Wedding String Ensembles Explained

Exactly what is a string quartet?

If you’re not clear about exactly what instruments are in a string quartet, you’re not alone. There’s a bit of confusion around the topic.

This article is a quick breakdown of who is included in a string quartet’s roster, and why it’s your #1 choice for a wedding in Paso Robles wine country.

The story begins with two violins:

Violin 1

Violin 1 is generally the group’s leader. This person should be a strong player, with excellent musical instincts. Usually this player covers the main melody of the music selections, but that’s not always the case.

Violin 2

This violinist fills “best supporting actor” role in the string quartet. This position calls for a strong team player who is very sensitive to his/her surrounding musicians. Along with viola and cello, violin 2 offer rhythmic support to the group, much like a drummer who maintains a solid beat.


This instrument is frequently confused with the violin. Though it looks similar, the sound is actually quite different. Viola adds a distinctive warm tone and requires a different set of skills compared to the violin. Often the violist shares the supporting actor role with the second violinist. Some violists are “switch hitters,” that is they can cover either the viola or a violin part.


The cello is easy to spot; it is many times the size of a violin and viola though it is still an official member of the violin family. Because of its size, the cello covers the deep, low notes of the music. So it’s much like the bass player in a rock band. But the instrument has a whole separate function: when played up high it can rival the violins in it ability to bring out a beautiful melody.

This “Fab 4” of string instruments, is the exact combination that The 805 String Quartet can bring to your Paso Robles, Santa Barbara or Santa Margarita wedding.

Five Reasons to choose a string quartet over a string duo or trio:

  • Superior resonance. Enough sound to fill outdoor areas such as wineries and large wedding venues.
  • Richer Harmony. A lot of music requires four or more voices to fully cover the chords that the composer or songwriter intended. Smaller groups often have to leave out important chord notes.
  • Vast Library of Music. By miles, the quartet offers you a bigger selection of songs and pieces. Whatever your request, 805 String Quartet likely can add it to your wedding playlist.
  • A better value. You’ll generally pay less per musician to hire a quartet, compared to smaller groups. The cost difference between a quartet and duo can be much less that you’d think. That’s because smaller ensembles have to work much harder to carry the day, and also there’s generally more prep time for the musician.
  • A more polished performance. Quartet members have spent countless hours working together to create a tight ensemble. Smaller groups are often cobbled together at the last minute, and can’t offer the same rich history of working together.

What’s So Great About the String Quartet?

Almost 300 years ago in Austria, the famous composer Joseph Haydn is said to have invented the string quartet. It’s the model we still use today, and for good reason. Many would say it’s the perfect combination of instruments. Composers like Beethoven and Mozart did some of their very best work in string quartets.

What’s so special about the string quartet?

To start, each of the musicians play their own unique part, so it’s much like hearing four solos all working together, all creating a single texture. Then you have the full range of pitches covered from the rich low notes in the cello, the deep, mellow sound of the viola, and the brilliant high notes of the two violins, all working together.

This rich sound is perfect for outdoor settings, such a wedding at a Paso Robles Winery.

With four instruments, there’s enough resonance for the sound to carry to the back row of your large wedding seating area. The sound can be even better indoors, like during your cocktail hour.

Composers and music arrangers are still writing string quartet music to this day. Even contemporary pop tunes can work very well when played by a full quartet. In fact the 805 String Quartet is often asked to play music by artists such as Sting, Christina Perri, Bruno Mars and Ed Sheeran.

That’s the beauty of a string quartet; it’s equally at home with Mozart and John Legend. So it’s always the perfect choice for your central coast wedding. For more information about The 805 String Quartet, visit this page.