How Do I Choose the Best Viola for Kids?

S. Reynolds

The best viola for kids is one that they can play easily. Since children have smaller arms and hands, the viola you choose should be smaller to fit their proportions. Quality strings are another must-have for violas. Quality instruments are important as well — poorly made violas will not play as well and tend to break more easily, especially if played by inexperienced children. Brand-name musical instruments that have been around for many years are suitable for beginners and children alike. A music dealer can help parents choose the best-sized viola for their children.

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.

Renting a viola for kids is often the first choice for many budding musicians. That way, the child and parent can assess whether the viola is worth buying or if another style should be chosen. Cheaply made violas do not sound as good as quality brand-name instruments, nor do they last as long. Renting a musical instrument is usually done from a music store or an instrument dealer, and the price generally varies by brand and quality.

A viola for kids should fit the child that is playing it. Full-sized violas come in a range of sizes, but most are between 15 and 16 inches (about 38 to 41 cm) long, not including the neck. The younger the child, the smaller the viola. Some of them even come in sizes of 11 inches (about 28 cm) long. Older children and teens should use standard-sized instruments that are between 15 and 16 inches (about 38 to 41 cm).

A child can be sized for a viola. When the child holds it with his left hand under his chin, he should be able to wrap his fingers around the top of the neck strings with a slight curve to his elbow. A professional instrument dealer can help with sizing issues. Some smaller children can even use a violin re-strung as a viola instead of buying a new viola. Violins are smaller and can be adapted to a viola's sound.

Besides the viola for kids, one will also need to purchase a case and a bow. The whole set is called the "viola outfit." Most viola cases are made of hard plastic with soft felt or velveteen material on the inside. The viola bow should match the size of the viola. Viola bows are different from violin bows in that they are heavier, wider, and shorter. An 11-inch (about 28-cm) viola should have a 1/4 sized bow. A 1/2 sized bow is for a 12-inch (about 30.5-cm) viola, and a full-sized bow will fit a 15- to 16-inch (about 38- to 41-cm) viola.

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