The viola is an instrument from the violin family. In size, it is slightly larger than the violin, and has a lower tone in the same range as the human alto voice. The strings of the viola are tuned in fifths, which is one fifth below the violin and also one octave above the cello. It's believed that the viola may have evolved from the Italian viola da braccio, and may have appeared prior to the violin.
The viola is played by drawing the bow at right angles across its strings, near the bridge, which causes the vibration of the strings. The pitch is selected by pressing the strings down onto various lengths of the fingerboard with fingers of the left hand. The viola is used in orchestras and in chamber music, and music from the 20th century at times features the viola as a soloist. Famous violists include C.P.E. Bach and Mozart as well as Dvorak, Edouard Lalo, Felix Mendelssohn and even Jim Hendrix started on viola!