Beginner viola players need an instrument that is both ready-to-play out-of-the-box and is cost-effective since they may not continue playing for long. Our comprehensive list of beginner viola brands below has been evaluated by our staff to ensure that they are both beginner- and budget-friendly. Each of the viola outfits below comes with a minimum of a student viola, a bow, a case, and strings. As with all violas, components can be upgraded, but these basic outfits will be enough to get the beginner up and playing within minutes.

For our full analysis of the best viola brands, check out our best viola brands guide.

One final note before we get to our recommended viola brands: Shopping online for violas is a relatively new phenomenon. We highly recommend going to a local music shop to try out violas before you shop online for the best deal. However, if you feel comfortable with Amazon’s return policy, you can certainly buy from them and return the viola if it doesn’t sound quite right.

Recommended For: Beginner

Cecilio is the most popular beginner viola brands in the world. They make instruments for a fraction of the cost of other manufacturers and their instruments are all hand-made, even the less than $200 CVA-400.

Cecilio violas are hand-carved from solid tonewoods in the traditional style with spruce tops, flamed maple sides and backs, and inlaid purfling. The chin rests are made of boxwood, traditionally a feature only available on higher-end models. These viola outfits are also very generous. Most Cecilio outfits come with a quality brazilwood bow with unbleached Mongolian horsehair. They also come with boxwood pegs, chinrest, and tailpiece (with four fine tuners).

The only shortcoming of Cecilio violas is that their fingerboards are made of maple instead of ebony. Since ebony fingerboards are sturdier than maple, ebony fingerboards can better withstand the repeated pressure of fingers tapping on them. Of course, removing the ebony fingerboards makes for a lower-cost viola, but you may need to take your viola in for repairs more often.

Given the value you get for the price, the Cecilio viola brand gets our highest vote, but if you are an advanced player, we recommend looking at some of the higher-end violas below.

Cecilio CVA-400

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Cecilio CVA-500

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Recommended For: Beginner

Very affordable, Stentor has made a name for themselves by being one of the highest quality viola brands for the price. Many parents rely on this well-known brand to get their children to an intermediate level viola. Stentor manufactures the instruments in Chinese workshops, but checks each instrument in their United Kingdom shops for quality before delivery to your home or store.

With a wide variety of violas for sale, from absolute beginner to slightly below intermediate, Stentor is sure to have the right viola for your student. Not only do they come in multiple sizes, from small to full size, but they also come with 16” and 15.5” outfits, rare for beginner instrument manufacturers.

Like their other instruments, Stentor violas are made traditionally out of solid tonewoods. This includes a solid ebony fingerboard (as opposed to the Cecilio above), pegs, and fittings with maple sides and back, and a spruce top. Stentor violas also have inlaid purfling to prevent the softer spruce wood top from splitting.

Packages on Amazon include a padded rectangle case, wood and horsehair bow (usually brazilwood), and rosin.

Stentor 1038

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Recommended For: Beginner

For a beginner outfit, Cremona violas are great quality for a decent price tag. Made out of select tone woods, such as hand-carved maple, spruce, and ebony, these violas stand up well on their own, but can be made significantly better with small improvements.

Out-of-the-box, Cremona violas come with Prelude strings which are okay, but swapping them out for a higher-quality viola string brand can make a world of difference. Each outfit also comes with a high-quality J. LaSalle Brazilwood bow, a popular TL-33 case, Prelude strings by D’Addario, A. Breton VP-61 alloy tailpiece with 4 built-in tuners for easy tuning, along with a Kaufman chinrest, and rosin.

Cremona violas are built to MENC standards (National Standards for Music Education as prescribed by the Music Educators National Conference in 1994) in their Cremona workshop in the state of California. The MENC standard ensures that they are playable when they arrive, and can be easily integrated into your child’s school orchestra or ensemble. It’s no wonder that students and teachers alike favor Cremona over other student viola outfits.

Recommended For: Beginner

While lower quality than many of the viola brands on this list, Merano definitely deliver on affordability. Many of their violas are just over $100 which makes them especially good for absolute beginners who may not continue playing after their first year. While they won’t garner a high resale value, they will certainly meet the requirements of a novice and your budget.

Like Cecilio listed above, Merano viola fingerboards are made out of hardwood instead of ebony, meaning you will most certainly have to upgrade to a better model or have the fingerboard repaired frequently. For a beginner instrument, this is ok since you will be upgrading within a year or two anyway.

Merano starter kits on Amazon include a ton of extras including an extra set of strings, an extra bridge, a shoulder rest, rosin, case, music stand, and electronic tuner. Buying a Merano viola outfit is one way to be up and playing in no time.

If you can’t afford a higher quality model at this moment, the Merano viola makes a good starting viola until you can afford to upgrade to a better quality one. It’s a great instrument to see whether you or you child will like playing viola.

Recommended For: Beginner

Mendini violas are the bestselling viola brand on Amazon due primarily to their relatively low price of about $80. From a quality standpoint, we can’t recommend this brand highly, but they are certainly a bargain for beginners  looking to save a few bucks. Mendini violas are completely hand-carved with a solid spruce top and maple back and sides. They are fitted with a maple fingerboard, pegs, and chin rest, and an alloy tailpiece with four integrated fine tuners.

The viola outfits generally include a lightweight form fitting hard, a Brazilwood bow with unbleached genuine Mongolian horsehair, rosin, and a bridge making this package a great deal for beginners. They also come with a 1 year warranty against manufacturer defects.

Mendini MA250

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