Amazon is a fantastic place to do a bit of online shopping, especially when it comes to musical instruments. You can find some fantastic deals and bundles that set you up with everything you need to learn a new instrument, whilst accessing reviews from musicians just like yourself.
There’s just one problem – there is way too much choice at times, especially when it comes to popular musical instruments such as the viola. How on earth are you supposed to know which viola to buy? There are just simply too many variables, and despite the popularity of the instrument, I have never been able to find much information about it.
Don’t worry, because I’m writing this guide on the best violas on Amazon just for you. I’ve been playing this instrument along with the violin and cello for well over a decade, and I’d be more than happy to share my knowledge with you. Read on to find out my top choices!
Choosing the Right Viola
If you’ve found your way to this guide, likely, you are already familiar with the viola. As you probably already know, it’s an instrument that is very similar to the violin, but it has a significantly lower range which allows the performer to focus on bass sections.
So, if you already knew this fact about the range of a viola, you may feel like you know everything you need to know to make an educated viola purchase. I’ve heard that from so many of my students in the past, yet when they go off to do their research, they always end up asking for some tips. I’ve decided to compile the information that I share most commonly about purchasing a viola that will suit you, hopefully, I can finally stop repeating myself!
Perhaps the most essential decision that you will need to make regarding your viola purchase is what size you will choose. Much like violins, cellos, and other classical instruments, violas come in a large variety of sizes, and it’s easy to assume that they would come in the standard size formats of 4/4, ¾, ½, etc.
Stop right there – violas are an exception to this rule, and the sizing systems are quite complicated. I can’t even count how many times I have had viola students stressing at me about how confusing the sizes are in comparison to violins. It may look confusing, but it’s not that bad. You can simply use the following table and it will help you understand it better.
|Size||Recommended Age||Arm Length|
As you have probably noticed, viola sizes are not simply expressed in terms of fractions like most other stringed instruments, but instead, they work first as fractions and then progress to inches. This can be strange, but luckily you can simply measure your arm length, take your age, and determine which viola will work best for you.
However, I cannot stress enough that this table of information is not going to be sufficient – you must take your measurements to a music store that sells violas and ask a professional to help size you up. In my opinion, this is essential – I know so many violists that ended up with badly fitted violas because their body type did not fit with the data in this table.
The measurements can be great as guidelines, but don’t rely on them too much. Head to a store, see what viola size works best for you, and only then should you consider purchasing that size on Amazon.
Quality vs Cost
So, you’ve figured out what viola size you require, that is the hardest step in my opinion. Now that you have a measurement to look for, it’s time to start taking a look at your options. However, you will quickly realize that there are so many options available. Some violas are incredibly expensive and made of luxurious materials, whilst others are very cheap and designed with beginners in mind. Only you can know which of these choices will suit you better.
The most obvious way to figure this out is to assess your financial situation and your viola playing ability. If you already have many years of experience as a violist and are looking to upgrade to something a bit more professional, spending some decent cash on something of high quality would be advisable as you are already well equipped to play it. However, if you are a complete beginner and are unsure whether you will even stick with the instrument, a budget alternative is going to be better.
It’s undeniable that the more money you spend on a viola, the better the quality is going to be. Expensive violas will usually be hand-carved by professional luthiers, out of acoustically treated wood designed specifically to optimize the resonance and amplification of the instrument. However, you need to ask yourself – do you need all of these luxuries? The answer completely depends on your budget and your experience level.
The next thing you should consider when purchasing a viola on Amazon is whether your purchase comes bundled with essential accessories. When I say accessories, I’m talking about things such as spare strings, rosin, a case, a stand, and most importantly a bow! All of these accessories are essential for beginners, and if you accidentally purchase a viola online without them, you won’t be able to begin learning until you buy them.
However, it’s worth mentioning that you may not need these accessories. Perhaps you have already been learning the viola, and you are choosing to upgrade to a fancier model. In this case, you may already have all of the accessories you need – fair enough!
Regardless of your situation, you will find options for both when you search for violas on Amazon. If you are a complete beginner, I would highly recommend that you find a bundle that includes all of the essential accessories. This is not only convenient, but it often works out a lot cheaper than buying them separately. However, if you find a viola that you like but it does not include a bundle, you can simply add these items to your basket from elsewhere – easy.
Customer Service and Reviews
The final thing that I would consider to be essential when purchasing a viola on Amazon is to consider not only the brand of viola but the retailer who is selling them. Amazon is an eCommerce marketplace, and this means that anybody can sell an item – not just the original retailer.
For example, Cecilio is an excellent beginners brand of violas with a great reputation, and they will have their own Amazon account where they sell violas and have excellent reviews. However, a third-party retailer may stock Cecilio violas, but may not offer essential customer service, warranties, or insurance.
It can be difficult to work out which Amazon accounts are legitimate and which are third-party or even fake. However, I have always found that if I head to the reviews of the account, it will all become obvious. Legitimate brands and re-sellers will have a ton of good feedback, I would be very cautious about ordering from anywhere that has less than 4 out of 5 stars on average.
Overall, keep an eye out for this kind of stuff when orderings violas on Amazon. It isn’t to do with the quality of the viola itself but the company that is selling them to you. Real brands will offer excellent customer service, warranties, returns, and all of that good stuff. Find a dodgy reseller, however, and you could have some trouble in your hands!
My Favourite Violas on Amazon
Now that we’ve taken a look at everything you need to consider when purchasing a viola on Amazon, I thought that I would compile a list of my favorite viola listings on the site. I’ve tried to cover as large of a range as possible in terms of prices, so I hope that something here will be useful to you.
