Orchestra Instrument Choices
Finding a good match between student and instrument is important. Since music is all about sound, choosing an instrument based on its tone quality or sound is a good place to start. Beyond this are physical considerations — factors such as hand size can have a big impact on playing success. Orchestra teachers or specialists at local music stores can help determine if a student is physically compatible with a certain instrument. Any instrument can be played equally well by girls or boys.
There are practical considerations as well. If your family drives a compact car, it would be impossible to transport a string bass. There are also restrictions on carrying cellos and basses on ASD buses.
Don’t feel that you need to rush out and get an instrument right when school begins in the fall. In fact, students should not acquire instruments before checking with an orchestra teacher; instruments are not needed in class for the first two to three weeks of the school year.
The following instruments may be played in sixth-grade Orchestra:
This is the smallest of the string instruments. The violin usually plays the melody in the orchestra. It is often called a fiddle and can play many different styles of music. Different sized violins are available for children. Most sixth graders will need a 1/2, 3/4, or 4/4 (full size) instrument. Your orchestra teacher or music store specialist will determine the correct size instrument for each student.
The viola is slightly larger than the violin and plays lower pitches. It is held and played very much like the violin (in fact, some professional musicians play both violin and viola). Violists are needed in every orchestra because of the instrument’s beautiful rich tone and independent part. Like the violin, violas come in different sizes which are measured in inches. Your string teacher or the music store will measure your child. Violas appropriate for most 6th grade students range from 13 to 15 inches in body length.
The cello is played while sitting down because of its larger size. It can play melody, harmony, or bass lines equally well. It has a deep, mellow sound. Even though cellos are large, they are made to fit young students. Most sixth graders will need a 1/2, 3/4, or 4/4 (full size) instrument. Your string teacher or the music store will measure your child.
The bass is the largest of the string instruments. It is very important to the total sound of the orchestra because it plays the lowest pitches, like an electric bass in a rock band. Orchestras always need more bassists! Students who choose the bass may check out an instrument from the school district rather than rent or buy one. As with all the orchestra instruments, basses come in different sizes. Your string teacher or the music store will measure your child. Most sixth graders use a ¼ or ½ size bass.