Guide to the String Family
Should I Learn Violin, Viola, Cello, or Double Bass?
By Jasmine Reese - String instruments' evolution goes back centuries. Ancient music also utilizes string-like instruments which may point to further development. It's no surprise, then, people want to learn a stringed instrument.
There's something mystical about a bow full of horse hair rubbing against metallic strings and creating the gorgeous sounds similar to the human voice. Many prospective students are also intrigued with the fretless fingerboard. How does one know where to put their fingers?
Embarking on a musical journey with the violin, viola, cello, or double bass is so much fun. Some may choose to learn one -- or all! However, if you're having trouble deciding, here is a guide with a little bit of information on each instrument.
The violin is the soprano voice of the string family. Unlike the other instruments, it has an E-string and a very high pitch range. If you're sensitive to high notes, you may love or hate the violin.
Due to its size and notational range, composers have long created technically difficult works featuring the violin. People such as Paganini wered dubbed as devils due to their amazing finger gymnastics on the instrument. Some of the most virtuosic music has been composed for the violin. Therefore, the instrument has the most diverse and extensive repertoire list. It often receives the melody line in orchestral and chamber works.
Modern developments include adding an additional one or two lower strings to give it more range. Violin is found in all genres across many cultures in the world. Whether you want to learn Classical, Pop, Jazz, Rock, Indian, Film, or other forms of music, you'll find your place with the violin.
The viola has also had a unique history. It boasts a middle pitch range between the violin and cello, and has a clef for note reading all to its own - the C, aka, alto clef. It's low C-string satisfies the ear of a person who likes bass notes, but also desires the higher pitches of a mezzo or alto singer.
It's a longer and wider instrument than the violin, but still held in a horizontal position under the chin of the player. Like violin, modern customizations include five or six strings to extend the notational range of the instrument.
Repertoire composed for the viola is not as extensive as the violin or cello. However, there are many gorgeous works featuring viola, and it's quickly gaining popularity across genres for its mellow and haunting tone. Also, many works for violin transpose to the viola.
The instrument still lacks representation in different genres such as folk, jazz, hip hop and other music. However, it has its own undeniable special place in the world of music, and the need and respect for viola is only growing.
If you like the idea of sitting down and playing in a vertical position, the cello is for you.
It is two times larger than the viola and three times larger than the violin, so prepare to exercise your muscles for transport of the instrument.
It boasts the deeper voice of a low and rugged C-string (much lower than the viola's), and the higher range of both alto and soprano notes. It is often used as rhythmical and harmony instrument. However, many orchestral works feature amazing and virtuosic melody lines for cellos.
It is a solo, chamber, and orchestral instrument with an extensive and diverse repertoire across many genres. Musicians such as Yo Yo Ma, the late Rostropovich, The Piano Guys and 2Cellos have only made it more popular!
The Double Bass
The Double Bass is even larger than the cello. Players must stand or use a stool to play the instrument. It has the lowest range and used as its name implies -- as a bass instrument.
While often used as a rhythm instrument and plucked in many genres, such as jazz, for percussive effect, it is also a diverse instrument capable of intense virtuosity across the fingerboard and with the bow.
However, due to its size, it's limited, and the devilish effects found in the smaller stringed instruments may not occur on the bass.
The bass, though, is the heart beat and soul of any orchestral or musical work. It provides the rhythm and sound needed to make these works complete. Our ears are often waiting for and lingering on especially attractive or powerful bass lines. There are even genres of music devoted to that special low drop in pitch -- aka "the bass drop" -- such as dubstep and "drum & bass."
Of course, Meghan Trainor said it best, "I'm all about that bass."
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