Which String Personality Are You?
By Amy Cassaniti
The string section of an orchestra is a world of its own. But have you ever considered the differences between the instruments and what those differences might mean? Instruments, like people, have personalities. The following is a list of the string instruments in a typical orchestra. Which best describes you?
Violin: The Diva. If you are a violin, you love being center stage. The violin is the most important instrument in the orchestra. There are more violins in the orchestra than any other instrument (usually up to 30). The pitch range for the violin is from G3 to E7, meaning the violin makes the highest sounds and makes it perfect for playing the melody. Because you most often play the melody, the audience readily hears you over the other instruments, and you love knowing that all ears are on you. In fact, second only to the piano, more solo music has been written for you than for any other instrument in the orchestra. And that’s just how it should be as you love sharing the sound of your strings.
Viola: The Peacemaker. If you are a viola, you value being right in the middle between the violin and the cello. In fact, because of your slightly thicker strings than a violin, your sound is warmer and richer which makes you ideal for playing the harmony. You like your role as support for the violins and their melody. You don’t want to stand out, but you like knowing that without you most classical music compositions would sound incomplete and shrill. Because you are so modest and shun the spotlight, very few solo pieces are written for viola.
Cello: The Disrupter. Shaped like a violin and a viola, you are large, but not large like an upright bass. You love innovation and change, hence your identity as the disrupter. The first disruption you have made is changing the way a stringed instrument is played. Cellos are cradled between the instrumentalist’s legs. The second disruption you made is to combine qualities of both the violin AND the viola. You have thicker strings, and you play both the melody and harmony. But your last disruption is clever indeed. Due to your pitch range from C2 to C6, you most closely resemble the sound of a human voice. If you are a cello, you relish knowing that an audience will never know exactly what to expect when they hear you!
Contra Bass: The Lone Wolf. Also known as the Upright Bass, there are few of you in an orchestra, usually only 6-8 and all mostly play the harmony. You like to go your own way. When you are in an orchestra, you use a bow across the strings to play harmony, but when you play jazz, you pluck the strings and play harmony OR melody. And right there shows your independence. Unlike a violin, or viola, or cello, you move between an orchestra and jazz band with ease and joy. If you are Contra Bass, you move between two worlds and love your unpredictability.