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History of the Viola

A member of the violin family of instruments, the viola is a larger, deeper sounding cousin to the violin. Originating in northern Italy, this mid-1500s instrument underwent many changes akin to its other string counterparts. As its use spread, Italian luthiers began to construct many different models and sizes that inspired musicians and famous composers alike. To acclimate to changing styles, larger orchestras, and concert hall performances, the viola was modernized during the 1800s, continued to be tweaked even into the early 1900s, and voilĂ ! We now have a splendid mid-range alto instrument that can reach high notes as well as low pitches with a deeper timbre.

Types of Violas

Though at one time there were many variations of violas, today most of them have been destroyed, or phased out of use with the remaining left in the care of museums. The two surviving kinds are the standard viola and the electric viola. Standard models vary in size fitted to one's arm length, wood, shape, fittings (chinrest, tuning pegs, tailpiece, end button, etc.), and finish. Bridges and viola strings vary as well, but can be switched out unlike the main body of the instrument. Each of these features and details contribute to creating the sound and feel of this unique instrument, and finding one of quality that fits your physical reach and musical style is of the upmost importance here at Sam Ash.

Though most musicians stick with the traditional viola, many performers get attached to the electric viola. Available as either a standard viola with pickups added in, or a partially hollow-bodied, battery operated/electrically powered model, the electric viola will project sound even in a heavy metal band, and is lighter in weight and portable for traveling and gigging musicians.

At Sam Ash, we stock Carlo Robelli and Yamaha violas, which are perfect for the beginner or student, and are available in outfits that include items such as a case, bow, and rosin. We also carry NS Design electric violas, which are a great choice for the advanced player or gigging violist.

Satisfy All of Your Viola Needs

Pizzicato is a peach, but you need a viola bow to really make your viola sing, along with rosin so it can grasp each string and make it resonate whether you play legato, staccato, one string, or double-stops. We have plenty of accessories in stock to help you out including shoulder rests, tuners, rosin, finger markers/tape, peg drops/dope, pickups, mutes, and small replacement parts.

No matter the genre you play, you should always upkeep your instrument to preserve its quality and ensure your skills shine through it. Our soft cloths and string instrument care kits will allow you to dust off and polish your instrument, as well as remove rosin build up on the strings and wood, all without damaging the materials.

For the recording violist and studio composer, we have a massive selection of amazing audio and recording equipment from mics and software to audio interfaces, and more.

Pursue Your Musical Path

If you're just starting out, take a look at our selection of beginner viola books. Many of our introductory books include diagrams, pictures, and instructional/play-along CDs to provide examples, demonstrate techniques, and aid you in your learning. Need a new piece for your repertoire? Check out our intermediate and advanced books. In either case, we have many sturdy and collapsible music stands to hold your viola sheet music for both practice and performance needs, as well as stand lights for those dimly lit pit orchestras.

If you're looking for a teacher, be sure to visit one of our Sam Ash Learning Centers, where we have highly-trained, professional music teachers on staff that are ready and eager to teach viola lessons!

If you need help finding just the right gear, give us a call at 1-800-472-6274, where real musicians are standing by with the musical knowledge and expertise to help you satisfy all your musical needs!