Beginning Orchestra
Instrument Descriptions

 

These descriptions are designed to help students and parents select an instrument for beginning orchestra. All instruments are offered for instruction beginning in 6th grade. Violin and Viola players will transport instruments to and from school. Cello and Bass players will rent an instrument for home practice and use school-owned instruments during class.

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Cello

The cello is the second largest member of the stringed instruments. It is played in an upright position with the left thumb resting on the back of the neck and the left hand fingers holding down the strings to produce different notes. To produce sound, the right hand either plucks the strings or holds the bow. The cellist sits with the body of the instrument making contact between both knees and the chest. Although it has the same strings as the viola, the cello is tuned an octave lower and primarily uses the bass clef. The cello sounds beautiful playing both high notes and low notes. In fact, the entire range of men's and women's voices can be played on the cello. A good cellist will always be a very valuable member of the orchestra since the number of cellists is typically smaller than the number of violinists.

 

 

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Bass

The string bass is the largest and lowest-pitched member of the stringed instruments. In orchestra class, the bass is played in a standing position. The left thumb rests on the back of the neck and the left hand fingers hold the strings down to produce different notes. The right hand either plucks the strings or holds the bow. Like the cello, the bass primarily reads the bass clef. A good bass player will also be a very valuable member of the orchestra since the number of bassists is typically much smaller than the number of violinists. Furthermore, the bass serves as the foundation of the orchestra, while adding great depth and weight to an orchestra's sound.

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Viola

The viola is the middle voice of the stringed instruments. It is slightly larger and deeper in pitch than the violin. The viola’s tone is also darker, weightier, and warmer. However, like the violin, it is also played by placing the instrument under the chin on the left side. To produce sound, the bow is drawn across one of the four strings or the strings are plucked by a finger. The right hand is used to hold the bow while the left hand fingers hold down the strings to produce different notes. Although this instrument has the same strings as the cello, the viola is tuned one octave higher and primarily uses the alto clef.

 

 

 

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Violin

The violin is the smallest and highest-pitched of the stringed instruments. It is played by placing the instrument under the chin on the left side. To produce sound, the bow is drawn across one of the four strings or the strings are plucked with a finger. The right hand is used to hold the bow while the left hand fingers hold down the strings to produce different notes. Music for the violin is written using the treble clef. The violin is by far the most popular and widely recognized stringed instrument.