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How Many Strings Are On A Violin?

    With so many different string instruments it can often be difficult distinguishing between them all. There are more than 300 different instruments in the string family alone – including the violin.

    Those who don’t know a lot about these stringed instruments may often wonder how many strings are on a violin?

    There’s no need to stay mystified for long. Find out exactly how many strings a traditional violin has below! We’ll even cover the different types of violins that are available for the more professional musicians.

    How many strings are on a violin?

    A traditional violin has only 4 different strings. These are G, D, A, and E going from the lowest to the highest notes. 

    Violins are tuned in perfect fifths, meaning the tone that each open string produces is five notes higher than the string below it. The lowest note that a violin can produce on an open string is a G below middle C, and the D string is 5 notes directly above this.

    The highest note that a violin’s open string can produce is an E.

    A 4 string violin is the more traditional choice for most violinists. These are the violins that you will see in most orchestras and string ensembles. They are more commonly used around the world.

    However, as with other members of the string family, there are some more complicated violins that come with additional strings. These violins tend to be played more by professional musicians who have already mastered the traditional 4 string violin.

    Musicians who choose violins with different numbers of strings are often looking for a different sound to what a traditional 4 string violin can produce.

    Violins with additional strings

    There is a selection of violins available that feature additional strings. However, these instruments tend to be more specialized.

    Musicians would tend to choose these types of violins for a specific sound.

    We’ve listed the more common types of violins with more than 4 strings below.

    5 strings

    While a traditional violin only has 4 strings – G, D, A, and E – there are some violins that feature a fifth string. This fifth string typically sits below the lowest G string. It tends to be tuned to a fifth lower, C. 

    5 string violins don’t tend to be used in orchestras or more traditional classical string ensembles. Most musicians who use these instruments will do so for jazz, Western swing, bluegrass, country, or rock genres.

    6, 7, and 8 strings

    There are variations of violins with 6, 7, or even 8 strings, but these aren’t as popular as the more traditional 4 string or even 5 string violins.

    Most of these instruments with a greater number of strings tend to be electric violins. Typically, most additional strings will be added to the lower register of the violin to bring it into the range of a cello.

    There have been instances of manufacturers attempting to add an additional string above the top E string. However, these are tuned to below a perfect fifth above E. This is because if the string is pitched any higher then it would likely snap due to the thinness of it.

    Sympathetic strings

    Some more specialized models of violin can feature sympathetic strings. These are 4 thinner strings located underneath the standard 4 strings and aren’t physically played in the traditional sense.

    Instead, they ring in “sympathy” with the string above them to create a richer tone. 

    An instrument known as the Norwegian Hardianger Fiddle makes use of sympathetic strings.

    What are violin strings made from?

    The strings of a violin can be made from a variety of different materials. Traditionally, violin strings used to be made from sheep’s gut, or what was more commonly known as catgut.

    While some violin strings can be made from catgut still, in recent years they tend to be more commonly made from nylon or steel.

    Professional and more advanced violinists still use catgut strings on their instruments, especially if they play baroque or other period pieces. Catgut strings give a darker, rich tone than strings made from metal or other polymers. However, catgut strings can degrade quickly and are often more expensive than alternative string types. Metal and synthetic strings are far more reliable and are the preferred strings of choice for many violinists.

    Violin strings tend to have one of these three cores – gut, steel, or synthetic polymers – which are then wound with various types of metal. This is to create the sound needed for each individual string. 

    The sound that a violin produces is determined by its mass, length, and tension of the strings. The G, D, A, and E strings will vary in thickness to get the correct pitch.

    How are violin strings tuned?

    Every string on the violin is attached to the 4 tuning pegs in the pegbox that you can see at the top of the violin. These tuning pegs are fitted into narrowly placed holes along the pegbox and held in place by friction.

    The E string is the only string to have an adjuster so that it can be easily tuned. The other three strings tend to rely more on the tuning pegs, however, electric violins can sometimes have an adjuster on all 4 strings. 

    Some student violins may have a tailpiece that includes 4 built-in tuners. However, most professional musicians will avoid using these types of instruments as the tailpiece can sometimes affect the overall tone that the violin produces.

    To tune a violin, musicians will start by tuning the A string to concert pitch A, also known as A440. Typically, most violinists tune their strings by playing the fifth interval on a separate string. Once violinists have tuned to concert pitch A, they can then use this string to tune their additional strings. 

    For example, to tune the E string, they can play the relevant fifth on the A string and adjust the tuning peg on the E string accordingly.

    Or play an A on the lower D string to match the note needed on the open A string. The strings can then be adjusted using the tuning pegs to get the right note.

    In summary

    While there are variations of the violin which have different numbers of strings, the more traditional violin that you’re familiar with only has 4 strings. These strings are G, D, A, and E from lowest to highest.

    All of these strings are tuned in perfect fifths. The lowest string is G in the octave below middle C and the highest string is an E.

    There you have it! Now not only do you know that a traditional violin has 4 strings, but you can also impress your family and friends with your expansive violin knowledge.

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