String Playing Techniques

The viola, cello and double bass are made in the same manner as the violin and produce sound in the same way.

How the string instruments are played and the techniques that are used determines which musical effects they will produce.


The musician plucks the string, usually ith a finger of the right hand.  In jazz, the double bass (upright) is played as a plucked instrument rather than using a bow.

Double Stop

A double stop is created by drawing the bow across two strings which allows a string player to sound two notes at once. 

By rotating the bow rapidly across three strings, this creates a triple stop and four strings for a quadruple stop which will sound 3 or four notes together.  

Triple and quadruple stops are more difficult to play.


Vibrato is produced by the string player rocking the left hand while pressing the string down.  This causes small pitch fluctuations which makes the tone warmer and more expressive.


The musician can muffle the tone by fitting a clamp (mute) onto the bridge.

Tremolo & Harmonics

A tremolo is created by rapidly repeating tones using quick up and down strokes of the bow.  Creates a sense of tension, when loud (forte), or a shimmering sound when soft.  Very common in film scores.

Harmonics are very high-pitched tones that are produced when a musician lightly touches certain points on a string.  Again, very common in film scores.

Other String Techniques

Plectrum - The string instrument is not played with a bow but is plucked with fingers or a plectrum which is a small wedge.  Harp, guitar, banjo and mandolin are the most important instruments that use this technique.

Characteristics Of Strings

Violin, Violas, Cello and Bass.  The use of these instruments can represent sorrow, power, reflection, horror, remorse, mystery, etc.

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