What Is a String Orchestra?

A string orchestra is a performance ensemble made up of a large number of musicians who play mostly string instruments. There are many string instruments that can be used in a string orchestra, but high-pitched string instruments like the violin and viola, as well as bass string instruments like the bass, contrabass, and cello, are the most common. A string orchestra usually includes a piano, harp, and percussion section. The term “string orchestra” is rarely used to describe any large band with multiple string players. A string ensemble or string band are other names for this type of musical group.

The average number of string players in a large string orchestra is around 80. String orchestral music is frequently heard in television and film, and many film scores feature orchestras with a large number of string players. Brass and woodwind instruments, in addition to strings and percussion, are frequently used as part of an otherwise string-based orchestra. Despite the addition of other instruments, this type of orchestra typically performs songs that are predominantly string-based, with the additional instruments serving primarily to fill out and enhance the sound of the strings. Other instruments are rarely featured in solos or highlighted.

String orchestras, on the other hand, are typically smaller than orchestras, with about 100 musicians. Chamber string orchestras are smaller orchestras with 12 to 50 players, but string orchestras with as few as nine string players are also common. A string orchestra is sometimes more or less a full orchestra with a particularly large string section. With or without a conductor, this type of group can perform.

In this type of orchestra, the violin and viola sections are usually 60% violin and viola and 40% bassy strings like cello and contrabass. The violins usually outnumber the violas, and the cellos outnumber the basses. To change the overall sound of the orchestra, some composers and conductors choose to change the proportions of the string instruments.

In string orchestra performances, string solos are common. Violin and viola solos are the most common types of instruments used in string orchestra solos, but the lower string instruments are occasionally chosen for a feature spot. Igor Stravinsky’s Concerto in D, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, and Jean Sibelius’ Andante Festivo are all notable works for string orchestra well-known composers.