How Orchestras Make Music

About the science of orchestral sound


By: August Bhatt, Journalist

Beautiful music, bows sliding back and forth, a thrilling symphony.  These all describe the orchestra, which is a hodgepodge of different instruments. Each part of the orchestra  has its own duties. So here is how the orchestra works.

Firstly, the violin, a popular and well known choice. The Violin is the most high-pitched and smallest instrument, with four strings. It plays on the treble clef, with it being such a high-pitched instrument that it’s smallest string is sometimes made of silver to keep it from snapping. The Violin is split into two parts composing a significant portion of the orchestra, with one playing the harmony and the other part the melody.

The second instrument of the orchestra family is the Viola. Playing on the alto clef, it is slightly lower than a Violin, meaning it is usually a counter to the Violin and the harmony part. It is much less well known, and usual switches between playing with the Cellos and the second Violins.

The third instrument present in an orchestra is the Cello, a shortened version of Violincello which is related to the precursor to the bass. The Cello usually serves as a instrument hopping between melody and harmony, becoming a rich background to the other instruments. The Cello plays in the Bass clef along with the bass itself, there are usually around 12 cellos in a orchestra.

Finally the Bass, a low and full sounding instrument that usually is the base of a song providing a beat and a background. It is played standing with the whole instrument leaning on the player. Most bass music employs vibrato, or a shaking of one’s string hand, to control the sound in their instrument.  While Bass’s play on the Bass clef they are actually one octave lower than it.

Together they make all kinds of music. Each instrument critical in its own way, all in the pursuit of making great music. So next time you have the chance, make some music!



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