The Violin and Its History

The violin is the most popular stringed instrument in orchestras all over the world. The smallest stringed instrument in size, the violin has the highest pitch. A violin's range is from G3 up to C8. The violin's four strings are tuned a fifth apart. Typically played with a bow, strings may also be plucked to produce sound. The violin box is constructed of wood and quality construction is considered an art form.

Violin Family
The violin family includes the cello, viola, and double bass. The viola is somewhat larger than a violin and is tuned a fifth lower. The cello, tuned an octave below the viola, is the next largest violin family member. To play, the cellist is seated, supporting the cello between the calves. The cello rests on the floor on its endpin. The double bass, often called the bass violin, is the largest and lowest pitched instrument in the violin family. A double bassist either sits or stands while playing.

String Family
The string family of instruments includes those in the violin family as well as the guitar, banjo, and harp. The harp is one of the oldest stringed instruments still in use today. Slaves in America invented the banjo based on stringed instruments used in their native Africa. Acoustic and electric guitars evolved from ancient stringed instruments.

Evolution of the Violin
Early violinmakers appear to have based the violin on three stringed instruments in use at the time: the lira, the rebab from Arab culture, and the Renaissance fiddle. The rebab is thought have been in use as early as the 8th century and is still played today. The pinnacle of violin making was the late 1500s to the late 1600s when the Amati, Guarneri, and Stradivarius violins were made. Basic violin construction remains the same, but variations in body shape, depth, wood type, string, and bows are all factors in the resonance and quality of the sound an individual instrument produces.

Today, violins are manufactured in different sizes for different musicians. Children just learning to play may use a fractional size violin. Small-framed adults may use what is called a lady's violin, which is a bit shorter than the typical instrument.

Violins have played an important role in music throughout history. Violins are used in the country, jazz, baroque, rock, classical, folk (where it is sometimes called a fiddle), and orchestral genres. The beauty of the instrument, its magnificent sound, and its rich history make the violin the predominant string instrument in orchestras today.