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Parent's Guide to children playing the Viola


The viola is a wonderful, rich sounding member of the string instruments family.  It is a wonderful instrument for a child to learn at an early age.  It is deeper than the Violin but higher than the Cello.

What age should my child start lessons?

Viola lessons begin at 7 years old depending on the interest and attention span of the child.  Your child must be able to attentively sit still for thirty minutes for their lesson.  Younger students should begin with the Violin and then switch.  The viola is a bigger and heavier than the violin and it requires more physical effort to get the sound out and stop the strings with the left hand. 

What will my child learn?

The lessons will teach your child the proper position for holding the instrument and bow, bowing techniques, finger placement, and music reading. The study of the viola develops pitch recognition and rhythmic skills.  It will also foster creativity and musical expression.


Registration for music can be done at anytime, as long as space is available, and your session will be prorated.  Registration can be done in person, by phone, by mail or fax.  In addition, some organizations will allow you to register on line.   Normally these programs are very popular and space can be limited so don't delay registration or you may miss out!  These programs are normally 16 -20 weeks long.



How much practice is necessary?

As with anything, improving in music takes practice.  One of the major problems with children and music is the drudgery of practicing.  There is no set time, however your child must spend quality time each day reviewing what they were taught.  Viola practice must be concentrated and focused.  Set the same time every day to practice so that it becomes part of a routine or habit. For young children 20 or 30 minutes seems like an eternity and they spend more time watching the clock  then practicing.  Instead of setting a time frame, use repetition as your gauge.  For example have your child play each piece 3  - 5 times per day.  The child does not pay attention to the amount of time they are practicing but knows that they are on the third time and almost finished.   Ideally, your child should have a place to practice without distractions and it should not disrupt the household.  If the home is small then you should consider the instrument chosen.  A very large instrument or a noisy instrument could be very disruptive and you may not have the room for it.

How long are sessions?

Depending on the instrument and the skill level of the child lessons will run either 30, 45 or 60 minutes per week. Lessons are scheduled on an individual basis.  Your registration reserves you a time slot for the duration of your instruction period.  It is imperative that you arrive promptly for your lesson.  They will normally give you only one make-up lesson per session and any other that the child misses will be a forfeiture of that lesson.


Formal and informal recitals are an important part of the music program. They will offer your child the opportunity to perform, listen and learn proper recital etiquette.  These recitals are not mandatory but it is to your child's advantage for them to participate. 



Cost of lessons?

The cost of music lessons has four components:

  • music lessons
  • cost of the instrument
  • cost of materials
  • competition or recital fees. 

Music Lessons...

The cost for lessons would depend on whether your child is taking private or group lessons, the length of the class and the qualifications of the instructor.

Music sessions will run for 16 -20 weeks.   As a general indication, most instruments will be $25 - $40 for a 30 minute lesson,  $35 -$50 for a 45 minute lesson and $50 - $60 for a 60 minute lesson.  Some organizations offer family discounts and group rates.  Many students enjoy taking lessons with their family or friends.

Instrument Cost...

The cost of the instrument would depend on whether you rent or purchase the instrument.  If you rent the instrument it is usually done on a three month trial basis that will automatically turn into a year contract if the instrument is not returned.  You can pay the cost all once at the beginning or they will automatically bill your credit card on a monthly basis.  Instrument cost information can be found in the Equipment section.

If you choose to purchase the instrument you have the option of purchasing a new or used instrument.  A used instrument will be substantially cheaper and many times are like new.


Initially, the materials required will be a method book that will cost approximately $ 8- 10. Some music stores will include the book with the rental of the instrument. In addition, some musical accessories could be recommended depending on the instructor. 

Recital cost....

Competitions and recitals are a wonderful way for your child to show their abilities to the world and it is extremely exciting for them.  However, many recitals and competitions often have entry fees.  You will need to discuss with child's instructor their philosophy on this subject.


Initially, your best option is to rent a viola from your local music store.   If you rent the instrument it is usually done on a three month trial basis that will automatically turn into a year contract if the instrument is not returned.  Renting, at first, is a good idea to make sure your child is committed to the instrument and it will minimize your initial investment.

Long-term, dedicated students should purchase a viola at some point in their development. Many music stores will give you credit for a certain amount of money in the rental and will apply it to the purchase of either that instrument or a better one.  It is important to deal with a violin ship as opposed to a store that sells other musical instruments.  Bowed stringed instruments need people with specialized training and focus who can do proper set-ups.  A intermediate or advance instrument will cost between 1250.00 and 5000.00.  Depending on your financial situation you may start with what you can afford and then look for the best sounding instrument in that range at the next level.  The next level is merely a playable, good sounding instrument that makes practicing easier and will increase your child's progress.

In addition, you will need to purchase a music stand and a violin shoulder rest.


Did you know....

Realize that the instrument that your child begins with may not necessarily be the one that they stay with forever.  They are however,  learning the basics of music theory and harmony that can be easily converted to another instrument.

You will know when your child is ready to enter competition when he/she feels extremely confident and is willing to play in front of people. This is the best sign that your child is ready to go out and be judged for their performance.

Rewards work very well for children. Be sure to grant an occasional simple reward to help encourage practice.  Stickers are a great way to show approval.  Praise also tends to be a great reward; there is no substitution for a pat on the back for a job well done.

Instruments are very delicate and should always be protected from heat, cold and quick changes in temperature.

It is important to properly maintain your instrument at all times.

The violas played by using the right hand to draw the bow at a right angle across one of the strings, at the bridge, causing the string to vibrate.  Pitch is controlled by selecting the string the bow contacts and pressing it down with one of the fingers on the left hand.  The player must achieve the correct finger position from skill alone, there are no physical aid like frets to guide them.

The viola is primarily a classical music instrument.

Harmony Two or more different pitches sounding at the same time
EVERY GOOD BOY DOES FINE A rule to remember the lines of a staff by using the first letter of each word (EGBDF).
Duet A composition for two players.
FACE A rule to remember, from bottom to top, the spaces on a musical staff.
Fiddle Common colloquial name for the violin.
Practices Time set aside for your child to review what the teacher has taught them during their normal lessons.
Solo A composition written for one player, often with a piano accompaniment.
Staff The five lines and four spaces used for writing music
Musical Alphabet The letters A through G.  These are used to name the notes on the staff in  a LINE - SPACE - LINE - SPACE order.
Luthier A person who makes or repairs stringed instruments.
String Instrument Musical instrument that produces sound by means of vibrating strings.
Viola A stringed musical instrument with four strings.
Violist A person who plays the viola