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How Do I Choose the Best Viola Books?

A. Leverkuhn
A. Leverkuhn

Music enthusiasts who want to buy the best viola books should look at the exact content of each offering, and understand how they can best use the content on instrument theory, music background, and more, to their advantage. Choosing good music learning resources will help beginners to master the viola or similar stringed instruments in the violin family. A few basic characteristics will help shoppers identify many of the best books for picking up the viola.

A detailed introduction of the instrument is often a central element of the best viola books. This includes showing the unique tuning of the viola,, and how the fretboard is laid out, as well as any pertinent information on the instrument’s internal design. Many of the best books will have an introduction to bowing, the use of the bow to play the strings of the viola, since this technique will make a difference in the resulting sounds that the beginner makes.

The viola is slightly larger than -- and is tuned at a lower pitch than -- the violin.
The viola is slightly larger than -- and is tuned at a lower pitch than -- the violin.

The best viola books also frequently include a history of the instrument. Shoppers should know whether they want only a practice book, or a more comprehensive resource with the history and background of the viola. Another good element in some of the best books on the viola is how to contrast this instrument to the violin and other similar instruments.

When evaluating which books on the viola are likely to serve the beginning musician best, shoppers can look at the actual practice content in the book. Many top editions will include specific information on chord structures and sequences. A common resource in viola books is the octave scale, where the musician plays through the entire eight tones in an octave, both up and down, in order to see how these basic sequences are placed on the viola. Books may also include simple songs and compositions, where the difficulty of these activities gradually progresses.

In addition to all of the practice content that is in viola books, beginning musicians can also look for references that include more than one format. Some books may include more detailed visuals of the fretboard, the strings, and the bow. Books that include helpful, engaging formats are generally more effective for helping a beginner to learn this instrument. This may include oversized letters and numbers for specific fingering directions, or cutaway pictures of the instrument that show how it is made. Look for visuals and other extras in viola books to choose the best resources for progressive mastery of this complex instrument.

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Discussion Comments


@pleonasm - I'd also try to find the local instrument shop in my area, if possible. If there are any teachers around, they will know about it. They'll also be able to recommend books and so forth.

It's such a specialized kind of place, often I find the instrument store in town is a kind of hub for musicians and a good place to get to know anyway.


@indigomoth - In some cases there simply isn't the option to have an experienced teacher. The viola isn't as common an instrument as the violin, or the piano. Unless you live in a city, or get lucky, there might not be anyone around willing to teach.

And lessons can be very expensive. I agree that they are worthwhile if you can manage to find a teacher. But I think it's definitely possible to teach yourself as well.

I would recommend going onto a music forum and asking around for what people think are the best books to read. If you are going to teach yourself, you might want to read some general musical theory books as well.

And there are probably plenty of videos online where you can see exactly how to hold your hands and so forth.


There might be some fantastic books out there, but I don't think it will ever substitute for a real teacher. Even if you can only get an hour a month and use books the rest of the time, a real viola player will be able to evaluate your technique in a way that a book never could.

At the very least, have a couple of lessons starting out so you can get a handle on the basics. The upside of this is that often the tutor will provide a viola for you to use, so you can get a feel for the instrument.

Often the size of your hands and frame can dictate which instrument you should be using. I originally wanted to learn the violin, but my tutor recommended that I use the viola instead because I had large hands. That's the kind of expertise I doubt I'd be able to find in a book.

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    • The viola is slightly larger than -- and is tuned at a lower pitch than -- the violin.
      By: milkovasa
      The viola is slightly larger than -- and is tuned at a lower pitch than -- the violin.