The violin and viola look very similar: they both belong to the string instrument family, and they are both played with a bow under the chin.

That being said, there are a few key differences between the violin and viola that give each instrument its unique voice. Let’s take a look.

1. Size

TDifferences Between the Violin and Violahe most obvious difference between the violin and viola is the size.

The viola is larger than the violin. The violin’s body is usually about 35 centimetres (14 inches) long. The viola, on the other hand, can be as big as 45 centimetres (18 inches) long. In addition, the viola is wider.

Both instruments come in numerous sizes: the viola in four, and the violin in nine. The smallest viola is, in fact, much smaller than a full-sized violin at just 30 centimetres (12 inches) long. These small violas are ideal for beginner students and children.

2. Strings

Although both the violin and viola use just four stings (electric violins and violas sometimes have six strings), the notes of each string differ.

  • The violin strings are G, D, A, and E. E is highest, and G is lowest.
  • The viola strings are C, G, D, and A. A is highest, and C is lowest.

The viola is tuned to be one-fifth lower than the violin. This lower range attracts many musicians to the viola. The thicker strings require a heavier hand, faster bow tempo, and greater bow weight.

3. Clef


Treble Clef (left) and Alto Clef (right)


One of the major differences between the violin and the viola is the clef that each instrument uses.

The violin is played in the Treble Clef. The violin is known as the ‘soprano voice’ and is the highest instrument in the string family.

The viola uses the Alto Clef, or C Clef. One fantastic thing about the viola is that it is the only instrument to use that clef for notation.

Learn More About the Violin or Viola

If you’d like to know more about the violin or viola, check out our Violin Page and Viola Page. There’s some great information about the history and use of each instrument for you to enjoy.

Learn an Instrument

Whether you’d like to learn the violin, viola, or any other instrument, we’d love to take you on board. Playing music is a skill for life that can benefit you in more ways you thought possible. Give us a call on 02 9602 9774 or fill out the form on this page.