If you’re new to the world of stringed instruments then you may not have heard about D Z Strad, but anyone who already plays the viola, violin, or cello will most likely have heard of their name. They have been one of the biggest names in violas for many years due to the exceptional quality instruments that they produce, and the D Z Strad Professional Handmade Model 400 is a prime example of this.
As the name suggests, this viola is handmade by award-winning luthiers, it’s a seriously nice instrument. It is of course built with a premium ebony fingerboard and fittings, it’s available in sizes between 14″ and 16.5″, and is hand varnished and adjusted. To top all of this off, the viola is available on Amazon as a bundle outfit, coming with a case, carbon fiber and brazilwood bow, shoulder rest, and rosin.
However, as you may have already anticipated, this immense quality comes at a high cost of $1,600. It’s a lot of money and I would only recommend this purchase to people who are already familiar with the instrument, but if you’re looking for optimum quality, it’s certainly the way to go. With that being said, you could go a step further and purchase the D Z Strad Viola – Professional Model 1000, which would cost you a whopping $8,600! Ouch.
- Hand-crafted out of premium quality woods
- Ebony fingerboard and fittings
- Comes bundled with a case, a carbon fiber and brazilwood bow, a shoulder rest, and rosin
- D Z Strad is a brand that comes with high critical acclaim
- Extremely expensive
- Whilst the quality is very high, this will not be noticeable to beginners
- Despite the price, it is nowhere near the highest quality D Z Strad viola, with the Model 1000 costing $8,600
The previously mentioned D Z Strad viola truly is a masterpiece of a viola, but let’s be honest – the vast majority of us are not looking for something that professional, and we certainly don’t have the budget for it. Many people reading this may be unsure whether they even want to learn the viola in the first place, and are instead looking for a budget option so that they can test the waters.
If this sounds like you, I could not recommend the Cecilio CVA-400 enough. This is a viola that I see incredibly frequently in my music classes. The main reason for this is simple – it is an incredibly cheap instrument, costing anything between $99.99 and $149.99 depending on the chosen size. Now, it should be pretty obvious that this huge price reduction will mean the quality is significantly reduced too – there is no fancy wood or ebony to be found on this viola, and viola connoisseurs would argue that this makes the resonance and amplification quite low.
Whilst all of this is true, it doesn’t take away the fact that you are getting a fully functioning beginners viola for just over $100. What’s more, this beginner viola comes as an outfit, bundled with a lightweight hard case, electric tuner, a Brazilwood bow, rosin, and a spare set of strings! When I first heard about this bundle, I was amazed you could buy all of those accessories for $99, let alone with the viola too!
- Very cheap, ranging from $99 to $149.99
- Comes bundled with everything a beginner violist would need
- Includes an electronic tuner, something that you rarely see within a viola outfit
- Great for beginners who are not sure whether they wish to pursue the instrument
- The cheap price comes with a cheap build quality
- It is not handmade, instead of being mass-produced in a factory
- The cheap build quality makes the resonance and amplification quite low
The final viola that can be bought on Amazon that I wanted to mention brings us back to the previously mentioned brand, D Z Strad. As I noted, this brand is generally associated with producing premium violas that have prices that are well over $1,000. However, this does not mean that they do not provide other options, with one of my favorite mid-range violas being produced by the company for $550, the D Z Strad Viola Model 120.
The biggest difference here is that whilst the viola is produced with wood that is dried carefully to produce a delicate and unique tone, it is not hand-carved, instead being made in a factory. It is set up by a luthier and is hand-rubbed to achieve the antique varnish finish, but at the same time, there is no ebony to be seen here. Ultimately, this makes this instrument sit somewhere in the middle between being a budget and premium viola.
However, it does come with a case, bow, shoulder rest, and rosin, along with a spare set of strings. It ultimately makes the Model 120 an excellent choice for anyone looking to start learning the viola or a beginner who is looking to upgrade to a more high-quality instrument, without taking the plunge into thousands of dollars.
- D Z Strad is a highly reputable brand associated with premium violas
- Hand-varnished to produce a beautiful finish
- Comes bundled with a case, bow, shoulder rest, rosin, and spare strings
- The price tag is a nice balance between budget and mid-range
- Heat-treated for a balanced yet unique tonal characteristic
- Not hand-carved by luthiers, but instead made in a factory and manually setup
- No ebony fingerboard or fittings
- Some may still consider the $550 price tag to be too much for a beginners viola
I hope that this guide has helped you become familiar with what you should be looking for in excellent violas on Amazon, and provided you with some inspiration regarding my favorite choices. Before I round things off by telling you which of these violas is my absolute favorite, let’s take a moment to answer some frequently asked questions.
Answer: There are 9 different major viola sizes, ranging from fractional sizes such as 1/8 and 1/4 to inched sizes such as 16″ and 16.5″.
Answer: The amount of money that you should spend on a viola depends greatly, but you can find beginners violas for as cheap as $100 and premium violas for as high as $1,000. I would personally aim for something between $500 and $1,000 to find a balance between price and quality.
Answer: Cecilio is a great brand that provides budget violas that are affordable and accessible for beginners, but the quality is relatively low in comparison to competitors such as D Z Strad or Eastman Strings.
I hope that this guide has helped you understand more about the process of choosing an excellent viola on Amazon. Assuming you are not made of money but are still looking for a viola of high quality, I could not recommend the D Z Strad Model 120 enough. At $550, it finds a comfortable balance between the standard D Z Strad luxury yet without hitting $1,000.
Good luck with your search, and remember to refer to this guide whilst doing your research on Amazon. Always carefully check the profile of Amazon sellers to make sure you are using a legitimate seller, and don’t forget to check those reviews too. They will give you tons of invaluable information that you won’t find anywhere else.
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