The viola is a stringed musical instrument and belongs to the violin family tenor, that is, the cello and violin. However, unlike the violin, the viola produces a sound that is lower than that of the violin but higher than the cello.
Furthermore, this instrument has four strings usually tuned as c-g-d’-a, with A being the highest string. Often, the viola is played by placing the bow in your right hand.
Whereas most people tend to confuse violin bows and viola bows because of their comparable built proportions, the viola bow length is 14.5 to 17 inches, thus making it longer than the violin by two inches. Moreover, the viola bow case is bulkier, darker, and warmer in comparison to that of the violin.
Six to ten violas are included in a majority of the contemporary symphony orchestra. Likewise, this instrument is an essential member of the broader music chamber groups as well as of the string quartet.
Different Viola & Viola bow Brands
If you are an amateur, the Cecilio is the best viola bow for your as it offers you excellent quality at an adorable price in comparison to some of the other big viola brands with its pricing lower than $200.
Moreover, all the instruments in a Cecilio are hand-made, and this is sufficient proof that you are receiving a quality instrument. Consequently, this has made this instrument very popular, especially among students learning how to play the viola bow across the globe.
Cecilio violas usually are constructed from hand-carved solid tonewoods which have inlaid purfling, spruce tops as well as flamed maple back and sides. Additionally, the chin rests, a feature customarily found only on high-end viola models are made of boxwood.
Having maple rather than ebony fingerboards is the primary drawback of Cecilio violas. It is because, unlike maple, ebony fingerboards are tougher because ebony is a hardwood, thereby meaning that it can resist the constant pressure of being tapped by the fingers. Subsequently, due to this, you will be expected to repair your Cecilio viola more frequently.
Additionally, many of the Cecilio outfits have a quality boxwood peg, brazilwood bow, and tailpiece that has four fine tuners as well as chinrest.
Therefore, if you are a beginner and are looking for a viola, the Cecilio viola trademark is the best viola bow for your needs.
Whereas this viola brand is of lower quality in comparison to the other brands, it does deliver by being very affordable. Usually, most of the violas they make are priced at slightly over $100 hence making this brand great if you are a beginner and not entirely sure that you carry on playing after your first year.
Likewise, despite these violas not garnering high resale value, they without a doubt meet all your needs as a beginner on a budget.
The fingerboards on Merano violas usually are made from hardwood and not ebony just like Cecilio. Therefore, this means that you often will need to repair the fingerboards or upgrade to a more advanced model.
However, Merano violas are an excellent choice if currently, you cannot afford to buy a high-quality model.
Finally, after purchase, the outfits you get include an additional bridge, an extra set of strings, a case, rosin, a music stand, shoulder rest, and an electronic tuner.
The Stentor brand has gained a reputation as one of the viola brands with outstanding quality while still being very cost-effective. This instrument is often used by guardians to teach their children to play a transitional level viola.
The manufacture of these instruments is done in a Chinese workshop, but before it is supplied to either the store or your home, it passes through the United Kingdom office to be inspected for quality.
Furthermore, Stentor boasts a wide range of violas available for purchase, ranging from intermediate to total beginners. Therefore, Stentor most likely has a viola that suits your wishes.
The Stentor viola bows are made from robust tonewoods and feature a spruce best, pegs, an ebony fingerboard as well as fittings with maple back and sides. Additionally, the Stentor viola bows include trimmed purfling to prevent the splitting of the softer spruce wood.
The Stentor violas cost about $200 and come with rosin, horsehair, and wood bow, usually brazilwood plus a cushioned rectangle case.
Cremona violas are ideal for beginners and offer you excellent quality while still being cost-friendly. Select tonewoods are used in making these violas, including spruce, hand-carved maple, and ebony.
Moreover, these violas with slight improvements become much better, but still, stand up fine on their own.
Cremona violas feature. Prelude strings out-of-the-box, an acceptable trait, nevertheless, replacing this with a better-quality viola string brand accounts for a big difference.
Typically, all Cremona violas are made at the Cremona workshop based in the State of California and are to meet the set MENC standards, that is, the National Standards for Music Education as recommended in 1994 by the Music Educators National Conference.
