Anyone start on viola, and then transition to violin?

July 8, 2020, 11:51 AM · I feel like I've only heard about people starting on the violin and then picking up viola after, but not many stories about the reverse. Has anyone heard of this happening?

Replies (8)

July 8, 2020, 12:01 PM · I mean, they're basically the same instrument. A lot of serious violinists I know also own a viola. I personally don't have trouble switching between the two, either.
July 8, 2020, 2:15 PM · I started the viola at 14+yo, partly to replace my disintegrating treble voice, and partly inspired by 78 rpm shellacs of Lionel Tertis and Frederick Riddle. I managed to avoid touching a violin at all until giving lessons a decade later.

Another decade later I auditioned for a viola post in an minor orchestra near Paris: they chose someone else, but rang me up to play in the first violins! I even had to swap my spare viola for a decent violin.

I think I made the mistake of a) holding the viola too high, b) playing with vibrato on all four fingers, and c) playing in tune!
A "failed violist"!

At first I wan't used to all those ledger lines, so I lightly pencilled in the high notes an octave lower (but played them high, of course..)

July 8, 2020, 6:27 PM · I played viola as a teen and then picked up violin when my kids started and both wanted to play violin (to my dismay).
July 8, 2020, 11:50 PM · I started on viola at age 8 and picked up violin as an adult.

I do wish I’d done it the other way around.

I believe that, in general, violin solo repertoire and the first violin orchestral parts offer more opportunities to learn a lot about playing, and in particular the geometry of the fingerboard, than do a lot of the viola solo repertoire commonly taught to students and viola orchestral parts.

July 9, 2020, 2:05 AM · I feel like students these days only play solo repertoire though?
July 9, 2020, 10:26 AM · I have always enjoyed playing, and singing, inner parts: one still hears the "tune" while participating in the harmony.

In fact when my 1st violin leader realised I was not the sulky type, I was transfered to the seconds. Or perhaps I sounded a tad like a violist on my oversized violin...

In retirement I stick to the viola.

July 9, 2020, 11:33 AM · We don't give a 4/4 violin to a very young student, so only start viola after fully grown. Small Violas, less than 15 1/2 inch, sound awful. I suspect that students assigned the viola in school string classes are more likely to just give it up rather than switch to violin. I started Viola in college. and then immediately got promoted to principal viola.
Edited: July 9, 2020, 11:40 AM · @Joel "Small Violas, less than 15 1/2 inch, sound awful."
Mostly, I expect. My teacher's doesn't, and it's 15", but it's a precious 18th century rarity.


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