The string family of orchestral instruments is made up of violin, viola, cello, and bass. They are all made of wood and have four strings that can be plucked (pizzicato) or played with a bow (arco). These instruments do not have frets like the guitar, ukelele or banjo, so one must learn precisely where to place the fingers in order to play in tune.
Which instrument do I choose?
The Violin is the highest sounding member of the string family. Violins play the soprano line, which is often the melody. The lowest note on the violin is the G below middle C. That is as low as most women can sing, but violins can also play much higher than any human can sing. The open strings on a violin are tuned in fifths and are from lowest to highest: G, D, A, E. Violinists read the treble clef. The instrument is held on the left shoulder and bowed with the right hand. Violins are always found in orchestras, but are also an essential instrument in bluegrass bands and can play many other fiddle styles. Violins with electronic pickups can play in jazz or rock bands as well. Violinists sit or stand to play.
The Viola is the middle (alto) voice of the string family, and very similar to the violin because it is held on the shoulder when played. The viola is slightly larger than the violin and can play a fifth lower. One can still play quite high on the viola, but it is less often required to do so. The upper three open strings on a viola are the same as the violin’s lowest three strings, and are from lowest to highest: C, G, D, A. The viola has a rich, dark sound and often plays harmony parts. Violists read the alto clef. Violists sit or stand to play.
The Cello is too large to be played on the shoulder so it is held between the legs resting on the floor on an endpin that extends from the body of the instrument. Cellists always sit to play. The cello strings are an octave lower than the viola’s, but have the same names: C, G, D, A. Cellos have an enormous range going from low bass notes up as high as the viola’s top notes. The cello has a rich dark bass and a beautiful tenor range. Cellists read the bass clef.
The Double bass or Bass for short, is the largest of the string instruments. Its strings are tuned in fourths instead of fifths and are, starting at the lowest: E, A, D, G. Bass players stand or sit on a high stool to play. The bass has the most diverse opportunities to perform of any of the string family. It is not only an important orchestral instrument, but is an essential member of every jazz and concert band. Basses are essential in bluegrass bands as well. The electric bass, played like a guitar, has the same strings and fingerings as the stand-up, acoustic bass and is used in rock and jazz bands. A young student can begin on the cello and switch easily to bass when they are older and bigger.
Do I rent or buy? Where do I get an instrument? Parents are responsible for getting an instrument for their child. Renting an instrument is recommended over purchasing since children grow and the size of their instrument will need to be changed to fit their growth. (You may be tempted to buy an instrument over the internet on eBay or some other site offering amazingly cheap instruments. Don’t be fooled. You get what you pay for. You will probably get stuck with an instrument that needs a better bridge, strings, or bow, and to get it into playing condition will cost more than the purchase price). All string instruments come in graduated, smaller sizes for children. Measuring for the correct size can be done by a SP teacher or by a rental company.
There are no music stores in Athens that specialize in string instruments. Chick Piano is the only one that has string instruments for rent, but their staff has only a basic knowledge of how to set up a string instrument and their supply is limited and not of the highest quality. They do carry music books, stands, replacement strings, and other general music supplies. All other stores that rent instruments are in the Atlanta area. A recent search of ‘violin rental Atlanta’ turned up the following companies that rent string instruments: Atlanta Violins, Violin Rental Direct, Voss Violins, Huthmaker Violins, Ron Sachs Violins, Fiddles and Sticks. You can compare their policies before you make a decision.
UGA String Project has a very limited number of instruments for rent. Violins and violas $50/semester, cellos and basses $75/semester. The renter is responsible for all maintenance costs, and will only have use of the instrument during the semesters they are enrolled in class. Instrument rentals are only available for participants of the UGA String Project.
One company, Ron Sachs Violins, is willing to bring instruments that String Project students require to Athens for pick up. String Project staff measure the students, and compile a list of instruments needed, acting as an intermediary for the company. A representative from the company will come to the UGA music school where the parent can sign the rental agreement, pick up the instrument and any other supplies they would like to buy. From that point on, all dealings about the instrument must be done directly to Ron Sachs Violins. If you choose to end the contract, you must return the instrument to one of their stores, either in Lilburn or Peach Tree City.
Ron Sachs Violins provides high quality, rental instruments at a competitive price. The monthly rental includes a professional set up, a maintenance plan, and payment that is applied toward the purchase of the instrument. 100% of the purchase price can be applied to another of their instruments should the child want to upgrade, change instrument or size.
Scholarship students will be supplied an instrument courtesy of AthFest Educates for use during semesters the student is enrolled in String Project. To help offset the costs of maintaining and repairing the AthFest instruments, each scholarship student will be assessed a fee of $10 each semester.