HOSTS- Jeremy Burns, Matthew Scott Phillips


TYPE- Theory




BUMPER MUSIC- "String Quartet in Modes- Phrygian" (Matthew Scott Phillips)

ANNOUNCER- Mike Cunliffe


On episode 95, we began a discussion on orchestration for the string section and it's instruments: the  bass, the cello, the viola and the violin. We will now continue this discussion with a focus on techniques for fingering and bowing, the terms involved, and a bit more detail on the instruments themselves!


- The string only vibrates between the bridge (near the base of the instrument) and nut

  (near the tuning pegs).


- Holding the finger down shortens the length of the string, creating a higher pitch.


- Generally, a new finger will raise the pitch by a half or whole step. Ex. 1st finger on D string = E,

  2nd = F or F# etc. Finger positioning varies a little between instruments.


-1st postion= All the way back to the nut, the first finger occupies an area that could cover a 1/2 step or

 whole step.

-2nd position= Places first finger where 1st position second finger was.

-3rd position= Places first finger where 1st position third finger was.


- When two strings are played at once, this is referred to as a DOUBLE STOP.


- The two notes, must be playable (and reachable) on two different strings.


- 6ths, 7ths and 8ves are all fairly achievable, but only more accomplished players can do parallelisms.


- Be careful of putting any interval lower that the open note of the second string.


- TRIPLE STOPS are very difficult and are usually an apreggiation.


- QUADRUPLE STOPS are always an arpeggiation.


- Divisi- Denotes, in a string section, that the two notes are split between stands.

- Divisi a Tre- Divides the section into three.

- Meta- Only half the section plays.


Vibrato-Wavering the hand on the neck enhances beauty of tone by making the note waver and pulse.

Glissando- Conscious and deliberate slide from one pitch to another.

Portamento- A more subtle slide from note to note. Ofter occurs naturally but can be exaggerated.


-All notes under one SLUR are to be bowed in the same direction. Slurs in string music refer to bowings, and nothing else.


-Detache- No slurs. Every note is a new bow direction.


General guidelines for bowing:

1. Performers can play louder towards the frog of the bow (closest to the hand).

2. An up beat is generally begun with an upbow.

3. On longer notes, players will subtly shift bow directions.

4. One should never mark long phrase slurs in string parts.

5. Generally a loud slow passage allows for the fewest notes under a slur, a soft fast passage for the



Legato- Each note is played for the full length of the note duration.

Staccato- Each note is played with a quick action and short note duration.

Loure- A pulsing legato, where a bit of weight is given to each new note.

Slurred staccato- Playing staccato in one bow direction.

Spiccato- Bouncing the bow upon the strings.

Ricochet- The bow is “thrown” across strings with a sudden attack.

Bowed tremolo- Moving the bow rapidly back and forth to give a hurried and frantic mood.

Fingered Tremolo- The bow moves normally while the finger moves in a rapid "hammer on/hammer off" motion.


Unusual placements of the Bow:

Sul Ponticello- Playing with the bow near the bridge to produce extra harmonics.

Sul Tatso- Playing with the bow near the end of the neck to produce a more pure "mellow" tone.


Pizzicatto- Plucking the string with ones finger(s).

Left hand- The left hang (hand on the neck) plays pizzicatto.

Pizzicatto chords- When no preference is indicated, chords with pizzicato will be strummed like a guitar.


Mutes- A small piece of rubber is placed between the bridge and the string to dampen and "darken" the



Natural Harmonics- By lightly touching (not pressing down) the string at different points (nodes) across the string, certain harmonics (overtones) will be accented when played.


1st partial- Playing the open string, alone, produces the fundamental. Ex. D string open= D note.

2nd partial- The node at the middle of the string rings an octave above the fundamental.

3rd partial- The node at the perfect 5th (or perfect 12th) rings an octave + a perfect 5th above the


4th partial- The node at the perfect 4th (or perfect 11th) rings two octaves above the fundamental.

5th partial- The node at the major 3rd (or major 10th) rings two octaves + a major 3rd above the



Artificial Harmonics- A perfect fourth above any stopped note creates a harmonic two octaves above stopped pitch.


Tuning: G - D - A - E


Range: G3 (G below middle C) to E6

- The violin can play up to High E most practically, but up to B6 is possible.

- It is difficult to control intonation in high registers, and playing fast passages are challenging because

  notes are smaller than your fingers.



- Most notes are available on more than one string. However, they may sound slightly different

  depending on which string you use to play them.

- Different timbral effects happen from open strings.

- The G string is the darkest timbral color.

- The E string is the brightest and most luminous.


Tuning: C - G - D - A


Range: C3 (an octave below middle C) to A6



-The C String has the most characteristic viola sound.

-The G and D strings sound very much like the violin.

-The A string is piercing and luminous.


Tuning: C - G - D - A


Range: C2 (two octaves below middle C) to A5

-Cellos are often written in bass, tenor or treble clef.



- Because of the length of the strings, cellists use a different fingering system.

- The stretch between 1 and 3 fingers is generally a major 3rd.

- The thumb can be used as a finger, but it can be awkward.



- Ranges from richly sonorous to high and a little pinched.

- Harmonics are even easier on the cello, and are richer sounding.

- The cello sounds warm and rich throughout most of it's range.


Tuning: E - A - D - G


Range: E1 up to G4 (above the treble clef). Some basses have a low C (C1) attachment on the low string.

- All notes sound an octave lower than written.

- Historically, the bass would play the cello part an octave lower. But in modern times this is less true.



-Be careful of large skips that cause the player to have to reorient their hand.

-Also be careful of fast passages on the E string as it can take a half second of bowing for sound to be produced.



-Only natural harmonics should be asked of the bass player


-The lecture notes for this episode drew from a number of sources. Among them,
 "The Study Orchestration" by Samual Adler, comes highly recommended.