The importance of the MENC standard is to guarantee that the violas are functional upon arrival plus can be integrated with ease into any kid school ensemble or orchestra. Thus, it is no surprise that both teachers and students have a preference for Cremona violas over other student viola brands.
Each outfit includes Prelude strings by DÁddario, the famous TL-33 case, a J. LaSalle Brazilwood bow of excellent quality, and A. Breton VP-61 alloy that has four in-built tuners for a more straightforward tuning, rosin, and a Kaufman chinrest.
Lastly, the price range of Cremona violas ranges between $200 to $700.
If you are an intermediate viola player, you need to check out the violas from DZ Strad, with customers having nothing but praise for the exceptional sound quality these instruments produce. The Model 400 is especially one model that would appeal to any intermediate viola learner.
The DX Strad workshops are in New York and Minnesota, and all the violas they make are manufactured from Italian tonewoods which for 20 years, have been dried. Consequently, the wood is put inside a drying room, consistent with the traditional European traditions to safeguard that the wood will neither expand nor open, thereby guaranteeing stability.
Typically, upon purchase, DZ Strad violas feature a viola case, two bows, and a viola. These two bows are an SZ Strad Pernambuco Viola Bow and a carbon fiber viola bow, thus giving you the option to play with two different bows. High-quality violas from DZ Strad that offer you exceptional value cost between $1000 and $1500.
Violas from Primavera are an inexpensive viola brand for an intermediate player. Additionally, costing between $250 to $350, this viola brand is marginally more expensive in comparison to most amateur brands.
However, Primavera violas usually are manufactured out of high-quality solid tonewoods such as spruce with inlaid purfling, as well as hand-carved maple. Furthermore, the pegs and fingerboards are created out of fittings, and carved ebony, plus this viola features a “student-proof,” that is, a very robust composite bow that has Mongolian horsehair and ebony frog.
There have been several adjustments made by Primavera aimed at improving the overall musical experience while simultaneously cutting down on cost. For instance, this includes the use of a metal alloy tailpiece that has four fine tuners and not a solid wood tailpiece.
Likewise, they make use of a Styrofoam-shaped case in place of the customary “pillowy” case. Despite this viola bow case being of lower quality, its performance is okay; thus, it will safeguard your viola from both drops and the elements.
The beginner Primavera viola outfits are available in various sizes; thus, you always can find a size that is appropriate either for your kid or yourself. Lastly, many of the Primavera violas arrive with a hardwood bow.
Yamaha is a reputable brand in the musical industry famed for making high-quality instruments that are cost-friendly. Moreover, the quality of both the piano as well as the violin family instruments they make is just topnotch.
Typically, Yamaha violas are considerably costlier in comparison to some of the previously discussed models, costing between $700 to $1400.
The reason for this is that these violas are hand-made in Chinese factories using woods of the highest quality for this particular price range. Subsequently, this makes Yamaha violas one of the best viola brands in the market.
The outfits of Yamaha violas are available in an assortment of sizes, and it includes a Brazilwood bow, a case, as well as rosin. Furthermore, these violas are hand-made out of spruce, maple as well as ebony plus and come fitted with Winter tailpieces incorporating four fine tuners to enable simple tuning.
Finally, integrated into Yamaha violas are top-quality DÁddario Prelude strings which can significantly improve your instrument’s quality by upgrading your strings to either Evah Pirazzis or Dominants.
Whereas Eastman Strings are known to make amateur violas, they also are famed for the development of advanced violas as well as violins which produce remarkable sounds hence why we recommend them for advanced players.
Thus, it is no surprise that Strings Magazine advises advanced players to use the Eastman VA305 due to its tone and playability.
Eastman String’s violas usually are handcrafted from a single piece plus have a flamed maple back that incorporates ebony and boxwood fittings. Additionally, the outings frequently feature a Wittner tailpiece with in-built fine tuners as well as a base Despiau bridge that you can modify after-market.
