Sound character of the viola - Philipp Dangas

Register table of the viola

Viola register table graphic can be enlarged. It is Link-Sensitive [Clickable].

Sheet music for the register table of the viola in a small representation

The tonal properties of the strings of string instruments are of the utmost importance for instrumentation and should be carefully studied in order to make the right choice in instrumentation. The violin scale can be described as homogeneous . But every single string has its own special characteristics.

As part of the „symphonic world music“

The viola is a main instrument of the string section. The main task of the viola is to create the overall sound. In addition, the violas can be divided in order to entrust them with different tasks.

This is an important sound example for the viola
[Composer: Shostakovich, Dmitri]
Download Size: 206 Kilobytes
The strings of the viola and their timbres
Name of the string Sound character
A String (1st String) Pretty piercing
D String (2nd String) Weak and uncharacteristic, mainly used for accompaniment figures.
G String (3rd String) Fairly weak, not as strong as the G string of the violin, also used for accompaniment.
C String (4th String) Very distinctive, dark and roug.

Dynamic effect of the violin/viola

Viola dynamic table illustration can be enlarged. It is Link-Sensitive [Clickable].

Sheet music for the dynamic table of the violin/viola

The following representation of the dynamic table gives the degrees of strength of musical dynamics. In addition to the sound pressure scale, measured in decibels [dB], the degrees of intensity of musical dynamics are indicated on the left of this sound pressure scale, which may be understood as "objective" degrees.

A diagram is also drawn in, to the right of the dB scale. It shows the estimated dynamic effect over the entire tonal range of the instrument. The dynamic effect (volume) as judged (perceived) by the listener.

Now an example: In the low tonal range of the Trumpet it contains a dynamic extension between pianissimo [pp] (46 Dezibel [dB]) and fortissimo [pp] (82 Dezibel [dB]) = 36 Dezibel [dB]. The dynamic extension in the higher tonal ranges contains 8 Dezibel [dB]. The minimum values can differ less or more than the maximum.

Understandably, these values vary from instrument to instrument. The mentioned "objective" levels of intensity piano pianissimo [ppp]= 40 decibels [dB], p=60 decibels [dB] etc. enable the composer to predict the dynamic effects of different instruments that are sounding simultaneously.

The achievable dynamic range of the violin/viola 22-30 decibels [dB]
Degree of intensity High position Low position
Fortissimo [ff] 68 72
Pianissimo [pp] 46 42