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The strings family is the largest family of instruments in an orchestra and they come in four sizes: the violin, which is the smallest, viola, cello, and the biggest and the double bass. (Bass is pronounced "base," as in "baseball.")
The violin is the smallest of the family, and is the highest in pitch, it is also the most popular. There are more violins in the orchestra than any other instrument (there can be up to 30!) and they are divided into two groups: first and second. First violins often play the melody, while second violins alternate between melody and harmony.
The viola is slightly larger than a violin, just over 60cm long, and has thicker strings, which produce a richer, warmer sound than the violin. There are usually 10 to 14 violas in an orchestra and they almost always play the harmony.
The cello looks like the violin but is much larger (around 120cm long), and has thicker strings than either the violin or viola. Of all the string instruments, the cello sounds most like a human voice, and it can make a wide variety of tones, from warm low pitches to bright higher notes. There are usually 8 to 12 cellos in an orchestra and they play both harmony and melody.
The double bass, at over 180cm long is the biggest member of the string family, with the longest strings, which allow it to play very low notes. The 6 to 8 double basses of the orchestra are almost always playing the harmony. They are so big that you have to stand up or sit on a very tall stool to play them, and it helps if you have long arms and big hands.
Although students may choose to learn to play for relaxation and fun, our teachers are also skilled in exam preparation in all genres.