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Questions tagged [string-instruments]

A musical instrument that produces sound by means of vibrating strings. Use this for questions about the category, rather than for a specific instrument.

34
votes
10answers
12k views

When tuning a guitar, should you always end with tightening the string rather than loosening it?

I used to have a guitar teacher that said you should always finish tuning each string by tightening/sharpening the string. So for example if the top E is a little sharp, you should turn the peg to ...
30
votes
10answers
8k views

Why don't “classical” stringed instruments mark their note positions?

So, I understand why classical strings (violins, cellos etc.) aren't fretted, because of the change this makes in the tone. I've often wondered though, why the note positions aren't marked on the neck ...
23
votes
4answers
14k views

What should I consider when I see a loose hair in a violin bow?

This drawing should do: These are the hairs of a brand new bow. Straight, clean, etc. I noticed this: As you can see, it seems like a certain hair is a bit loose. Is this bad? (I.e., does it ...
23
votes
3answers
6k views

What is the practical reason for reentrant tuning on ukulele and similar instruments?

I'm intruiged by the fact that some stringed instruments, like the ukulele, are traditionally tuned in the way of reentrant tuning where the strings are not ordered from the lowest to the highest ...
20
votes
5answers
3k views

Why do lower pitched string instruments have a larger body?

I know that increasing the length of the string will decrease the pitch, but that doesn't explain why the body of a cello is larger than a violin, only longer. What would be the "problem" with ...
18
votes
6answers
3k views

How to prevent a string from breaking during a performance?

Especially for the guitar, but also for other relevant string instruments, I've had my string break while practicing. I feel like such things could happen at any moment, this made me wonder... How to ...
14
votes
4answers
3k views

Distinction between same notes played on different strings

While playing a particular piece (not chords, fingerpicking/single note playing) on my ukulele (or as far as the question is concerned, any similar instrument), I use the standard notation and then ...
13
votes
4answers
15k views

Does the kind of wood used in making a violin affect its sound?

Whenever I check on violin-learning-related sites, they usually begin talking about the quality of a violin. The strings, the species of woods... ... the species of wood. Ebony? Maple? Rosewood? I ...
13
votes
1answer
6k views

How do I use string gauge tables?

I have seen that string manufacturers publish tables of string gauges and tensions. For example, this one. How can I use these to choose a set of strings for my instrument?
12
votes
3answers
976 views

What's the “normal” opposite of flautando?

I'm writing a piece in which I need string instruments to switch regularly between flautando and normal timbre. How do I denote this? Basically, I need a word which means "normal" with regard to where ...
12
votes
2answers
2k views

What physical effects cause ageing/worn guitar strings to change their tone?

Guitar strings wear out over time and are prone to oxidation due to sweat. As a result, they change their tone usually sounding more "bright" when they are new and "dull" when aged. There's been a ...
11
votes
2answers
12k views

Composing/Arranging for a String Quartet

I've been taking arranging and composing classes at the college I'm attending and I have recently been tasked with writing a piece for a string quartet. I would like to know in general, what should ...
11
votes
7answers
4k views

Why is the last string on a guitar called the first string and the first string called the sixth string?

I learned early in my guitar playing journey that what I would naturally assume would be the first string (the fattest string) is actually known in proper guitar anatomy parlance as the sixth string. ...
10
votes
8answers
7k views

Switching from piano to harpsichord

I have been playing the piano for the most part of my life, but I am becoming increasingly interested in the harpsichord. Has anyone made this "transition" before? Are there some pitfalls which one ...
9
votes
4answers
643 views

Does starting on a “silent” string instrument compromise learning in any way?

I'm looking at learning a string instrument (either violin, viola or cello), and I see that there's a few "silent violins" etc. on the market. Obviously this would have some perks, as my initial ...
9
votes
2answers
1k views

What purpose does adjusting the violin bow tension serve?

A violin bow has a screw that allows you to adjust the hairs' tension. Like a tuning peg so to speak. When I just got mine, I didn't pay attention to it. I worked with the tuning pegs because I knew ...
9
votes
3answers
3k views

Is a violin's shape (particularly the f-holes) necessary or is it just for aesthetics?

