The violin, also known informally as a fiddle, is a wooden string
instrument in the violin family. Most violins have a hollow wooden
body. It is the smallest and highest-pitched instrument in the family
in regular use. Smaller violin-type instruments are known, including
the violino piccolo and the kit violin, but these are virtually
unused. The violin typically has four strings tuned in perfect fifths,
and is most commonly played by drawing a bow across its strings,
though it can also be played by plucking the strings with the fingers
(pizzicato) and by striking the strings with the wooden side of the
bow (col legno).
Violins are important instruments in a wide variety of musical genres.
They are most prominent in the Western classical tradition, both in
ensembles (from chamber music to orchestras) and as solo instruments
and in many varieties of folk music, including country music,
bluegrass music and in jazz. 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. Further, the violin has come to be played
in many non-Western music cultures, including
Indian music and Iranian
music. The name fiddle is often used regardless of the type of music
played on it.
The violin was first known in 16th-century Italy, with some further
modifications occurring in the 18th and 19th centuries to give the
instrument a more powerful sound and projection. In Europe, it served
as the basis for the development of other stringed instruments used in
Western classical music, such as the viola.
Violinists and collectors particularly prize the fine historical
instruments made by the Stradivari,
Amati families from
the 16th to the 18th century in
Cremona (Italy) and by
Jacob Stainer in Austria. According to their reputation, the quality
of their sound has defied attempts to explain or equal it, though this
belief is disputed. Great numbers of instruments have come from
the hands of less famous makers, as well as still greater numbers of
mass-produced commercial "trade violins" coming from cottage
industries in places such as Saxony, Bohemia, and Mirecourt. Many of
these trade instruments were formerly sold by Sears, Roebuck and Co.
and other mass merchandisers.
The parts of a violin are usually made from different types of wood
(although electric violins may not be made of wood at all, since their
sound may not be dependent on specific acoustic characteristics of the
instrument's construction, but rather an electronic pickup, amplifier
and speaker). Violins can be strung with gut, Perlon or other
synthetic, or steel strings. A person who makes or repairs violins is
called a luthier or violinmaker. One who makes or repairs bows is
called an archetier or bowmaker.
3 Construction and mechanics
3.2 Pitch range
3.5 Mezzo violin
6.2 Left hand and pitch production
6.2.2 Open strings
6.2.3 Double stops, triple stops, chords and drones
6.3 Right hand and tone color
6.3.1 Bowing techniques
6.3.3 Col legno
6.3.6 Mute or sordino
7 Musical styles
7.1 Classical music
7.3 Indian classical music
7.4 Popular music
Folk music and fiddling
7.6 Arabic music
8 Electric violins
10 See also
13 Further reading
14 External links
The word "violin" was first used in English in 1570s. The word
"violin" comes "from Italian violino, [a] diminutive of viola". The
term "viola" comes from the expression for "tenor violin," 1797, from
Italian viola, from Old Provençal viola, [which came from] Medieval
Latin vitula", a term which means "stringed instrument," perhaps
[coming] from Vitula, Roman goddess of joy..., or from related Latin
verb vitulari "to exult, be joyful."" The related term
gamba means "bass viol" (1724) is from Italian, literally "a viola for
the leg" (i.e. to hold between the legs)." A violin is the "modern
form of the smaller, medieval viola da braccio."
The violin is often called a fiddle, either when used in a folk music
context, or even in
Classical music scenes, as an informal nickname
for the instrument. The word "fiddle" means "stringed musical
instrument, violin". The word "fiddle" was first used in English in
the late 14th century. The word "fiddle" comes from "fedele,
fydyll, fidel, earlier fithele, from Old English fiðele "fiddle,"
which is related to Old Norse fiðla, Middle Dutch vedele, Dutch
vedel, Old High German fidula, German Fiedel "a fiddle;" all of
uncertain origin." As to the origin of the word "fiddle", the
"...usual suggestion, based on resemblance in sound and sense, is that
it is from Medieval Latin vitula." The Online Etymology Dictionary
states that the term "fiddle" has "...been relegated to colloquial
usage by its more proper cousin, violin, a process encouraged by
phraseology such as fiddlesticks (1620s), [the] contemptuous nonsense
word fiddle-de-dee (1784), and [expressions like] fiddle-faddle."
Main article: History of the violin
The cupola of Madonna dei Miracoli in Saronno, Italy, with angels
playing violin, viola and cello, dates from 1535 and is one of the
earliest depictions of the violin family
The earliest stringed instruments were mostly plucked (for example,
the Greek lyre). Two-stringed, bowed instruments, played upright and
strung and bowed with horsehair, may have originated in the nomadic
equestrian cultures of Central Asia, in forms closely resembling the
Morin huur and the Kazakh Kobyz. Similar and
variant types were probably disseminated along East-West trading
routes from Asia into the Middle East, and the Byzantine
The first makers of violins probably borrowed from various
developments of the Byzantine lira. These included the rebec; the
Arabic rebab; the vielle (also known as the fidel or viuola); and the
lira da braccio The violin in its present form emerged in
early 16th-century northern Italy. The earliest pictures of violins,
albeit with three strings, are seen in northern
Italy around 1530, at
around the same time as the words "violino" and "vyollon" are seen in
Italian and French documents. One of the earliest explicit
descriptions of the instrument, including its tuning, is from 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 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. 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. "The Messiah" or "Le Messie" (also
known as the "Salabue") made by Antonio
Stradivari in 1716 remains
pristine. It is now located in the
Ashmolean Museum of Oxford.
