Extreme E Strings

As the highest and lowest stringed instruments in an orchestra, the violin and double bass “define the orchestra sound in many respects,” says MENC member James Kjelland. They also share an important string in common: the E string, which in both cases represents an extreme for the instrument (the highest string on the violin, the lowest on the bass).  The relationship between these instruments is crucial to the orchestra.

The table below highlights the three key factors that contribute to the quality of each instrument’s sound: (1) sounding points for each instrument, (2) bow speed, and (3) bow pressure and weight.  Because of these bowing considerations, the violin and double bass E strings can be particularly difficult for beginning students to play and should be addressed early in a student’s training.

  Sounding Point Bow Speed Pressure/Weight
Violin Closer to Bridge Faster Less
Bass Further from Bridge Slower More


For more information on this topic, read “In Praise of Violin and Double Bass E Strings: Defining Orchestra Sound and Bowing Technique” by James Kjelland, associate professor of music education and string pedagogy at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.  This article was published in Conn-Selmer’s June 2008 Keynotes.

This article was adapted from “Concentrating on the Violin and Double Bass E String” by Cynthia Darling in October 2008 Teaching Music, page 57.

— Nicole Springer, September 30, 2008. © National Association for Music Education