Violins have a rather beautiful design. ... is such design necessary? Is a violin's natural sound only achieved when it has this specific shape? I have a particular interest in the f-holes. Are they ...
9
votes
4answers
13k views

What methods are there to determine when a violin string should be replaced?

I am very new to the violin. I have broken a string just once - and it was while attempting to tune it. The string breaking was rather surprising and powerful - I'm glad my face was not too close. ...
9
votes
3answers
836 views

Physical volume of instruments

I am aware that this might be a slightly unusual question, but just today I was wondering about the physical volume (meaning the capacity, NOT the loudness) of some musical instruments. In particular,...
8
votes
4answers
851 views

What causes overtones at harmonic frequencies in an instrument? [duplicate]

I know when a string is plucked on a violin you can hear many overtones at harmonic frequencies, but where do these overtones come from? Does an ideal string vibrating in a vacuum vibrate at the ...
8
votes
2answers
5k views

What's the purpose of a sound post?

Almost all bowed string instruments have a sound post. It is said that this adds stability to the instrument and also "transmits vibrations to the bottom". Interestingly though, guitars do not have ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

As there's a “double” bass, is there such a thing as a “single” bass?

The lowest stringed instrument that is typically played in orchestras is sometimes termed a "double bass". Is there a corresponding "single bass"? Naively, one might think that it would be the cello, ...
8
votes
2answers
7k views

Tuning the Ouds

How many strings do various types of ouds (Arab, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Greek, Persia, etc.) have and how are they usually tuned (with pitch reference or not) to what absolute or relative pitches?
8
votes
2answers
784 views

Why are Arabic Ouds built with 12 pegs when they usually are strung with only 11 strings?

I've recently bought an Arabic Oud and started studying how to play it (it's a very fun instrument to play). One thing I don't understand, though, is why I have not seen anyone using the lowest pitch ...
7
votes
9answers
5k views

Should my first bass guitar be expensive? [closed]

I want to start learning bass. I'd like to buy an inexpensive bass, because I'm not ready to spend 2000$ on a new guitar. But I often hear opinions that it's better to buy the most expensive ...
7
votes
4answers
551 views

Why do our instruments go from bass on the left to treble on the right, and not the opposite?

Looking at our stringed instruments, as well as the piano, they all start with the bass notes on the left side and move to the treble side, on the right. Edit: What is the reason for that? Couldn't ...
7
votes
4answers
1k views

Thicker or thinner gauge for frequently snapping harp strings?

I have a kora (West-African harp) on which the highest two strings only seem to last about a week before snapping. The two strings are tuned to A (880Hz) and G (784Hz) respectively and are stretched ...
7
votes
1answer
862 views

Valiha maintenance

I recently got my hands on a valiha (an string instrument from Madagascar) which seems quite old, despite still working. I would have loved to change the strings since they seem a little bit old, but ...
6
votes
5answers
3k views

What am I doing wrong when tuning the violin using a web application?

I don't know anything about violins, and I won't have time for a tutor until much later. When attempting to tune my violin, I was advised to get a digital violin tuner. Alright. But before I go get ...
6
votes
3answers
206 views

Piano Maintenance

What should be done to maintain an upright piano? I am not asking about tuning it, but what can be done so it does not have to be tuned as often? I heard someone once say about a particular piano ...
6
votes
2answers
7k views

String ordering - Top vs bottom?

I've always been dyslexic when it comes to this turn of phrasing - Top strings connote the strings at the top of the fret-board in my mind. Even after years of playing, I sometimes have to wrench it ...
6
votes
2answers
227 views

How to find equivalent notes on different strings of a mandolin?

I have just started learning mandolin and I am working my way through St. Louis Blues. The music that I am using includes the tablature as well as the music. The tab for one section shows: -------...
6
votes
4answers
934 views

Tuning the nyatiti

What is the standard tuning for an 8-string Nyatiti? I've tried searching in Google but haven't found anything. I wonder if there are different tunings in different regions.
6
votes
1answer
230 views

How do you keep convex string instruments from slipping?