The most famous violin makers (luthiers) between the 16th century and
the 18th century include:
Baroque violin by Jacob Stainer
The school of Brescia, beginning in the late 14th century with liras,
violettas, violas and active in the field of the violin in the first
half of the 16th century
The Dalla Corna family, active 1510–1560 in
Brescia and Venice
The Micheli family, active 1530–1615 in Brescia
The Inverardi family active 1550–1580 in Brescia
Gasparo da Salò
Gasparo da Salò family, active 1530–1615 in
Brescia and Salò
Giovanni Paolo Maggini, student of Gasparo da Salò, active
1600–1630 in Brescia
The school of Cremona, beginning in the half of the 16th century with
violas and violone and in the field of violin in the second half of
the 16th century
Amati family, active 1550–1740 in Cremona
Guarneri family, active 1626–1744 in
Cremona and Venice
Stradivari family, active 1644–1737 in Cremona
The school of Venice, with the presence of several makers of bowed
instruments from the early 16th century out of more than 140 makers of
string instruments registered between 1490–1630.
The Linarolo family, active 1505–1640 in Venice
Matteo Goffriller, known for his celli, active 1685–1742 in Venice
Pietro Guarneri, son of Giuseppe Giovanni Battista
Guarneri and from
Cremona, active 1717–1762 in Venice
Domenico Montagnana, active circa 1700–1750 in Venice
Santo Serafin, active before 1741 until 1776 in Venice
Significant changes occurred in the construction of the violin in the
18th century, particularly in the length and angle of the neck, as
well as a heavier bass bar. The majority of old instruments have
undergone these modifications, and hence are in a significantly
different state than when they left the hands of their makers,
doubtless with differences in sound and response. But these
instruments in their present condition set the standard for perfection
in violin craftsmanship and sound, and violin makers all over the
world try to come as close to this ideal as possible.
To this day, instruments from the so-called Golden Age of violin
making, especially those made by Stradivari,
Guarneri del Gesù and
Montagnana are the most sought-after instruments by both collectors
and performers. The current record amount paid for a
is £9.8 million (US$15.9 million), when the instrument
known as the Lady Blunt was sold by
Tarisio Auctions in an online
auction on June 20, 2011.
Construction and mechanics
The construction of a violin
Violin construction and mechanics
Violin and bow.
A violin generally consists of a spruce top (the soundboard, also
known as the top plate, table, or belly), 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. A distinctive feature of a
violin body is its hourglass-like 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 "voice" or sound of a violin depends on its shape, the wood it is
made from, the graduation (the thickness profile) of both the top and
back, the varnish that coats its outside surface and the skill of the
luthier in doing all of these steps. The varnish and especially the
wood continue to improve with age, making the fixed supply of old
well-made violins built by famous luthiers much sought-after.
The majority of glued joints in the instrument use animal hide glue
rather than common white glue for a number of reasons.
Hide glue is
capable of making a thinner joint than most other glues, it is
reversible (brittle enough to crack with carefully applied force, and
removable with very warm water) when disassembly is needed, and since
fresh hide glue sticks to old hide glue, more original wood can be
preserved when repairing a joint. (More modern glues must be cleaned
off entirely for the new joint to be sound, which generally involves
scraping off some wood along with the old glue.) Weaker, diluted glue
is usually used to fasten the top to the ribs, and the nut to the
fingerboard, since common repairs involve removing these parts. The
purfling running around the edge of the spruce top provides some
protection against cracks originating at the edge. It also allows the
top to flex more independently of the rib structure. Painted-on faux
purfling on the top is usually a sign of an inferior instrument. The
back and ribs are typically made of maple, most often with a matching
striped figure, referred to as flame, fiddleback, or tiger stripe.
The neck is usually maple with a flamed figure compatible with that of
the ribs and back. It carries the fingerboard, typically made of
ebony, but often some other wood stained or painted black on cheaper
Ebony is the preferred material because of its hardness,
beauty, and superior resistance to wear. Fingerboards are dressed to a
particular transverse curve, and have a small lengthwise "scoop," or
concavity, slightly more pronounced on the lower strings, especially
when meant for gut or synthetic strings. Some old violins (and some
made to appear old) have a grafted scroll, evidenced by a glue joint
between the pegbox and neck. Many authentic old instruments have had
their necks reset to a slightly increased angle, and lengthened by
about a centimeter. The neck graft allows the original scroll to be
kept with a
Baroque violin when bringing its neck into conformance
with modern standards.
Closeup of a violin tailpiece, with a fleur-de-lis
Front and back views of violin bridge
Sound post seen through f-hole
The bridge is a precisely cut piece of maple that forms the lower
anchor point of the vibrating length of the strings and transmits the
vibration of the strings to the body of the instrument. Its top curve
holds the strings at the proper height from the fingerboard in an arc,
allowing each to be sounded separately by the bow. The sound post, or
soul post, fits precisely inside the instrument between the back and
top, below the treble foot of the bridge, which it helps support. It
also transmits vibrations between the top and the back of the
The tailpiece anchors the strings to the lower bout of the violin by
means of the tailgut, which loops around an ebony button called the
tailpin (sometimes confusingly called the endpin, like the cello's
spike), which fits into a tapered hole in the bottom block. Very often
the E string will have a fine tuning lever worked by a small screw
turned by the fingers. Fine tuners may also be applied to the other
strings, especially on a student instrument, and are sometimes built
into the tailpiece. The fine tuners enable the performer to make small
changes in the pitch of a string. At the scroll end, the strings wind
around the wooden tuning pegs in the pegbox. The tuning pegs are
tapered and fit into holes in the peg box. The tuning pegs are held in
place by the friction of wood on wood. Strings may be made of metal or
less commonly gut or gut wrapped in metal. Strings usually have a
colored silk wrapping at both ends, for identification of the string
(e.g., G string, D string, A string or E string) and to provide
friction against the pegs. The tapered pegs allow friction to be
increased or decreased by the player applying appropriate pressure
along the axis of the peg while turning it.
Main article: strings section of
Strings were first made of sheep gut (commonly known as catgut, which
despite the name, did not come from cats), or simply 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.
Most E strings are unwound, either plain or plated steel. Gut strings
are not as common as they once were, but many performers use them to
achieve a specific sound especially in historically informed
Baroque music. Strings have a limited lifetime.
