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The size of violas over the last several years has been become a lot more varied in what people search for. Different people’s bodies will suit different instrument.
Several body dimensions are very important, more so with this instrument than any in the bowed string range, to ensure the biggest reduction in stress on the body to find the correct size instrument.
You want an instrument that you can play for life, not just a few years. Violas can be particularly stressful on the body if you play the wrong size for you.
There is just a huge world of variety available on this instrument. Violas really have the largest range of proportional sizes of any of the modern bowed string instruments. Historically, several sizes existed with this playing range over the centuries. Although in modern times we treat them as the same instrument, different sizes have different characteristics.
At the beginning of the C20, Lionel Tertis promoted the use of 16 ¾” violas as the accepted minimum size of instrument to be a “true” viola. However, later on in the century this generally lowered to around 16 ¼” – 16 1/2”.
Many players are now opting to play smaller instruments for better playability, comfort and reduction of RSI. As violas are particularly stressful on many people’s bodies due to the increased reach and length of playing arm needed to play comfortably. Many more players are now using instruments more towards 15 ½” which can make a significant reduction in strains caused from playing over-sized violas for one’s particular body size. At the higher end, violas can go up to 18 ½”, which the majority of players will find completely unplayable, but those with body dimensions to match may love. It is all about getting the right size for you.
Custom designed instruments can be made for you to make sure you get exactly what you’re looking for