We’re looking for the best gifts for violists and anyone who loves the beautiful sound of the viola. Choose from classical and contemporary music, T-shirts, cooking aprons, trinket boxes, colorful buttons, ceramic ornaments, posters, coffee mugs, refrigerator magnets, trucker hats, cotton canvas tote bags, and more unique viola gifts.
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach As the greatest expert and judge of harmony, he liked best to play the viola, with appropriate loudness and softness.
Remarking on his father, Johann Sebastian Bach
You’ll love the music of String Planet, a collaboration between Chapman Stick player Larry Tuttle and violist Novi Novog. Their music is filled with hooks, memorable themes, and compelling rhythms. Novi is one of the top session musicians in Los Angeles. Her long list of credits includes solos on Prince’s “Purple Rain” and “Raspberry Beret,” and The Doobie Brothers’ “Black Water.”
Crafted from finely cut crystal jewels and hand-painted enamel, these stunning string instrument figurines open to reveal a secret compartment. Make your gift even more special and conceal a ring or other small precious object inside the compartment. Violists and music lovers will love these miniature works of art. Click on any item to see more views of these exquisite viola figurines. Each is handsomely gift boxed, so there’s no need to wrap.
Shirts are always a popular gift with people of all ages. Click on any design to see the full selection of colors, styles, and sizes available. You’ll have no trouble finding the perfect gift for your favorite violist or string instrument fan.
Refrigerator magnets are one of our favorite inexpensive gift ideas for viola players. Standard size square magnets measure 2 by 2 inches, and round magnets are usually available in three sizes. Designs are printed on 100% recycled paper. Scratch and UV-resistant Mylar keeps magnets looking as good as new for many years to come.
Mugs are one of our favorite affordable viola gifts. Everyone can use a few mugs. Click on any mug to see how the design looks from different angles. Choose from many sizes, styles, and colors to create a personal gift for your favorite violist.
Classic cotton-poly twill blend aprons are another of our top picks for practical viola gifts. Choose from several style and color options. Spacious front pockets hold plenty of utensils and cooking tools. Aprons are machine washable and proudly made in the U.S.A.
Buttons are a fun and inexpensive gift idea for musicians and music lovers. Standard size square buttons measure 2 inches by 2 inches. These viola designs are printed on 100% recycled paper and covered with scratch and UV-resistant Mylar for years of use and enjoyment. Some designs allow you to choose a different background color for a customized button gift.
One of the most popular viola gifts is a set of playing cards. Each comes packaged in a cardboard box for easy gifting. Poker size cards measure 2.5 by 3.5 inches, with 52 playing cards and 2 jokers per deck. Click on any design to see the available options. Standard cards are printed on smooth card stock, and premium quality Bicycle playing cards are printed on durable semi-gloss card stock.
Written by Kansas band member Kerry Livgren in 1977, Dust in the Wind is one of a handful of pop songs featuring the viola. In this live version recorded nearly four decades later, the band shares the stage with a full string orchestra. Lead vocalist Steve Walsh hits every note!
Victor Borge (Pianist, Conductor, Comedian) The difference between a violin and a viola is that a viola burns longer.
The viola is a bowed string instrument, slightly larger than a violin. For more than two centuries it has been the middle voice of the violin family, tuned a perfect fifth above the violin and an octave below the cello. A viola is held in the same manner as a violin, with just a few adjustments necessary to accommodate its larger size.
More Viola Facts
A person who performs on this string instrument is called a violist.
Notable violists include Yuri Bashmet, Luigi Alberto Bianchi, Gérard Caussé, Bruno Giuranna, Rivka Golani, Kim Kashkashian, Nobuko Imai, Michael Kugel, and Tabea Zimmermann.