Eventually, when oil, dirt, corrosion, and rosin accumulate, the mass
of the string can become uneven along its length. Apart from obvious
things, such as the winding of a string coming undone from wear,
players generally change a string when it no longer plays "true" (with
good intonation on the harmonics), losing the desired tone, brilliance
and intonation. String longevity depends on string quality and playing
3D spectrum diagram of the overtones of a violin G string
(foreground). Note that the pitch we hear is the peak around
A violin is tuned in fifths, in the notes G3, D4, A4, E5. The lowest
note of a violin, tuned normally, is G3, or G below middle C. (On rare
occasions, the lowest string may be tuned down by as much as a fourth,
to D3.) The highest note is less well defined: E7, the E two octaves
above the open string (which is tuned to E5) may be considered a
practical limit for orchestral violin parts, but it is often
possible to play higher, depending on the length of the fingerboard
and the skill of the violinist. Yet higher notes (up to C8) can be
sounded using artificial harmonics.
The Helmholtz corner traveling back and forth along the string.
Main article: Sound production (string instruments)
The arched shape, the thickness of the wood, and its physical
qualities govern the sound of a violin. Patterns of the node made by
sand or glitter sprinkled on the plates with the plate vibrated at
certain frequencies, called Chladni patterns, are occasionally used by
luthiers to verify their work before assembling the instrument.
Fractional (1⁄16) and full size (4⁄4) violins
Apart from the standard, full (4⁄4) size, violins are also made
in so-called fractional sizes of 7⁄8, 3⁄4, 1⁄2,
1⁄4, 1⁄8, 1⁄10, 1⁄16, 1⁄32 and even
1⁄64.These smaller instruments are commonly used by young
players, whose fingers are not long enough to reach the correct
positions on full-sized instruments.
While related in some sense to the dimensions of the instruments, the
fractional sizes are not intended to be literal descriptions of
relative proportions. For example, a 3⁄4-sized instrument is not
three-quarters the length of a full size instrument. The body length
(not including the neck) of a full-size, or 4⁄4, violin is
356 mm (14.0 in), smaller in some 17th-century models. A
3⁄4 violin's body length is 335 mm (13.2 in), and a
1⁄2 size is 310 mm (12.2 in). With the violin's closest
family member, the viola, size is specified as body length in inches
or centimeters rather than fractional sizes. A full-size viola
averages 40 cm (16 in).
Occasionally, an adult with a small frame may use a so-called 7⁄8
size violin instead of a full-size instrument. Sometimes called a
lady's violin, these instruments are slightly shorter than a full size
violin, but tend to be high-quality instruments capable of producing a
sound that is comparable to that of fine full size violins. 5 String
violin sizes may differ from the normal 4 string.
The instrument which corresponds to the violin in the violin octet is
the mezzo violin, tuned the same as a violin but with a slightly
longer body. The strings of the mezzo violin are the same length as
those of the standard violin.
Scroll and pegbox, correctly strung
The pitches of open strings on a violin. The note names of the pitches
are written in letter names below the stave and in their French
solfege equivalents above the stave. G=sol; D=re; A=la; E=mi
Violins are tuned by turning the pegs in the pegbox under the scroll,
or by adjusting the fine tuner screws at the tailpiece. All violins
have pegs; fine tuners (also called fine adjusters) are optional. Most
fine tuners consist of a metal screw that moves a lever attached to
the string end. They permit very small pitch adjustments much more
easily than the pegs. By turning one clockwise, the pitch becomes
sharper (as the string is under more tension) and turning one
counterclockwise, the pitch becomes flatter (as the string is under
less tension). Fine tuners on all four of the strings are very helpful
when using those that have a steel-core, and some players use them
with synthetic strings as well. Since modern E strings are steel, a
fine tuner is nearly always fitted for that string. Fine tuners are
not used with gut strings, which are more elastic than steel or
synthetic-core strings and do not respond adequately to the very small
movements of fine tuners.
To tune a violin, the A string is first tuned to a standard pitch
(usually 440 Hz). (When accompanying or playing with a
fixed-pitch instrument such as a piano or accordion, the violin tunes
to it.) The other strings are then tuned against each other in
intervals of perfect fifths by bowing them in pairs. A minutely higher
tuning is sometimes employed for solo playing to give the instrument a
brighter sound; conversely,
Baroque music is sometimes played using
lower tunings to make the violin's sound more gentle. After tuning,
the instrument's bridge may be examined to ensure that it is standing
straight and centered between the inner nicks of the f-holes; a
crooked bridge may significantly affect the sound of an otherwise
well-made violin. After extensive playing, the holes into which the
tuning pegs are inserted can become worn, which can lead the peg to
slip under tension. This can lead to the pitch of the string dropping,
or if the peg becomes completely loose, to the string completely
losing tension. A violin in which the tuning pegs are slipping needs
to be repaired by a luthier or violin repairperson.
Peg dope or peg
compound, used regularly, can delay the onset of such wear, while
allowing the pegs to turn smoothly.
The tuning G–D–A–E is used for most violin music, both in
Classical music, jazz and folk music. Other tunings are occasionally
employed; the G string, for example, can be tuned up to A. The use of
nonstandard tunings in classical music is known as scordatura; in some
folk styles, it is called cross tuning. One famous example of
scordatura in classical music is Camille Saint-Saëns' Danse Macabre,
where the solo violin's E string is tuned down to E♭ to impart an
eerie dissonance to the composition. Other examples are the third
movement of Contrasts, by Béla Bartók, where the E string is tuned
down to E♭ and the G tuned to a G♯, and the
Mystery Sonatas by
Biber, in which each movement has different scordatura tuning.
In Indian classical music and Indian light music, the violin is likely
to be tuned to D♯–A♯–D♯–A♯ in the South Indian style. As
there is no concept of absolute pitch in Indian classical music, any
convenient tuning maintaining these relative pitch intervals between
the strings can be used. Another prevalent tuning with these intervals
is B♭–F–B♭–F, which corresponds to Sa–Pa–Sa–Pa in the
Indian carnatic classical music style. In the North Indian Hindustani
style, the tuning is usually Pa-Sa-Pa-Sa instead of Sa–Pa–Sa–Pa.
