Interesting facts about violins

violin

The violin is a string instrument which has four strings and is played with a bow.

The strings are usually tuned to the notes G3, D4, A4 and E5.

The violin is the smallest and highest pitched string instrument typically used in western music.

It is probably the best known and most widely distributed musical instrument in the world.

Similar string instruments to violin have been around for almost 1000 years.

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The direct ancestor of all European bowed instruments is the Arabic rebab, which developed into the Byzantine lyra by the 9th century and later the European rebec.

Most historians agree that today’s violin emerged in the early 16th century in northern Italy, an area which would maintain the violin-making tradition over the coming centuries.

The city of Brescia, located at the foot of the Alps, was the earliest to excel in the crafting of violins, but Cremona, home to the world’s most famous luthiers, Giuseppe Guarneri, Antonio Stradivari, and the Amati family, became synonymous with the art of violin making.

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The earliest evidence for their existence is in paintings by Gaudenzio Ferrari from the 1530s, though Ferrari’s instruments had only three strings.

The violin proved very popular, both among street musicians and the nobility – the French king Charles IX ordered Andrea Amati to construct 24 violins for him in 1560. One of these “noble”
instruments, the Charles IX, is the oldest surviving violin.

By the time the modern orchestras started to form in the 17th century, the violin was nearly fully developed.

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It became the most important orchestral instrument – in fact, nearly half of the instruments in the orchestra is made up of violins, which are divided into two parts: “first violins” and “second violins”.

The finest Renaissance carved and decorated violin in the world is the Gasparo da Salò (c.1574) owned by Ferdinand II, Archduke of Austria and later, from 1841, by the Norwegian virtuoso Ole Bull, who used it for forty years and thousands of concerts, for its very powerful and beautiful tone, similar to that of a Guarneri.

Salabue Stradivarius made by Antonio Stradivari in 1716 remains pristine. The violin is in like-new condition, as it was seldom played. It is now located in the Ashmolean Museum of Oxford.

salabue stradivarius

The violin served as the basis for the development of other stringed instruments used in Western classical music, such as the viola.

Violins are important instruments in a wide variety of musical genres. They are most prominent in the Western classical tradition, both in ensembles and as solo instruments. Violins are also important in many varieties of folk music, including country music, bluegrass music and in jazz.

A violin generally consists of a spruce top, maple ribs and back, two endblocks, a neck, a bridge, a soundpost, four strings, and various fittings, optionally including a chinrest, which may attach
directly over, or to the left of, the tailpiece.

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Strings were first made of sheep gut, which was stretched, dried, and twisted. In the early years of the 20th century, strings were made of either gut or steel. Modern strings may be gut, solid steel, stranded steel, or various synthetic materials such as perlon, wound with various metals, and sometimes plated with silver.

A violin is usually played using a bow consisting of a stick with a ribbon of horsehair strung between the tip and frog at opposite ends. It is moved across some part of a violin to cause
vibration, which the instrument emits as sound.

Electric violins with solid bodies and piezoelectric pickups are used in some forms of rock music and jazz fusion, with the pickups plugged into instrument amplifiers and speakers to produce sound.

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The word “violin” was first used in English in the 1570s. The word violin comes from the Middle Latin word vitula. It means stringed instrument.

The violin is sometimes called a fiddle. Fiddle is a bowed string musical instrument, but not necessarily a violin.

A person who plays the violin is called a violinist. It takes years of practice to become a good violinist. A beginner will start with pieces and or exercises that do not require precise or
complicated technique in right or left hand.

Mozart used the violin to perform and compose with, and was a personal favourite. He liked to have a good number of instruments lying around his music room and owned a number of violins.

mozart

A person who makes or repairs violins is called a luthier or violinmaker.

Violin authentication is the process of determining the maker and manufacture date of a violin. This process is similar to that used to determine the provenance of art works. As significant value may be attached to violins made either by specific makers or at specific times and locations, forgery and other methods of fraudulent misrepresentation can be used to inflate the value of an instrument.

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The most expensive musical instrument sold at auction is the ‘Lady Blunt’ Stradivarius violin and was sold at £9,808,000 ($15,875,800) by Tarisio Auctions (USA) in London, UK, on 20 June 2011. The auction was organised online on behalf of the Nippon Music Foundation and the proceeds went to the Northeastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund.

The largest violin is 4.27 m (14 ft) long, has a maximum width of 1.4 m (4.5 ft) and a bow with a length of 5.2 m (17 ft). It was made by the Vogtland masters of violin and bow making (Germany) in Markneukirchen, Germany, and completed on 14 June 2010.

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The largest violin ensemble featured 4,645 participants and was achieved by the Changhua County Government (Chinese Taipei) at Changhua Stadium, Chinese Taipei, on 17 September 2011. The participants were all students of local schools ranging from 7 to 15 years old.

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