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> INSTRUMENTOLOGY > STRINGS > Viola > Sound Characteristics

Sound characteristics

Dark, stately, reedy, warm, distinctive, full, lively, singing, eloquent, introspective, sensuous, round, muffled, solemn, austere, muted, rough, wafting, veiled, sonorous, powerful, robust.

The viola’s characteristic range is in the low and middle registers (C3–G5).

Sound characteristics of the individual strings

Dark, stately, reedy, warm (the bottom three strings).

C string (C3–D4)
Has a fundamentally powerful, resonant, clear, pleasing, rich and dark timbre which is used among other things to convey a feeling of foreboding. It can also evoke very somber and gloomy moods. The same notes played on the cello sound more powerful and intense.

G string (G3–A4)
Sounds rather bland, cannot assert itself particularly. It is weaker and projects less well than the same notes on the violin and is suitable as a filling-in part and for figurations.

D string (D4–E5)
Sounds rather bland, cannot assert itself particularly. It is weaker and projects less well than the same notes on the violin and is suitable as a filling-in part and for figurations.

A string (A4–E6, A6)
Contrasts starkly with the other strings, has an individual character, penetrating, austere, nasal, rough, forceful and distinctive. It is noticeably different from the rest of the string orchestra and is used to express sentimental moods and pain (played forte).