Classical composers who were also violists include Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Antonín Dvořák, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
During the 20th century, virtuosos Lionel Tertis and William Primrose broke tradition and focused their careers on solo viola playing. The accomplished musicians introduced the viola to a broader audience, discovered ancient works, and even created a school. Source: Viola in Music – Famous Viola Players
Performed by String Planet with Violist Novi Novog
Enjoy the super-talented duo of Novi Novog and Larry Tuttle as they perform a String Planet montage, on which Larry is playing Chapman Stick. Novi began playing piano at age four, then moved on to the violin and viola. She has appeared on countless recordings, films, television shows, and concert stages all over the world. String Planet’s compositions have been used in hundreds of television shows, as well as in many films and commercials.
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The sarod is a lute-like stringed instrument of Indian origin. Like the sitar, it’s a popular and prominent instrument in Hindustani classical music. The instrument is known for its deep, introspective sound, which contrasts nicely with the sweet texture of the sitar. The absence of frets allows players to glide easily from one note to another. This is known as meend, which is essential in the performance of Indian music.
Here are a few more interesting sarod facts. It’s likely the sarod descended from the Afghan rubab, a similar instrument with roots in Central Asia and Afghanistan. The word sarod means “beautiful sound” or “melody” in Persian, one of many languages spoken in Afghanistan.
How many strings are there? On a conventional instrument there are 17 to 25. Four to five main strings are used for playing the melody. There are also one or two drone strings, two chikari strings, and nine to eleven sympathetic strings. The strings are made of steel or phosphor bronze, and are usually plucked with a triangular hand-crafted coconut shell plectrum called a Javva. Some players prefer plectrums made of ebony, cocobolo wood, horn, or cowbone.
More Sarod Facts
A person who performs on this string instrument is called a sarodist.
Notable sarodists include Amjad Ali Khan and his sons Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan, Abhisek Lahiri, Sharan Rani, K. Sridhar, Aditya Verma, and James Whetzel.
Indian classical musician and composer Amaan Ali Khan explains the construction, techniques, and performance of the sarod. He’s a seventh generation Sarod Master, and was just eight years old when he gave his first public performance. Amaan is the son of Amjad Ali Khan and often performs with his younger brother Ayaan Ali Khan, with whom he hosted the music talent show Sa Re Ga Ma. He’s widely considered one of the finest players in the world, with fans on many continents.
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The oud is a pear-shaped stringed instrument similar to the lute. It can be distinguished from the lute by its smaller neck and lack of frets. Both of these string instruments are regarded as ancestors of the guitar.
Ouds are commonly used in Arabic, Greek, Turkish, Persian, Jewish, Byzantine, Armenian, North African, Somali, and Middle Eastern music.
Modern day ouds are categorized as Arabic or Turkish, though the distinction has little to do with geography. Turkish ouds are popular in Greece and other parts of the Mediterranean. Iraqi, Egyptian, and Syrian ouds are popular throughout the Arab world, and are classified as Arabic ouds because of their similarities.
Lightly constructed Turkish ouds can be distinguished by their string courses, which are placed closer together. Turkish ouds are tuned a step higher than Arabic ouds, producing a sound that is taut and shrill. Arabic ouds are typically larger with a longer scale length. This produces a fuller and deeper sound.
More Oud Facts
A person who performs on this string instrument is called an oudist.
Notable oudists include Rahim Alhaj, Ahmed Alshaiba, Amer Ammouri, Anouar Brahem, Hamza El Din, H. Aram Gulezyan, Aarif Jaman, Saad Mahmood Jawad, Yuval Ron, Alan Shavarsh Bardezbanian, and Scott Wilson.
An instrumental interpretation of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” was arranged by Ahmed Alshaiba, a young musician from Yemen who now makes his home in New York City. The talented player is self-taught and likes to create a mix of eastern and western styles.
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The guzheng or Gu Zheng is a Chinese string instrument. Sometimes the name is shortened to zheng. No matter what you call it, the large, slender instrument functions as a plucked zither with 18 or more strings and movable bridges.
