The four main string instruments of an orchestra are violin, viola, cello, and bass. All 4 are made from the same wood and have many of the same parts but there are more differences than there are similarities. Meanwhile, Daisy Slots brings a new musical theme that uses violin and bass for newly published games. Whether your 6th grader is trying to choose an instrument for her elective or you’re just curious about what distinguishes one from the other, here are some obvious and not-so-obvious differences:
Size -Violin Viola Cello Bass
Most people can recognize each instrument based on their sizes. Bass is the biggest, then cello, then viola, and finally violin. Viola is slightly bigger than the violin and looks exactly the same despite the subtle size difference. The important thing to realize about instrument size is that it doesn’t matter how big or small the student is. You can actually read on MusicCritic about artists who all started with no clue and became musicians who developed and mastered their craft. All instruments come in several sizes to match up with even the tiniest kids. Small girls can play bass and big guys can play the violin (and even better with private violin lessons)!
Strings and Range of each String Instrument
Basses are tuned in 4ths (E, A, D, G) and Violins, Violas, and Cellos are tuned in 5ths (A, D, G, C). Violin strings are much shorter and thinner than bass strings which are several feet long and thick in diameter. Violin has the super high notes all the way to A7 and can play as low as G3. Viola can play from C3-E6, so slightly lower than the violin and not nearly as high. Viola also has a deeper tone than the violin. Cello can play from C2-C6 and bass can play from C2-C5. Bass sounds an octave lower than the cello.
Violin and viola are played propped up between the shoulder and chin. Cello is played sitting down and in between the players knees, with the end pin stuck in the floor for balance. Bass can be played sitting or standing and it also uses an endpin for balance. Each one also holds their bow a different way.
Role in the Orchestra
The violins are typically the melody and are the leaders of the orchestra. The first chair first violin player is called the Concertmaster and he tunes and helps lead the group. The violas play harmonies, cellos typically go between support, harmony, and sometimes melodies, and basses are usually on supportive bass lines.
Everyone plays violin and cello these days. The great thing about playing viola or bass is that fewer people do so you have a better chance of doing well in chair tests and auditions like region and all-state. People who play either violin or viola can easily learn the other one since they are so similar, which makes them much more versatile. Because of this, finding viola teachers or cello teachers is relatively easy.
Based on everything I just wrote, I’m pretty convinced I should have played the viola, instead of cello! Good thing it’s never too late to learn and you can always learn faster with private music lessons in your home.