Top 10 Most Popular String Instruments
Musical instruments are usually divided by major categories or families. Some people claim there are five of them, while others speak of a sixth. In any case, the string instruments make one of those big groups that bring together a large amount of musical instruments that have something in common. That is, that they produce sound from vibrating strings, made from different materials, that performers can play, pluck, or sound in different ways.
Today, we will take a closer look at the 10 most popular string instruments. By the way, no, we did not include the piano, which some people consider a string instrument. We already discussed what family of instruments the piano belongs to in a different article. Keep reading to find out if your favorite string instrument is among the top 10.
Ok, there is no doubt the guitar should take the first place on our list! Not only it is one of the most popular instruments for any music genre, but it is also one of the most versatile. You can either play classical music on your guitar or rock and roll in a band; you can compose songs and sing along as you strum some chords; you can play blues or jazz… We should remark that the guitar is not a single instrument, but there are many kinds of guitar: acoustic guitar, electric guitar, classic guitar, bass guitar, and more. No one better than the other, but each of them offers its advantages.
#2: Electric bass
Some people consider this instrument another guitar, but the electric bass differs on its longer neck and lower pitch. The bass doesn’t always have six strings; it may also have as few as four! This instrument was first mass-produced in the 1950s by Leo Fender and George Fullerton. From then on, it has become a major component of popular music. Among the most famous bass players, we can name Paul McCartney, Jaco Pastorius, Stanley Clark, Flea, and Sting.
Unlike the guitar and the electric bass, the violin is a bowed string instrument, which means the players don’t usually pluck the strings with their fingers but they rather use a bow. The violin is the smallest of its family, which includes the viola, the cello, and the double bass. To play the violin you hold the instrument with your hands and under your bow. This is why in its origins the violin was designated as viola da braccio (because you hold it, unlike the viola da gamba, which stands on the floor). Its lack of frets makes it more difficult to play than a guitar or other string instruments. Of course, this hasn’t stopped the violin from becoming one of the favorite instruments for children and other music students!
The viola is the second smallest instrument of the violin family. You also play it holding it in your hands and using a bow. Besides being a little larger than the violin, its sound is also lower and deeper, but not as much as the cello. In orchestral music, the viola usually plays major, soloist roles.
Also known as Violoncello, it is another bowed string instrument that is played with the musician sitting down and the instrument supported on the floor. It has four strings that are tuned in the perfect fifths. Although it is part of the orchestra, the cello is versatile enough to be played solo, and there are many musical pieces written for it. Besides its importance for classical music, the cello has gained popularity in many other ensembles, like in jazz, rock, or folk music. When it comes to famous cellists, you may have heard about Yo-Yo Ma, Pau Casals, or Jacqueline du Pré.
#6: Double bass
Being almost 6 feet tall, it is the largest instrument of the string section of the orchestras, and its pitch range is the lowest of them all. The double bass doesn’t only feature classical music, but it is also employed in a variety of musical genres, such as jazz, blues, rock&roll, traditional country music, tango, and folk music.
This is a real American string instrument. It evolved from instruments enslaved people brought from African in the 17th century, and the first references in North America date from the 18th century. The banjo is a string instrument with a thin circular membrane stretched over a cavity, and it may have from four to six metal strings. It is popular with folk and country music. But rock bands, such as Led Zeppelin or The Eagles have included banjo in some of their most famous songs!
This string instrument from the lute family comes from Italy. Its strings are usually plucked with a plectrum and come in pairs. The typical mandolin has four courses (sometimes five, or even six) of double metal strings which are tuned in unison. The mandolin usually features classic European music.
This string instrument has definitely gained in popularity in the past decades! It comes from Hawaii, where it was introduced by Portuguese immigrants. The ukulele is easier to play than the guitar, and that’s why many beginner players or young children choose it, besides its portable size and its sweet sounds. Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, Jake Shimabukuro, Taylor Swift, Eddie Vedder, and, of course, Elvis Presley, are among the most famous ukulele players.
Finally, this instrument that comes in all sizes and has been known in many cultures around the globe. Different models of harps have appeared in Asia, Africa, and Europe, and disseminated to America as well. They all have a neck, resonator, and strings, which are plucked with the fingers of both hands. There are many different instruments known as harps and each of them has its qualities: some harps have pedals, some have a pillar to support the strings and open harps have not and can be played with bows.
So there you go! Those are the most popular string instruments! Which one do you play? Are you looking forward to taking music lessons?