Violin or Viola!?!? Advice Needed

March 5, 2006 at 06:37 AM · Hello everyone. I am a sophomore in high school and positive I want to do music in college at the conservatory level. One problem: I love both the violin and the viola and cannot decide which one I want to give up and which one I want to commit to for life. I just played Haydn's C Major violin concerto for a state contest, and am really looking forward to doing a little Mozart and then getting into some of the romantic concertos. This being said, I absolutley fell in love with the viola last summer at Interlochen. I really like the whole harmony aspect of music. The only thing scaring me away from the viola is the repertoire. Do violists get the same juicy romantic literature that violinists get?

If anyone has been in this situation and relates to my dilema, I would deeply appreciate some guidance/advice of any kind.

Thanks a lot!


Replies (8)

March 5, 2006 at 05:38 PM · Hi,

I'm in just about the same delima. I have been playing violin 6 years, piano for 2 years(Extremely good and fast learner), and now I want to play cello. I have a good knowlegde of music from all sides. So far the only conclusion I have come to is keep going with what instrument you have the most exp. for a career, and keep the rest for fun and hobby. Sorry it's not the best answer, but it is a very hard question to answer.

March 5, 2006 at 08:06 PM · I'm an amateur (not a professional musician), an older adult, and a violinist (never played the viola). My impression (which may not be accurate) is that the solo viola literature is not nearly as extensive as the violin, but if you want to be in demand for the rest of your life, and if you're a good musician, the viola is your instrument.

March 5, 2006 at 08:24 PM · "Do violists get the same juicy romantic literature that violinists get?"

Unfortunately, no...but there is an abundance of juicy comtemporary viola concertos (Walton, Bartok, Hindemith Der Schwanendreher (sp)) and many others of lesser known composers.

But back to Romantic repertoire, there are the Brahms Op. 120 Sonatas, Schumann Fairy Tales, stuff by Bruch and Vieuxtemps and many others.

Again not as extensive compared to the violin repertoire, but I hope the repertoire would not be something that will turn you away from an intrument that is obviously superior then that the violin. :)

But don't let matters like the repertoire worry you too much. Decide if it's the sound of the violin or viola that attracts you the most. To me there's something in the viola sound seduces me more.

(And in the big picture, we need more violists.) :)

March 6, 2006 at 08:20 AM · There always a need for good viola players. I occationally pick up the viola, but I would never switch definitively. I feel, however, that with the incredible range of violin litterature, from the extremely virtuoso showpieces to the gorgeous romantic sonatas and concertos, the violinist has a tremendous technical edge when taking over the viola. Obviously, the viola litterature is limited compared to violin litterature, but a lot of it is truly wonderful (Bartók, Walton concertos are among my favorites). Plus, playing the Bach sonatas and partitas for solo violin on a viola is just a whole new experience!

If you really feel like focusing on the viola, then I'd say go for it! If you don't want to give up your violin for good, you could be a full time violin student and play viola in string quartets and orchestras. That's where you'll be using it the most anyway. Like I said, it's my experience that playing the viola as a violinist gives you a considerable technical advantage, but your violin playing definitely also benefits from practicing viola once in a while.

Good luck!

March 6, 2006 at 10:57 AM · Hi

The viola repertoire is less comprehensive than that of the violin, but still too comprehensive to play in a lifetime.

Baroque: Vivaldi, Telemann, Bach (Brandenburg 6);Classic: Stamitz, Hoffmeister, Benda, Dittersdorf, Bruni, Rolla;

Early Romantic: Hummel, Weber, J.Schubert;

Romantic: Beethoven (notturno), Schubert (arpeggione), Brahms, Bruch, Vieuxtemps, Bowen, Forsyth, Berlioz, Bridge, Schumann, Rubinstein, Glazunov;

20th century: Reger, Hindemith, Bartok, Walton, Bloch, Britten, Strawinsky, Martinu, Schnittke, Penderecki, ...

Have a look at

or at

or at

Go for the viola!


March 7, 2006 at 09:10 AM · I wouldn't give up either - do both! As already stated, viola repetoire is limited but still comprehensive and challenging. By keeping up both, you have a wonderful opportunity to develop left hand techniques on the violin that will enable you to play viola that much better. Playing viola will give you a right hand technique that will enhance your violin playing.

Also, as a violist myself, it is always fun and very challenging to take some of the violin pieces and play them on viola to get higher positions practice in a MAJOR way :)

March 7, 2006 at 03:03 PM · Play both. I would major in violin though, and switch in grad school because (sorry violists) you'll learn more left hand technique on the violin and get pushed more by your teachers.

March 8, 2006 at 01:07 AM · I've played both for years, but when I was a regular violinst I could only get a certain way with difficult pieces like the Chromatic Fantasy and Bartok; now I don't have concerts lined up I can be more single-minded about these pieces and I think you need to be to make real progress.

But, as other posters have pointed out, violin study is invaluable - so where is the best point to switch, if you're going to? Primrose was already a virtuoso recording violinist of course when he "burned all bridges".

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