Viola Price Guide (What to Expect in Every Price Range!)
Violas come in all shapes, sizes, colours – and prices. But how do you really know what you should be getting for your budgeted price range? This guide will give you a general overview of the standards for violas within each price range and offers a good starting point for finding a viola that best suits your needs. Every viola is different, and you should ideally look for the best value-for-money instrument placed within your budget.
If your child is a beginner, you don’t necessarily want to overspend on an instrument that isn’t suited to their level, but if they’ve already started out with a basic instrument borrowed from school, you may want to start looking around at intermediate priced violas instead of the cheapest available.
$300 – $700
These are the most inexpensive violas that you’ll find at music stores. At this price, you’re looking at an entry-level or beginners instrument that is typically factory-made in China. The basic structure of these violas will be well-made, but they come ‘out of the box’ with no adjustments – a professional set up service will be required to get things sounding just right. We include our professional set up on all instruments - at no extra cost.
For instruments in this price range, it is also important that individual parts are included or upgraded:
- Bridge – this will affect the tone of the instrument
- Strings – these should be upgraded to complement the instrument and give it a better tone
- Bow – not all accessories are of the same quality, and since a bow is essential to playing the viola, you should look to upgrade to a good quality one that will help to produce a better sound
- Case - a basic beginner outfit should include a case for transporting and protecting the violas.
Shop Beginner Violas online and in-store.
$700 – $1500
There is a shift in quality when you move to this price range. A higher grade of timber is used, and so more highly skilled labour is required (resulting in a higher quality of workmanship). These violas are hand-finished and better parts are used, which further improves the quality of the instrument. The combination of workmanship and fittings gives these instruments a more mature, resonant tone.
Instruments in this range are generally better suited to an intermediate player as an upgrade from their first viola to their second. This level of instrument would be considered a ‘luxury’ item for a beginner, but the quality can really pay off in their early musical education if you can afford it.
Be on the look out for:
- An upgraded bow - some intermediate viola outfits will include an upgraded bow, which will help aide in improving tone and technique
- Upgraded strings - most intermediate viola outfits should include at least a set of Piranito strings or even better, Tonica strings or Dominant strings.
- Bridge - the quality of the bridge should be at least an Aubert or Despiau 1-tree.
Shop Intermediate Violas online and in-store.
$1500 – $4000
From here we start to see a much higher level of workmanship and expertise going into the crafting of the instrument. They are hand-finished for finer detailing and more refined workmanship is used.
The grain of the timber is something you’ll need to consider in these instruments. The grain is the natural alignment of fibres in the wood, and can produce a more visually pleasing aesthetic as well as improve the tones and overtones of the instrument. You’ll want to look at the tightness of the grain on the front, and the flame of the grain on the back.
These elements are a reflection of the higher grade of timber used in the instrument, which produces much nicer tones and overtones, allowing for much a more resonant and expressive quality of sound when played. They also project their sound better, producing a higher volume than the previous ranges.
This level of instrument is usually the choice of advanced students because the quality of sound allows them to play more solo repertoire and suits much more expressive playing.
In this price range, keep in mind that you may need to invest in:
- An upgraded bow - instruments in this price range may not always include an intermediate bow. If this is the case, you should expect to spend around $400-$800 on selecting a higher quality intermediate viola bow from brands such as Paesold and Coda.
- Professional strings - instruments in this price range should include at least a set of synthetic core strings, however upgrading to a Larsen, Obligato or Evah Pirazzi set will yield an even more beautiful tone.
At this point, you start to find more individually priced items, and your considerations will change depending on the workshop that the instrument comes from. The reputation of the maker may influence your decision, as various levels of workmanship and timber will vary and musicians may prefer one maker’s sound to another. The characteristics of the instrument’s sound become more personal and individual at this level.
At this price range and above, you will find many instruments are crafted in European workshops. They are popular because people know the European reputation for high-quality workmanship and materials. Our best-selling advanced violas are from the Jay Haide workshop. They are a customer favourite due to their expressive, full tone and very high quality materials.
The quality of the timber and the grain of the timber is something you’ll need to strongly consider in these instruments. The grain is the natural alignment of fibres in the wood, and can produce a more visually pleasing aesthetic as well as improve the tones and overtones of the instrument. You’ll want to look at the tightness of the grain on the front, and the flame of the grain on the back. As mentioned above, these elements are a reflection of the higher grade of timber used in the instrument, which produces much nicer tones and overtones.
Varnish is another consideration in this price range - many modern instruments are varnished with an antiqued finish. Be careful to ensure the varnish is of a high quality, and is uniform across the instrument.
In this price range, you'll generally have to purchase a bow and case separately. It’s generally expected that you have your own preferences for the bow and case. Learn more about choosing a bow here. You should expect to spend between $600-$1000 for a higher quality pernambuco or carbon fibre bow.
Of course, choosing a viola doesn’t have to be a decision that you make all on your own. Here at Simply for Strings, our friendly team members are all qualified musicians who understand the nuances of each different viola we stock. We can guide you through the range and help you find the one that’s right for you. Come and visit us at our store in Red Hill or get in touch with any questions you might have.