The four major instruments in the string family, the violin, the viola, the cello and the double bass, are built the same way. The instruments are made of many pieces of wood which are glued - never nailed - together. The body of the instrument is hollow, thus becoming a resonating box for the sound. Four strings (sometimes five on the double-bass) made of animal gut, nylon, or steel are wrapped around pegs at one end of the instrument and attached to a tailpiece at the other. They are stretched tightly across a bridge to produce their assigned pitches.
The viola (in French, alto; in German bratsche) is a stringed musical instrument played with a bowwhich serves as the middle voice of the violin family, between the upper lines played by the higher violin (soprano register) and the lower lines played by the deeper cello (bass) and double bass. The viola has an extremely rich sonority, much more full-bodied than the violin, dark-toned and earthy.
The viola is the alto voice in the string family. Like the violin, it is held under the chin, resting on the shoulder. Unlike the violin, the viola is slightly larger and is tuned five notes lower. It has a darker and warmer tone quality than the violin, but is not as brilliant.
The viola is perhaps the most versatile - if not underrated - member of its family. Its lower strings exude a mellow, brooding timbre, much like the cello, while in its higher registers, the viola is both capable of expressing a mournful, penetrating melancholia and a dignified, joyous voice, unique and delightful in its restrained clarity. All of this is of course dependant on the player of the viola. There are very powerful soloists who play the viola with tremendous volume and energy. There are very challenging pieces of music for viola which demand flair and the entire range of emotions one might expect to be drawn from any instrument.