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How Do I Choose the Best Viola Duets?

Judith Smith Sullivan
Judith Smith Sullivan

The best viola duets will be fun to play, appropriate for you and your musical partner's skill level, and budget friendly. Viola duets have been written for many centuries, and there are also other pieces which have been arranged for viola duets. They are not typically available through most music stores, but you may find them at music libraries, through catalogs, and online.

Before you begin shopping, determine your skill level. Many instructional curricula have corresponding repertoire lists or repertoire books that identify the skill level of various pieces of music. If you aren't following a curriculum with such a list, you will have to determine what you've learned so far in your studies.

Man playing a guitar
Man playing a guitar

Most music is rated either beginning, intermediate, or advanced. Beginning music typically has whole, half, quarter, dotted half notes, and their corresponding rests. The melody takes place primarily in first position, which is the fingering system which places the hand closest to the head stock of the viola. Intermediate music requires more positions and includes some special musical techniques, like staccato, more complex tempo or dynamic changes, and specialized viola techniques. Advanced pieces typically have all of the previous characteristics plus more complex rhythms, fast runs, multiple types of musical and instrumental techniques, and a high demand for musicality and interpretation from the musician.

You will need to understand both your skill level and your partner's. Choose a piece which is slightly challenging but not overwhelming. Something too simple will be boring, but something too difficult may discourage you to the point of giving up.

When you've determined both your skill level and your partner's, consider your music preferences. You may prefer up tempo, ballad, or something in between. Try to find a style that you both enjoy, but keep and open mind. Sometimes a beautiful song or exciting piece that is outside of your typical genre can be fun to play.

After determining your skill level and your style preferences, exhaust your borrowing possibilities before buying. Your instructor or the music library of a local school may have viola duets available. Universities with a music program often have a library dedicated to music alone. In some cases, non-students can obtain borrowing privileges.

If you cannot borrow a piece of music, shop online. Catalogs are a good resource, but many online companies offer audio samples of music. This allows you to hear the piece before buying. Online companies may also list information about the skill level required for a piece.

Look for a company that offers a generous return policy and free shipping. Check for restocking fees or any other caveats to the return policy. In some cases, companies will only allow teachers to exchange or return items, so if necessary, have your instructor order the item for you.

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