Instrument Study - The String Family

The String Family

The common feature in this family of instruments is that they are all made of wood.

They are called string instruments because the part that actually makes the sound in the instrument is its strings. 

While the bodies are made of different types of wood, the strings are mostly made of nylon, steel and sometimes gut. The strings are played by drawing a bow across them. While the handle of the bow is made of wood, the actual string on the bow, is horsehair, taken from horses’ tails. The harp is the only member of the string family that does not come with a bow. 

The string family makes up the largest set of instruments in the orchestra and come in four sizes. In order of size, they are the violin, viola, cello and double bass (also known as the contrabass). The smaller instruments in the family make the higher pitched sounds, while the bigger instruments make the lower pitched sounds. 

In Peter and the Wolf, the harp and the double bass do not make an appearance in the orchestra.

Interesting Facts

  • Because the string instruments don’t have pre-defined keys like a piano or guitar, they can play any note imaginable within their range. 
  • Their pitch is defined by where the musician places his/her fingers on the fretboard.
  • The string family is the backbone of the orchestra because they blend perfectly with all other instruments.

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