The origin of the Violin.
The violin adopted the best aspects of many instruments dating
back to the ancient lyre. However, the violin is more closely derived
from these instruments:
Northern Indian musical instrument of the lute family,
played in classical dance orchestras and as a solo instrument
with tabla (drums) and tamboura (drone-lute) from about 950 CE. It
is played either by plucking or by bowing. The rabob has a deep body
with a skin belly, a broad neck with an unfretted metal fingerboard,
four melody strings, and several sympathetically vibrating strings.
The melody strings are tuned c'-f'-g'-c, beginning with middle C.
dates back to the Arabian and Oriental thirteenth centuries.
Its family contains the soprano, alto, and bass members. It has
three strings tuned in fifths, that are secured and tightened by
pegs laterally inserted in a pegbox. Its body is shaped like half
a pear. The playing position for a rebec is at the breast or neck
and it is held overhand and bowed. The rebec, however, has no soundpost
The Renaissance Fiddle:
has five strings, one of which may be a drone. These strings
are tuned by front pegs in a heart- or leaf- shaped pegbox. It is
registered as a soprano instrument. The renaissance fiddle's body is
either an oval or an indented shape that is contructed of a top and
back with connecting ribs. Unlike other instruments, the renaissance
fiddle has frets. The Lira di Braccio was a species of fiddle from the
fifteenth century.It had an arched top, overhanging sides, ribs, and a
soundpost. The renaissance fiddle had seven strings, two of which were
drones and ran off the fingerboard. These instruments occasionally had
frets and always had turning pegs set horizontally in a heart-shaped pegbox.
The violin evolved from many different instruments, including the
Rebob, Rebec, Lira di braccio, and the Renaissance Fiddle. The violin
we use today, the new violin, was not used until 1630 CE in Italy. It
moved from Italy to France, then spread across the world. The violin
is the most beautiful instrument because it took all the excellent qualities
of the other instruments and combined them. We do not know exactly when
the violin was invented because there is no definite "definition" for
the violin. Does it have four strings? Could it have two or three strings?
No one knows the answer to these peculiar and riddle-some questions. Some
theories say that it could have been invented around 1520 CE since that
is the date of the first painting which depicts a violin: The Madonna of
the Orange Trees by Gaudenzio Ferrari.
A brief history of the Violin.
The violin is a descendant of the Viol family of instruments.
This includes any stringed instrument that is fretted and/or bowed.
Its predecessors include the medieval fiddle, the rebec, and the lira
da braccio. We can assume from paintings of that era that the three-string
violin was in existence by at least 1520 CE. By 1550, the top E string had
been added and the Viola and Cello had emerged as part of the family of
bowed string instruments still in use today.
It is thought by many that the violin probably went through its greatest
transformation in Italy from 1520 through 1650 CE. Famous violin makers
such as the Amati family were pivotal in establishing the basic proportions
of the violin, viola, and cello. This family’s contributions to the art of
violin making were evident not only in the improvement of the instrument
itself, but also in the apprenticeships of subsequent gifted makers including
Andrea Guarneri, Francesco Rugeri, and Antonio Stradivari. Stradivari,
recognized as the greatest violin maker in history, went on to finalize
and refine the violin’s form and symmetry. Makers including Stradivari,
however, continued to experiment through the 19th century with archings,
the overall length, the angle of the neck, and the height of the bridge.
As violin repertoire became more demanding, the instrument evolved to meet
the requirements of the soloist and the larger concert hall. The changing
styles in music played off of the advancement of the instrument and visa versa.
In the 19th century, the modern violin became established.
The modern bow had been invented by Francois Tourte (1747-1835).
Its weight, length, and balance allowed the player to produce power
and brilliance in the higher ranges. It was Louis Spohr’s invention of
the chin rest around 1820 that made it possible for the player to hold
the violin comfortably and play in the higher positions. Spohr’s chin
rest also resulted in a significant advancement of playing technique and
allowed the violin repertoire to reach its virtuoso level. The advent of
the shoulder rest (no known date) was also an important contribution to
the ease of playing.
Players in Bach’s day held the violin by placing a chamois on their
shoulder so the violin would not slip, but stay in place by gentle pressure
from the chin and shoulder. The instrument was angled towards the floor,
constricting movement of the arm underneath the neck and thereby prohibiting
playing in the upper positions. The Bach E Major Violin Concerto was
composed at a time (ca. 1720) when the violin had no chin or shoulder rest,
had a shorter fingerboard, and was strung entirely of gut strings. Players
also used little or no vibrato. All this, combined with the bow then in use
(shorter and lighter than the present day Tourte bow), made for a soft, muddy,
rough sound. Today’s performances sound louder in volume, but softer in
texture. The sound has a brilliance and clarity to it that would not have
been possible in Bach’s day. Despite the fact that violins in Bach’s time
were not modern by today’s standards, his solo string instrument compositions
are among the most challenging repertoire for any serious student of the
violin, viola, or cello.
||Is it a Fiddle or a Violin?
||This question is commonly asked by traditionally
trained players who are interested in fiddling music. Most musicians who
dub themselves “fiddlers” will answer, that the fiddle and violin are one
and the same as far as the instrument itself goes. The real difference lies
in the way the instrument is played. Violinists play from a written piece of
music, allowing the pre-orchestrated notes and phrases to dictate what is
being played. Their primary concerns lie in their ability to sight read and
in the tone and timbre of their instrument. A fiddler will often play within
a basic musical structure, but with no pre-written music for him/her to
follow. Fiddlers' concerns are with the quality, creativity, and originality
of their improvisation. Although the instrument itself is of less importance
in this difference, modifications have been recognized that will define an
instrument as more of a fiddle. A traditional fiddle has a lower bridge,
causing the strings to be closer to the fingerboard for faster runs and
slurs. The bridge can also be flattened, allowing for easier double stops.
These modifications can affect the tone of the instrument, but are more
suitable for the needs of a true fiddler.
||How does a Hardanger fiddle differ from a traditional fiddle?
The Norwegian Hardingfele, or Hardanger fiddle, actually differs quite notably
from any other fiddle. The instrument has either eight or nine strings, four of
which are played like a violin, while the others resonate sympathetically.
These sympathetic strings are not meant to be bowed, and provide the style
with a continuous droning sound. The Hardanger can be played in traditional
tuning, but sounds best in a slightly higher register, with the strings tuned
to “troll tuning” (A-E-A-C#, understrings tuned to B-D-E-F#-A). The Hardanger
fiddling style uses a smoother, bouncier bowing technique with somewhat of a