In this piece, we will introduce you to the violin and its string family members: the viola, the cello and the double bass. Whether you are already a musician or you are thinking of starting up an instrument, it is fascinating to find out about the differences between the instruments that make up part of an orchestra.

Violin: The Most Commonly Know String Instrument

The violin, also know as a fiddle, is a string instrument made from a hollow wooden body. It is among the smallest of the violin family and also the highest in pitch, which makes it quite a common instrument in the music business. Some smaller models do exist such as the violino piccolo, but are rarely used as the violin is, of course, a favourite for musicians.

Typically, the violin is made up of four strings, tuned in perfect fifths (G3, D4, A4 & E5) and is played by moving a bow across the strings. Some unique violin players opt to pluck at the strings, much like playing the guitar.

Violins are most commonly associated with classical music but are also important to many other genres. Ensembles and orchestras will, without fail, have a violinist among them but the violin can be played solo by lovers of folk music, like country and jazz. Moreover, electric guitars are used in rock music and jazz, played with amplifiers.

The violin family comprises of a variety of instruments.
An old collection of the violin family. Photo credit: Free Public Domain Illustrations by rawpixel on Visualhunt / CC BY

Tips On Playing The Violin

Now that you know a little more about the predominant member of the violin family, see our tips for beginners wanting to buy and learn how to play a violin below.

When you learn to play violin, it's easy to be fooled into thinking all you need is yourself and your instrument. However, every violinist needs, as well as their trusty instrument:

-a good bow
- a carry case
-a rosin (described above)
-a music stand and some sheet music
-pencils and erasers (for note-taking)
-a metronome (a device that helps you stay in time)
-good lighting (in which to read music and practice playing in)

INTERESTING FACT

Modern violins are made using more than 70 different pieces of wood!

How To Play The Cello

The violoncello (meaning "little violone"), or cello as we know it, is another bowed stringed instrument and member of the violin family. The cello is noted for being tuned an octave lower than the viola. The cello is, like the violin, used in orchestras, ensembles and chamber music whilst also being played as a solo instrument in its own right.

Once again, the cello has strong links to the classical genre, particularly Western classical music. Its role in the standard orchestra is the bass of the string quartet, and often takes centre stage with concertos or sonatas being written specifically to show off its distinctive sound.

Animato explains that: "The cello has four strings tuned in perfect fifth intervals: the A-string (the highest sounding), D-string, G-string, and C-string (the lowest sounding). The A-string is tuned to the pitch A3 (just below middle C), the D-string a fifth lower at D3, the G-string a fifth below that at G2, and the C-string tuned to C2 (two octaves lower than middle C). The strings are one octave lower than the viola, and one octave plus one fifth lower than the violin."

The cello is a popular instrument among string players.
The cello is a string instrument, typically made of wood. Photo credit: dejankrsmanovic on VisualHunt.com / CC BY

How To Hold The Cello

Since the cello is much larger than the violin, and therefore far heavier, most players choose to sit down when playing it. Some will sit on the edge of their seat with their left foot slightly forward with the body of the instrument resting on their chest, between their knees. Others will find other positions which they find more comfortable, it all depends on your frame, size and preference.

The important thing is to steady the cello, usually by gripping it loosely with your knees and having the neck and scroll positioned to the left of your head, enabling you to reach the strings without readjusting.

Cellists often use endpin rests to prevent their endpin from sliding.

INTERESTING FACT

Once upon a time, cello strings were made using sheep gut (before metal wiring was discovered).

Would you like to know more about the cello?

How To Play The Viola

Slightly larger than a violin, the viola is yet another bowed instrument played in a similar way to a violin. It takes up the position of the alto or middle voice of an orchestra as it has a lower and deeper sound than its smaller sibling.

Much like the violin, the viola is played under the chin and can be performed with either by standing or sitting. If you want to see the best way to play this string instrument, then try googling images or watching videos of famous violists to get a good picture in your head.

Tips For Viola Players

Learning to play any string instrument is no easy feat, and the viola is no different in that respect. The key is practice, and to spend as much time as possible getting it right. Check your posture regularly, get a routine and record yourself so you can play it all back and refine!

Take your time, relax, and enjoy the process. If you are finding practising a chore, move on and have a go at something else. Learning an instrument is always hard work, but it should never be frustrating or upsetting. Remember it's OK to have a break, just make sure you come back to it again later on.

INTERESTING FACT

Violas are heavy pieces of wood, so performing can be a bit like a workout for the arms!

Click here for more information about playing the viola.

How To Play The Double Bass

Do you fancy playing the double bass?
The double bass is one of the largest of the string instruments, along with the harp. Photo credit: sanbeiji on Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

Doublebass, or contrabass, contrebasse, string bass, bass or bass fiddle as it is otherwise known, is the instrument with the lowest pitch of all the violin family. It is tuned an octave lower than the cello.

The double bass looks different depending on the design - some are shaped like a viola whilst others look more like a violin. It is also hard to paint an accurate picture of its size because the instrument varies greatly in its appearance. The largest is normally no bigger than 1.8 metres in length, or 6 feet. The body itself can make up two thirds of this size.

A double bass is usually crafted with four strings pitched E1, A1, D & G, but a fifth string is sometimes added to allow high notes to be played with more ease. However, rather than having a fifth string, many basses have a mechanical device with levers that helps to increase the length of the fourth string.

Double Bass Playing Techniques

"Arco - Otherwise known as bowing. This is the same technique used to play the violin and cello. The length of strings on a double bass, as well as other string instruments, depends on the length of the instrument. When it comes to the double bass, the string length may be from 90 centimeters for the 1/4 to 106 centimeters for the 3/4 (measurements based on total length).

Pizzicato - Also known as striking. The musician strikes the strings to produce sound, usually using the side of the index finger. This technique is often used by jazz players.

Slap Bass - The musician plucks or pulls the strings and releases it. As the strings slap or hit the fingerboard it creates notes that has an added "click" to it." - https://www.liveabout.com/double-bass-playing-techniques-2456437

INTERESTING FACT

Though bass is very tall, you don't have to stand to pay it. Some like to sit on a very tall stool!

Take a look at this post on the double bass!

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Krishna