What's the difference between the violin and the viola?
A lot of people ask this, particularly parents who are trying to decide what instrument their child should study.
One of the first things that musicians might think about in this connection are violin/viola jokes.
The viola plays a somewhat different role in the orchestra than the violins do, and there is some gentle and sometimes not-so-gentle teasing between the sections.
Musicians' jokes aside, the viola is a somewhat larger (longer, heavier) instrument and it is a fifth lower than the violin (five pitches, in other words).
Many string players play both instruments, making their careers more flexible in terms of what they can offer.
I would encourage anyone to play viola; the literature is a little different, but the viola has a deep, gorgeous tone and is quite as wonderful as the violin. There have been many eminent viola players (Pinchas Zukerman is a great example, and he's a genius who also plays violin and conducts. See ArtsAlive Pinchas Zukerman videoconference masterclass).
You might want to take into consideration also, that if your child likes the instrument [viola] and wants to play it, and especially if the child is tall and has long arms and larger hands, the viola may be an excellent idea.
I think it's fair to say that fewer people are drawn to the viola and therefore it may offer more opportunities for a child to play in school groups, and perhaps even later prove to be a career advantage.
In the long run, both violin and viola are perhaps the most difficult of all instruments, and they provide immense advantages in terms of physical and mental training.