Which Strings Are Which?

string instrumentsString instruments are used in every musical genre from pop to rock to classical. The notes may be the same, but the sounds can be very different. Even when the instruments look alike, there are important differences. For example, the violin, viola, cello, and double bass share the same shape and you’re not likely to mistake a violin for a double bass, but, do you know any more about the differences?

The violin is the smallest, and perhaps the most well-known of these four instruments. It’s also referred to as a fiddle and can be played using a bow or its strings–usually four strings–can be plucked using your fingers. The violin has the highest pitch and is used in western, country, folk, classical, and jazz music. Contemporary electric violins can be plugged into amplifiers for a different sound.

The viola is larger than a violin, its strings are heavier, and it has a deeper sound. Like the violin, it’s held on the left between the shoulder and the chin and played with the right hand. Because the strings are heavier, it takes more time and more weight is required to produce the right tones.

No one will ever put a cello under their chin as this substantial instrument is played from a sitting position. The cello can be played as a solo instrument, in chamber music, as part of an orchestra, or even in some rock bands. Only the double bass is larger and lower (in tone) than the cello. If your child decides to play this instrument in the school orchestra, get ready for a hefty price tag to go with this over-sized string. A beginner’s cello can cost as much as $1,000, and that doesn’t include the bow.

Last in the string family is the double bass. A full-size bass is about 6 feet from endpin to scroll, though there are smaller sizes for more diminutive players. The double bass is used in as many musical genres as its relatives. Contemporary musicians and their bands using the double bass include Jim Creeggan of “Barenaked Ladies,” Sting of “The Police,” and Bill Black who played with Elvis early in his career.

No matter which sound you prefer, Bialek’s Music has talented musicians who are masters of their instruments. They’ll top off any party or event regardless of the genre that you have in mind. Call us anytime at 301-340-6206 in the Washington DC area, or at 410-484-7978 in the Baltimore area to set up an appointment.