Sunday, May 13, 2007

Buying Guide for Violas

The Viola, along with the rest of the String family, (violins, cellos and basses) is an integral part of the Symphony Orchestra. It has four strings producing tones a fifth lower than the corresponding strings on the violin and is slightly larger.

The instrument is commonly associated with classical music, and is found in orchestras and string quartets.

The viola is particularly child-friendly in that it comes in a variety of sizes. As a student grows, the instrument can be traded for larger sizes

It’s critical that a student has the proper size instrument. A viola that is too large in proportion to the size of the student can create a very uncomfortable situation. In extreme situations, this can lead to tendonitis leaving students discouraged and turned off to the instrument.

A viola with a body length of 15-inches or greater is considered to be “full size”.

Other Necessary and Helpful Items

Strings and rosin are a just a few of the items that are need ed to play, and a shoulder rest makes playing much easier. There are also accessories to properly clean and maintain your violin in good working order.

There are 2 basic areas of the viola:

* Body – The “box” part of the instrument. The top is generally made of a thinly and precisely shaved piece of spruce, the back and sides (ribs) are generally made of maple. The top and back may be made of a single piece of wood or a bookmatched piece.

* Neck Assembly – The structure that attaches to the top end of the viola body. It is generally made of maple. The top-end is called the “peg box” where the strings attach to the tuning pegs. Applied to the top of the neck are the fingerboard (where the left-hand fingers press down to alter the pitch of the strings) and the nut (a small piece of wood that supports and separates the strings just as they pass into the “peg box’).

Parts of the Viola

* Bridge - a specially shaped and fitted piece of hard maple that sits between the strings and body of the instrument and transmits the majority of the string vibrations to the body.

* Soundpost – a small cylindrical piece of wood that is fitted and wedged inside the instrument between the back and the face. Its placement has a great effect of the sound.

* F-Hole – Two holes precisely cut in the top of a stringed instrument to permit the sound to be projected from the interior.

* Button – a small round piece of wood fitted by pressure into a hole in the bottom ribs of a stringed instrument. It serves as the anchoring point for the string adjuster (tailgut), which is attached to the tailpiece.

* Tailpiece – a long, tapered piece of material suspended above the top of the instrument by the ends of the strings at the bridge end, and the “tailgut” at the “button” end.

* Tailgut – the long strand of material that attaches through two holes in the bottom end of the tailpiece and then passes over the bottom edge of the instrument, looping around the button as its other anchoring point.

* String Adjuster (optional) – a small mechanical device attached to the tailpiece of a stringed instrument to make fine adjustments in string tension.

String Selection

The single most influential factor (after playing skill) of sound quality produced by a stringed instrument is the choice of strings. There is no “correct” type of string for all players under all circumstances. Each type of string has its own qualities that make it more appropriate for different situations (i.e. solo vs. orchestral performance; country vs. classical performance). Other factors such as cost, the player’s individual preferences and the way a particular string sounds on an individual instrument also come into play.

Buy Violas