Violin vs Viola – What’s The Difference Between The Two

By Oscarjack 4 Min Read
Young good looking male violinist practicing playing violin at his home.


At first glance, if a violin and viola are placed before you; it’d be easy to confuse both of them. Some people could call the violin, viola and viola, violin. The reason they are both difficult to tell apart is that they are both stringed instruments, both require the use of a bow to play, and they are both played on the shoulder.

If the violin and the viola are so similar, what tells them apart? How can someone differentiate a violin from a viola? In this guide, we’ll be looking at the difference between a violin and a viola.

Are there differences between a violin and a viola?

Yes! There are. If a violin and a viola are placed side by side, the first thing you’ll observe is the size. When compared to a violin, a viola is bigger than the violin; it has an average body that falls in the range of 15.5 to 16.5 for adults, while the violin is between 13 and 14 inches.

The second thing you’ll notice is the discrepancy between each instrument’s bow—precisely, the instrument’s bow frog. However, this is a little harder to spot or notice. The frog is the part player grip on a bow. On the viola, the frog on the bow is chunkier and usually curved while its stringed counterpart’s (the violin) bow has a straight edge.

What comes next is the string. However, the difference in the strings is much harder to notice. The violin’s strings are ordered from lowest to highest. The order starts from G and ends at E (i.e., G, D, A, E); the viola on the other hand begins an interval of a 4th lower down, it starts with a C. Furthermore, due to its size, the strings on the viola are made to be thicker than those on the violins despite being made from the same materials—which is usually a synthetic core wound with metal.

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Due to the differences in the type of strings used in each instrument, the sounds produced from both instruments differ. The sounds produced using a viola can go lower which makes them suitable for playing music or songs in lower registers. This is also the reason why viola players read music in alto clef instead of the traditional treble clef that violinists use and sit at the centre of an orchestra, in between the violins and cellos.

Another difference to look at between the two is the way each instrument speaks. Due to the villa’s thicker strings, they can speak lower than the violin. What does that mean? It means that the sound made from the viola can be more mellow, and takes a little longer to get heard. That’s why it’s common practice for viola players to stay right on top of their conductor’s tempo and also play more pronounced articulation so that they don’t get lost in the texture.


Even though the violin and the viola look alike, they do have their differences. The violin and viola differ in size, how their music is read (i.e., the alto clef and treble clef), the design of the bow frogs, their strings and even their origin.

Despite their differences, they are both great instruments to learn and play. So if you’d love to learn how to play a violin or viola but you don’t know where to start, you can visit for your 小提琴課程.

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