Finding the best 5 string viola can be daunting, but with the proper research and preparation, you can find an instrument that meets your needs. Not only should you consider the quality of the device but also the type of viola and which strings are best suited for your playing style.
With our guide, you can find the 5-string Viola that suits your needs and budget.
Table of Contents
What Is a 5-String Viola?
A 5-string viola is an instrument similar to the traditional 4-stringed Viola, yet has one additional string. The 5th string can offer a musician more range and expression when playing. The 5th string of a 5-string viola is usually tuned to a lower note than the other strings, allowing for deeper tones. It can also be tuned higher for brighter notes, but this often requires more skill from the musician.
Is a 5 String Viola Better Than a Violin or Fiddle?
The 5-string Viola has become increasingly popular among string instrument players. It is heralded as a versatile and sophisticated instrument, providing an advantageous range and tonal complexity beyond what can be achieved with a traditional violin or fiddle. The additional strings allow for more variety, and deeper tones than a violin or fiddle can produce alone.
For instance, the low C-string on the 5-string Viola creates an intriguing reverb effect, adding to its unique sound. Furthermore, when playing in duets or ensembles with other instruments, such as cello or bass, the broader range of notes available on the five-string Viola makes it easier to blend in harmony.
Who Should Play the 5-String Viola?
The critical criterion for finding the best 5 string viola player is experience. A good candidate will have a thorough knowledge of classical and modern repertoire and familiarity with techniques such as pizzicato and scordatura. It also helps if they understand double stops, harmonics, polyphony, and extended techniques well. Furthermore, they should be able to demonstrate excellent intonation across all five strings.
Aside from technical expertise, musicians must be emotionally invested in their instruments to bring out their unique character and beauty.
What Is the Best Size for a 5 String Viola?
Different players have different preferences, and what is comfortable for one may not be suitable for another. The most important things to consider when finding the ideal size are your body shape, arm length, neck length, and reach.
Larger violas are more comfortable to play as they provide more space between strings and a better balance between sound projection and tone quality. For adults with average or above average height and arm length, 16 inches is usually considered the best size, although opinions vary among players; some find 14 inches just as comfortable, while others prefer 15 inches or even 17 inches, depending on their body type. Many professionals recommend trying different sizes before settling on one that suits you best.
Viola Size (in inches)
Arm Length (in inches)
20.5″ – 21.9”
22” – 23.4”
23.5” – 24.9”
26″ – 26.4”
26.5″ – 26.9”
Pricing a 5 String Viola
Your pay for this instrument largely depends on the construction quality and materials used. With so many options on the market today, it can take time to determine which model is right for you and your budget. To help you decide, here are some tips.
The first factor to consider when pricing a 5-string viola is its size; small, medium, or large. Smaller models tend to be more affordable because they require less construction material. Medium-sized models are usually more expensive due to their larger body size and additional strings. Lastly, larger models are typically made with higher-quality craftsmanship and may come with more features, such as adjustable bridges or specialized ropes designed for better sound quality.
Renting or Buying the Best 5 String Viola
Renting or buying a 5-string viola depends on budget, playing goals, and needs. If you’re starting, renting is often recommended as it allows you to explore different rental models and find one that fits your sound preferences.
If you plan to advance in skill level and eventually purchase a more expensive instrument, buying may be your best choice. Your route meets your individual needs as an artist while staying within budget.
Materials and Construction for the 5-String Viola
Suitable materials and construction choices are vital to producing the best possible sound. Several components go into crafting the perfect 5-string Viola, from the wood used for the body to the attached strings and all aspects.
When selecting wood, spruce is often chosen as it has a consistent texture and density, creating a resonance within the instrument, which helps project sound further. Maple is familiar for the back, neck, and sides as it’s solid yet flexible, allowing vibrations to travel freely while providing stability over time. Other woods, such as Ebony, may be used for fittings such as pegs, nuts, or fingerboards due to their strength making them well-suited for frequent use.
An intermediate or advanced instrument may become heavier with raised rosin or intermediate or advanced strings like metallic strings wrapped with gold. You may need the accessories accompanying the apparatus to play the instrument.
These include strings, rosin, shoulder rests, and bridge adjustments. With these accessories, anyone can improve their playing experience by achieving higher clarity and resonance through increased intonation accuracy.