This could correspond to F–B♭–F–B♭, for instance. In Iranian
classical music and Iranian light music, the violin ls different
tunings in any Dastgah, the violin is likely to be tuned
(E–A–E–A) in Dastgah-h Esfahan or in Dastgāh-e Šur is
(E–A–D–E) and (E–A–E–E), in Dastgāh-e Māhur is
(E–A–D–A). In Arabic classical music, the A and E strings are
lowered by a whole step i.e. G–D–G–D. This is to ease playing
Arabic maqams, especially those containing quarter tones.
While most violins have four strings, there are violins with
additional strings. Some have as many as seven strings. Seven strings
is generally thought to be the maximum number of strings that can be
put on a bowed string instrument, because with more than seven
strings, it would be impossible to play a particular inner string
individually with the bow. Instruments with seven strings are very
rare. The extra strings on such violins typically are lower in pitch
than the G-string; these strings are usually tuned to C, F, and B♭.
If the instrument's playing length, or string length from nut to
bridge, is equal to that of an ordinary full-scale violin; i.e., a bit
less than 13 inches (33 cm), then it may be properly termed a
violin. Some such instruments are somewhat longer and should be
regarded as violas. Violins with five strings or more are typically
used in jazz or folk music. Some custom-made instruments have extra
strings which are not bowed, but which sound sympathetically, due to
the vibrations of the bowed strings.
Bow (music) and
Violin construction (bow)
Heads of three violin bows: (upper) transitional (F. Tourte),
swan-bill head of a long 18th-century model, pike-head of a
A violin is usually played using a bow consisting of a stick with a
ribbon of horsehair strung between the tip and frog (or nut, or heel)
at opposite ends. A typical violin bow may be 75 cm (30 in)
overall, and weigh about 60 g (2.1 oz).
Viola bows may be
about 5 mm (0.20 in) shorter and 10 g (0.35 oz)
heavier. At the frog end, a screw adjuster tightens or loosens the
hair. Just forward of the frog, a leather thumb cushion, called the
grip, and winding protect the stick and provide a strong grip for the
player's hand. The winding may be wire (often silver or plated
silver), silk, or whalebone (now imitated by alternating strips of tan
and black plastic.) Some student bows (particularly the ones made of
solid fiberglass) substitute a plastic sleeve for grip and winding.
The hair of the bow traditionally comes from the tail of a grey male
horse (which has predominantly white hair), though some cheaper bows
use synthetic fiber. Occasional rubbing with rosin makes the hair grip
the strings intermittently, causing them to vibrate. Originally the
stick was made out of snakewood, but modern day bows are now
traditionally made of brazilwood, although a stick made from a more
select quality (and more expensive) brazilwood is called pernambuco.
Both types come from the same tree species. Some student bows are made
of fiberglass or various inexpensive woods. Some recent bow design
innovations use carbon fiber (CodaBows) for the stick, at all levels
of craftsmanship. Inexpensive bows for students are made of fiberglass
Main article: Playing the violin
Man playing violin on a park bench.
The violin is played either seated or standing up. Solo players
(whether playing alone, with a piano or with an orchestra) play mostly
standing up (unless prevented by a physical disability such as in the
case of Itzhak Perlman), while in the orchestra and in chamber music
it is usually played seated. In the 2000s and 2010s, some orchestras
Baroque music (such as the Freiburg
Baroque Orchestra) have
had all of their violins and violas, solo and ensemble, perform
The standard way of holding the violin is with the left side of the
jaw resting on the chinrest of the violin, and supported by the left
shoulder, often assisted by a shoulder rest (or a sponge and an
elastic band for younger players who struggle with shoulder rests).
The jaw and the shoulder must hold the violin firmly enough to allow
it to remain stable when the left hand goes from a high position (a
high pitched note far up on the fingerboard) to a low one (nearer to
the pegbox). (In the Indian posture the stability of the violin is
guaranteed by its scroll resting on the side of the foot).
While teachers point out the vital importance of good posture both for
the sake of the quality of the playing and to reduce the chance of
repetitive strain injury, advice as to what good posture is and how to
achieve it differs in details. However all insist on the importance of
a natural relaxed position without tension or rigidity. Things which
are almost universally recommended is keeping the left wrist straight
(or very nearly so) to allow the fingers of the left hand to move
freely and to reduce the chance of injury and keeping either shoulder
in a natural relaxed position and avoiding raising either of them in
an exaggerated manner. This, like any other unwarranted tension, would
limit freedom of motion, and increase the risk of injury.
Left hand and pitch production
First position fingerings. Note that this diagram only shows the
"first position" notes. There are notes of higher pitch beyond those
The left hand determines the sounding length of the string, and thus
the pitch of the string, by "stopping" it (pressing it) against the
fingerboard with the fingertips, producing different pitches. As the
violin has no frets to stop the strings, as is usual with the guitar,
the player must know exactly where to place the fingers on the strings
to play with good intonation (tuning). Beginning violinists play open
strings and the lowest position, nearest to the nut. Students often
start with relatively easy keys, such as A Major and G major. Students
are taught scales and simple melodies. Through practice of scales and
arpeggios and ear training, the violinist's left hand eventually
"finds" the notes intuitively by muscle memory.
Beginners sometimes rely on tapes placed on the fingerboard for proper
left hand finger placement, but usually abandon the tapes quickly as
they advance. Another commonly used marking technique uses dots of
white-out on the fingerboard, which wear off in a few weeks of regular
practice. This practice, unfortunately, is used sometimes in lieu of
adequate ear-training, guiding the placement of fingers by eye and not
by ear. Especially in the early stages of learning to play, the
so-called "ringing tones" are useful. There are nine such notes in
first position, where a stopped note sounds a unison or octave with
another (open) string, causing it to resonate sympathetically.
