If your young child has expressed an interest in learning a musical instrument, you may decide to start them on a string instrument. String instruments, such as the violin are especially popular for young children because they do not require advanced breath-support that wind instruments require, and they are made in small sizes that can allow even the youngest children to begin learning them. While most parents automatically select the violin as the most popular beginning string instrument, there are several reasons why you should consider the viola as well.
Reading Different Clefs
One of the reasons piano is such a popular instrument for beginners is because it exposes a child to both treble clef and bass clef, expanding their knowledge and understanding of musical notation. For the violin, almost all of the music your child will play will be written in treble clef. However, if your child plays the viola they will usually start by learning alto clef and rapidly progress to reading tenor and treble clef. This is because the viola straddles a slightly lower range than the violin, making various clefs useful for different styles of music.
If you want your child to learn to read music in a variety of clefs, you might encourage them to learn viola as opposed to violin. If you think your child may want to progress to an instrument with a lower range, the viola will give them the opportunity to learn to read various clefs and feel more comfortable with the transition.
Options for Different Sounds
Although both the violin and viola are relatively small string instruments, they have very different sounds. Some children may be irritated by the high sound of a violin. For them, the viola provides a more mellow, lower option. To allow your child to make an informed decision, you should expose them to live solos by both experienced violinists and violists. This will allow them to decide which sound is more appealing to them.
Popularity and Opportunity
Since the violin tends to be more popular than the viola, it is likely that there will be several other children learning violin in your child's orchestra. This may make it more difficult for your child to get solos or progress in ranking. However, violas tend to get the harmony while violins are given the melody more often, so your child may receive more interesting parts if they play violin. Finally, if your child continues to play throughout high school, they may be more likely to get scholarships and recognition by playing a less popular instrument.
You and your child should decide together which instrument is right for them. However, make sure that you provide less-popular options as well as the most traditional options. Contact a local outlet, such as Caldwell Connection, for further assistance.
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