Viola Strings

Viola Strings

The viola is a bowed string instrument slightly larger than a violin, renowned for its lower and deeper sound.  Since the 18th century, it has held the position of the middle or alto voice within the violin family, nestled between the violin (tuned a perfect fifth higher) and the cello (tuned an octave lower).  The standard tuning of its strings, from low to high, is typically C3, G3, D4, and A4.

Historically, the viola showed variations in size and nomenclature.  The term "viola" traces its origins to the Italian language, with "viola da braccio" translating to "of the arm." Another Italian term, "brazzo," was adopted by the Germans as "Bratsche." The French also contributed their own terminology, including "cinquiesme" for a small viola, "haute contre" for a large viola, and "taile" for a tenor, with the modern French term "alto" referring to its range.

During the era of five-part harmony, particularly until the eighteenth century, the viola played a significant role, often handling three lines of harmony and occasionally taking the melody.  Notably, viola music employs the alto clef, transitioning to the treble clef for sections in higher registers to enhance readability.

In ensemble settings, the viola often assumes the "inner voices" in string quartets and symphonic compositions, and it is more inclined than the first violin to perform accompaniment parts.  Furthermore, the viola occasionally assumes a prominent, soloistic role in orchestral and chamber music performances.


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