists rolling their eyes at you whist you insist that their 'c' naturals are too low?

When you're confronted with a string of 16ths on the same pitch, do you have a thrombo when you discover that not all of them are of equal length, placed equally, or that you have to adjust the pitch ('cause you have the chordal 7th fa-mi)?

When playing Copland's 13 instrument AS score, do you know the wind parts as well as your own?

If you answered 'yes' or 'huh?' or 'what?' or 'I don't know' to the majority of these, yeah, you're a violinist. Go ye forth and be happy in your life. G-d knows things are a heck of a lot less complicated when it's all about you.

Edit: regarding personality, etc;

I am of the opinion that a compelling musical personality and a degree of 'extroversion' in the common sense is essential to any good musician. In performance, seldom should you ask. You must declare! Or, at the very least, propose a leading question. I think that holds true regardless of the instrument/role/voice you play.

August 22, 2013 at 11:19 PM · wonder if the lower register naturally appeals to some more than others and if so, why ...

August 23, 2013 at 02:01 AM · As someone who used to play the violin I can say that it was the depth and beauty of the lower register on a beauty, very heavy, German viola that pulled me in. After playing viola for almost a year I began to get annoyed with the E string because of its high pitch. That's what drive people to the lower registers; the E string. And sometime a bad experience with violin or maybe a bad violin that was too whiny.


August 24, 2013 at 06:05 PM · Yes, Nairobi, I too believe our musical tastes and choices are partly governed by our ears.

I find that my rock-playing friends detest the high harmonics of an unmuted violin, while I find their amplified bass sounds actually painful! (I have only ever met one electric bassist who lowered his volume so that he could hear me, rather than tell me to fetch a microphone..)

On the violin, I only use the sweeter, wound E-strings (Tonica, or "No.1" or even the dreaded Dominant..) and my violin is on the dark side.

On the viola, I avoid steel-cored A-strings: I want my A to sing, not whine.

To return to the OP, I find that extroverts have no patience with introverts like myself, and are constitutionally incapable of understanding us.

I play music to share its beauty and message with others, not to prove something. Not only does the viola suit my ears, I enjoy the role it plays in ensembles; I am happy to play solo but only if I am convinced by the music.

Most of my students play violin, but I always have my viola with me to demonstrate or accompany.

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