Its price ranges from $100 to $500 and upon purchasing its outfits on Amazon, you only get the instrument, and without both the viola bow case and bow.
Buying Guide of a Viola Bow and Instrument
The search for an ideal viola can be frustrating primarily because of the numerous brands in the market and all claiming to be the best.
Therefore, the purchasing process can be complicated, and it is for this reason that you need to have a clear understanding of what viola you are going to buy. Nevertheless, to arrive at this decision, there are serval considerations that you have to make, and this includes affordability as well as quality.
So, in this guide, we are going to take you through some of the crucial things you should always consider when looking for the best viola bow.
The Shape of the Viola Bows
Whereas there is a difference between every bow, there exist some attributes of octagonal bows versus round bows which usually are factual. The most significant differences between these two viola bows are;
This instrument tends to produce a sound that is almost ’rounder’ as well as warmer. Likewise, it is softer and more flexible, thereby the sound it produces frequently is more silent and less harsh.
These viola bows tend to be more rigid, subsequently leading to a high end within the sound and more attack. Unlike round bows, they often produce more treble as well as upper mid-range, thereby making them produce rich low ends regularly.
Therefore, because every viola bow is unique, these are some of the starting points which you need to consider hence have a better idea of what you need to listen for when experimenting with different violas.
Weight and Balance of the Viola Bows
The weight and balance of the viola bow are of the vital things you need to take into consideration.
Typically, this varies as it is dependent on your personal preference; for instance, you may be inclined to use a particular bow’s balance and not another’s. Because this is a subjective and personal decision, it is essential that you test out the bows in person before investing to confirm you like their balance.
Some people like using bows which are generally bulkier whereas others prefer using ones that are as lightest possible. Also, other individuals want the bow to be as close as possible to be balanced while others want a tip that carries a bit of weight.
So, it is you to decide which among these factors you like as well as what you can hold comfortably. Having the best possible playability is fundamental if you wish to improve as well as want to play your viola.
Therefore, because the bow is included, ensure that you are comfortable with both the balance and weight.
The material of the Viola and Bow
Both the viola and the bow are made from wood. Usually, Brazilian wood-like Pernambuco is the standard material used in the manufacture of bows and violas.
However, advancements in technology over the few years have led to the increased popularity of other materials like carbon fiber and fiberglass. Both these materials, that is, the synthetic materials and the wood have their advantages and disadvantages, and these innovative synthetic options usually are cheaper by about $100.
Additionally, high-end carbon bows are also available, and they tend to be lighter; thus, it is up to you to decide if this is an ideal pick.
Durability though is an important consideration you need to have in mind when looking for a bow and viola, especially if you are buying one for your kid or if you sometimes are rough.
If this is the case, then you should buy the new synthetic materials as this is more resistant to damage in comparison to wood, with carbon fiber mainly being almost indestructible.
Different Parts of the Viola Bow
This is a viola bow part that is in contact with the string while you are playing the viola. The hair typically is made either from horse hair or synthetic material plus for these strands to produce any sound, they must be well-rosined. If the bow has not been rosined appropriately, it will slip on the string thereby producing a softer and whisper-like tone.
It is the viola bow part which you holed when playing the viola. Furthermore, it is at this point that the bow mechanics happen.
It is the end position of the frog and it loosens as well as tightens the hair. If the screw situated at the frog’s end is unscrewed completely, the frog detaches from the bow and is simple to reattach. However, the tightening of the screw causes the bow’s hair to stretch closer to the bow end, thereby tightening the hair’s tension.
Usually, the bow’s main stick is made of wood, but occasionally you can find one that has a metal core. The stick requires to be both bendy and supple so that it can support the loosening and tightening of the bow hair.
Moreover, for this viola bow part to be excellent requires to be light as well as have a balance point, that is, the point you can balance your bow on a single finger and the distance from the frog is about a quarter of the bow’s length. Thanks to the balance point, you can perform advanced technical movements such as the spiccato thereby making it a vital point.
This is part of the bow that helps you when holding the bow.
