Viola to Cello transition?
I'm new here! I've been lurking for months, and now I've finally decided to post.
I'm a female adult beginner viola student (28). Started last year having no background knowledge of music. I've always loved string instruments, and last year I finally decided to take up viola.
I'm a beginner (7 months in), so I'm basically just getting to know the instrument and what it entails. But since I started I've been having neck and shoulder pain . I did notice that I was using my chin to grip my viola and lately I've been working on changing that. I also changed my SR and my CR.
I've always had an issue with my neck, and now I'm finding that the viola is worsening it.
As I'm getting to learn what playing the viola is like, I'm seeing all these 'new' things that I wasn't aware of before taking it up. I really don't want this neck pain to become a serious injury in the long run.
My main concern is, have I chosen the wrong instrument for a pre-existing 'neck condition'? As I'm an an adult beginner I know my music days will be "shorter-lived", so I feel I should consider these medical issues, since I would like to play an instrument that allows me to play longer.
Apart from working on my technique and posture, I guess I want to ask you from your own personal experience. Have you tried playing both? Did either of the two cause you more pain or injuries than the other?
Anything you can tell me or advice you have will be more than welcome! Thank you!
There is absolutely no question, I believe, that the viola is the most difficult of the stringed instruments and that the cello is the easiest -- in terms of sheer ergonomics. The cello is a wonderful instrument. Good luck with it! Stop back after you've learned a few pieces so that we can congratulate you on your accomplishment.
One thing that is missing from your post: do you have a teacher? If you do not, getting a teacher might help you learn to play in a way which avoids the problems you are developing. If you have a teacher, as her/him why you are having these problems and what you can do to avoid them. Then, try for a few months and see if things get better. I am a violinist/violist, and the viola is certainly the more taxing of the two. I am not in a position to comment on the cello, so I defer to Andrew on that. Good luck!
Thank you for your replies! I appreciate you taking the time.
Hi Tom! Thanks!
I have to agree that viola is the most taxing orchestral string instrument ergonomics-wise. In your case, the cello may be a better option, but if you really want to keep playing viola, you should try to find one that is relatively small and light. Also, you could try some sort of movement retraining like yoga or Alexander Technique so you can better learn to align yourself.
Viola and Cello are so different, both fingering and bowing, that I would not call it a transition. they are just different. Cello is the best string instrument for late starters, unless you are big and strong enough to try the bass. Viola can be physically hazardous. I recently did something to my left shoulder, did months of physical therapy, and down-sized to a 15 1/2 viola.
My viola suite "professionals in the last few years of their careers"!
And also, according to your post, you say the wolf shoulder rest caused you more pain than the Kun. Maybe you should explore other options.
I have heard that there is something called a vertical viola, that is 20" long and played vertically. Maybe it worth a try as well? Sadly I have never seen one being sold can be tried in the store.
Never abandon the viola! The most noble of the stringed instruments!
Playing the violin is hard with neck problems but playing viola is twise as hard. I would say switch to cello, some necks just cannot tolerate violin or viola.
I agree with Andy Victor about the range of the cello. It has naturally a very wide range -- especially in comparison to the viola -- and when you are learning as a student you will have things put in front of you like etudes by Popper and transcriptions of violin pieces that will have you high in the "nosebleed" section of your fingerboard. And that can be physically taxing too until you develop a callus on the side of your thumb. This actually is one thing that is easier for adults. My daughter struggled with that for a long time because she was ready to play that stuff at a young age but her poor thumb was so tiny that it just hurt to hold down the string. She is a little older now (12) and she got a new cello so it's progressing. But she can still only practice Popper Papillon for 10 minutes at a time.
Things can work in the other direction - from cello as first instrument to violin decades later. I found that facility with the whole length of the cello fingerboard (the Kodaly Sonata op 8 finishes with the 3rd B on the A-string played ff as a fingered note!) transferred to a similar familiarity with the violin fingerboard sooner than I should have expected - I had good teachers on both instruments.
Trevor that's an interesting account for sure, thanks for sharing that. Not sure how many adult beginners are going to wind up playing Kodaly but, of course, one never knows.
I had to put in my two cents, struck like others by the idea of 28 being young! I started violin at 54 or something like that, and switched to viola a few years ago. If your teacher helped you choose the viola, then I assume she chose the correct size. I actually found viola more comfortable than violin (even though I'm small; my viola is 15") because my neck is long. I hope your teacher has been stressing posture and comfort all along. My violin teacher always said that "chin rest" is a misnomer--that it's actually a jaw rest. But health should always be of primary concern. If you switch to cello, best wishes! I've been tempted to at least try it. It has such a beautiful sound and such a huge range. And lots of gorgeous music written for it. A general comment: my viola teacher has been teaching me some cello positions lately because my hands are so small. Playing D-sharp on the G string while keeping my hand in first position was impossible.
With reference to my remark about the Kodaly Op 8 for cello, here is a link to a video of a recital by Janos Starker in Japan in 1988. The Kodaly starts at 30', and is preceded by Bach's 3rd suite for cello and an unaccompanied sonata for cello by Cassado.
Paul, mate, fella, sure Popper wrote some beginner etudes, and music too, but what was all that about "thumb position"?
Carlene Hutchinson built an alto violin, which has been referred to as a vertical viola. Yo Yo Ma has played one in concert. Google "Yo Yo Ma vertical viola" for some articles.
What appears to be the most informative result coming out of a "Yo Yo Ma vertical viola" search is an article by the Baltimore Sun. Unfortunately, Baltimore Sun is, for reasons that are unclear to me, unable to permit people in Europe (as I am) to access their website. I have had this problem a couple of times before with US-based newspapers. Anyone have a solution?
Oh wow-- that's the first time I've heard of a v.commie having such problems. Sorry. Here's a parsimonious but informative link to try:
I did not have any pre-exisitng health condition when I picked up viola 4 years ago... and it made me become aware of all posture issues I had neglected while playing the violin!