A Primer on String Kids

First of all, everything you heard about musicians is true: we are crazy. That's for a good reason—a musician's goal is to create absolute perfection, but because perfection cannot be attained, there will always be flaws. There will always be parts that could have been softer, or lighter, or the bow could have down this instead of…and you get the idea.

I regret that this essay cannot be a complete primer on orchestras because as a string kid, I'm afraid I do not know much about the mindset of a band kid.

We shall start with the basses and work our way up.


The basses are without a doubt the most normal and sane of the orchestra. They sit in the back and shake their heads in dismay while craziness rages on ahead of them. They play the underlying rhythm that holds a piece together and that seems to be their primary function in the orchestra. If you need someone to depend on, find a bassist. As a bonus, they are very strong from hauling around a huge instrument so if you need any furniture moved, call them.

Cellos (or Celli if you prefer)

Lord, where do I start with these people. (Shakes head in dismay.) Pure unadulterated weirdness rages in the cello section. I don't know why—I'm not sure if it's genetic or if something about that instrument. They are fun-loving and very outgoing, willing to share whatever thought springs to mind no matter how weird or random. They love to party and tell dirty jokes about the conductor. They are fun at a party so long as you keep them away from alcohol and anything breakable. They play the exciting bass clef parts.


Violas are the least popular instruments in the string section. That is sad but true; most people have some idea of what a bass or a cello or a violin looks like but bring up the viola and you get a lot of blank looks. They take a lot of crap from composers—they are always stuck playing the boring parts while everyone else gets exciting parts—and their fellow orchestra members. There are pages after pages of viola jokes. However they've learned to take it in stride and if you have a thing for subversive and macabre humour, they are your kind of people.

2nd Violins

I decided to split the violins because there is a fundamental difference between a first and second violin.

Second Violins are in betweens: they are somewhere in between the violas and the first violins. Most of the time they play backup with the violas but occasionally they do get the melody. Their personalities more resemble the violas; they somehow consider it their duty to make sarcastic remarks about the first violins, since the firsts are always picking on them. First Violins somehow think that just because seconds play harmony that their parts are easier so the Firsts consider the seconds lazy. The seconds resent called lazy because they play harmony (just because it isn't the exciting melody doesn't make it easy)and consider the firsts, snobs.

First Violins

The First Violins are the prima donnas, the little starlets. They play the melody, making them the stars of the show. Like the celli, they are nuts but whereas the celli were nuts in a harmless but fun way, the firsts are just nuts.

Anal doesn't even begin to describe these people. They are the type who as Superintendent Chalmers put it, "whose rod up their but has a rod up it's but." They are very high maintenance and are always picking at the seconds for their (the seconds) mistakes. They always seem to be on the verge of a blowup and tend to be worrisome people. They nip at the people who play harmony because if the melody doesn't have any support, it can't go as far as the composer intended. It would be like diving into a pool with out water. Best way of handling these people: smile and nod, and stay out of their way.