How to Transcribe Violin Sheet Music for the Viola | Violin Lounge TV #227

by | Apr 6, 2016 | Music Theory | 6 comments

This is the episode a lot of violists have been waiting for!

Do you annoy yourself on the fact that so much beautiful music is available for the violin and that you can buy every song in sheet music, but for the viola you can’t find it?

This video explains exactly how you can transcribe violin sheet music for the viola in 4 easy steps.

Step 1: You need to have software in which you can write sheet music. The software I use in the video is PreSonus Notion, what I use in my violin studio. A free alternative would be MuseScore. This same instruction can be followed in several other notation software programs.

Step 2: The violin sheet music must be inside your software. There are ways to import files, but if you are working with a PDF or with a printed paper, you have to write the notes in the software yourself.

Step 3: Change the clef from violin to viola. It’s possible in most software, but it can look a little different. In the video I explain it for Notion. Now you have the same pitches, but in the viola clef. Of course the notes now can be too high to play on your viola. If you can play it like this, you can skip the next step. If the pitch is too high, go to the next step.

Step 4: Transpose the sheet music one fifth down. If you have to play together with people and have to stick to the original key, transpose an octave down if that’s easier to play. If you play solo or it’s ok to change the key, you can go one fifth lower.

Well… not so difficult, is it? When you can do this, you can make the viola repertoire just as vast as the violin repertoire.

Of course you can use this skill to transcribe it from other instruments to other instruments than the violin and the viola.

Now I would like to hear from you! Have you transcribed a piece successfully? Be so kind to post it below and share it with other violists. In this way you can enjoy each other’s work and don’t have to do double work.

Is this video helpful to you? Please let me know in the comments below! If you like it, share it with your friends!



PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!


  1. Thisbe

    If I am studying a new piece I still make a small scheme in the corner of my sheet. It helps a lot in the beginning or during my lessons if I have to change keys all the time.

  2. Thisbe

    Last week I did the old-skool transcription: paper and pencil 🙂 . Due Tramonti by Ludovico Einaudi, for piano and viola. It took me 2 hours and I thought there must be a more simple way. So I will have a look at the software for my next project!

  3. Tia Nevitt

    I’ve been experimenting with a rental viola, and my for-fun or practice music is violin music. For those, I simply pretend I am playing the violin. For example, when playing Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, I am pretending the G, D and A strings are the corresponding D, A and E strings. I am not blessed with perfect pitch, so it is an effortless transition for me.

    When practicing music for our church ensemble, however, I need to keep the original key. Most of our music works well on the viola, since the choral music rarely ventured onto my violin e-string, except descants (which I rarely played). My intent for the switch was to add a low voice to the ensemble, so I am getting pretty good at transposing down by an octave. Where that is not possible, the original pitch usually is.

    The only piece where this has not worked well so far is the aforementioned Jesu, Joy, which, if I ever feel I play it well enough to play in our ensemble, I will have to play on the violin.


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