Friday, July 22, 2011

Stringing them up. Voilà.

Of the 4 traditional orchestral strings, the violin and the bass are tuned alike, only with the order of the strings reversed: GDAE, low to high on the violin and GDAE, high to low, on the bass. The tonal range of the violin is of the treble clef and that of the bass the... ummmm ... bass clef.

The two instruments in between the violin and the bass are the viola and the (violin)cello. The viola is slightly larger than the violin but still played under the chin; the cello smaller than the bass but also played on the floor, sitting rather than standing.

Violas and cellos are strung up differently than violins/basses, their voices being of the alto and tenor persuasion (so to speak): CGDA (C is low for the viola and high for the cello, so again reversed in order of installation.) No E string here, so don't look for it.

Of course the strings on a violin are not as thick as those of a bass, and they are tuned to different octaves. Well, duh. Same with violii and cellia. I just HAD to say that.

Violins and basses don't really associate socially that much, polls show, and the one thing they most have in common seems to be a desire to poke fun at the sissy clef that violas and cellos use. Unless you've had violin lessons inflicted upon you as a child, you probably won't even recognize a C clef, and maybe not even then since a violin doesn't use it. Well, by god, here it is, though, in all its amusing glory. Hello.
"Hello." (Habitually said by Bill Cosby in his standup comedian days.)

We won't be going over baritone clefs or Heathcliffs, so no need to search. Just sayin'. In fact, we won't be going over any cliffs at ALL until next post.

While it is fairly common during a symphony orchestra performance for the violins to get up and wander about, even up and down the aisles in the audience, sometimes playing requests, it is expected that the violas and cellos remain seated. Conduct for basses varies from orchestra to orchestra and has never been clearly defined. Sufficient to say their behavior is often vile. Basely vile.

I guess that's about all. To say more would require me to think up a point for making this post. Except to say that the picture at the top of this post is a viola and not a cello. Can anyone tell how you can tell from the picture? That reminds me of a story. Sorry. In eighth grade orchestra, one of our cello players - not exactly Rhodes Scholar material - once bet me his gangly arms were long enough to play his cello in the manner of a violin. So I bet my lunch money and held his bow while he skewered his neck clean through.

Ok, that was Socratic irony. Always be prepared from now on since I read that Wikepedia article on Socrates and critical thinking, although I haven't yet connected the two. Give me time.

Double feature coming up next:

1. Johnny Paycheck's grandson says, "Take this flute and shove it."

2. Is it possible for a double-reed player to get its tongue pinched between its reeds? And what if it is and it is not in a situation where it can scream?

3. Bonus! "Other uses for bassoons and bagpipes: no longer only good just for firewood."

All the gory details will be revealed as truthfully as a Rupert Murdock editorial and as unbiased as a Guardian report on Republicans. You won't want not to miss this one.



  1. That’s the instrument my daughter plays.
    It gives me chills to hear her play it… definitely one of my favorites.

  2. Sadly, I know next to nothing about the violin family, or any musical instrument. I say sadly because my mother played the violin. I remember the day she decided she's have to sell the violin she's had since her young days, because it wasn't being played any more. I think she ended up giving it to someone she thought would love it.

  3. It can't be cello because it has a chin rest.

  4. @Jeff King - I would have given you chills, too. :)

    @A. - Why were you sad your mother played the violin? What's going on here?

    @Leazwell - You may be over-thingking this. :)

  5. or "over-thinking." Either one,

  6. You misunderstand - she played the violin sadly. There are no happy violin tunes, so I'm led to believe.

  7. I think she should have been happy to play it. :)

    No happy violin tunes? And you claim to be from Ireland? Sheesh. maybe if she would have simply called it a fiddle.



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