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Guide to the Best Violas of 2019

Kayla Carstens

The viola is the lesser known sibling of the violin and cello. The viola is slightly larger than the violin and plays at a lower pitch. Mostly playing in classical music, orchestras and so on, the viola can be just as versatile as the cello or violin. The viola has been around since the beginning of the baroque era and has been used in many genres such as baroque music, Romantic Era music, classical music, opera, pop, rock, and so many others. The viola is the perfect instrument for those who admire classical string instruments but wishes for something less common than the violin or the cello.  


We’ve composed this buyer’s guide to help you make the right decision when selecting a viola. It'll help you:

  • Choose the right type of viola,

  • See useful tips about that type of viola,

  • Select the right brand of viola,

  • Find accessories you may need for your viola.

Types of Violas

Types of Violas:

  • It is important to remember that violas can differentiate by different levels of the players training and by size.

  • Player Level:

    • Beginner or Student Violas:

      • Student violas are the cheapest type of violas and are made of more affordable wood and plastic parts such as tuning pegs and chin rest.

    • Intermediate Violas:

      • Intermediate violas are the middle point between beginner and professional violas. They are better quality than beginner violas but do not cost thousands of dollars like professionals.


    • Professional Violas:

      • Professional violas are handcrafted by professional luthiers and made from cold grown and slow dried wood. Not only that but professional violas are made with ebony fingerboards and a wooden tailpiece.

  • Viola Sizes:

    • 16.5”

      • This size of a viola is recommended for adults that have long arms or large hands.

    • 16”

      • This size of the viola is suggested for adults of average size.

    • 15.5”

      • The 15.5” viola is recommended for children from thirteen years old and up, as well as for small adults.


    • 15”

      • The 15” viola is suggested for children from the ages of eleven to twelve.

    • 14”

      • This size of the viola is recommended for children from the ages of nine to eleven.

    • 12”-13”

      • The 12”-13” viola is suggested for children from the ages of six to nine.

  • Electric Violas:

    • You can also purchase an electric viola which is the same as an acoustic viola but has technology within it that allows for amplification of the sound.

    • Some electric violas have a different sound for those musicians who want a change.

    • Electric violas can come in many shapes and sizes and some even allow for the instrumentalist to plug in headphones and practice silently.

What reviewers say

Items that Can be Used with Your Viola:

  • Viola Case:

    • This is a specially designed case to store your viola in and transport it and any accessories safely.

  • Viola Bag:

    • This is a specially designed bag to store your viola in and transport it that is not as heavy as a viola case but it is softer and can’t prevent damage from rough handling.

  • Viola Bow:

    • A viola bow is used to play melodies on the viola by dragging it across the strings whilst pressing down on certain notes.


  • Chin Rests:

    • The chin rest is where the instrumentalists rest their chin when playing the viola and holding it in the proper position.

  • Pedals:

    • Pedals are machines that one can plug into an amplifier that the viola is plugged into to add certain effects such as reverb, distortion and many others.


  • Rosin:

    • Rosin comes is blocks and can be rubbed on the strings of the viola or on the bow to increase grip and by doing so increasing vibration and providing a better tone.

  • Shoulder Rests:

    • Shoulder rests are attached to the back of the lower bout and are used to make playing more comfortable as it allows you to rest the viola on your shoulder.

  • Viola Stand:

    • This is a specially designed stand for you to place your viola on when you are not playing or when you don't need to place it in a case.

  • Viola Strings:

    • After a lot of playing, strings tend to break and it is therefore wise to purchase and keep spare strings handy for any emergencies.

  • Viola Tailpieces:

    • Different tailpieces can be purchased for different decorative properties.

  • Viola Tuning Pegs:

    • Viola tuning pegs can be purchased for a different aesthetic or in case one peg breaks.


  • Viola Bridge:

    • Different violin bridges can be bought for different tones and sounds.

