Intro to Viola: Taster Sessions

...introductory group sessions for adult string players curious to try playing the viola...

Next session: tbc

Sharrow Performing Arts Space

Sharrow School

Sitwell Place


S7 1BE

Tutor: Jenny Jackson (Sheffield Viola Ensemble)

Cost £18

a limited number of violas will be available to use on the day (£7 hire fee)

Ever fancied playing the viola but not sure if it's for you? 

These taster sessions give you the opportunity to try playing the viola without having to commit to buying an instrument, abandoning your current instrument, or finding a teacher. You will experience the practical side of holding, bowing and fingering the instrument, and get to know the basic principles of playing on different strings whilst reading from the alto clef. You will have gained a sense of what the instrument is like to play by the end of the session, and you may then choose to continue your viola journey!

What will I learn at the Intro to Viola taster session?

Fingers and notes are introduced step-by-step on each of the four strings, working together as a group. We  play notes in first position only to make sure intonation and note-reading is secure. By the end of the session you will be able to play simple tunes and short ensemble arrangements in multiple parts progressing at a pace to suit you.

Who is the Taster Session for?

The sessions are aimed at adult string players of all levels of ability, but with no previous experience of playing the viola. Violinists should be confident with bow-hold and finger spacings in first position: aspects which will easily be transferred to the larger instrument. Cello players will have to adapt their bow-hold and fingerings slightly, and learn how to hold the instrument. All players should understand how to read basic staff notation in simple keys and time signatures. Please note: the sessions are not suitable for absolute beginners.

I was really surprised how much we all achieved in two hours. I didn’t think we would get to the point of playing music using all four strings. The thing I found most difficult was reading the alto clef!

Ruth Batty

Thanks for organising everything for yesterday, I really enjoyed it!
Deborah Gott

I have  found your booklet very useful. Also the pace of the 2 hour session was very good.

Jocelyn Storey

I had a brilliant time! It was so good to try something new!

Sarah Calcutt

If you are interested in attending an Intro to Viola Taster Session but are unsure of your suitability, or just want to know more about it, please contact Jenny:

Contact Us

What are my options after attending an Intro to Viola taster session?

If you decide to continue on your viola journey after a taster session, you may be able to hire a viola to take home with you on the day (from Rotherham Music Hub @£20 per term, subject to availability). 

You can continue to make progress by joining the Beginners Viola Ensemble which meets monthly, for 45 minutes, before First Position Strings workshops. This will give you the opportunity to develop your note-reading in alto clef, and to play simple tunes and  arrangements with multiple parts of varying levels of difficulty.

First Position Strings is a string orchestra for adult  beginner string players. Workshops enable players to experience playing a part within a string ensemble and to practice the skills required for successful ensemble-playing.  

You may decide to find a teacher and have viola lessons, of course. In time, you may be ready to join the Sheffield Viola Ensemble, form a string quartet, or become a member of one of the region's many orchestras...

Why play viola?

You can, of course, play viola in addition to any other instrument! It would, undoubtedly, give you greater flexibility and the potential to experience a wider range of ensemble-playing options. Viola players are always in demand in string quartets, ensembles and orchestras and the role within these ensembles is often very different to that of the other members of the string family (providing texture, inner harmonies and rhythmic momentum, and it provides a darker, richer sonority within the musical colour palette). There is some excellent repertoire for solo viola, so you will have so much more music to explore!

How different is the viola to the violin?

As you already play the violin, you will have some transferable skills that will make the transition to viola fairly straightforward (bowing, fingering, the ability to read music). The main difference is in the larger size of the instrument, requiring some adjustment to finger spacings in order to play in tune. The open strings are slightly different: CGDA instead of GDAE. It is the larger body and low C string that gives the viola it's rich quality. You will also have to get to grips with reading from the alto clef, but this should not be too difficult as you will already understand how to read notes on a stave (and there are tricks to help!).

How different is the viola to the cello?

The main difference is in the instrument hold, which you may find awkward to begin with. There are slight differences in bow hold, and in fingering as the note spacings are not as wide on the viola. Luckily for you, the open strings are the same: CGDA, although they will sound an octave higher. As with violin players, you will have to get to grips with reading from the alto clef, but this should not be not too difficult as you will already understand how to read notes on a stave.


Sharrow Performing Arts Space

Sharrow School

Sitwell Place


S7 1BE

The easiest way to find the entrance is to aim for Rossi's Italian Restaurant, 3 Sharrow Lane, Sheffield S11 8AE. Go up the short road on the left of the restaurant and the entrance to the Performing Arts Space grounds will be in front of you (the fence has a street sign reading 'Mount Pleasant Road'). There is parking in the grounds of the venue. If you're coming by public transport, buses stop nearby on London Road.