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Violin or Viola for adult beginner?

VirginiaTam 29 Jan 13 - 08:32 AM
GUEST,999 29 Jan 13 - 08:40 AM
Will Fly 29 Jan 13 - 08:41 AM
Will Fly 29 Jan 13 - 08:43 AM
GUEST,999 29 Jan 13 - 08:45 AM
Will Fly 29 Jan 13 - 08:45 AM
GUEST,999 29 Jan 13 - 08:56 AM
GUEST,Grishka 29 Jan 13 - 09:13 AM
GUEST,Grishka 29 Jan 13 - 09:28 AM
Bee-dubya-ell 29 Jan 13 - 09:42 AM
GUEST,999 29 Jan 13 - 10:05 AM
cooperman 29 Jan 13 - 10:22 AM
GUEST,FloraG 29 Jan 13 - 10:27 AM
Leadfingers 29 Jan 13 - 11:11 AM
GUEST,FloraG 29 Jan 13 - 12:53 PM
VirginiaTam 29 Jan 13 - 02:57 PM
GUEST,aj 29 Jan 13 - 08:04 PM
Bill D 29 Jan 13 - 08:36 PM
GUEST,windrush 29 Jan 13 - 08:48 PM
Jack Campin 29 Jan 13 - 08:55 PM
Ron Davies 30 Jan 13 - 12:01 PM
Ebbie 30 Jan 13 - 03:09 PM
Ron Davies 30 Jan 13 - 07:51 PM
Ron Davies 30 Jan 13 - 07:58 PM
Ebbie 31 Jan 13 - 02:54 PM
GUEST,Ebor_Fiddler 31 Jan 13 - 03:07 PM
GUEST,leeneia 31 Jan 13 - 03:08 PM
GUEST 31 Jan 13 - 03:31 PM
GUEST,Kim C 31 Jan 13 - 03:32 PM
GUEST,Ebor_Fiddler 31 Jan 13 - 03:45 PM
Ron Davies 31 Jan 13 - 07:14 PM
Bill D 31 Jan 13 - 09:37 PM
Donuel 31 Jan 13 - 09:53 PM
Ron Davies 31 Jan 13 - 11:18 PM
VirginiaTam 01 Feb 13 - 04:16 AM
GUEST,Grishka 01 Feb 13 - 06:44 AM
s&r 01 Feb 13 - 04:00 PM
TheSnail 02 Feb 13 - 07:34 AM
GUEST,Ebor_Fiddler 02 Feb 13 - 06:21 PM
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Subject: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 29 Jan 13 - 08:32 AM

Hello my Mudpeeps.

I am feeling so much better that I am contemplating taking up an instrument I have loved from early high school. Even plan to get proper lessons.

But thought I would pick your brains for experience and advice before I start on this journey.

I will be an utter beginner, even learning to read music. But I find I really like the timbre of viola compared to violin. I want ultimately to be comfortable in tune sessions but wonder if the pitch of viloa is wrong for this. Of course I want to accompany my singing as well which includes, American and British folk, blues, and shanties.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 29 Jan 13 - 08:40 AM

VT, I'm really pleased you're feeling better.

I play neither instrument but know people who play either or both. I'd suggest violin because it is easy to transport. I love the sound of each when well-played, but carting a viola around can be a chore--it's easier with a violin.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: Will Fly
Date: 29 Jan 13 - 08:41 AM

Hi Tam - the viola's a lovely instrument but some of the common session tunes are in a melodic range which doesn't suit the instrument's CGDA tuning. Tenor guitar players (like me) who use viola tuning have a similar problem in sessions and sometimes have to resort to using a capo - which you can't do on a viola.

So - if your heart's desire is sessions - go for the violin. If your heart's desire is just to play lovely tunes on a great instrument - then go for the viola.