  • Viola Polish:

    • This is a special polish for the wood of the viola that strengthens the wood as well as keep is clean and shiny for performances.

  • Polishing Cloth:

    • This is a cloth that you use to keep your viola clean and pristine with no smudges or dust on it.


  • Viola Tuner:

    • This is a small device that you clip to your viola and use to help you tune your strings to the appropriate pitch

  • Viola Mute:

    • The purpose of a viola mute is to dampen the sound of the viola and can be attached to the bridge of the viola.

  • Instrument Cables:

    • This is a cable that you use to connect your viola to your amplifier and get more volume.

  • Amplifier:

    • This is a type of speaker that you plug instruments into amplifying their volume and in some cases change the treble and bass elements of the instrument.

Important Features

Tips for Consumers:

  • What is Stradivarius?

    • Antonio Stradivari was a builder of violins in the 18th century and ensured that all his instruments were of the highest quality by handcrafting them. Today the use of his name refers to instruments of only the highest quality.

  • Parts of the viola:


    • Tailpiece:

      • The tailpiece is a piece of wood that connects the fine tuners and chin rest.

    • Fine Tuners:

      • Fine tuners are small tuning pegs that instrumentalists use to make minute changes to the tuning of their violas that they would not be able to make with the regular tuning pegs.

    • F-Holes:

      • F-holes are the cutouts of the viola in the middle bout that allows for vibrations to travel throughout the body of the instrument and increase the strength of said vibrations.

    • Bridge:

      • The bridge is a small piece of wood that the instrumentalist places under the strings to add further tension to strings and get a better tone.

    • Fingerboard:

      • The fingerboard refers to the places where the instrumentalists would place their fingers on the strings on the neck of the violin to play certain notes and chords.

    • Tuning Pegs:

      • Tuning pegs are used by instrumentalists when they need to make a larger change in the tuning than what can be made with the fine tuners.

    • Scroll:

      • This is the curved top of the viola at the end of the neck of the viola that is mainly there for ornamentation.

    • Neck:

      • The neck of the viola is the long thin piece of wood that connects the body and the scroll.

    • Upper Bout:

      • The upper bout of the viola is the 3rd portion of the body of the viola that connects to the viola's neck.

      • The beginning of the neck is located on the upper bout of the viola.

    • C Bout:

      • The C bout is the slightly thinner part of the viola’s body that is between the upper and lower bout.

      • The bridge is located in the C bout of the viola.

    • Lower Bout:

      • The lower bout is the lowest part of the viola’s body that is connected to the middle bout.

      • The fine tuners and the chin rest are located on the lower bout.

    • Chin Rest:

      • The chin rest is where the instrumentalists rest their chin when playing the viola and holding it in the proper position.

Top-Rated Brands

Different Brands of Violas:

  • Stentor:

    • Stentor was founded and began manufacturing musical instruments in 1895. Stentor believes that every child and adult should have music involved in their life and in their development with the instrument still being of good quality and sound. Stentor headquarters are currently located in Surrey, England.

  • Cremona:

    • Cremona violins are made by a company known as GCV Violins that was founded in 1989 and is internationally recognized as a respected manufacturer of violins of superior quality. They currently offer a wide range of violas from beginner to professional as well as a variety of bows. GCV Violins headquarters can be found in  Guangzhou, China.


  • Cecilio:

    • Cecilio is a manufacturer of a wide array of instruments including the viola and electric viola. Cecilio aims to inspire musical talent through quality and talent. They are currently located in Rancho Cucamonga, California.

  • Stagg:

    • Developed in 1995 in Belgium produces a wide array of instruments from guitars to tubas to drums. They aim to provide people with inspiration for a lifelong journey of music. They currently have headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.


  • NS Design:

    • NS Design was founded in 1990 by famed instrument designer Ned Steinberger. NS Design instruments are designed with a different sound than their acoustic counterparts in mind. NS Design headquarters are currently located in Nobleboro, Maine.

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