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South Washington County Schools

Instruments

Violin

The violin is the smallest and the highest pitched instrument in the string orchestra - the soprano voice of the string family.  It is well known for its brilliant and beautiful tone quality.  The violin is held under the chin and supported by the player’s left shoulder.  An orchestra uses more violins than any other instrument, thus we always have need for more violin players.  The violin is different than the viola in these ways: the violin is smaller, has a higher register, and reads the treble clef.

Viola

The viola resembles the violin, but is slightly larger in size.  Many people assume the violin and the viola are the same instrument.  They are not!  The viola reads a different clef than the violin.  The viola reads the alto clef and the violin reads the treble clef.  Students will have a hard time switching from viola to violin or vice versa due to the clef differences.  The viola produces a lower sound, similar to the alto voice of a choir.  Its mellow tone quality adds a unique dimension to the orchestra.  The violas are held similar to the violin.  Good violists are always in demand in various performing groups!

Cello

The violoncello, commonly called the cello, has a beautiful tone, which gives the orchestra a rich, full sound.  It produces a wide range of pitches and is equally popular as a solo and orchestral instrument.  The cello can be compared to the tenor voice of a choir.  It is supported on an endpin which rests on the floor, and the cello is always played while seated.  The cello reads the bass clef.

Bass

The Double Bass has a deep rich, dark sound, which gives the orchestra a solid foundation.  It can play the lowest notes in the orchestra.  A very versatile instrument, it can be used in variety of groups, from a symphony orchestra to a jazz group.  It is closely related to the electric bass guitar, which a good bass player can learn very quickly.  The bass is the largest instrument of the string family and it can be played in either a sitting or standing position.  The bass reads the bass clef, but sounds an octave lower than what is actually written.

Watch How An Instrument Is Made

Discovery Channel's "How It's Made: Violin"

Discovery Channel's "How It's Made: Electric Violin"