The Stringed Instrument Family

The full string family includes orchestral instruments, such as Violin, Viola, Cello, and Double Bass, as well as many instruments used primarily in folk, rock or popular music, including several types of Guitars, Electric Basses, Banjos, Mandolins, Dulcimers, Autoharps, Lutes and Ukuleles. The Harp is also part of the string family.

Sound is produced on stringed instruments by plucking, picking or drawing a bow across strings to make them vibrate.

The violin, viola, cello and double bass each have four strings. With the right arm, the player draws a bow across the strings, usually one at a time, to make them vibrate, while pressing the fingers of the left hand down on the strings at different points on the fingerboard to produce different pitches. For a different sound, the strings can also be plucked instead of bowed.

The other stringed instruments are plucked or picked instead of being bowed. Another important difference between the orchestral strings and most of the other stringed instruments, such as guitar, is that the fingerboards on the non-orchestral stringed instruments are are marked with “frets”, metal strips inserted across the fingerboard to indicate where to put down fingers to play each specific pitch.

The orchestral instruments, however, have no frets. The player needs to learn exactly where to place his or her fingers to produce the desired note, so playing them requires a good sense of pitch and coordination.