About the Violin
The violin is a bowed string instrument with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest and highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which also includes the viola and cello. A person who plays the violin is called a violinist or fiddler, and a person who makes or repairs them is called a luthier, or simply a violin maker.
A violin is sometimes informally called a fiddle, regardless of the type of music played on it. The word "violin" comes to us through the Romance languages from the Middle Latin word vitula, meaning "stringed instrument"; this word may also be the source of the Germanic "fiddle".
The modern European violin evolved from various bowed stringed instruments which were brought from the Middle East. Most likely the first makers of violins borrowed from three types of current instruments: the rebec, in use since the 10th century (itself derived from the Arabic rebab), the Renaissance fiddle, and the lira da braccio. One of the earliest explicit descriptions of the instrument, including its tuning, was in the Epitome musical by Jambe de Fer, published in Lyon in 1556. By this time, the violin had already begun to spread throughout Europe.
The oldest documented violin to have four strings, like the modern violin, is supposed to has been constructed in 1555 by Andrea Amati, but the date is doubtful. (Other violins, documented significantly earlier, only had three strings.) The violin immediately became very popular, both among street musicians and the nobility, illustrated by the fact that the French king Charles IX ordered Amati to construct 24 violins for him in 1560. The oldest surviving violin, dated inside, is from this set, and is known as the "Charles IX," made in Cremona c. 1560. "The Messiah" or "Le Messie" (also known as the "Salabue") made by Antonio Stradivari in 1716 remains pristine, never having been used. It is now located in the Ashmolean Museum of Oxford. To this day, instruments from the "Golden Age" of violin making, especially those made by Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesu, are the most sought-after instruments by both collectors and performers.
A violin typically consists of a spruce top (the soundboard, also known as the top plate, table, or belly), maple ribs and back, two end blocks, a neck, a bridge, a sound post, four strings, and various fittings, optionally including a chin rest, which may attach directly over, or to the left of, the tail piece. A distinctive feature of a violin body is its "hourglass" shape and the arching of its top and back. The hourglass shape comprises two upper bouts, two lower bouts, and two concave C-bouts at the "waist," providing clearance for the bow.
The standard way of holding the violin is with the left side of the jaw resting on the chin rest of the violin, and supported by the left shoulder, often assisted by a shoulder rest. This practice varies in some cultures; for instance, Indian (Carnatic and Hindustani) violinists play seated on the floor and rest the scroll of the instrument on the side of their foot. The strings may be sounded by drawing the hair of the bow across them (arco) or by plucking them (pizzicato). The left hand regulates the sounding length of the string by stopping it against the fingerboard with the fingertips, producing different pitches."Violin." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 26 Apr 2008, 05:03 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 26 Apr 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Violin&oldid=208265482>.
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