I have been playing the guitar for many years and I recently got myself a traditional Greek instrument to play with (image source): Pictured above is a μπαγλαμάς (baglamas) and though mine is ...
6
votes
2answers
3k views

Clean and polish an old violin

My violin is an old(ish) violin, an early 1900s copy of an 1818 German one. On Sunday as my wife and I were watching TV a loud noise came from my violin and I rushed over to find the tailpiece had ...
5
votes
4answers
265 views

Can a violinist, violist, or cellist transpose by perfect fifth by just playing one string higher or lower?

In Can I play an English horn part with a viola?, jjmusicnotes commented that "transposing down a fifth is a pretty straightforward practice" for violists. I'm not a string player, so I've never ...
5
votes
5answers
704 views

Are there limits for the possible pieces for different violins?

I don't know anything about violins. No, actually, I don't know anything about music, so this is rather basic: Despite it looking terribly hard, I decided to learn to play the violin nonetheless. I ...
5
votes
2answers
829 views

Playing non-Western scales on the Oud

How does one learn to play various non-Western scales on the oud? Are there instructions with diagrams showing notes as positions on the neck of the instrument? Book, videos, etc.?
4
votes
2answers
12k views

What do you call plucking the violin strings with the finger, rather than using the bow?

I was attempting to learn a bit about violin sheet music, and then I wondered if the act of producing sound with the finger or the fingernail had a written notation. I had a hard time finding a video ...
4
votes
8answers
7k views

Is there a mandolin-like instrument with guitar-like tone and range?

I need to play low guitar accompaniment parts (simple bass-note-plus-chord style) but I prefer the narrow neck and short scale length of the mandolin. Is there an instrument (acoustic, not electric) ...
4
votes
9answers
823 views

steel-stringed acoustic guitar hurts my fingering hand; what are my choices?

I've been practicing guitar casually for a few months, without a tutor or teacher. I'm starting to be able to play chord progressions slowly, but after ten or fifteen minutes, I feel pain in my ...
4
votes
2answers
844 views

What does “in position” mean when referring to scored music?

On Justin Sandercoe's site he recommends a flute book for guitarists, this caught my eye: Why a flute book? because most sight reading books for guitar are written for guitarists and are either ...
4
votes
5answers
1k views

Is there a significant difference between playing one note or multiple ones per bow stroke?

So recently I realized that I tend to do just one note per bow stroke for everything I play. I was taking a look at how violinists played, particularly with Fur Elise, which begins something like E,D#...
4
votes
4answers
390 views

What to do with bow markings when playing the score on woodwinds?

I'm currently playing some sonatas written by Marcello for violoncello on bassoon instead, and stumble upon markings, which indicate up-bow and down-bow. Can these safely be ignored or is there some ...
4
votes
4answers
222 views

Does shifting vary on a fretted instrument?

As a beginning cellist, it struck me that non-fretted instruments seem to have a much greater focus on shifting mechanics than fretted. With fretted instruments, it seems to my novice eye that ...
4
votes
1answer
151 views

How is a pitch between a C and a C# notated in sheet music for fretless instruments?

Suppose we have a violin or a contrabass, they can play midnote pitches. I guess there must be a way of notating that in classical sheet music,llll how? I realise that it is a small chance it could ...
4
votes
2answers
63 views

How to write Irish/Gaelic themed music

I am currently trying to write a song with a Gaelic feel to it for a string ensemble. I am not asking for exactly the perfect notes to use, I am asking which keys are the best, and what tempos. Thank ...
4
votes
2answers
501 views

Harp - “Half Pedal”

I know from Kurt Stone's book Music Notation in Twentieth Century: Hold pedal halfway between two notches to allow the string to vibrate against the tuning gear. So, how exactly is half pedal ...
4
votes
2answers
729 views

String gauge, scale, and tuning relationship? (Guitar in particular)

Does anyone have general guidance or a good resource on this, specifically considering scale length, string tension, string gauge, and tuning? I've found loads of anecdotal research and a even few ...
3
votes
5answers
1k views

Violin String snapped, and so did spare. Will I damage my violin if I leave it with 3 strings?

So, my A string snapped last Saturday and as a result I re-strung it with one of my spare strings. I should note that at this point, after tuning it, the sound was coming out a little strange (or ...