String instrument

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
String instruments of the viola da braccio family

The stringed instruments are stringed instruments in which the strings are made to vibrate with a bow , more rarely with a stick or wheel, by stroking them. The resulting stick-slip effect causes the stick-slip effect . The string vibrations are usually transmitted to a resonance body to make them audible .

Musicians who play string instruments are called strings . When listing an orchestral line-up, the standard line-up with violin instruments of (mostly multiple) 1st and 2nd violins , violas , cellos and double basses is usually summarized under the name of strings (or Archi in Italian ).


To brush

Painting the string is basically the same as plucking it. When painting, however, it is constantly repeated by the bow or the painting wheel, which constantly slides past, creating a continuous tone.

When sticking, which causes the stick-slip effect , the string sticks to the rough and sticky bow. The string is pulled along with the bowing movement and thus tensed. As soon as the increasing tension of the string is stronger than the grip, it loosens and snaps back ("slip"). Since the string cannot swing out freely, but is braked, the local kink does not break down once, but is constantly generated anew, which means that new overtones are constantly developing. This sound overlaid on the violin tone is sometimes perceived as scratchy and sharp. Here, too, the string itself essentially vibrates at its natural frequency and, compared to a guitar, has a consistently high harmonic content.

In order to achieve adequate friction , the particularly rough horse hair is used on the bow and rosin , a sticky tree resin product, is applied to the bow and wheel .


The string is stretched once by the finger, creating a triangle. As soon as the string is released and can swing freely, the kink spreads out once across the entire string ( transient ) and quickly ebbs away within fractions of a second. The string itself relaxes and ultimately only vibrates homogeneously with its resonance frequency given by the length it is gripped. The overall tone consists of the violin fundamental and a superimposed light-sounding harmonic component that is not correlated to the pitch. In contrast to the piano or guitar, the fundamental tone of the violin is very muted and swings out quickly. The plucked note is therefore comparatively short.


The simplest and oldest form of a stringed instrument is the musical bow , which often does not differ from a hunting bow . A special type of musical bow is the mouth bow . With him, the bow stick or the string is put to the mouth to use the head as a resonance body and then the tendon is struck with an object, rubbed or plucked with the fingers. A photo on an Argentine postage stamp shows the simplest form of a bowed string instrument: the end of a short oral arch is placed in the mouth, the tendon tension can be changed by pressing with the fingers of the hand. This string is made to vibrate by stroking it with the string of a second short bow.

The Chinese yazheng is a zither played with a bow . The earliest Chinese source of the Yazheng tubular zither struck with a stick dates back to the 8th century. The use of rubbing sticks in Central Asia is likely to be older. Presumably this playing technique was first used on lutes in Sogdia around the 6th century , from where it came to China . In the ruins of the medieval Armenian capital Dvin , a 9th or 10th century glass vase was found depicting a seated musician holding a string instrument in a violin-like playing position. The violin (Armenian djutak, dschutak ) could have three strings , the pegbox is clearly bent downwards. It is probably the oldest illustration of a stringed instrument bowed. Also from Dvin comes the picture of a spike violin called Kamantsche on a ceramic from the same period, which probably shows an epic singer ( gusan ).

The age of Indian string instruments is unclear. Temple reliefs from the 10th century could depict string instruments or tubular zithers struck with a staff. The ravanahattha is the oldest Indian string instrument, originally a musical bow, in the Middle Ages a stave zither and today in North Indian folk music a spit violin with two melody and several sympathetic strings. In the 19th century, because of this instrument, the idea was widespread that the bow was invented in India. The oldest Arabic description of playing the string instrument rabab with the bow comes from the book Kitab al-Musiqa by al-Farabi (around 872 - around 950).

String instruments such as Fidel and Rebec have been known in Europe since at least the 11th century. At least in the case of the Rebec, the Arabic origin of the instrument ( Rabāb ) can be reliably proven. The viola and viol family developed from the fiddle and the rebec in the 15th and 16th centuries .

In the hurdy-gurdy , the strings are bowed by a built-in wheel; it has been documented since the 10th century and was popular in the Renaissance and 18th centuries. The nyckelharpa (key fiddle) has been detectable in Germany, Italy and Sweden since the 15th century.

In public and private collections there are instruments from great violin makers, from Antonio Stradivari and other great masters of the 18th century to Vuillaume in the 19th century.

String instruments in China that are grouped under the term Huqin have an even longer history . Around 800, string instruments were painted there with a narrow strip of bamboo. (Around the same time, a wooden stick coated with resin was used in Korea to paint.)

Instrument types

String instruments commonly used in European classical and contemporary music today are: violin , viola , cello , double bass .

Historical string instruments that are increasingly used again for the performance of old European music are, in particular, fiddle , viol , rebec (rubeba), trumscheit , hurdy-gurdy , nyckelharpa and viola d'amore .

