viola as 2nd instrument?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Basso Profondo, Apr 1, 2021.

  1. Basso Profondo

    Basso Profondo

    May 1, 2020
    Hi folks,
    just wondering if any bassists out there have ever tried learning the viola as your 2nd instrument?
    It's something I've been thinking of lately, and am just wondering how the transition goes - especially the different way of doing vibrato, and the different way of bowing.

    I've got quite big fingers which is why I am thinking of the viola and not the violin.

    I know that perhaps the more obvious choice would be the cello, however I like the idea of doing something a bit more removed from the bass, it'd be a bit like having a holiday I think.

    I hope there's someone out there who has tried this, I'd really like to hear how it went for you.
  2. CaseyVancouver


    Nov 4, 2012
    Every community orchestra is looking for viola players.

    I feel viola is a perfect second instrument for the professional bassist. Of all the strings, viola and double bass players are in the shortest supply. If you play both you could be very busy. Plus it is a cool instrument.

    I have been playing violin lately. I like the differences of violin to the upright. Bowing a bass can be a street fight while bowing violin is delicate. Beginner violin music is like advanced bass music technically. I’m hoping it will contribute to better intonation on the bass, as you have to so careful to be in tune on violin. I am positive it will be a good influence. Evidently big hands/fingers is not a detriment to violin playing.

    I love cello so I rented one for a month. It just was not for me. Tried it years ago with the same result.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2021
    jallenbass, Wasnex and Tom Lane like this.
  3. Basso Profondo

    Basso Profondo

    May 1, 2020
    Wow, very interesting indeed, thanks so much for sharing your experiences of trying the other members of the string family...and in fact...that's done it for me - I'm going to go right ahead with the viola idea!

    Thanks again for replying.
    CaseyVancouver and AGCurry like this.
  4. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Viola was my first instrument. Started in 5th grade, transitioned to bass in Jr High, went back to viola as Jr in High School for a year. Played a bit of fiddle about 20 years later.

    Different clef, different strings, tuned in different intervals. Different fingering as you use all 4 fingers independently and you can reach more than a half step between some of them. Yes different.

    Cello would be almost equally different except it uses bass clef and is played vertically instead of under the chin. Cello and Viola are tuned to the same notes but at different octaves.

    Viola players do seem to always be in short supply...but good upright players are usually in fairly short supply as well.

    Learning to play bass guitar with one finger per fret (OFPF) would also be quite a change. About two years into being a pro, I started working out a OFPF system for bass guitar, and simultaneously transitioned from 4-string to 5-string. To be honest, the transition to 5-string was harder than transitioning to OFPF. If I got lost in the fingering I could just revert to my Simandl fingering with no problems. If I got confused regarding which string I was on, I really felt lost.

    I stayed with 5-string for 2-3 years, and then when through another painful transition when I decided to play 6-string bass guitar. So now I view upright and bass guitar as two drastically different instruments.

    This is not too far off the mark IMHO. Also possibly part of the reason why I was drawn to bass from a very young age.
  5. Probably great! @CaseyVancouver - if you get the fourth tuning 'cello string it is way more fun!
  6. Sid Fang

    Sid Fang Reformed Fusion Player

    Jun 12, 2008