Students often use these ringing tones to check the intonation of the
stopped note by seeing if it is harmonious with the open string. For
example, when playing the stopped pitch "A" on the G string, the
violinist could play the open D string at the same time, to check the
intonation of the stopped "A". If the "A" is in tune, the "A" and the
open D string should produce a harmonious perfect fourth.
Violins are tuned in perfect fifths, like all the orchestral strings
(violin, viola, cello) except the double bass, which is tuned in
perfect fourths. Each subsequent note is stopped at a pitch the player
perceives as the most harmonious, "when unaccompanied, [a violinist]
does not play consistently in either the tempered or the natural
[just] scale, but tends on the whole to conform with the Pythagorean
scale." When violinists are playing in a string quartet or a
string orchestra, the strings typically "sweeten" their tuning to suit
the key they are playing in. When playing with an instrument tuned to
equal temperament, such as a piano, skilled violinists adjust their
tuning to match the equal temperament of the piano to avoid discordant
The fingers are conventionally numbered 1 (index) through 4 (little
finger) in music notation, such as sheet music and etude books.
Especially in instructional editions of violin music, numbers over the
notes may indicate which finger to use, with 0 or O indicating an open
string. The chart to the right shows the arrangement of notes
reachable in first position. Not shown on this chart is the way the
spacing between note positions becomes closer as the fingers move up
(in pitch) from the nut. The bars at the sides of the chart represent
the usual possibilities for beginners' tape placements, at 1st, high
2nd, 3rd, and 4th fingers.
The placement of the left hand on the fingerboard is characterized by
"positions". First position, where most beginners start (although some
methods start in third position), is the most commonly used position
in string music. Music composed for beginning youth orchestras is
often mostly in first position. The lowest note available in this
position in standard tuning is an open G; the highest note in first
position is played with the fourth finger on the E-string, sounding a
B. Moving the hand up the neck, so the first finger takes the place of
the second finger, brings the player into second position. Letting the
first finger take the first-position place of the third finger brings
the player to third position, and so on. A change of positions, with
its associated movement of the hand, is referred to as a shift, and
effective shifting maintaining accurate intonation and a smooth legato
(connected) sound is a key element of technique at all levels. Often a
"guide finger" is used; the last finger to play a note in the old
position continuously lightly touches the string during the course of
the shift to end up on its correct place in the new position. In
elementary shifting exercises the "guide finger" is often voiced while
it glides up and down the string, so the player can establish by ear
whether they are landing in the correct place, however outside of
these exercises it should rarely be audible (unless the performer is
consciously applying a portamento effect for expressive reasons).
In the course of a shift in low positions, the thumb of the left hand
moves up or down the neck of the instrument so as to remain in the
same position relative to the fingers (though the movement of the
thumb may occur slightly before, or slightly after, the movement of
the fingers). In such positions, the thumb is often thought of as an
'anchor' whose location defines what position the player is in. In
very high positions, the thumb is unable to move with the fingers as
the body of the instrument gets in the way. Instead, the thumb works
around the neck of the instrument to sit at the point at which the
neck meets the right bout of the body, and remains there while the
fingers move between the high positions.
A note played outside of the normal compass of a position, without any
shift, is referred to as an extension. For instance, in third position
on the A string, the hand naturally sits with the first finger on D♮
and the fourth on either G♮ or G♯. Stretching the first finger
back down to a C♯, or the fourth finger up to an A♮, forms an
extension. Extensions are commonly used where one or two notes are
slightly out of an otherwise solid position, and give the benefit of
being less intrusive than a shift or string crossing. The lowest
position on the violin is referred to as "half position". In this
position the first finger is on a "low first position" note, e.g. B♭
on the A string, and the fourth finger is in a downward extension from
its regular position, e.g. D♮ on the A string, with the other two
fingers placed in between as required. As the position of the thumb is
typically the same in "half position" as in first position, it is
better thought of as a backwards extension of the whole hand than as a
The upper limit of the violin's range is largely determined by the
skill of the player, who may easily play more than two octaves on a
single string, and four octaves on the instrument as a whole. Position
names are mostly used for the lower positions and in method books and
etudes; for this reason, it is uncommon to hear references to anything
higher than seventh position. The highest position, practically
speaking, is 13th position. Very high positions are a particular
technical challenge, for two reasons. Firstly, the difference in
location of different notes becomes much narrower in high positions,
making the notes more challenging to locate and in some cases to
distinguish by ear. Secondly, the much shorter sounding length of the
string in very high positions is a challenge for the right arm and bow
in sounding the instrument effectively. The finer (and more expensive)
an instrument, the better able it is to sustain good tone right to the
top of the fingerboard, at the highest pitches on the E string.
All notes (except those below the open D) can be played on more than
one string. This is a standard design feature of stringed instruments;
however, it differs from the piano, which has only one location for
each of its 88 notes. For instance, the note of open A on the violin
can be played as the open A, or on the D string (in first to fourth
positions) or even on the G string (very high up in sixth to ninth
positions). Each string has a different tone quality, because of the
different weights (thicknesses) of the strings and because of the
resonances of other open strings. For instance, the G string is often
regarded as having a very full, sonorous sound which is particularly
appropriate to late Romantic music. This is often indicated in the
music by the marking, for example, sul G or IV (a Roman numeral
indicating to play on the fourth string; by convention, the strings
are numbered from thinnest, highest pitch (I) to the lowest pitch
(IV). Even without an explicit instructions in the score, an advanced
violinist will use her/his discretion and artistic sensibility to
select which string to play specific notes or passages.
If a string is bowed or plucked without any finger stopping it, it is
said to be an open string. This gives a different sound from a stopped
string, since the string vibrates more freely at the nut than under a
finger. Further, it is impossible to use vibrato fully on an open
string (though a partial effect can be achieved by stopping a note an
octave up on an adjacent string and vibrating that, which introduces
an element of vibrato into the overtones). In the classical tradition,
violinists will often use a string crossing or shift of position to
allow them to avoid the change of timbre introduced by an open string.