According to musicologists, the guzheng was inspired by early bamboo tube zithers. Today’s guzheng is quite different from the instruments made centuries ago. Modern players use picks–called DaiMao–which are often made from hawksbill turtle shells. Ancient picks were carved from ivory or tortoise shells.
Western musical styles have inspired a more modern playing technique where the left hand is used to provide harmony and bass notes. This allows for greater flexibility in the instrument’s musical range, but tends to limit subtle ornamentations provided by the left hand in more traditional music. Students at the Beijing Conservatory are required to learn a repertoire of both traditional and modern pieces.
Here are a few more interesting guzheng facts. Centuries ago the strings were made from silk. Today they’re nearly always metal-nylon, which increases the instrument’s capabilities, volume, and timbre. The strings are capable of creating graceful sounds that mimic a cascading waterfall, or stronger sounds like thunder and trotting horses.
Indeed, well known pieces for the guzheng suggest a connection to nature. For example, Yu Zhou Chang Wan (Songs of Fishing Boats at Dusk), Gao Shan Liu Shui (High Mountains Flowing Water), and Han Gong Qiu Yue (Autumn Moon Over the Han Palace).
More Guzheng Facts
A person who performs on this string instrument is called a guzhengist or Chinese harpist.
Notable guzhengists include Bei Bei He, Shirley Wang, Melody Yan, and Wang Zhongshan.
The guitar is a string instrument that plays a critical role in many music genres including bluegrass, blues, country, flamenco, folk, jazz, jota, mariachi, metal, pop, punk, reggae, rock, and soul. Electric guitars, introduced in the 1930s, have had a lasting impact on popular culture.
More Guitar Facts
A person who performs on this string instrument is called a guitarist.
Notable guitarists are far too numerous to name here, though Jimi Hendrix is often singled out as the greatest ever.
Brazilian guitarist, arranger, and composer Oscar Castro-Neves plays the Antonio Carlos Jobim classic Waters of March (Águas de Março) on the Ramsey Lewis Legends of Jazz series on PBS. Born in Rio de Janeiro, Oscar is considered a founding figure in the Bossa Nova music style. He was just 16 when his song Chora Tua Tristeza became a national hit.
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The dulcimer is a musical string instrument in the zither family. Unlike the zither, the dulcimer is typically characterized by three or four strings. There are several common styles, though the Appalachian and mountain styles are considered the most popular.
Here’s one of our favorite dulcimer facts. Over the years, the dulcimer has acquired a number of nicknames including “harmonium,” “hog fiddle,” “music box,” “harmony box,” and “mountain zither.”
The dulcimer first appeared in the early 19th century among Scotch-Irish immigrant communities in the Appalachian Mountains of the United States. Historians speculate that early settlers were unable to craft the more complex, dramatically curved violin. This was due to a lack of tools and time. Once dulcimers were mass-produced, design changes resulted in an instrument that was easier to build and play. The body was made larger, and geared tuners replaced traditional wooden pegs, making tuning easier and more reliable.
With just three or four strings and a simple diatonic fret pattern, the Appalachian dulcimer is considered one of the easiest string instruments to learn. It’s a wonderful introduction to the world of stringed instruments, and an excellent choice for folk song accompaniment.
More Dulcimer Facts
A person who performs on this string instrument is called a dulcimerist. However, this term is rarely used. Most artists refer to themselves as dulcimer players.
Does the instrument look familiar to you? Songstress Joni Mitchell played one on her 1971 album “Blue” and is credited with popularizing the instrument outside of United States folk music circles. Her live performances sometimes include an entire set devoted to the instrument.
Other big-name musicians have also been known to play the instrument. Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones featured an Appalachian dulcimer on the songs “Lady Jane” and “I Am Waiting.” Pop star Cyndi Lauper also played one on her songs “A Night to Remember” and “Sisters of Avalon.”