For the performance of French music between 1650 and 1750, historical performance practice increasingly used the violins, haute-contre de violon (viola), taille de violon, quinte de violon, and basse de violon, which were common at the time. The waist and fifth de violon differ only in the body size from the Haute-contre, the mood is the same, but the sound volume is increased according to the size. The same applies to the basse de violon, an instrument that is about 10 cm larger than a cello.

String instruments with sympathetic strings include viola d'amore, baryton , nyckelharpa and the trumscheit .

Some string instruments have drone strings . These include lira da gamba , lira da braccio , hurdy-gurdy, and some forms of nyckelharpa.

String instruments used in folk and European traditional music include the hurdy-gurdy , gudok in Russia, gadulka in Bulgaria, suka in Poland and variants of the husle in some Slavic-speaking countries in Eastern Europe. Nyckelharpa and Hardangerfiedel are particularly important in Scandinavian traditional music .

From the 17th to the 19th century, the narrow dance master violin was used in dance lessons . It has a bright and very weak sound.

The Chinese string instruments - one and two string violins, which u. a. represent the backbone of the orchestra in the Peking Opera - are summarized under the name Huqin ( Chinese  胡琴 , Pinyin húqín ); They are Erhu ( Chinese  二胡 , Pinyin èrhú ), Gaohu ( Chinese  高 胡 , Pinyin gāohú ), Zhonghu ( Chinese  中 胡 , Pinyin zhōnghú ), Gehu ( Chinese  革 胡 , Pinyin géhú ) and Bass-Gehu, which are regional have different meanings.

The rabāb is a string instrument in Arab culture. The string instrument rebab is used in gamelan in Indonesia . Sarinda , Sarangi and Banam are string instruments used in North Indian folk music. Kokyū ( Japanese 胡 弓 / 鼓 弓 ) and Shamisen are three-stringed long-necked lutes in Japan .

All of the string instruments mentioned belong to the neck lute in terms of instruments. The small minority of the string instruments not counted as neck lutes and bowed with a bow are divided into zithers and lyres . Simple forms of bowed zithers are the two-string Icelandic box zither Fiðla and the three-string tautirut of the Canadian Inuit . The crwth in Wales , which has been painted since the 11th century, is a fingerboard lyre, a combination of a neck lute and a lyre. Medieval two- to four-stringed string veins without a fingerboard have survived in Scandinavian folk music with the Talharpa and the Jouhikko .

Mechanical string pianos equipped with keys and semi-mechanical nyckelharpas are also assigned to the string instruments.

Some instruments are counted among the frictional idiophones, although they are bowed with a bow:

  • Singing saw
  • Waterphone
  • Nail violin : Nails of different lengths or thicknesses hammered into a hollow sound box are stroked sideways with a bow.
  • Leather : The Seri Indians ( Isla Tiburón , Gulf of California) placed a rigid sheet of leather on the floor at the beginning of the 20th century and ran a bow over the upper edge of the skin.

The Phonoliszt-Violina is a music machine in which a circular arc rotates around several violins. When playing this instrument, controllable finger levers pick up the notes, while the violins are pressed against the rotating circular arc at variable angles and pressures. The instrument is played with a keyboard or punch card control.

The arc of a circle is a rotating ring in which many bowstrings (like the tangent to a circle) are stretched, so that the envelope curve results in an apparently circular bow .

Other types of violin are the so-called straw violin or the Tiebel violin . They do not have a body, but a gramophone funnel to amplify the bridge vibrations. Originally, these instruments were used as a loud alternative to the violin in order to generate a sufficiently strong signal for the production of records .


  • Urs Frauchiger : Your own tone . Ammann Verlag, 2000, ISBN 3-250-30003-9 (interviews with famous violinists)
  • Richard Kinseher: The bow in culture, music and medicine, as a tool and weapon . (Chapters with simple bow instruments: plucked, struck, blown, crossed out), BoD, 2005, ISBN 3-8311-4109-6
  • Jack Botermans, Herman Dewit, Hans Goddefroy: Build your own musical instruments . Hugendubel, 1989, ISBN 3-89631-312-6
  • Mathes Seidl: The string instruments as symbols. An anthropological-psychological study of the human-musical instrument relationship . Dr. R. Krämer, Hamburg, 1998, ISBN 3-89622-020-9

Web links

Wiktionary: String instrument  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. See, for example, www.geigenbau-schiffler: Violinstrument .
  2. Harvey Turnbull: A Sogdian friction chordophone . In: DR Widdess, RF Wolpert (Ed.): Music and Tradition. Essays on Asian and other musics presented to Laurence Picken . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1981, pp. 197-206
  3. ^ Anahit Tsitsikian: The Earliest Armenian Representations of Bowed Instruments. In: RIdIM / RCMI Newsletter, Vol. 16, No. 2, Fall 1991, pp. 2-4
  4. ^ Joep Bor: The Rise of Ethnomusicology: Sources on Indian Music c.1780 - c.1890. In: Yearbook for Traditional Music, Vol. 20, 1988, pp. 54, 60