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The String Family

When marking bowings, less is more. The example to the right is an extreme example. For your final project, you will rely primarily on slur marks to indicate phrasing and only use upbow and downbow markings for musical emphasis.

String instruments control their pitch by shortening the length of the string.  By holding a string down with a finger the length of the string is reduced, raising the pitch. 

Instruments in the string family can play multiple notes.  Double and triple stops are done by bowing more than one string at once. They are not practical for a typical church musician, especially if consecutive double stops are used.  Ideally, consecutive double stops will maintain the same interval ensure the string player does not have to make radical shifts to fingering.

Strings are a versatile family. They are used to great effect in sustained passages - often unnoticed in the background (strings as pad), but they are also very agile and are capable of playing fast runs with ease, whether by a glissando or a scale. They can be used rhythmically, but traditionally composers avoid giving strings syncopated rhythms.  Thus, string players may not be as familiar with rhythms found in contemporary Christian music.

With all stringed instruments, the higher notes are harder to play in tune as the distance between finger positions decreases. In many cases it is preferable to move a high cello part to a viola or even violin.  Advanced players are more comfortable well-above the staff.

Tremolo is done by rapidly alternating the bow across the strings. To notate it, add diagonal flags on the stems of notes. The number flags used represent 8th, 16th, and 32nd notes.

Use sustained tremolo sparingly in your music as it is an effect, and like all effects, overuse lessens the impact.

Detache is performed by bouncing the bow off the strings. It has a lightness to it's sound quality and can add energy to a passage. It is best used with fast, repetitive rhythms.

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