5 Differences between the Violin and the Viola

by | Jul 9, 2015 | 8 comments

The violin and the viola might look so alike, that you might be wondering what the differences are between the two…

In this episode of Violin Lounge TV I explain 5 differences between the violin and the viola:

#1 The viola sounds lower

It’s tuned a fifth lower than the violin and an octave higher than the cello. The viola is tuned CGDA and the violin is tuned GDAE. The G, D and A strings are the same pitch, but do have a different sound color.

#2 The viola and the viola sound different

A viola sounds warmer and darker, while the violin is more like a bright and clear sounding soprano.

#3 Violists and violinists read in different cleffs

The violin cleff indicates the G and the viola cleff indicates the C. The viola reads seven notes higher.

#4 The role in the orchestra is different

The viola is more like a middle voice and has less solos. This is comparable to the second violin. The first violin has a bit more solos and is the soprano voice.

#5 The playing technique is slightly different

As the viola is bigger and lower instrument, one needs more weight to make a full sound.

Bonus difference #6 The bow is a bit different

The viola bow has a rounded edge on the frog and is a bit heavier. The violin bow has a squared edge on the frog and is a bit lighter.

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  1. Jan

    Hi Zlata
    This video won’t play. I normally don’t have any problem. I am enjoying violin lounge. I am mature beginner at Viola. I would like to look at joining the academy but it says closed on the website. Will it be open for enrollment soon?
    Thank you

    • Violinist Zlata

      Hi Jan,

      Hmm… strange the video doesn’t play. Could you please try again and see that you are not clicking on the banner (above the page), but on the actual embedded video more in the middle of the blog post? Please let me know if it works. If not, please also let me know, so I can solve it for you and other visitors.



  2. Roy Nuff

    What’s the difference between viola GDA and violin GDA? Just the length?

    • Violinist Zlata

      The length, but also the sound color is different.

  3. Roy Nuff

    Understandable. Are viola GDA thicker than violin GDA for the heavier bow?

    • Violinist Zlata

      They are heavier because of the string length and therefore the bow is heavier.

  4. Madi

    Hi Zlata.

    I am the owner of Dots Music Shop in Camden, London, and I’d like to post your five differences between Violins and Violas on our website: dotsmusiccamden.co.uk.

    I am happy to cite your name and reference this page.

    Thank you. Madi @ Dots

    • Violinist Zlata

      You are most welcome to share my posts and videos as long as you mention my website with a clickable link. Thanks!


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