The Anatomy of the Viola

The viola is a member of the violin family, it is slightly larger than the violin and produces a lower and deeper sound. This beautiful instrument is usually made from wood with a hollow body, although electric versions are available. Each part of the viola plays an important role in how the instrument works:

Scroll: The scroll is a decoratively carved piece of wood at the top of the viola. It is typically carved in the shape of a volute (a spiral) which dates back to the Baroque period, although some luthiers will carve the scroll into different shapes or adorn it with decoration. 

Peg Box: Below the scroll is the peg box, it is a hollowed out compartment which houses the tuning pegs. 

Pegs: There are four tuning pegs on a viola. The strings are wound around the pegs which will allow the player to tune the viola by either tightening or loosening the strings by turning the pegs.

Nut: The nut is a raised piece of wood below the peg box. It sits where the fingerboard meets the peg box and has grooves in which the strings rest to keep them aligned and risen in an exact height above the fingerboard.

Neck: The neck of the viola extends from the body and holds the fingerboard and the strings. 

Fingerboard: The fingerboard is attached to the neck of the viola. The fingerboard has a curved shape to allow the player to bow each of the strings. Unlike the guitar the viola fingerboard does not have any frets. The fingerboard on a viola is often made from ebony. 

Bass Bar: The bass bar is a hidden strip of wood that is fixed lengthwise inside the viola. It is fixed below the lowest string and runs in the same direction as the strings reaching from almost one length of the viola to the other. The bass bar help to produce the deeper, resonate bass tones of the viola.

Upper Bout: The upper bouts are the two curves in the upper half of the viola. The violas distinctive hourglass shape allows for maximum sound production. 

Strings: The viola hosts four strings, the pitches of the open strings are C, G, D, and A. Traditionally, viola strings were made of catgut (dried out sheep or goat intestines) but they are now made of metallic materials such as titanium and aluminium. 

Waist: The waist, also know as the c-bouts, are the cutouts in the middle of the violas body. The waist makes room for the bow and is a main feature of the violas distinctive shape.

F-Holes: The f-holes are named for their distinctive "f" shape and are located either side of the bridge. The f-holes allow air to move in and out of the viola to aid sound-production.

Bridge: The bridge a decoratively carved piece of wood that is located between the f-holes and is held in place by the tension of the strings. The bridge hold the strings above the viola to allow the strings to vibrate freely and transfer the vibrations to the top of the instrument and the sound post inside.

Lower Bout: The lower bouts are the two curves at the bottom of the viola below the waist.

Fine Tuners: The fine tuners are located on the violas tailpiece and are used to make smaller adjustments to the to the pitch of the strings. It is common to only find one fine tuner on a viola, located on the A string, however some violas do have them on all strings. 

Tailpiece: The tailpiece is located in the lower part of the viola. It is used to anchor the strings to the lower end of the viola. The tailpiece is held in place using a tail gut.

Chinrest: The chinrest is used by the player to comfortably position the viola between the chin and the shoulder.

End Button: The end button is found right at the bottom of the viola. It is used to hold the tail gut and tailpiece in place.

Bow: The viola is usually played using a bow. The bow is typically made from wood with a ribbon of horse hair held between the tip and the frog. The band of horsehair on a viola bow is typically wider than that on a violin bow. When the bow is drawn across the strings the friction causes the strings to vibrate producing sound.

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