Music written for String Quartets has 4 staves. The instrumentation is:
  • 1st Violin
  • 2nd Violin
  • Viola
  • Cello (Violincello)
A typical String Quartet Ensemble Seating arrangement looks like this:

The two violin parts are written in Treble clefs. The Viola is typically written using the Alto clef while the Cello is scored on a Bass clef.

Notice that the Bar lines run vertcially across the 4 staves, which is common in String Quartet scores.   Tuning and Note Ranges for each of these bowed string instruments varies and is shown as follows:

The symbol 8va means to play the notes an Octave higher than written whereas 8vb means to play the notes an Octave lower than written.
Video Player Option of String Quartet Note Range

The following is a quick 4 bar sample of what a String Quartet would look and sound like.

Video Player Option with String Quartet Score Playback

String Quartet Traditional Form

Composer Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), is generally considered to be the Father of the String Quartet form.

A composition for 4 players of stringed instruments may be in any form. Quartets written in the Classical Period (1730-1820) usually have 4 movements with a large-scale structure similar to that of a symphony.

* 1st movement:  Sonata form, Allegro in the Tonic key.
* 2nd movement:  Slow movement, in a Related key.
* 3rd movement:  Minuet and Trio in the Tonic key.
* 4th movement:  Rondo form or Sonata Rondo form in the Tonic key.
Variations of String Quartets

Many other Chamber Music groups can be seen as modifications of the string quartet such as:
  • String Quintet - Adds a 5th string instrument using 2 Violas - 2 Cellos or a Double Bass.
  • String Trio - has 1 Violin, 1 Viola and 1 Cello.
  • Piano Quartet - a String Quartet with 1 Violin replaced by a Piano.
  • Piano Quintet - a String Quartet with a Piano.
  • String Sextet - has 2 Violins, 2 Violas and 2 Cellos.
Mozart String Quintet
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik - 1st Movement Allegro

The German title means "A Little Serenade" but is often rendered more literally as "A Little Night Music".  Although written for an ensemble of 2 Violins, Viola, Cello and Double Bass it is often performed by String Orchestras.
Video Player with String Quintet Score Playback
(Best Viewed in Full Screen Mode)