History of the Violin

Although the exact date the violin was invented is not known, it is believed that it was sometime in the early 1500’s. Preceded by many other string instruments belonging to the lute and guitar family, the first true violins were made by skilled Italian craftsmen. The oldest documented violin to have four strings, like the modern violin, was made in 1555 by Andrea Amati. Other violins, documented significantly earlier, only had three strings. Other notable early Violin makers were Guarneri and Stradivari. Stradivari is perhaps the most famous of all violin makers, known for his “Stradivarius” violins that are valued in the millions of dollars today. Many modern makers emulate his style and violin pattern in their own instruments.


Unaltered for centuries, the violin continues to be one of the most played and recognized orchestral instruments. Today it continues to emerge in new musical settings from rock and roll to country, from contemporary to classical.


There is technically no difference between a Violin and a Fiddle; the two terms are usually used to describe the type of music the instrument is being used to play. The Violin is ordinarily referred to as a Fiddle when played as a folk instrument (though the term "fiddle" may be used informally no matter what the genre of music).


How does the Violin make its Sound?

The body of the violin is a large hollow chamber that functions as a speaker or amplifier for vibration. The strings are suspended above the body of the instrument by a bridge, a small maple piece of wood secured to the top of the instrument by the tension of the strings. The vibration from the strings is transferred through the bridge to the body of the instrument where the sound is then amplified.


Vibration of the strings can be achieved through two methods:


          1. Plucking the strings (known as pizzicato).

          2. Bowed playing (drawing a bow across the strings).


The bow is generally made from wood (usually Brazilwood or Pernambuco), but many modern bows are also made from a variety of man-made materials such as fiberglass and carbon fiber. The bow is strung with a ribbon of finely combed horsehair.


Rosin (made from tree sap) is applied to the hair to make it sticky and to create friction between the bow and the strings. As the bow grips the strings and is drawn across it, they vibrate and produce sound.


© 2020 by Summerhays Music Center

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