How Hard Is The Viola? (Solved!) 

Some people think the viola is a challenging instrument to learn due to its size and lack of frets. It normally takes at least 3-5 years just to sound good. It’s important to consider multiple factors before learning the viola.

In this article, we take a close look at how hard the viola is and compare it to other instruments such as the violin, guitar, and piano. 

Here’s whether the viola is hard to play: 

The viola is a challenging instrument to master due to the technique and ear required to produce a good sound. Its lack of frets along with the intricacies of using a bow makes the viola a more challenging instrument to play compared with the guitar or piano. It can take upwards of three years to master the basics of the viola.  

How long does it actually take to learn to play the viola? 

Mastering an instrument is a lifelong endeavor, but how long does it take to sound good on the viola? 

The short answer is that it takes anywhere from three to five years for most students to learn the viola


Of course, how long it takes to learn the viola depends on how often you practice, whether you have a good teacher, whether you play in an ensemble, and many other factors.

You might play for a year and still not sound as good as you want to, but you will be rewarded if you stick with it. It’s important not to feel frustrated or to give up. After all, there are few, if any, instruments that you can truly learn in under a year. 

If you ever feel discouraged, take a deep breath and remind yourself that learning an instrument is a process. It can take a decade or more to fully master an instrument like the viola

As long as you practice regularly and have proper guidance and instruction, you can rest assured that you’re on the path to successfully learn the viola.

Is it feasible to learn the viola without a teacher?

While it’s theoretically possible to teach yourself any instrument, having some form of instruction is always preferable. A private teacher can guide you and catch any bad habits before they form.

Learning the viola from scratch is more complicated than, say, the guitar or piano. The technique required to produce a high-quality sound, particularly with the bow hand, is more intricate compared to non-string instruments. 

Watching an online tutorial can help you learn the basics of these instruments, but YouTube videos are not sufficient for learning an orchestral instrument like the viola.

Learning as part of a group in your school’s orchestra or in a community string class is a great way to boost your viola education. Besides giving you more opportunities to play and improve your abilities, it’s also much more fun to learn and play music with other people!

Paying for a private teacher may not be within everyone’s reach, but it’s a worthwhile investment if you can afford it. A private viola teacher can give you personalized attention and guidance, which will rapidly accelerate your viola education.

How much harder is the viola to learn than other instruments? 

String instruments like the viola can be particularly difficult to learn, and especially to master. One of the reasons why the viola is difficult to play is due to its lack of frets (just like the violin). This means students require both proper technique and a good ear to progress. 

Every instrument has its own unique challenges, so it’s difficult to rank them. The viola is, however, on the harder end of the spectrum.

The viola isn’t necessarily more or less difficult than similar string instruments like the violin or cello. The string family is, however, a challenging group of instruments. They require a strong ear, dextrous fingers, and diligent practice.

In my experience, different people are suited to different instruments based on a number of factors. Your size and other physical traits can affect what shapes and sizes of instruments work well for you. Plus, you may simply be more interested in one instrument over another.

Is the viola harder than the violin? 

The viola isn’t inherently more or less difficult to play or to learn than the violin. Ultimately, the answer actually depends on you! As you can see simply by looking at them, the viola and violin are quite similar to each other.

The violin and viola look practically identical with one major exception: the viola is, in fact, several inches longer and wider than the violin. This difference in size is the key to deciding which instrument will be easier for you or your student to learn

Because it’s a good deal larger than the violin, the viola is often a better choice for older students or adults. If you are young or have a smaller build, the smaller violin may be easier to hold and play.

Having said all this, people of all shapes and sizes have mastered both the violin and the viola. If one of these instruments really speaks to you more than the other, don’t be discouraged by the size difference

Violins and violas both come in a variety of sizes. Whether you’re a particularly small student who needs a ¾ size violin or a large adult who needs a bigger-than-average viola, there are options to accommodate your needs. In other words… follow your heart! 

Final thoughts

I’m not going to sugarcoat it and tell you that the viola is quick and easy to learn. String instruments – the viola included – require diligent practice and expert guidance to learn proper finger placement and bowing techniques.

Having said that, don’t forget that pretty much all instruments require extensive study to master. Embarking on the journey to learn the viola is infinitely rewarding and well worth the effort.