Even though it is not as utilized, as in the woodwind and brass section, the strings are a very versatile section when it comes to size options. As we talked in the section titled, “Size and Balance in Today’s Context”, the sound of a particular ensemble would change drastically by adding or subtracting players.

Once we decide the number of players per section, the options are:


The whole section plays one note. It has the fullest sound out of the four.  It is also indicated as tutti.


This section is divided by a fraction, to allow the playing of multiple notes at a time. It has the particularity that the sound becomes thinner –which is one of the main goals of this technique–, especially when it is done by a fraction of less than ½. If the section is divided by two it would be called divisi a2 (div. a2), if it is by three divisi a3, and so on. 

Note that for being able to use divisis in a particular section, every divisi should have a minimum amount of players.  This will depend on the sound we want for the divisis to have.

 Example of a common type of divisi in M. Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé: Suite No.1

Other languages: FR

 Example of a extreme type of divisi in R. Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra, II Von den Hinterweltlern

Other languages: FR


The first chair (concertmaster in the case of the first violins) would be the only one in charge of playing a particular line. This player has to change his or her playing style to produce a sound with a soloist character, since it often has to cut through other multiple instruments or sections. This line is indicated with the word solo.  When the section comes back in or the soloist player joins them, it is indicated as tutti.

It is compatible with having the rest of the section playing in the background.  In this case, the line with the rest is indicated as gli altri.

 Example of a string instrument (viola) solo passage in M. de Falla's El amor brujo: Danza del juego de amor

Other languages: FR


Not only one solo player, out of the whole section, is allowed to play an individual line.  Alternatively,  several of them can play several lines. When this case happens, often as two soloist players, it is indicated as soli. In the case that there are more than two players performing solo parts, it would be indicated as solo 1, solo 2, solo 3, etc. It is also compatible with having the rest of the section playing in the background.

 Examples of multiple soli passages, both in the same and different sections. The first piece is An American in Paris by G. Gershwin and the second En Saga by J. Sibelius

Other languages: FR