This is particularly true for the open E which is often regarded as
having a harsh sound. However, there are also situations where an open
string may be specifically chosen for artistic effect (particularly in
modern music), in classical music which is imitating fiddling (e.g.,
Hoedown) or where taking steps to avoid the open string is musically
inappropriate (for instance in
Baroque music where shifting position
was less common). In quick passages of scales or arpeggios an open E
string may simply be used for convenience if the note does not have
time to ring and develop a harsh timbre. In folk music, fiddling and
other traditional music genres, open strings are commonly used for
their resonant timbre.
Playing an open string simultaneously with a stopped note on an
adjacent string produces a bagpipe-like drone, often used by composers
in imitation of folk music. Sometimes the two notes are identical (for
instance, playing a fingered A on the D string against the open A
string), giving a ringing sort of "fiddling" sound. Playing an open
string simultaneously with an identical stopped note can also be
called for when more volume is required, especially in orchestral
playing. Some classical violin parts have notes for which the composer
requests the violinist to play an open string, because of the specific
sonority created by an open string.
Double stops, triple stops, chords and drones
Double stopping is when two separate strings are stopped by the
fingers, and bowed simultaneously, producing a sixth, third, fifth,
etc. harmony. Double-stops can be indicated in any position, though
the widest interval that can be double-stopped naturally in one
position is an octave (with the first finger on the lower string and
the fourth finger on the higher string). Nonetheless, intervals of
tenths or even more are sometimes required to be double-stopped in
advanced playing, resulting in a very stretched left-hand position
with both fingers extended. The term "double stop" is often used to
encompass sounding an open string alongside a fingered note.
Where three or four more simultaneous notes are written, the violinist
will typically "split" the chord, choosing the lower one or two notes
to play first before promptly continuing onto the upper one or two
notes. A "triple stop" with three simultaneous notes is possible in
some circumstances. The bow will not naturally strike three strings at
once, but if there is sufficient pressure in the bowstroke the middle
string can be bent down temporarily so all three can sound. This is
accomplished with a heavy stroke, typically quite near the heel, and
quite loud. Double, triple and quadruple stops in orchestra are often
played divisi, with half of the musicians playing the lower note(s)
and the other half playing the higher notes. Sometimes, to create a
musical effect, the composer will write "non divisi" on a multiple
stop. This will require, at least for triple and quadruple stops, that
the performers "roll" the chord in an arpeggiated fashion.
Baroque music neither split-chord nor triple-stop is
appropriate and violinists will arpeggiate all chords (and even what
appear to be regular double stops), playing all notes individually as
if they had been written as a slurred figure. In some musical styles,
a sustained open string drone can be played during a passage mainly
written on an adjacent string, to provide a basic accompaniment. This
is more often seen in folk traditions than in classical music.
Kyoko Yonemoto playing Paganini's Caprice No. 24 on a violin
Petrowitsch Bissing was an instructor of vibrato method on the
violin and published a book titled Cultivation of the Violin
Vibrato is a technique of the left hand and arm in which the pitch of
a note varies subtly in a pulsating rhythm. While various parts of the
hand or arm may be involved in the motion, the end result is a
movement of the fingertip bringing about a slight change in vibrating
string length, which causes an undulation in pitch. Some violinists
oscillate backwards, or lower in pitch from the actual note when using
vibrato, since it is believed that perception favors the highest pitch
in a varying sound.
Vibrato does little, if anything, to disguise
an out-of-tune note; in other words, misapplied vibrato is a poor
substitute for good intonation. Scales and other exercises meant to
work on intonation are typically played without vibrato to make the
work easier and more effective. Music students are often taught that
unless otherwise marked in music, vibrato is assumed. However, it has
to be noted that this is only a trend; there is nothing on the sheet
music that compels violinists to add vibrato. This can be an obstacle
to a classically trained violinist wishing to play in a style that
uses little or no vibrato at all, such as baroque music played in
period style and many traditional fiddling styles.
Vibrato can be produced by a proper combination of finger, wrist and
arm motions. One method, called hand vibrato, involves rocking the
hand back at the wrist to achieve oscillation, while another method,
arm vibrato, modulates the pitch by rocking at the elbow. A
combination of these techniques allows a player to produce a large
variety of tonal effects. The "when" and "what for" and "how much" of
violin vibrato are artistic matters of style and taste. Different
teachers, music schools and styles of music favour different vibrato
styles. For example, if you overdo the variation of the note's tone it
may become very distracting and overwhelm the piece. In acoustic
terms, the interest that vibrato adds to the sound has to do with the
way that the overtone mix (or tone color, or timbre) and the
directional pattern of sound projection change with changes in pitch.
By "pointing" the sound at different parts of the room in a
rhythmic way, vibrato adds a "shimmer" or "liveliness" to the sound of
a well-made violin.
Vibrato is, in a large part, left to the
discretion of the violinist. Different types of vibrato will bring
different moods to the piece, and the varying degrees and styles of
vibrato are often characteristics that stand out in well-known
Vibrato can also be used for a fast trill. A trill initiated from just
hammering the finger up and down on the fingerboard will create a
harsher quality than with a vibrato trill. For example, if trilling on
the first finger, the second finger is placed very slightly off the
string and vibrato is implemented. The second finger will lightly
touch the string above the first finger causing the pitch to change.
This has a softer quality and many think it is nicer-sounding than a
hammered trill. Note: this trill technique only works well for
semi-tonal trills, it is far more difficult to vibrato trill for an
interval of a tone or more.
Violin sounds and techniques
Open strings (arco and pizzicato)
A major scale (arco and pizzicato)
Beginning of an A major scale with vibrato
A major scale played col legno
Natural harmonics of an A, E, and an A
Artificial (false) harmonic of A7
Harmonic glissando on the A string – 566 KB.