5 String Viola Recommendations:
The 5-string Viola is a unique instrument that adds a range of notes to the classic viola sound. It’s perfect for experienced players looking to advance their playing abilities and expand their repertoire.
The Yamaha YVN800 Five-String Viola boasts superior craftsmanship and playability, making it an ideal choice for advanced musicians. The instrument’s spruce top and maple back provide an impressive sound projection, while its ebony fittings enhance performance further. Additionally, its adjustable bridge ensures easy setup.
Next up is the Cecilio CVA-500 Ebony Fitted Five String Viola, which offers excellent quality at an affordable price.
Fiddlerman has been praised for combining many different genres into a harmonious whole. His composition incorporates elements from classical, bluegrass, country, jazz, and more while maintaining the traditional essence of each style throughout. Incredible visuals will accompany each song to help transport listeners into an enchanting musical world.
Tested and configured by luthiers and professional musicians
The 5 string viola’s acoustic-electric strings are chosen with factors like tone quality, tension levels, intonation accuracy, and durability in mind. When choosing strings, tone quality should come first; seek bright-sounding strings that produce distinct tones on Viola’s five lines.
The Despiau Bridge and vintage, unique tonewoods are features of the London 5-string acoustic violin. It has a sleek, light pickup that amplifies the lovely acoustics of the instrument without distorting them. Although it is pricey, this violin is excellent for musical excursions.
Two excellent options
Made from aged tonewoods of the highest caliber.
Using a Despaiu bridge and a unique string configuration
Electric or acoustic
An excellent option for fiddlers
Glasser Carbon Composite
This unique Viola features a carbon composite bow with a high-end sound quality to enhance your music’s depth and complexity. The 5-string design allows for more excellent tonal range when playing, allowing you to explore new possibilities in your music.
The ergonomically designed neck gives you comfortable control over each string, making it easy to play intricate passages. The AEX model with a different decaying and coating system is less expensive. With a lightweight construction and durable build, this Viola is made to last through years of practice and performance.
This modern instrument also includes custom adjusters on the bridge that allow you to customize the tension on each string, giving you complete control over your tone. Combining modern materials and classic craftsmanship provides an unparalleled sound and playing experience that can’t be found anywhere else.
Extremely robust and water- and humidity-resistant
Excellent for touring modern musicians
Available as a standalone instrument or as part of a look
Fine tuners and planetary pegs for a perfect tune
Pink is one of nine colors that are offered
Although the acoustics aren’t that good, it still sounds alright
This electric violin is an excellent choice for those who want to experiment with a new instrument or use it at gigs. It has an active pickup powered by batteries, so you don’t need extra equipment or cables. You can practice silently with the headphones output, and there’s also a line out if you want to connect your electric violin to an amp. The body shape and features are very similar to the pictured model, making this a great option if you’re looking for something familiar yet unique.
Similar in setup and design to the fiddle shop tower strings electric instruments
Sold by a reputable local music retailer
Excellent for quietly practicing in small spaces
The sound and electronics won’t be at their best
Finding the best 5 string viola for your needs can be daunting. Following the tips outlined in this article, you can narrow your search and find the perfect instrument. Consider your budget and try a few different devices before making your final selection.
What type of Viola do you need?
A student-level viola is recommended for beginners as they are typically more affordable and easier to play. Student-level violas are often made with laminated wood, making them less expensive but less durable than professional-level instruments.
If you’re an intermediate or advanced player looking for a higher-quality instrument, consider investing in a professional-level viola. They are more expensive than student-level instruments but will last longer and provide a richer sound.
What are the best online resources for finding a viola?
When looking for a viola online, the best resource to start with is an established music retailer. These retailers typically have a wide selection of violas in various sizes and price points. Another great resource is online classifieds, such as Craigslist or eBay. Here you can often find instruments at discounted prices from private sellers.
What is the best 5 string Viola for an experienced player?
The 5-string Viola for an experienced player is the Glasser Carbon Fiber 5-String Viola. This Viola is made with a carbon fiber composite body, which gives it excellent sound projection and tonal quality. The neck is also carbon fiber, giving it a comfortable playing feel. The high quality and long-lasting strings make them perfect for experienced players.
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