This page introduces you to the four bowed string instruments found in a symphony orchestra, from highest to lowest: violin, viola, cello, and double bass. Then are included some plucked stringed instruments.

Bowed orchestral instruments


Niccolo Paganini, Moto perpetuo, Op. 11 No. 6, performed by Yehudi Menuhin

Johann Sebastian Bach, Sonata in G minor, BWV 1001, II. Fugue (1720), performed by Lara Trotovsek



Robert Schumann, Fairy Tales for Viola and Piano, Op. 113 (1851), performed by Yuri Bashmet


Dmitri Shostakovich, Sonata Op. 147 (excerpt) (1975), performed by Maxim Rysanov



Johann Sebastian Bach, Cello Suite No. 1, BWV 1007, I. Prelude, performed by Micha Maisky


Bob Marley, “No Woman, No Cry” (1974), performed by Sheku Kanneh-Mason


Double bass

Francois Rabbath, Poucha Dass (1968)performed by Lauren Pierce


Jazz bass, performed by Willie Dixon


Other string techniques

Bowed string instruments can produce sound in other ways, too. Here are some of the techniques a violin, viola, cello, or double bass player has to master.


Béla Bartók, String Quartet No. 4, IV. Allegro pizzicato 1928), performed by the Amadeus Quartet


Col legno

Demonstration by James Ehnes


Sul ponticello

Demonstrated by David LePage


The “seagull effect”


Plucked string instruments 

These instruments all produce sound by plucking the strings rather than bowing.


George Friedrich Handel, Harp Concerto in B-flat Major Op. 4 No. 6, HWV 294, cadenza (1738), performed by Josh Layne

Benjamin Britten, Suite for Harp, Op. 83, I. Introduction (1969), performed by Catrin Finch



Isaac Albéniz, Asturias (1892), performed by Johannes Möller

Performance by Russian Renaissance (2016) Balalaika, domra, button accordion (not a string instrument!), and balalaika contrabasso