Parts Of Viola Bow (Infographic):
Viola Bow Case
Both the viola and the viola bow case are expensive devices, therefore, taking extreme care of both of them is crucial. The viola bow case is especially important because it acts as the storage of your viola bow, thus ensuring your bow is less susceptible to damage hence saving your hard-earned money.
Viola Bow Size Chart
Age of The Player, Length of Player’s Arm, Size of Viola, Length of Bow (Body)
Large Adult, 26 inches and longer, 16 inches 16.5 inches, Viola 16 inches (40.6cm) or 16.5 inches (42cm)
Average Adult, 25 inches (63.5 cm) to 25.25 inches, (64 cm) 15.5 inches Viola 15.5 inches (39.4cm)
13 years and Small Adult, 24.5 inches (62.2 cm), 15 inches Viola, 15 inches (38 cm)
9 to12 years, 23 inches (58cm), 14 inches (4/4 Violin), 14 inches (35.5cm)
7 to 9 years, 21.5 inches (54.6cm) to 22 inches (55.9cm), 13 inches (3/4 Violin), 13 inches (33cm)
6 to 7 years, 20 inches (50.8cm), 12 inches Viola (1/2 Violin), 12 inches (30.5cm)
It is crucial you buy a viola made by a reputable manufacturer as this can consequently impact both quality and sound that the instrument produces.
However, many specialists advise it is even more important to pay close attention to the viola’s country of origin. The reason for doing this is to avoid buying a viola that has been mass-produced, and the nations known for doing this are Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Due to the mass production, the violas tend to produce a horrible tone and are unbalanced plus their manufacturing quality is awful. It is essential that you buy a viola that has been manufactured in Germany, Romania, and the United States, among others to avoid finding yourself with such an instrument.
However, it is recommended you do further research on the country of origin to be sure which option is the best for you.
What Size of Viola to Buy?
Unlike cellos and violins, violas do not arrive in standard sizes, with full-size violas ranging from 15″ to 17″, with 16″ the standard size.
So, to know which size is suitable for you or your kid, you should consult an experienced to offer you advice about which is the best viola bow size either for you or your child. Adults and teenagers typically use violas that range from 15″ to 16.5″ whereas violas that range between 11″ to 14″ are used by the younger kids.
The general sizing guide is that when holding the viola and then placing your chin on its chin rest, you need to be in a position to stretch your left under below the viola.
Subsequently, you should curve your fingertips around the scroll’s end while still maintaining a bend in the left elbow slightly. If you find it challenging to achieve this position comfortably, then the viola size is wrong, and you should test this out until you find an appropriate viola bow size for you.
Where to Buy Your Viola
Buying an extremely costly viola is not necessary because there are lots of other top-quality instruments in the market that are priced relatively and still are very satisfying.
However, it is essential that you buy your viola from a trustworthy retailer that permits you to test out their devices and includes a refund policy. If possible, you should ask for recommendable retailers from your teacher.
After deciding on which viola to purchase, it is recommendable that you also get a robust case to protect your investment from easily getting damaged.
Furthermore, you need to buy some necessary accessories such as cleaning clothes, strings, as well as a bow. Other outfits include bows and strings, whereas others include cleaning clothes, pitch pipes, and viola bow cases.
Using a high-quality bow can bring about a significant difference to the instrument’s timbre as well as sound quality. So, if you presently are on a limited budget, you should save slightly on the device and put additional investment on the bow.
Therefore, if you are buying a package, it is critical you upgrade the bow and utilize the low-end bow as a spare.
Look to The Future
Before buying a viola bow, you need to examine the reason you are buying it, that is, are you a professional, a serious progressing student, or an avid amateur. It is an essential consideration because the price points of these categories are very different.
If you are an amateur, you can buy an instrument in any of the price ranges, though buying one in the advanced category would be more fun. However, if you are a dedicated student or a young professional, you should invest in a viola bow that offers you an impressive performance.
Therefore, when looking for the best viola bow as well as the instrument itself, your preference matters most as you need a bow which makes you feel good, sound good plus is priced reasonably. Moreover, you need to ensure that the viola bow length and viola bow size give you a great feel.