Almost every culture in history has featured string instruments as part of their musical life and heritage. However, regardless of their origin, string instruments share one common characteristic: a string stretched between two points to produce the sound. Strings may be plucked, strummed, bowed, rubbed, or otherwise manipulated in order to produce vibration. Although any one of these techniques may be applied to a particular string instrument, different instruments have traditionally been played using just one or two of these techniques. For example, guitars are strummed or plucked rather than played with a bow (i.e. bowed) whereas the opposite is true of the cello or the violin, for which strumming and plucking are used to a much lesser degree. When playing traditionally bowed instruments, string players control dynamics by applying more or less bow pressure and speed to the strings. The ability to produce a high level of volume is particularly important when a solo string instrument needs to be heard above a large ensemble, as happens (for example) in a concerto for violin and orchestra. Vibrato, from the Latin vibrare (“to shake”), is another interesting instrumental technique used by string players. It consists of a quick back and forth movement or rocking of the finger that is in contact with the string, with the intent of producing a fluctuation of pitch for expressive purposes. As with any other type of instrument, string instruments vary widely in terms of size, shape, and number of strings. However, there are groups of string instruments that share similar construction and instrumental technique characteristics. One of these groups is the set of instruments that form the backbone of the traditional symphony orchestra. Comprising the string section of the orchestra, they share the following characteristics: •Similar shape and construction.
•Played with a bow.
•The body of the instrument amplifies the sound.