Problems playing this file? See media help.
Lightly touching the string with a fingertip at a harmonic node, but
without fully pressing the string, and then plucking or bowing the
string, creates harmonics. Instead of the normal tone, a higher
pitched note sounds. Each node is at an integer division of the
string, for example half-way or one-third along the length of the
string. A responsive instrument will sound numerous possible harmonic
nodes along the length of the string. Harmonics are marked in music
either with a little circle above the note that determines the pitch
of the harmonic, or by diamond-shaped note heads. There are two types
of harmonics: natural harmonics and artificial harmonics (also known
as false harmonics).
Natural harmonics are played on an open string. The pitch of the open
string when it is plucked or bowed is called the fundamental
frequency. Harmonics are also called overtones or partials. They occur
at whole-number multiples of the fundamental, which is called the
first harmonic. The second harmonic is the first overtone (the octave
above the open string), the third harmonic is the second overtone, and
so on. The second harmonic is in the middle of the string and sounds
an octave higher than the string's pitch. The third harmonic breaks
the string into thirds and sounds an octave and a fifth above the
fundamental, and the fourth harmonic breaks the string into quarters
sounding two octaves above the first. The sound of the second harmonic
is the clearest of them all, because it is a common node with all the
succeeding even-numbered harmonics (4th, 6th, etc.). The third and
succeeding odd-numbered harmonics are harder to play because they
break the string into an odd number of vibrating parts and do not
share as many nodes with other harmonics.
Artificial harmonics are more difficult to produce than natural
harmonics, as they involve both stopping the string and playing a
harmonic on the stopped note. Using the octave frame (the normal
distance between the first and fourth fingers in any given position)
with the fourth finger just touching the string a fourth higher than
the stopped note produces the fourth harmonic, two octaves above the
stopped note. Finger placement and pressure, as well as bow speed,
pressure, and sounding point are all essential in getting the desired
harmonic to sound. And to add to the challenge, in passages with
different notes played as false harmonics, the distance between
stopping finger and harmonic finger must constantly change, since the
spacing between notes changes along the length of the string.
The harmonic finger can also touch at a major third above the pressed
note (the fifth harmonic), or a fifth higher (a third harmonic). These
harmonics are less commonly used; in the case of the major third, both
the stopped note and touched note must be played slightly sharp
otherwise the harmonic does not speak as readily. In the case of the
fifth, the stretch is greater than is comfortable for many violinists.
In the general repertoire fractions smaller than a sixth are not used.
However, divisions up to an eighth are sometimes used and, given a
good instrument and a skilled player, divisions as small as a twelfth
are possible. There are a few books dedicated solely to the study of
violin harmonics. Two comprehensive works are Henryk Heller's
seven-volume Theory of Harmonics, published by Simrock in 1928, and
Michelangelo Abbado's five-volume Tecnica dei suoni armonici published
by Ricordi in 1934.
Elaborate passages in artificial harmonics can be found in virtuoso
violin literature, especially of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Two notable examples of this are an entire section of Vittorio Monti's
Csárdás and a passage towards the middle of the third movement of
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's
Violin Concerto. A section of the third
Violin Concerto No. 1 (Paganini) consists of
double-stopped thirds in harmonics.
When strings are worn, dirty and old, the harmonics may no longer be
accurate in pitch. For this reason, violinists change their strings
Right hand and tone color
The strings may be sounded by drawing the hair of the bow held by the
right hand across them (arco) or by plucking them (pizzicato) most
often with the right hand. In some cases, the violinist will pluck
strings with the left hand. This is done to facilitate transitions
from pizz to arco playing. It is also used in some virtuoso
showpieces. Left hand pizzes are usually open strings. Pizz is used on
all of the violin family instruments; however, the systematic study of
advanced pizzicato techniques is most developed in jazz bass, a style
in which the instrument is mostly played pizzicato.
The right arm, hand, and bow and the bow speed are responsible for
tone quality, rhythm, dynamics, articulation, and most (but not all)
changes in timbre. The player draws the bow over the string, causing
the string to vibrate and produce a sustained tone. The bow is a
wooden stick with tensioned horsetail hair, which has been rosined
with a bar of rosin. The natural texture of the horsehair and the
stickiness of the rosin help the bow to "grip" the string, and thus
when the bow is drawn over the string, the bow causes the string to
sound a pitch.
Bowing can be used to produce long sustained notes or melodies. With a
string section, if the players in a section change their bows at
different times, a note can seem to be endlessly sustainable. As well,
the bow can be used to play short, crisp little notes, such as
repeated notes, scales and arpeggios, which provide a propulsive
rhythm in many styles of music.
The most essential part of bowing technique is the bow grip. It is
usually with the thumb bent in the small area between the frog and the
winding of the bow. The other fingers are spread somewhat evenly
across the top part of the bow. The pinky finger is curled with the
tip of the finger placed on the wood next to the screw. The violin
produces louder notes with greater bow speed or more weight on the
string. The two methods are not equivalent, because they produce
different timbres; pressing down on the string tends to produce a
harsher, more intense sound. One can also achieve a louder sound by
placing the bow closer to the bridge.
The sounding point where the bow intersects the string also influences
timbre (or "tone colour"). Playing close to the bridge (sul
ponticello) gives a more intense sound than usual, emphasizing the
higher harmonics; and playing with the bow over the end of the
fingerboard (sul tasto) makes for a delicate, ethereal sound,
emphasizing the fundamental frequency. Dr. Suzuki referred to the
sounding point as the Kreisler highway; one may think of different
sounding points as lanes in the highway.
Various methods of attack with the bow produce different
articulations. There are many bowing techniques that allow for every
range of playing style and many teachers, players, and orchestras
spend a lot of time developing techniques and creating a unified
technique within the group. These techniques include legato-style
bowing (a smooth, connected, sustained sound suitable for melodies),
collé, and a variety of bowings which produce shorter notes,
including ricochet, sautillé, martelé, spiccato, and staccato.
