The viola is a unique and exciting instrument to learn, as it is one of the few instruments that uses the alto clef. Sitting between the violin and cello, the viola’s sound is rich and mellow, and encompasses both sweet, high registers, and deep, sonorous registers.
Although the viola and violin appear similar, in classical music they are both allocated very different roles. The violist most often plays the harmony, and any assigned melody is played in unison with other string instruments.
Learning to play classical viola differs from classical violin. Short plucking playing styles are not often played on viola, as violas have much heavier, less responsive strings. The viola is an indispensible part of any classical orchestra and string ensemble, and learning classical techniques will pave the way for successful viola playing.
Unlike the violin, the viola is less present in Western European folk music. However, both traditional and contemporary folk groups from Romania, Hungary, and Transylvania often use viola in their music. The instrument plays chords rhythmically, or polka style is played. The instrument is also tuned an octave lower than usual, which accentuates its incredibly rich tenor.
During the 20th Century, the viola became a more popular instrument, and modern uses of the viola are incredibly varied. Contemporary avant-garde pop and rock bands have experimented with viola with great success. The use of electric viola adds an evocative, eerie and wholly unique sound to many popular modern songs. Mastering this instrument opens doors to stimulating creative expression and musical experimentation.
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