String instruments have been a pivotal part of the music industry as a whole for a long time. Everyone has a basic idea of what string instruments are and they are quite a common choice of instruments for musicians in every nook and corner of the world. String instruments are basically ones that are attached with strings and produce sound through the vibrations made in them. The strings are usually stretched across a surface to provide them with a sufficient frequency of vibration and when the strings are plucked or hit by musicians they produce the sound.
The tone of the sound is then manipulated by the players by placing their fingers on certain parts of the instrument to vary the vibration according to their needs. Piano can also be said to be a string instrument but they do not usually match the usual description and therefore are often left out from lists of string instruments.
The player does not have direct contact with the strings in a piano which is usually the case with most string instruments and therefore it is often said to fit a different category. String instruments usually come with a hollow body which helps them amplify the sound emitted from the vibration of the strings and make it audible to the listener. The vibrations are not enough to make the sound audible to a person who is not seated close to the player. However, the electric guitar is an exception as it does not have a hollow surface and rather depends on the electronic amplification of the sound.
String Instruments and Orchestras
We are sure that most of our readers have seen a large ensemble of people playing instruments in a theatre-like setting. These people are usually seen in uniforms which are more often than not mostly black and white and one particular individual is seen with his/her back faced towards a crowd. This type of musical ensemble is called the orchestra.
Orchestras are groups of musicians that form a group and play a plethora of instruments in unison with each other that result in an orchestrated instrumental composition. The person who has his back faced towards the crowd is known as the conductor of the group. The conductor synchronizes every instrumental group in an orchestra and makes sure that everyone is playing according to the requirements of the composition.
String instruments play the biggest role in an orchestra with the majority of members of the group having some kind of string instrument with them. Full orchestras can have up to 44 string instruments and this can vary according to the size of the group as a whole. There are mainly 5 types of string instruments that make up the whole 44 stringed instruments in a full orchestra and we will have a closer look at them now.
Violin is arguably one of the most known string instruments in the orchestra. Other string instruments that are part of an orchestra are usually not approached by the general population as an instrument choice like in the case of violins. The reason behind this may be the fact that violins players have the largest portion of an orchestra to fill in as it is the instrument that is present in the highest number in an ensemble. You can find between 20 to 30 violin players in an orchestra.
Violins are compact instruments and the largest of violins is usually two feet in length. They are played using a bow that is rubbed on the strings by the player that causes the vibration in the strings. The base of the violin is placed between the chin and the shoulder of the player and the hand on the hand on the same side as the supporting shoulder is used to hold the strings while playing. The other hand is used to hold the bow and rub the strings with it.
Viola is more commonly known as the elder sibling of the violin. The viola is said to be so as it is just over two feet in length which is a tad bitter longer than the violin. The build of a viola is also bulkier than the violin and it feels a bit heavier as well. The sound it produces is thicker and richer than the violin. The viola is played similarly to a violin and it is not so easily discernible by the commoner.
Cello looks similar to the violin but is considerably larger in size. The cello ranges from 4 to 5 feet in height and is a lot heavier than the violin. The structure of the cello is similar but due to its humongous size, it is played by sitting down on a chair. The player places the cello between their legs with the base firmly placed in the ground. The mechanism of playing the instrument is similar to the violin which requires a bow to rub the strings and another hand to hold the strings to hit particular notes.
The double bass is to the cello what the viola is to the violin. The double bass has a slightly larger body than the cello and due to its tall length, it is usually seen in hands of people who are well endowed when it comes to height. The bass has a richer voice than the cello and therefore is used mostly for harmonies. One may find around 4 to 8 cellos in an orchestra. Bass players usually have to stand to play it comfortably with the base firmly placed on the ground or some players choose to opt for tall chairs if it seems more convenient to them.
The harp is the only instrument in an orchestra that is played by plucking the strings. The strings are plucked by the player’s finger. The harp comes with 47 strings and is tuned in C major making it easy for players to play seven modes with ease. The shape of the harp has varied but it usually consists of strings that are stretched and attached at two ends of the harp. The strings are accessible from both sides so it can be easily played by both left and right-handed players.
These are the string instruments that are generally used by orchestras in their performances. Orchestras are not based on individual instruments but are rather a collaborative effort that is exemplary of the highest level of teamwork when executed well. The string instruments are an important part of that coordination as it is the most used type of instrument in an orchestra. We hope that you guys now have a better knowledge of the string instruments used in an orchestra and how they fit in.