Parts of the instrument. Terminology for string instruments.
Instruments tuned in Fifths.
Violin notation in treble clef
lowest note (G String) G below the staff (treble clef)
highest note G+. 3 octaves and a fifth above middle C
Viola notation in both the alto clef and the treble clef
lowest note (C String) C, one octave below middle C
highest note F+. 2 octaves and a fourth above middle C
Cello notation in bass, tenor and treble clefs
lowest note (C string) 2 octaves below middle C
highest note C+. 2 octaves above middle C
Instrument tuned in Fourths. (A few players now tune in Fifths)
Bass notation in bass and tenor clefs. (sounding one octave lower)
lowest note E (or C with an extension) written 2 octaves below middle C
highest note G+. 1 octave and a fifth above middle C.
Use of the Bow (arco)
Down-bow, heavier at the frog, lighter at the tip. Natural decrescendo.
Up-bows, the reverse.
Strong beats on down-bow. Volume controlled by adjusting speed and pressure.
Lots of Speed but no pressure: a.k.a. Flautando Eerie sound popular in contemporary pieces and with French composers (impressionistic sound).
Lots of Pressure but no speed = crunch, rough sounding not exactly a pretty sound. (Also see Scratch Tone).
Separate Implies no slurs. Term: as it comes. Refers to down then up!
Legato Connecting all the notes, no space at all, no accent!
Brush Strokes a.k.a. Louré. Repeated notes slurred.
Collé a variation of Martelé. The bow stroke is minimally short.
Hooked bowing. Popular in dotted and double dotted French Overture!
Spiccato Bouncing, quick bows a.k.a. Off the string. Very muddy on the Bass!
Up-bow Spiccato bouncing in the same direction (up bow).
Down-bow Spiccato a.k.a. Saltando. Self-explanatory!
Ricochet Bowing a.k.a. Jeté.
Repeated Down-bow = pesante (usually at the frog)
Up-bow = Leggiero (usually middle of the bow)
Piqué Fast and repetitive dotted figure played with separate bows at the tip.
Tremolo Very fast changes of ups and downs.
Snap pizz. A.k.a. Bartók pizz
Left hand Plucked with the left hand (lack of time...)
Tremolo Alternating between the right hand and left hand plucking the string.
Sul __ On the __ string to safeguard the same timbre.
Artificial Altering the length of the string.
Mute Use of a mute to alter the timbre (and volume) of the instrument.
Glissando/Portamento In practice one and the same. Interchangeable. Sliding the finger from one note to the next note using the same finger or two different fingers.
Fingered Tremolos Alternating between 2 notes, same or different, same string or different strings, measured or unmeasured. (See Bariolage).
Bariolage Crossing the string purely for color or to facilitate a fingering.
Vibrato Added to enrich a held note. In a fast passage little or no vibrato used unless otherwise indicated (Con Vib.). A lot of Vibrato may be requested (Molto Vib.). No Vibrato at all (Senza Vib.).
Scordatura Changing the range of the Instrument by altering the normal tuning. (To change the timbre Saint-Saens’ Danse Macabre, to facilitate fingering Kodaly’s Cello Sonata, Violino Piccolo in Brandenburg #2 or Wachet Auf Cantata #140 of J.S. Bach. Use 2 Instruments. Notation: simple instruction tune G to F# or give actual pitches on staff.
Dampening To stop the ringing and avoid the natural decay of the sound. Opposite to laisser vibrer.
Bowing on the Bridge Literally playing on the bridge.
Bowing on the Tailpiece Literally playing on the tailpiece, more common for Double Bass writing (audible overtones) produces a very resonant nondescript sound.
Scratch Tone Bow hair flat on the string. Play with more downward pressure than necessary.
Playing behind the Bridge Self-explanatory! Unpredictable, different pitches every time. (ex. Grand Canyon Suite, F. Grofé)
“Silent” Fingering Hitting the string with the fingers on the fingerboard without using the bow.
Tapping the Instrument Self-explanatory! With the palm of the hand but Never with a harsh object (i.e. rings or the likes.)
Striking the String Self-explanatory! A.k.a. Slapping the String More common in Double Bass writing.
Tapping with the Bow Self-explanatory. Not encouraged
The Closer to the Nut, the “Wider” the Semitone
2nd Position The first finger replaces what used to be played by the second finger in first position. Varies between a half step and whole step.
3rd Position The first finger replaces what was normally played by the third finger in first position. And so on....
Shifting Going from one position to another (either direction). The longer the shift, the harder it is, and the more time is needed to reach that new position.
Bow on the String History of the Bow (Pedal tone!) Curvature of the Bridge.
Double Stops Open strings and Stopped notes
Triple Stops 3 Adjacent strings
Chords (Arco or Pizz)
Rolling the Chord Self-explanatory
Breaking the chord Selecting 2 notes at a time (either direction) (example Bach’s Sonatas/Partitas for Solo Violin, Bartók’s Solo Sonata, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade)
Fast Break Gives the impression that all 4 strings are struck at the same time.
Arpeggiated Going back and forth between 2 or more strings, usually all 4 strings. (See Rolling the Chord, Bariolage) a.k.a. Quasi-guitara
Alla-chitarra The instrument is held like a guitar (ex. Ravel’s Bolero, Rossini’s Barber of
4 or More Notes in the Chord Self-explanatory!
Chords involving more than 1 Position (See Shifting!)
Higher register, Melody line.
2nd Violin Play in thirds with the 1st Violins. Occasionally gets the melody, but most often provide the harmony and accompaniment.
Viola Occasionally gets the melody, but most often provide the harmony and accompaniment.
Cello Bass line – Foundation of chord
Bass Same as Celli – One octave lower