Shopping For A Viola

Where To Buy a Viola

Violas for beginners can be found at both local or online stores that specialize in Orchestral Strings, and occasionally at larger retail or online stores that carry a broad range of music and electronic gear.

See “Where To Buy Musical Instruments” for general buying advice on:

  • Buying in a Specialty Store vs. “Big Box” Stores
  • Buying Online vs. In-Person
  • Renting vs. Buying
  • Buying Used Instruments

How To Buy a Viola

Viola Sizes

Viola are made in several different sizes to accommodate younger students with smaller fingers. A full-sized viola is 16.5”, while the smallest size normally available is 12”. In between, violas are typically available in 13”, 14”, 15”, 15.5” and 16” sizes. At a local store, the salesperson can help you determine the right size based on your arm length. Online stores often have videos and other help resources via website or phone to help with this as well. The best option for giving advice on which size to choose, though, can be your own teacher if you have one.

Viola Cost

Viola prices vary widely, depending on the quality and age of the wood and the skill of the makers. While a very inexpensive instrument may be a tempting buy, trying to learn on a poor quality instrument can be very frustrating for students. In addition to good workmanship, the quality of the sound, of course, is an important factor. It is also very important to have well-fitting tuning pegs that are easy to turn and then hold the string in tune.

Sample Viola Prices

Beginner Outfit

$150 – 400

Intermediate

$500 – 1,200

Advanced

$1,500+

If you are buying your instrument from a specialty music store, inquire about a trade-in policy. When your student is ready for a larger or higher quality instrument, they will often give you a good portion of the original instrument price back when you trade it in.

Viola Accessories

In addition to the viola itself, a violist will need a good bow and case, as well as a shoulder rest. A tuner and metronome are also recommended, along with a music stand. Also, a violist needs a cake or block of rosin to rub on the hair of their bow to enable it to grip the strings and make sound.

Viola Bows

Bows can range in cost from approximately $25-100 for a beginner bow, to $250 – 700 for an intermediate and $750-2500+ for an advanced player. In addition to traditional wooden ones, bows made from synthetic materials, ranging from fiberglass to carbon-fiber, are now available. These durable synthetic bows are a good alternative for younger players. Choice of bows becomes more important as the student advances and develops techniques that produce different sounds. Bows vary in weight and flexibility, allowing for differences in dynamics and tone. By the intermediate level, most players notice differences in bows and start to develop personal preferences.

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