Whatever you decide, go for the best possible instrument you can afford and try and buy s/h if you can. Take someone with you who can play reasonably well and listen to the tone they produce. Don't buy blind on eBay or anywhere else.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: Will Fly
Date: 29 Jan 13 - 08:43 AM

Bruce - there's only a marginal difference in sizes between violin and viola - not quite like carting a 'cello or double bass around.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 29 Jan 13 - 08:45 AM

Thanks, Will.

VT, Ignore what I said. I was writing viola and thinking cello.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: Will Fly
Date: 29 Jan 13 - 08:45 AM

Oh - and by the way, VT - you are aware, aren't you, that orchestral players of the viola are subject to the same kind of taunts as banjo players? Must be the tuning that does it... :-)


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 29 Jan 13 - 08:56 AM

What's the difference between a banjo and a viola?

The viola burns longer.
The viola holds more beer.
You can tune the banjo.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 29 Jan 13 - 09:13 AM

Hi, Tam, a great decision to take up an instrument, at any age. If Bruce is correct that your family problems have diminished, I congratulate you as well.

First thing: it is not practical to sing while playing the violin or viola (with the modern technique). Any exceptions are in the category of circus artistry rather than music.

The viola is at its best in a multi-voice ensemble, in other words as a harmony part. If you consider playing classical music, the viola is an excellent choice, because the demand is high, so that you need not be as good as the violinists of the same ensemble.

String arrangements for folk songs do exist, but not too many. There are more arrangements for variable instrumentation, or human voices, where the viola can take either the alto or the tenor part. If the sheet music does not exist in viola notation (so-called alto clef), it can be transcribed.

This also applies to virtually all folk tunes. The viola can play as high notes as anyone can sing, and it is reasonably comfortable in the range of typical female folk singers, up to the E in the upper row of the treble clef.

Both instruments take some time and dedication before being a pleasure to hear.

Hope that helps. Have fun with your new hobby.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 29 Jan 13 - 09:28 AM

Sorry, when I wrote "folk tunes", I meant folk songs. Instrumental tunes, as typical for instruments like the concertina, may be much more difficult to play on the viola than on the violin (which is sometimes hard enough, if meant for "folk virtuosos").

In the end it depends on a session leader who knows what to do with the instrument.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 29 Jan 13 - 09:42 AM

Why not go for the best of both worlds with a five-string violin? It has the standard four violin strings (GDAE) plus the low C of the viola. You'd probably want to learn on a standard violin and trade up after you've achieved a reasonable level of proficiency.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 29 Jan 13 - 10:05 AM

Grishka, here's the Tam thread started by the gal herself.

thread.cfm?threadid=149282&messages=21#3472792


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: cooperman
Date: 29 Jan 13 - 10:22 AM

Violas can be tuned as a large-bodied baritone violin, i.e. playing G-D-A-E but one octave lower than violin, as follows :-
G = Super-Sensitive Octave (!not Octava) Viola G
D = Super-Sensitive Octave (!not Octava) Viola D
A = Super-Sensitive Octave (!not Octava) Viola A
E = Pirastro Evah (or similar) plain Viola D tuned up to E

(16"viola normally CGDA)
I like the deeper sound of the viola but being a mandolin player I prefer GDAE tuning so I'm going to try the above. Anyone tried it?
The strings are specials though so quite expensive.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: GUEST,FloraG
Date: 29 Jan 13 - 10:27 AM

have you considered an inexpensive electric to learn on - very light you can wear headphones, so no problem with the neighbours, an effects pedal will give you tuning+ some will change pitch? Not so good when you want to go to sessions though.

Chris wood used to restring his violin to viola tuning to match the pitch of his voice. Where is your natural pitch? Me - I tend to sing in C and could sometimes do with notes lower than the fiddle goes.

How long is your arm? For young children learning the violin - half sizes etc the usual advice is they should be able to hold the end of the fiddle in the palm of their hand.

Enjoy - its one of the most versatile instruments. I love my hardanger - it sounds like a fiddle played in the bathroom with lots of reverb.
FloraG ( fiddle player with rakes of rochester band ).


