About the Violin

The violin is the smallest, highest-pitched, and likely most popular member of the string family. Violins are used the world over for a variety of different music styles. They're equally suited for solo pieces, small groups, or orchestras. The "violin quartet" is a popular arrangement of musicians.

History

Bowed instruments (instruments that use a bow to produce sound) are likely derived from Central Asia and Mongolian equestrian cultures. Even the earliest of these instruments used horsehair strings--a tradition still followed today.

The silk road facilitated the westward movement of such instruments, with each culture adapting the model to suit their needs. The violin as we know it came to be in 16th-century Italy. The four-string model we use today was developed as early as 1555.

Because of its portability, the violin quickly exploded in popularity. A number of violin-making schools cropped up in Italy and elsewhere during this time, and trained makers handcrafted hundreds of violins, many of which are still around today.

The period between the 17th and 18th centuries is coined the "Golden Age" of violin making, precisely because there were so many makers perfecting their craft. During this time, they changed some of the basics of the violin, creating what some believe to be a perfect sound.

Violins have remained consistently popular from now until then. From classical to jazz and everything in between, you can find the violin. Folk music particularly attached itself to the instrument, and in these genres, the violin is often called the "fiddle" instead.

Components

Violins are almost always made of wood, though streamlined electronic models exist. In general, a violin consists of four strings, and a body, neck, head, bridge, and tuning pegs that are used to tune the strings and keep them in place. There are other components that contribute to the violin's sound, like the f-holes carved into the body, fine tuners, and a tailpiece.

Sound is produced when a player runs a bow across the strings or plucks them with their fingers. Depressing different strings on different lengths of the fingerboard produces different frequencies (pitches).

Violin sizes vary and are usually fitted according to the size of the player. Most adults use full-size models, while children use fractional models, coming in quarter, half, and other sizes.