Viola Size Problem

May 13, 2004 at 06:21 PM · ok i was going to order this viola off but they were all sold out. im wondering if I should just go with a 16 instead of 16 1/2, and ive never played either one before. If I were to learn on a 16 would it be real hard to move up to a 16 1/2? Is a half inch that big a deal?

Replies (12)

May 13, 2004 at 08:35 PM · Depends on how big you are.

There's really no shame in using a 16 inch viola. My 16 1/8th is great. It's how big a sound you can get out of the smaller instrument. I know someone who has a 15 3/4 inch viola because she really can't play anything bigger and she gets the most amazing tone out of it.

So I'd just stick with the 16 inch unless you start really feeling cramped. Then be prepared to just stretch your hand some more.

May 13, 2004 at 10:39 PM · I rented a 16 1/2 inch viola once for 3 months. It's a monster, I could not play it that well, my hands are not that large. My own viola is 15 1/2.

May 13, 2004 at 10:56 PM · My viola is also a 15.5". A half inch is not that enormous of a difference, only slightly noticeable. Take the plunge if you want, but it won't make a huge difference in sound.

May 14, 2004 at 04:26 AM · I thought 16s were the biggest violas

May 14, 2004 at 05:13 AM · I thought 16.5 was the standard size, thats what I was told.

May 14, 2004 at 09:29 AM · Violas often used to be 17 to 18 inches (i.e. the Baroque era).

There's no real "standard size."

Just use whatever you can use without hurting yourself.

May 15, 2004 at 03:10 PM · My new one is 16"...I haven't had any problems adjusting to it as far as fingering goes (I'm 5'6").

But it does hurt my collarbone! I'm trying different padding now...

May 15, 2004 at 03:53 PM · Do they have like 5/4s violins?

May 15, 2004 at 10:05 PM · Greetings,

VA you would be surprised. Strad experiemnted with a "Long pattern" and Irecenlyplayed ona LLupot that was modelled on this. It felt unusually large and awkward. I could adjust failry easily asI have big hands but I don"t want the extra effort. Then soemtimes, when I play ona smaller than average instruemnt it realy does feel easy. Interestingly, some slightly smaller instruments can be extremely powerful.



May 16, 2004 at 03:52 PM · Hi,

The length should not make too much difference. However, what you should look at and try out are the proportions of the bigger instrument, such as the thickness of the neck, the angle of the fingerboard and the spacings between the strings. In relation to the last two points the height of the bridge may also be a factor.

I can play a 14 1/2" and 16 5/8th" with equal

comfort. However, I was given a 16" to try and I felt it to be totally unplayable- a bit like hulking a hippopotamus around.

Best wishes,


May 16, 2004 at 06:06 PM · I recently switched from a 16 inch viola to a 16 1/2 inch viola a year ago, And I have to say that it really didn't effect me that much. However I think you should check and see how a 16 1/2 will feel before you by. My teacher allowed me to borrow his viola, a Pogi from Italy, for about six months. It helped me to reallize what sized instruments I was capable of.

Also, if you are looking for a decent viola, you should look into some of the modern makers, because they tend to be a bit more creative with shapes of their instrument's bodies, making cutaway violas that help shifting on the very large violas. I have a viola made by Alan and Sarah Balmforth from Washington State, and I have to say it is an amazing instrument. It has a slight cutaway, on both sides, and it makes shifting up the larger instrument quite easy. If I were you I would look into getting an instrument like this. It allows for you to shift with ease on some of those larger instruments (I know a man who played on an 18 inch viola, and it is quite easy for him with a cutaway...but that's a bit much for most of us;):)

May 16, 2004 at 08:25 PM · Last year, I was bored in orchestra so I took up viola. I am a violinist and I played on a 3/4 size violin at the time, so I had a small viola. It was really hard for me to play on, so halfway through the year, I got a half inch smaller viola, and it made a huge difference. I was so much more comfortable and it improved my playing by a huge amount. I would say just make sure to try playing on the 16.5 inch viola and see how comfortable you feel.

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