Instrumentation notes – Violin

  • Soprano and alto of the strings choir
  • Four strings are played with a bow.
  • Four strings are:
    open strings of violin
  • Each string played as an open string (without fingering) has a unique quality:
    G string: lowest, rich, dark, has increased intensity in higher range
    D string: very calm, fuzzy, introspective in tone
    A string: expressive and mellow
    E string: more brilliant and best carrying power
  • Playing range for each string:
    Pitch notation
    G string: G3 – D5
    D string: D4 – A5
    A string: A4 – E6
    E string: E5 – G7
  • Bow very responsive to pressure applied and the elasticity of the strings
  • Pizzicato common for solo and instrumental lines
  • Character: Very responsive and agile.
  • Technique: Double and triple stops can happen but must consider the stretch of the LH. Quadruple stops are possible of forte or above.
    Natural harmonics up through the 8th partial playable with lower partials less susceptible to variations due to string, bow and climatic variables. They sound flutey as devoid of upper partials. They are made by lightly touching the string at a node, which makes a string to produce a partial instead of a fundamental. A node is a point on a vibrating string or body where a vibrating object is stationery or nearly stationery. They are notated with a small ‘O’ over the desired pitch but notation varies. Sometimes it shows the actual pitch to be heard to showing the pitch to be heard plus the string to be used.
    International Conference on New Musical Notation suggests using an open diamond-shaped note which shows the point on the string to be touched with small stemless notes in parentheses showing the pitch to be heard.
    Artificial harmonics are not artificial but created by stopping a string with one finger and lightly touching the same string closer to the bridge with the little finger. Common artificial harmonics are lightly touching a string a perfect 4th above a stopped pitch of a string giving a harmonic that’s a 4th partial (2 octaves) above a stopped pitch.
    Notation for artificial harmonics; the main note to be stopped is written normally and the interval above where the finger is to lightly touch is shown by an open diamond and the harmonic to be produced is usually understood but used to be shown in parentheses above these 2 notes.
  • Mutes can be used, which are attached to the bridge to reduce the vibration and create a darker sound (‘con sordina’ or ‘senza sordina’)

Blatter, A (1997). Instrumentation & Orchestration. 2nd ed. USA: Schirmer. Pgs 33-36, 49-50


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