Nashville-based musician Stephen Seifert plays “Whiskey Before Breakfast” on a mountain dulcimer. If you’d like to learn to play, Stephen has a series of videos that you can find on his Dulcimer School website. He is widely recognized as one of the most versatile and talented contemporary players, and is a frequent performer at American folk music festivals. Stephen has also performed with a number of classical symphonies throughout the United States.
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The cello is a string instrument. It is a member of the violin family, which includes double bass, viola, and violin. Cellos play a critical role in orchestral music, but are also suited to solo works.
More Cello Facts
A person who performs on this string instrument is called a cellist.
Famed contemporary cellist Yo-Yo Ma plays the Davidov Stradivarius, which was made in Italy in 1712 by the most celebrated luthier of all time, Antonio Stradivari. The instrument was previously owned and played by British cellist Jacqueline du Pré. Her phenomenal career was cut short by multiple sclerosis when she was just 28 years old.
More recently, a classically trained Croatian duo, Stjepan Hauser and Luka Šulić (2Cellos) have introduced the instrument to fans of rock and pop. In 2012, the pair performed an arrangement of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” on the television show Glee.
Other notable cellists of the 20th century include “The Godfather of the Modern Cello” Pablo Casals, Beatrice Harrison, Emanuel Feuermann, Pierre Fournier, Zara Nelsova, János Starker, Paul Tortelier, Mstislav Rostropovich, and Anner Bylsma.
Cellist Yo-Yo Ma and trumpeter Chris Botti perform the hauntingly beautiful love theme from Cinema Paradiso. The music was written by Italian composer Ennio Morricone for the 1988 film. You’ll definitely want to keep a box of tissues handy as you watch this Italian drama written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore.
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The bouzouki is a string instrument in the same family as the mandolin and lute. It is a mainstay of modern Greek music and was brought to Greece by immigrants fleeing Asia Minor after the 1919-1922 war. The Irish bouzouki is based on the Greek instrument, and has been popular in traditional Irish folk music since the 1960s. It’s a simple yet beautiful instrument. The flat fronted body is often inlaid with elaborate mother-of-pearl designs.
The instrument is played with a plectrum, a small flat tool used for plucking or strumming. A plectrum is similar to a guitar pick, and is held in the player’s hand. The bouzouki’s sharp metallic sound is reminiscent of a mandolin, but pitched a bit lower. There are two main types: trichordo, with three pairs of strings (known as courses), and tetrachordo, with four pairs of strings.
Related musical string instruments include baglamas (saz), Byzantine lyra, pandura, and tambouras.
More Bouzouki Facts
A person who performs on this string instrument is called a bouzoukist.
Notable bouzoukists include Andreas Karantinis, Ioannis Papaioannou, Michalis Terzis, Vasilis Tsitsanis, and Márkos Vamvakáris.
AKTINA’s Greek Music Journey featured Greek singer Melina Aslanidou with Andreas Karantinis on the bouzouki. The concert was held at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College in Manhattan on June 6, 2013 in honor of AKTINA FM Radio’s 20th year anniversary.
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The bass guitar is a string instrument that establishes the beat for many styles of music. Blues, country, funk, fusion, gospel, jazz, Latin, metal, pop, punk rock, reggae, and rock all feature the beat of the bass guitar. The popular string instrument is known by many names including bass, electric bass, and electric bass guitar.
More Bass Guitar Facts
A person who performs on this string instrument is called a bassist.
Notable bassists include Sheryl Crow, Maurice Gibb (Bee Gees), Julian Lennon, Paul McCartney (The Beatles, Wings), John Patitucci (Chick Corea), Prince, Kenny Rogers (Kenny Rogers and The First Edition), Gene Simmons (Kiss), Esperanza Spalding, Peter Tork (The Monkees), Eddie Van Halen (Van Halen, Sammy Hagar), Wolfgang Van Halen (Van Halen), Sid Vicious (Sex Pistols), and Stevie Wonder.