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 29 Jan 13 - 11:11 AM

Pleased for you that your health situation is so much improved Tam !
Best of luck with whichever , but I would suggest Violin as the tuning makes a LOT of Session stuff a tad awkward for Viola .
And there are several people who sing AND play violin - Chris Wood , and Tom McConville for a start.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: GUEST,FloraG
Date: 29 Jan 13 - 12:53 PM

me again.
How good are you at hearing chords?
I ask because if you are ok then you could use a viola as a chord instrument to accompany tunes/ songs. If you are better at hearing tunes then a fiddle might be best.
FloraG


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 29 Jan 13 - 02:57 PM

Wow. What a response.

I am told I tend to start most of my blues and gospel songs at Eflat . Don't know why. I have a very low voice.

I have unnaturally long arms. Something of a knuckle dragger.

Somehow I can hear both tunes and chords. In the last few years I tend to hear harmony more than melody.

Before buying I am going to study this more. Look at sessions on youtube. Maybe attend local sessions as onlooker and maybe make a friend. Read more about adult beginners on violin.

When it comes to it, the neighbors disturb me so much with their constant shrieking at each other, I figure they can live with me shrieking back. I wouldn't play during unsocial hours anyway.

Thank you all.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: GUEST,aj
Date: 29 Jan 13 - 08:04 PM

As an adult beginner on the fiddle, I heartily endorse your idea to take it up. I started at the age of 62. I'm having a great time with it, although, as one experienced fiddler told me, "It's not an instant gratification sort of thing." On the other hand, if you put in the effort, it can be very gratifying.

As someone up thread mentioned, the fiddle is not a singer's instrument. I've watched my teacher try to sing while playing, and I have never seen such focused concentration on a human face. The fiddle really takes all of your attention to play well.

I'm four and a half years in and intend to keep playing until I can't. Do find a teacher who knows the kinds of music you want to play. And find a CD called "Violin Sing the Blues for Me."


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: Bill D
Date: 29 Jan 13 - 08:36 PM

Our own Ron Davies plays mostly viola... and very well. He accompanies folks songs in several keys and enhances good music in many ways. He does NOT play 'session' tunes or many solo numbers. You could even PM him and ask about it.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: GUEST,windrush
Date: 29 Jan 13 - 08:48 PM

The viola is superb - cuts under the melodeon/fiddle/banjo/bouzouki mishmash with its own dark frequencies(it sounds great with session tunes too, Bill D.)and is excellent as a dominant and unexpected solo sound.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 29 Jan 13 - 08:55 PM

Nice folk viola page

http://www.viola-in-music.com/folk-viola.html


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 30 Jan 13 - 12:01 PM

Thanks, Bill, for the kind words.

I'd say it really does depend on your goal in playing either instrument.    If you aim is to play in tune sessions, the violin is a far better choice.   I've played in a few tune sessions, not many.   I made up a parallel harmony, including lots of 3rds and 6ths, for instance: or, in Celtic music, including lots of 4th and 5ths, for the stark sound of many Irish tunes. And it seemed to be appreciated.

But if in the session all you are doing is doubling the melody, the violin is a better bet--just because it's smaller, you can do the fast fiddle tunes more easily--which also requires more finger dexterity than the type of accompaniment I do.   Also, playing the fast fiddle tunes definitely requires practice, which my kind of accompaniment does not--just paying constant attention to the way the tune is going. I probably could play fiddle, but I would have to practice, which I don't. I only practice piano--and sing all the time.

My accompaniments are almost entirely just based on ear--listening to the melody either played by the lead instrument or voice, and trying to complement, not compete with, the melody. If you make a mistake, you change--immediately ("that was a passing tone" is the idea).   So constant listening is absolutely crucial. I can also play breaks in a song--and do all the time in country and (fairly slow) bluegrass.   Viola is particularly good in solo breaks on emotional songs.

