Viola Information

The viola is a bowed string instrument. It is the middle voice of the violin family, between the violin and the cello.

The casual observer may mistake the viola for the violin because of their similarity in size, closeness in pitch range , and nearly identical playing position. However, the viola's timbre sets it apart: its rich, dark-toned sonority is more full-bodied than the violin's. As its mellow voice is frequently used for playing inner harmonies, the viola does not enjoy the wide solo repertoire or fame of the violin.

The viola is similar in material and construction to the violin but is larger in size and more variable in its proportions. A "full-size" viola's body is between one and four inches longer than the body of a full-size violin , with an average length of about 16 inches . Small violas made for children typically start at 12 inches , which is equivalent to a half-size violin. Often, a fractional-sized violin will be strung with the strings of a viola for those children who need even smaller sizes. Unlike the violin, the viola does not have a standard full size. The body of a viola would need to measure about 21 inches long to match the acoustics of a violin, making it impractical to play in the same manner as the violin. For centuries, viola makers have experimented with the size and shape of the viola, often compensating by tweaking the proportions or shape of the instrument in order to make an instrument with a shorter scale length and lighter weight, but which still has a large enough sound box to create an unmistakable "viola sound."

Wikipedia, Viola, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viola (as of Apr 7, 2010)

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