The viola has a very special place in the heart of the family of stringed instruments. Its size and timbre lie partway between the violin and the cello. Many famous composers such as Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven expressed their preference for the rich sound of the viola over the brilliant sound of the violin.
For some other composers, notably Dvorak, Schubert and Mendelssohn, the viola was their instrument of choice when they played chamber music.
The viola is played as a solo instrument, as well as in chamber music and orchestras. In solo playing, the unique rich viola sound can express a rainbow of emotions, from profound warmth to exuberant joy. The viola has a special place in chamber music and orchestras, with its deep sound linking the higher sounds of the violins and the lower sounds of the cello and bass. The viola sounds a fifth lower than its smaller cousin the violin, and an octave higher than its larger cousin the cello. The viola is held on the shoulder and is bowed much like a violin.
Children can begin viola lessons as young as 3 years, on small instruments designed for tiny musicians. Some viola players begin their studies on violin, and change to the viola after experiencing and falling in love with the unique viola sound. Many professional violin players enjoy playing both the viola and the violin.
The Suzuki viola community is widespread, with classes across Europe and North America. We, the violists, are a close family, united by our love of the rich tone of our instrument.