I also love to do double-fiddle work--making up a harmony or countermelody to play with a fiddle--even very popular tunes such as Ashokan Farewell.

The viola is also particularly effective with singers, since you are often not in the same range.   And it certainly has been appreciated--I think that's at least partly due to the fact that my instrument has good resonance. I just seek to be part of the musical texture.

And it certainly is a lot of fun to be part of the ensemble.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: Ebbie
Date: 30 Jan 13 - 03:09 PM

One of the most beautiful harmony sounds that I have heard was at a local symphony when they featured a duet comprised of violin and viola. Gorgeous.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 30 Jan 13 - 07:51 PM

The Mozart Sinfonia Concertante has both violin and viola as equal partners. Maybe that's what you heard, Ebbie.

And there are pieces which feature viola as the solo instrument:   Berlioz' Harold in Italy--which is gorgeous-- is probably the most famous one. But Berlioz was known as a wild man. After all, one of his most famous pieces, Symphonie Fastastique, may well have been influenced by opium (though that's not certain.)

But in general the viola is in fact part of the musical texture, and does not often get the melody.    The second movement of Beethoven's 7th Symphony, however, has an absolutely haunting, wonderful melody, and the viola makes its first statement, uncluttered even by second violins or celli, which join later (how's that for viola chauvinism?). Viola chauvinism, now there's a concept. I used to play in orchestras, several eons again (when I did practice), but now I can hardly even read the viola clef (middle C is the middle line).


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 30 Jan 13 - 07:58 PM

One more thing. I cerrtainly don't mean to imply that an adult beginner will not have to practice the viola.    Starting any instrument you definitely have to practice.   And depending on what you hope to achieve, you have to keep practicing. I may be living dangerously by not practicing. My feeble excuse is that I play the piano and sing every day, and there's only so much time--and so far I've gotten away with it. Not really a good role model.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: Ebbie
Date: 31 Jan 13 - 02:54 PM

Twenty-five or so years ago I bought a fiddle. I discovered that - in my case - my left hand was pretty good but my right arm hadn't a clue. The bow is a separate instrument. I still have the fiddle - I lend it out to fiddle camps several times a year - but I gave up on it for myself.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: GUEST,Ebor_Fiddler
Date: 31 Jan 13 - 03:07 PM

Anybody who says that you can't sing and play the fiddle at the same time is simply not living in the same world as the rest of us. Plenty of excellent fiddlers do, and have done, this. In the UK I can think of Jim Eldon, Eliza Carthy and Tom McConville just off the top o fmy head. In the US it is a well accepted Old Timey style.
Go for it kiddo!


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 31 Jan 13 - 03:08 PM

VTam, I used to subscribe to two classy magazines, 'Natural History' and 'Smithsonian.' Years ago, one of those two magazines had an article about a clinic which specializes in musicians. I clearly remember one doctor saying that 'the violin is an instrument designed to destroy the human right arm.'

So, what shape are your arms (and shoulders) in? How's your neck? Because it would be so sad for you to get better through medication and then get worse because of strain put on your body by a new instrument. Remember that you may have loved the vioiin as a teenager, but a teenager's ligaments are more flexible than an adult's.

So try it, but if things start to go wrong, be good to your body and quit. Then take up dulcimer. I play mountain dulcimer. (I put it on a table and stand to play it. I can also play sitting down if I wish.) I'm convinced it puts far less strain on the joints. It's also easier to learn and you can play fancier music (melody plus harmony) than on a violin or viola.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: GUEST
Date: 31 Jan 13 - 03:31 PM

I started playing the violin when I was 31. It changed my life.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: GUEST,Kim C
Date: 31 Jan 13 - 03:32 PM

Heck, that last GUEST post was me. Forgot I wasn't logged in and forgot to put my name on. I'm 45 now and getting forgetful. ;-)


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: GUEST,Ebor_Fiddler
Date: 31 Jan 13 - 03:45 PM

