Info on a Viola "Bucharest Instruments"
My 10 year old boy is using Suzuki 4/4 violin with viola strings. He is now moving onto book 3, and wanted to buy him an actual viola. I came across a 14" viola labeled "Bucharest Instruments", "Made in Romania", "3105F", and "No. 3187". It comes complete with hard case and a bow. He tried it out, and it sounded comparable to his Suzuki.
I've googled and similar names came up, but nothing matched. Has anyone heard of it and have any info?
I have never heard of this viola brand. I believe the sound quality and playability matters more than the brand. Is his teacher able to help with the search? I would look into 14" violas at nearby music stores. If you can't find one that is better than his restrung violin, I suggest getting a better-quality violin and putting viola strings on it. The quality of the violin matters. Having a real viola is nice, but it may be best to wait until he can use a 15" or bigger. Even then, 15" violas in the cheaper price ranges have a tendency to sound like restrung violins anyway, so maybe you might want to wait until he can use a 15.5"? Good 15" violas are available, but they're sometimes a difficult find in the cheaper price ranges. I wouldn't try to buy him a very expensive instrument until he is ready level-wise, has grown quite tall, or both.
If it sounds just like your Suzuki, and is the same size, there's no reason to buy it, it has to sound better, or be larger if he is ready for that.
My opinion is that students should play violin until they are big enough to handle a 15 1/2 Viola. Small Violas sound lousy. The 14 inch Viola is the transition instrument, to learn the clef. Some students get pushed into the viola section of student string orchestras because the arrangers don't write adequate 3rd violin parts.
Small violas definitely don't sound the greatest, but I think the defects are essentially the same as that of small violins and cellos. Also, the quality of the viola matters as well. I used to have a 4/4 violin restrung that sounded quite good. When I got it, I was shocked at how nice it sounded. Of course it didn't sound as deep as a full-sized viola, but its rich and juicy sound was worth it. That particular violin is a fairly expensive student model, however.
Thanks for all the great advice. He will stick with the Suzuki until he grow out of it.
Small fractional violas have a thicker body than a violin. This is the main distinguishing factor. However, the true sound quality and response depends more on the quality of the instrument itself than its dimensions.