String Instruments

String instruments produce sounds when their string(s) vibrate. They exist in all music cultures. And all have three main parts: the body, the neck, and the head. The bodies are often made of different kinds of wood, while the strings are often made of nylon, steel, or gut. There are two main techniques to produce multiple notes within this family: to add more strings or stop the strings.

In particular, bowed string instruments are an essential part of every symphony orchestra. Plus, they are common worldwide—not only as solo instruments, but also in chamber music as well. Guitars are, perhaps, the most popular of this kind.

String Instruments: Some History

To begin with, string instruments have been part of our history as human beings. Archeologists found some of the first ones in Ancient Mesopotamian. Some paintings from around 13.000 BC represent musical and hunting bows used as string instruments. This kind of instrument has evolved since the beginning of time, as we have applied technology to create functional tuning mechanisms. As another instance, during the Renaissance and Baroque periods, violins and guitars were the most famous string instruments.

Whereas Pythagoras studied vibrating strings and musical sounds, Galileo examined the relationship between the pitch of a string and its vibrating length. String instruments became more popular and easily available to the public during the 19th century. However, it was the 20th century which became a revolutionary era for these instruments due to their major changes. Electronic instrument amps, electronic music, and electric violins were key in the first jazz music trends.

String Instruments in the Orchestra

The string instrument family is the largest among orchestras. They come in four different sizes. The smaller instruments produce higher-pitched sounds, whereas the larger ones produce low rich sounds. All string instruments have similar shapes, including curvy wooden bodies and wooden necks. Strings stretch over the body and neck and are attached to small decorative heads. A string at a particular tension and length will only produce one note.

Bowed Instruments

Bowed instruments are an essential part of the string section of every classical music orchestra. The classic orchestra has violin, viola, cello, and double bass as its indispensable bowed instruments.


Just to turn to an example, we will now describe violins. The first families of this instrument were leg viol and arm viol. Violins were available in different sizes, which ranged from treble to bass. They have been quite popular since they came into being. In this case, you play this instrument by drawing a bow across it.

As a point of contrast, electric guitars became one of the most popular instruments within the musical universe since the 1930s.

String Instruments: the Technique

To play a string instrument, the musician uses a plucking technique known as pizzicato. This technique involves the fingers of the player, mainly, although it is also possible to hit the strings with a light wooden hammer or by rubbing the strings with a bow.

There are a variety of strategies that musicians use to produce sounds on electric guitars. These include plucking with the fingernails or a plectrum, as well as strumming or tapping on the fingerboard. It is essential to use feedback from a loud distorted guitar amp to produce a sustained sound. Musicians transmit the vibrations to the body of the instrument where it involves an empty area. The instrument vibrates as well as the air inside it, which produces a vibration of the string that is more audible for both the performer and the listener.