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Differences between the viola and violin

A close-up of the bow playing the strings of a viola

The viola is, in one sense, a bigger violin, but it makes a richer sound and is tuned a fifth lower

THE VIOLA is, in one sense, a bigger violin, and in ensembles it plays the alto rather than the soprano part. In fact, if one takes vocal music as a parallel, the viola is more the tenor rather than the alto of an ensemble. In French, it is called alto (German Bratcsche). It makes a richer sound and is tuned a fifth lower than the violin

Open QuoteI love the fact that the sound is lower, I like that voice in the musicClose Quote

Clare Finnimore relishes the mellow sound she finds on the viola, especially on the lowest string, the C string. She loves the part the viola plays in ensembles, which she pictures as a kind of pivot around which the tune and the bass revolve. And she likes the fact that sometimes the viola comes out of the group to play a melody. So, while the violin seems often to play only one role, the viola has several.

Here, Clare explains some of the pieces she particularly enjoys  playing on the viola.

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