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Use the tabs below to find out about each section of the orchestra, watch video clips, and read interviews with musicians.

There are more strings in the orchestra than all the other instruments put together, and they are very often at the heart of the music.

The cello looks like a violin - but bigger.

You couldn't hold this under your chin! Instead, it rests on a spike which sticks into the floor and is held between the players legs and played with a bow.

Because its body is bigger and its strings longer than the other instruments, the sound it makes is much deeper.

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Meet the orchestra

Michael Atkinson, Cello
BBC Symphony Orchestra

  • How old were you when you first started playing?
    I was twelve

  • Why did you choose this instrument?
    My eldest brother is a very good viola player and his string quartet used to rehearse at our house. I was drawn to the sound of the cello.

  • Do you play any other instruments?
    I am a very basic but enthusiastic piano player.

  • What do you like most about playing in an orchestra?
    The variety of the work we do - one week Haydn, next week Elliott Carter, next week the Monty Pythons.

  • Do you play any other kind of music?
    I've always also loved working in smaller groups, string quartets and new music groups mostly.

  • What other music do you like?
    I have pretty diverse tastes, from the guitar music of my youth, like The Smiths, to a special interest in eccentric singer songwriters - Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, Laura Marling.

  • Do you have any other hobbies?
    I got into running a few years ago - mostly running away from my middle aged spread!

  • What would you have been if you weren't a musician?
    Teacher with maybe some politics thrown in.

Have you been listening to an orchestra without realising?

Spot the orchestra

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