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For a child who needs a smaller size, a fractional-sized violin is often strung with the strings of a viola.Unlike the violin, the viola does not have a standard full size.Hermann Ritter's viola alta, which measured about 48 cm (19 in), was intended for use in Wagner's operas.The Tertis model viola, which has wider bouts and deeper ribs to promote a better tone, is another slightly "nonstandard" shape that allows the player to use a larger instrument.More recent (and more radically shaped) innovations have addressed the ergonomic problems associated with playing the viola by making it shorter and lighter, while finding ways to keep the traditional sound.

When viola music has substantial sections in a higher register, it switches to the treble clef to make it easier to read.English composers Arthur Bliss, York Bowen, Benjamin Dale, Frank Bridge, Benjamin Britten and Ralph Vaughan Williams all wrote substantial chamber and concert works.Many of these pieces were commissioned by, or written for Lionel Tertis.William Walton, Bohuslav Martinů, Toru Takemitsu, Tibor Serly, Alfred Schnittke, and Béla Bartók have written well-known viola concertos.Paul Hindemith wrote a substantial amount of music for viola, including the concerto Der Schwanendreher.

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