Viola and violin are close enough instruments that they can be considered the same for most discussions -- so technically, the "violin-family" tag is more accurate than the "violin" tag, but I think the former is inevitably going to fall out of use simply because it's an unwieldy term.

Case in point, there are currently 6 questions tagged "violin" and 4 tagged "violin-family".

There's also no "viola" tag (I tried to start one earlier but I didn't have enough points), and that's likely to become neglected.

What should we do?

Edit: I forgot to mention, the reason I bring up viola is because most questions regarding viola can be answered by violinists, but a lot of violinists likely won't see questions tagged "viola". In that sense, a more general term like "violin-family" could be better.

  • 2
    if you need to use the viola tag now, just create your question on the main site and let it know there so that someone with editing and tag creation privilege can add it to its tags.
    – ogerard
    Commented May 4, 2011 at 12:48
  • possible duplicate of Instrument tagging standards
    – user28
    Commented May 4, 2011 at 13:37
  • I think in this case the factors that define each instrument category are different enough that we'll need a discussion regarding each set of potentially overlapping tags. For instance, I'm not qualified enough to say which kinds of woodwinds should be grouped together and which shouldn't. Commented May 4, 2011 at 20:47

2 Answers 2


As you might guess, I am for the tag (as I was the first to use it on this site), and I object the use of the instead because it is an ambiguous shorthand.

Many string instruments are not bowed, have not 4 strings, are not present in a classical orchestra.

You can also have a question about strings (linked to maintenance, fitting, fingering, etc.) which is not about the instrument group commonly known as strings in an orchestra and you do not have to type in full as it will be proposed to you after the first few keys.

I believe that an expert Q&A site should have very precise tagging.

I am sorry about the current lack of a question about but it should not last.

  • I don't think strings is ambiguous at all. When have you ever heard someone refer to the "strings" and think they were talking about the guitar section? The thought process is always "oh yes, violin through double bass" and then noting that other instruments use strings to generate sound when we're looking for hairs to split. I agree that an expert Q&A site should have precise tagging, but I'm not convinced that the rest of the expert community would find strings ambiguous.
    – NReilingh
    Commented May 4, 2011 at 14:54
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    What should be included in the violin family? Should cello be included? Should the kemenche or Byzantine lyra? (No, they don't have 4 strings; yes, they are bowed; no, they are not present in a classical orchestra; yes, they are ancestors of the violin.) Commented May 4, 2011 at 14:55
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    @Willie: I agree that most of the time, we replace an arbitrary convention by another. 'violin family' is also a shorthand that hides the complete picture. This is why we are discussing this. Tags should probably go where the question goes and are based more on consensus than on a true and rigorous taxonomy.
    – ogerard
    Commented May 4, 2011 at 15:08
  • @NReilingh : to me one of the best argument against 'strings' is that it is also a part of the instrument.
    – ogerard
    Commented May 4, 2011 at 15:10
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    I've heard the term orchestral strings used quite often, as on long-mcquade.com . Would that be an acceptable compromise? It would usually be a synonym for strings, but it would exclude the Asian stringed instruments for instance. Commented May 4, 2011 at 20:24
  • Pragmatically speaking though, I'm not quite sure that precise tagging is necessarily a good thing on a Q&A site. Tag search is an important feature, and it works best with the most canonical terms rather than the most precise. Commented May 4, 2011 at 20:25
  • I cleaned up the comments, the most relevant ones are left. As Tom said, comments are not the place for protracted discussion (even if they're on-topic). Take it to chat and link back.
    – user28
    Commented May 27, 2011 at 21:52

My first instinct is to have individual tags for each instrument (so yes on ) and then use to refer to the whole orchestral family.

Yes, guitars and pianos are stringed instruments, but any musician referring to "strings" out of context is 99% of the time referring to the bowed orchestral string instruments (yet another unweildy moniker.)

I think we should create and make a synonym of it.

  • Questions improperly tagged should be retagged. There are many questions that would apply to string instruments in general (e.g., asking about string harmonics) as well as only the violin family (e.g., asking about string quartets). Such questions should be tagged accurately.
    – user28
    Commented May 4, 2011 at 13:40
  • @Matthew My argument is that strings is a more widely accepted description for what some of us seem to be calling violin-family. I really think we're splitting hairs if we're going to insist on being that specific. American Heritage Dictionary says "(strings) the stringed instruments in an orchestra." and I don't like the idea of sacrificing usability and user understandability for the sake of minutiae.
    – NReilingh
    Commented May 4, 2011 at 14:47
  • OK, I could see that. As long as string-instruments or something is available for the more general case.
    – user28
    Commented May 4, 2011 at 14:50
  • I think that's an important point. If someone were searching for questions on guitar or piano or hurdy-gurdy or kokyu; they would enter either guitar or piano etc.. On the other hand, someone looking for information on orchestral bowed string instruments would simply enter strings, as this is an English Q&A site and naturally will gather audiences of the western musical tradition. Commented May 4, 2011 at 21:11

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