If that's the hammer (or "Eggslicer") dulcimer, it rocks! Listen to a mistress of the instrument like Chris Coe.
Fiddle's better though and easier on the body. Top classical players put a lot more into their playing than most of the rest of us and it is to people like these the good doctor seems to refer. Otherwise, unless s/he plays fiddle, s/he is simply talking from a part of the anatomy not originally designed for the purpose.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 31 Jan 13 - 07:14 PM

"fancier music"    You can in fact play both melody and harmony on a violin, for instance--but your skill level has to be quite high.   The fiddler in our band recently for instance did a dynamite version of "Listen to the Mockingbird" , complete with harmony ---and bird calls--- in the middle of the piece. Quite a tour de force.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: Bill D
Date: 31 Jan 13 - 09:37 PM

Years ago I heard "Henry the Fiddler" do that 'Mockingbird' routine... it was fascinating... once. Lots of tricks and the desire to make an impression... and 'ol Henry did seek attention.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: Donuel
Date: 31 Jan 13 - 09:53 PM

I know an amazing sensational teacher of viola/violin in Potomac Maryland near Virginia. He is also an internationally acclaimed composer but as a teacher he is in synch with other innovative teachers whose students progress at a phenomenal rate with a unique double powered tone by using ones eyes as much or more than ears.

I have seen his beginning methods and excellent temperment that makes the process a remarkable delight.

I knew several adults that began viola one year and were valuable musicians the next.

pm


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 31 Jan 13 - 11:18 PM

In our fiddler's routine you can even identify the birds--I picked out a quail and a cuckoo, among others--and the whole thing is at breakneck speed.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 01 Feb 13 - 04:16 AM

Oh dear. You scare me with the neck shoulder issues. I have had several years of same and 2 separate courses of acupuncture. Damn.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 01 Feb 13 - 06:44 AM

Health hazards exist mainly for professional musicians who have to play many hours every day, regardless how they feel. Amateurs who practice less than an hour a day will be quite safe with any intrument, unless they have health problems already.

As leeneia wrote, the arms are more of a problem than the neck or the shoulders.

Generally, practising an instrument is a healthy exercise. Like sports, it requires body control, otherwise it can be unhealthy. A good teacher will tell you what you need to know.

(If you wonder: I had some lessons on the violin and on other string instruments, mainly in order to be able to arrange music for them. But in fact I played on some occasions such as wedding ceremonies in the family. My health did not suffer from that, and none of the couples divorced yet.)


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: s&r
Date: 01 Feb 13 - 04:00 PM

There are neck and shoulder issues with both violin and viola. Some help and advice when purchasing is invaluable. I have a viola that is huge and hard to play; also one that is only slightly bigger than a 4/4 fiddle. Different chin and shoulder rests can make a huge difference in playing comfort. Practise little and often at first. Good luck with your choice

Stu


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: TheSnail
Date: 02 Feb 13 - 07:34 AM

cooperman
Violas can be tuned as a large-bodied baritone violin, i.e. playing G-D-A-E but one octave lower than violin, as follows :-

I tried tuning a viola up a tone giving D-A-E-B where the bottom three strings are an octave below the top three strings of a violin. You can play a lot of the folk repertoire without using the bottom string of a fiddle anyway so that gave me an octave fiddle without having to reach with my little finger for the top B.
Unfortunately, it did give me shoulder problems probably due to bad posture because I wasn't getting lessons.

One advantage - after half an hour on the viola, the fiddle feels like a toy.


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Subject: RE: Violin or Viola for adult beginner?
From: GUEST,Ebor_Fiddler
Date: 02 Feb 13 - 06:21 PM

The same thing applies to the cello, except that the spikey bit can cause a lot of neck damage.
By the way, one way to avoid a lot of neck/shoulder problems is to play tha old-fashioned way against the shoulder as I do. It does restrict you to first position, but few "folk" tunes go out of that anyway. I do get up to top "C" my way.


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