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What Instruments are in a String Quartet Arrangement

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

In the mid 1700’s, the string quartet was invented, and since then it has remained one of the most popular choices of entertainment. Composer Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) quickly caught on to this new trend in classical music, having composed 69 works for string quartet and is known as the “Father of the String Quartet.” Today, thanks to the Netflix series Bridgerton, the string quartet is more popular than ever. While our clients love to hire string quartets to perform at weddings and other special events, do you know what instruments are included in a string quartet arrangement?


In a string quartet, there are two violins – each playing a different part. The first violinist is the leader of the ensemble, often cuing the other musicians, and setting the choice of tempo for each musical selection. The first violinist almost always has the melody; in quartet arrangements of popular music, this is the musician that takes the place of the singer.

Second Violin

The second violinist supports the first violin by alternating who plays the melody, or by playing a secondary melody. One of our most popular requests, the Thong Song by Sisqó demonstrates two violins sharing the melody. You’ll hear the first violinist begin playing the melody, and shortly the melody is passed on to the second violinist to play. The constant back and forth of the melody between the two violins adds a lot of energy to this upbeat selection.


While likely the most unrecognizable instrument, the viola is the essential middle voice that completes the full sound of a string quartet. To the unmusical eye, this instrument looks like a larger violin, but it sounds so beautifully deep – it’s hard to imagine an ensemble without it! While the viola does not often play the melody, it plays a key role by filling in with luscious harmonies. In "How Deep is Your Love by the BeeGees" to hear the viola support the melodic line. The Innocenti Strings Audio page has a sample here.


Due to its physical size, the cello is one of the most recognizable instruments in the string quartet. In a quartet, the cello serves two main purposes: to play the melody (often times a composer will give the cello the melody to give it a deeper range, great for popular songs featuring a singer with a low, vocal range) or as a driving rhythmic force. When it is not playing the melody, the cello plays rhythmic patterns that help keep the group together.

In this arrangement of Another One Bites the Dust by Queen, you will hear the cello begin with the melody, quickly grabbing the attention of the audience with its deep and commanding tone. To hear the cellist perform in a more rhythmic role, listen to Shake It by Metro Station where you will hear the cellist keep the beat by playing quick, repetitive passages.

Is a String Quartet the Right Size for My Event?

If you’re torn between what size ensemble to hire for your next event, we highly encourage a string quartet to get the most out of your musical experience. Here at Innocenti Strings, our library of string quartet music is extensive, and by hiring a string quartet you will have the most options to choose from!

Hire an Experience String Quartet for Your Next Special Event!

Check out our master song list to see what we can play at your next event. When you work with us, we want to bring your musical vision come to life. If you have a favorite instrument, let us know and we’ll make sure to pick music that puts that instrument in the spotlight!

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