The Violin and the Viola are both members of the string instrument family, they look quite similar and are both held under the chin and played with bows.
While the two instruments look alike and in fact are close cousins, there are quite a few differences that make them stand out from each other with equally strong and unique voices.
So let's check them out!
1. Distinguish by the frame size. Is it big or small? The violin generally has a smallerframe than the viola.
2. Observe and weigh the bow. The bow is the long wooden stick that is used to play an instrument. If the end which you hold the bow (the frog) is a straight 90 degree angle it is a violin bow, whereas the viola bow is a 90 degree angle with a curved corner. Moreover, the viola usually has a heavier bow.
3. Listen to the pitch. Is it lower or higher? The violin has a higher e-string while the viola has a lower c-string.
4. Notice the strings. The violin string order from lowest to highest is: G, D, A, E. Violas do not have an E string, but an additional lower note, making their string order from lowest to highest: C, G, D, A.
5. Pay attention to their pitching. Violins generally play higher pitched parts of the music while Violas play lower pitched parts. However both instruments use much of the same techniques in playing and require the same level of training and dedication to master.
6. Know by inquiry.
· If it is a solo, check the printed program to identify the instrument being played.
· If it is an orchestra, the strings nearer to you (the audience) on the left are the violins. The first instruments to the left of the conductor are the "first" violins. The next section is the "second violins". The next section usually contains the violas, but occasionally the violas might be placed directly opposite of the first violins.
7. If you can, check the musical clefs. Violins read treble clef while violas read mainly alto clef (and occasionally treble clef).