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Violin or Viola - which would you choose for a 5 year old?

(35 Posts)
EmmyInTheSticks Fri 19-May-17 14:44:25

DD age 5 has a chance to learn Violin or Viola, I haven't got a musical bone in my body and don't really know which I should choose on her behalf.

She have no preference so for those who know a bit about instruments and music is there any reason one would be a better choice?


StrangeAndUnusual Fri 19-May-17 14:45:26

I saw the title and thought it was a baby name thread - I was about to post that Violin is not a name ffs. grin

don't have an opinion on instruments though <slinks away>

PacificDogwod Fri 19-May-17 14:48:19

Violin is more popular so there may be more opportunities but also more competition to play in an orchestra, say, at school.
Viola is the less commonly chosen string instruments for beginners - I love it, I think mainly because its a bit lower in pitch.

Having said that, consider cello which is even lower and does not sound to screechy and like tortured-cat when played by a young beginning virtuouso

Strange grin

treaclesoda Fri 19-May-17 14:51:25

If she enjoys playing one she'd most likely enjoy playing the other. However, violin players are over represented in every situation and if she did keep playing she'd get loads of opportunities as a viola player - many a string quartet idea ends up abandoned when the enthusiastic violin and cello players can't find a viola player smile

Notadacrefan Fri 19-May-17 14:52:43

Think of your ears and go for a brass instrument. Screeching cat is about right.

yellowvan Fri 19-May-17 14:56:47

Once you learn one its easy to swap to the other. DS does his grades on violin and plays viola in local orchestra.

MollyHuaCha Fri 19-May-17 15:20:18

Pros of violin:
- Smaller (makes it easier)
- Lots of choice new and second hand as you move from smaller to larger instruments (my DC progressed through 1/10, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, 7/8 and 4/4.
- There is more sheet music available for child violin players.

Pros of viola:
- will make yr child popular when it comes to playing duets or joining a quartet or orchestra
- beautiful deep sound
- a little bit different, which some children prefer

Yes, it's easy to swap between them and some strings players play both.

WanderingTrolley1 Fri 19-May-17 15:21:59


Wafflenose Fri 19-May-17 15:24:53


NotMrsTumble Fri 19-May-17 15:33:02

Viola. Dd plays violin, ds1 viola. Both musically talented, but I see again and again situations where viola playing ds1 gets the same opportunities as his older violin playing sister (who practices a lot more conscientiously and is 2 abrsm grades above him).
A conductor friend told me that viola was an inspired as they're always in short supply, and their teacher admits that its easier for viola players to get into ensembles as there's less competition.
With this in mind, Dd has taken up viola as her 3rd instrument.
No need to buy violas to start with, just string an appropriately sized violin as a viola. It's only now that ds has hit a teen growth spurt that we've been able to buy a proper viola (and they're still cheaper than cellos or brass instruments!)

HalfCarrot Fri 19-May-17 16:00:25

Mrs tumble do you mean buy viola strings and put them on a tiny violin? And tune them cgda? Does that work?

se22mother Fri 19-May-17 16:12:25

Yes halfcarrot that is correct!

M0stlyBowlingHedgehog Fri 19-May-17 16:31:28

Agree with poster who said let her choose (I have both - like many violinists, I dabble a bit in playing the viola - and DS had a very firm preference for the sound of the "big violin" when he was a toddler).

This is one of my all time favourites (Mozart's Sinfonie Concertante) and would give her the chance to watch and listen to both instruments side-by-side. The solo lines start about 2.50 into the video (if, like most 5 year olds she has a short attention span).

EmmyInTheSticks Fri 19-May-17 20:10:51

Thank you very much for your advice - I really appreciate it. That video is very inspiring MOstly thanks.

We do have the choice of cello too but I have discounted that as a bit cumbersome to carry plus dd is only 105cm tall so may find it hard.

After reading the views I am now leaning towards choosing viola and it's good to know it's quite easy to swap between the two.

confusedaboutthis Fri 19-May-17 20:21:03

Cello is a brilliant instrument. Advantage for young children because it rests on the floor - I think its easier than having to hold up a violin/viola (in my opinion). You can start on a 1/10 scale instrument which should be manageable?

illegitimateMortificadospawn Fri 19-May-17 20:25:38

I learned violin as a kid and gave up - having a crick in my neck all the time was a factor, plus the screeching.

Took up cello as an adult. Way more fun and such a lovely tone.

illegitimateMortificadospawn Fri 19-May-17 20:26:26

You can pick up decent beginner cellos on Gumtree too.

timeforabrewnow Fri 19-May-17 20:30:20

violin - for a 5 year old

viola for when she is older

All the comments on this thread about it being horrible and screechy etc aren't really helpful, just stating the bleedin' obvious.

nigelsbigface Fri 19-May-17 20:32:15

Viola.But it's a different clef i think so not as easy to transfer between instruments if you start with that rather than something else?

NotMrsTumble Fri 19-May-17 22:41:18

Yes, a violin of whatever size would suit your child, with a new lower string and all the others shifted up one. DS got 3 years this way using his big sisters 1/2 & 3/4 sized violins as violas, but is now big enough for a a 16 inch viola (which does, admittedly sound much nicer and produces a better tone, but the violin/viola trick saw him through grades 1-3).
Ds1 is now also learning piano, so uses treble clef there. At grade 4/5 he is now seeing treble clef in his pieces too. I think it was probably an advantage to learn alto clef first, as it's less commonly used. Ultimately if they want to take music to school exam level they'll need a second instrument and a good grounding in music theory anyway, and knowing 2 different clefs will help with the theory.

Fortheloveofscience Fri 19-May-17 22:47:10

Violin - plenty of time to switch to viola when older and violin repertoire is so much larger.

Plus I'd be surprised if very many junior ensembles had violas, to get experience of playing as a section from the start I think violin would be better.

Marv1nGay3 Fri 19-May-17 23:01:52

I would say to start with the violin at 5, and swap to or add viola later.

OlennasWimple Fri 19-May-17 23:03:05

Violin every time - she's too small to play the viola, but playing the violin will give her a feel for holding the instrument, reading music, playing in a group etc etc. TBH, no decent music teacher should be suggesting that a five year old (unless exceptionally large for her age) should be starting the viola.

Fifthtimelucky Sun 21-May-17 17:59:59

Don't discount the cello. Your daughter would make a much better sound early on!

My older daughter plays the violin and viola (added the viola in her early teens). The younger one plays the cello. After a couple of months of lessons she sounded much better than her older sister. She wasn't as good, obviously. But she made a much better sound! The violin is very unforgiving in the early days (especially small sizes).

The cello is a pain to carry about though!

Fifthtimelucky Sun 21-May-17 18:03:12

Forgot to say that the best thing would be for her to listen to all 3 and see what she likes best. Can she try them out before deciding?

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