The string section is the largest group of similar instruments in the orchestra and for many reasons the most frequently employed. First and second violins form two separate sections, which can be compared to soprano voices in range. The violas provide alto or tenor range voices, and the cello section typically covers lines in the tenor and bass regions. Any of these instruments can be used in their upper range, becoming a more prominent voice in the texture. The double basses are a true bass voice for the section, sounding an octave below their written pitch. Some of the features of the strings that have made them the mainstay of the orchestra are listed below:
FIGURE 2.1 Bowed tremolo
FIGURE 2.2 Fingered tremolo
Natural harmonics are overtones of an open string, divided by light pressure on a node, commonly one-half, one-third, one-fourth, or one-fifth of the string’s length. The pitch that sounds is notated, and a small "0" is placed over the note. If a particular string is to be used, its name is indicated (i.e., "suI G" or "suI D").
FIGURE 2.3 Example of natural harmonics notated
The following table shows the first four harmonics of open strings on the violin, viola, cello, and double bass.
FIGURE 2.4 Table of natural harmonics
Artificial harmonics are overtones of stopped or fingered pitches; touching the string a perfect fourth above the stopped note produces a pitch two octaves above the stopped note.
FIGURE 2.5 Example of artificial harmonics notated