A note marked pizz. (abbreviation for pizzicato) in the written music
is to be played by plucking the string with a finger of the right hand
rather than by bowing. (The index finger is most commonly used here.)
Sometimes in orchestra parts or virtuoso solo music where the bow hand
is occupied (or for show-off effect), left-hand pizzicato will be
indicated by a + (plus sign) below or above the note. In left-hand
pizzicato, two fingers are put on the string; one (usually the index
or middle finger) is put on the correct note, and the other (usually
the ring finger or little finger) is put above the note. The higher
finger then plucks the string while the lower one stays on, thus
producing the correct pitch. By increasing the force of the pluck, one
can increase the volume of the note that the string is producing.
Pizzicato is used in orchestral works and in solo showpieces. In
orchestral parts, violinists often have to make very quick shifts from
arco to pizzicato, and vice versa.
A marking of col legno (Italian for "with the wood") in the written
music calls for striking the string(s) with the stick of the bow,
rather than by drawing the hair of the bow across the strings. This
bowing technique is somewhat rarely used, and results in a muted
percussive sound. The eerie quality of a violin section playing col
legno is exploited in some symphonic pieces, notably the "Witches'
Dance" of the last movement of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique.
Saint-Saëns's symphonic poem Danse Macabre includes the string
section using the col legno technique to imitate the sound of dancing
skeletons. "Mars" from Gustav Holst's "The Planets" uses col legno to
play a repeated rhythm in 5
4 time signature. Benjamin Britten's The Young Person's Guide to the
Orchestra demands its use in the "Percussion" Variation. Dmitri
Shostakovich uses it in his Fourteenth Symphony in the movement 'At
the Sante Jail'. Some violinists, however, object to this style of
playing as it can damage the finish and impair the value of a fine
bow, but most of such will compromise by using a cheap bow for at
least the duration of the passage in question.
A smooth and even stroke during which bow speed and weight are the
same from beginning of the stroke to the end.
Literally hammered, a strongly accented effect produced by releasing
each bowstroke forcefully and suddenly. Martelé can be played in any
part of the bow. It is sometimes indicated in written music by an
Tremolo is the very rapid repetition (typically of a single note, but
occasionally of multiple notes), usually played at the tip of the bow.
Tremolo is marked with three short, slanted lines across the stem of
Tremolo is often used as a sound effect in orchestral music,
particularly in the
Romantic music era
Romantic music era (1800-1910) and in opera music.
Mute or sordino
ad hoc clothespin mute and a rubber practice mute
Attaching a small metal, rubber, leather, or wooden device called a
mute, or sordino, to the bridge of the violin gives a softer, more
mellow tone, with fewer audible overtones; the sound of an entire
orchestral string section playing with mutes has a hushed quality. The
mute changes both the loudness and the timbre ("tone colour") of a
violin. The conventional Italian markings for mute usage are con
sord., or con sordino, meaning 'with mute'; and senza sord., meaning
'without mute'; or via sord., meaning 'mute off'.
Larger metal, rubber, or wooden mutes are widely available, known as
practice mutes or hotel mutes. Such mutes are generally not used in
performance, but are used to deaden the sound of the violin in
practice areas such as hotel rooms. (For practicing purposes there is
also the mute violin, a violin without a sound box.) Some composers
have used practice mutes for special effect, for example, at the end
of Luciano Berio's Sequenza VIII for solo violin.
Main article: Musical styles (violin)
A sonata for two violins by the
Baroque composer Telemann. A
relatively typical baroque violin composition, it would probably have
been performed with less use of vibrato originally.
Mischa Elman playing the Meditation from Massenet's opera Thais,
recorded in 1919. The very legato style of playing, with lavish use of
portamento, rubato and vibrato and the higher registers of the
instrument is typical of violin playing in the late Romantic period.
Baroque era, the violin has been one of the most important
of all instruments in classical music, for several reasons. The tone
of the violin stands out above other instruments, making it
appropriate for playing a melody line. In the hands of a good player,
the violin is extremely agile, and can execute rapid and difficult
sequences of notes.
Violins make up a large part of an orchestra, and are usually divided
into two sections, known as the first and second violins. Composers
often assign the melody to the first violins, typically a more
difficult part using higher positions, while second violins play
harmony, accompaniment patterns or the melody an octave lower than the
first violins. A string quartet similarly has parts for first and
second violins, as well as a viola part, and a bass instrument, such
as the cello or, rarely, the double bass.
The earliest references to jazz performance using the violin as a solo
instrument are documented during the first decades of the 20th
century. Joe Venuti, one of the first jazz violinists, is known for
his work with guitarist
Eddie Lang during the 1920s. Since that time
there have been many improvising violinists including Stéphane
Grappelli, Stuff Smith, Eddie South, Regina Carter, Johnny Frigo, John
Blake, Adam Taubitz, Leroy Jenkins, and Jean-Luc Ponty. While not
primarily jazz violinists,
Darol Anger and
Mark O'Connor have spent
significant parts of their careers playing jazz. The Swiss-Cuban
Yilian Cañizares mixes jazz with Cuban music.
Violins also appear in ensembles supplying orchestral backgrounds to
many jazz recordings.
Indian classical music
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The Indian violin, while essentially the same instrument as that used
in Western music, is different in some senses. The instrument is tuned
so that the IV and III strings (G and D on a western-tuned violin) and
the II and I (A and E) strings are sa–pa (do–sol) pairs and sound
the same but are offset by an octave, resembling common scordatura or
fiddle cross-tunings such as C–G–C–G or A–E–A–E. The tonic
sa (do) is not fixed, but variably tuned to accommodate the vocalist
or lead player. The way the musician holds the instrument varies from
Western to Indian music. In
Indian music the musician sits on the
floor cross-legged with the right foot out in front of them. The
scroll of the instrument rests on the foot. This position is essential
to playing well due to the nature of Indian music. The hand can move
all over the fingerboard and there is no set position for the left
hand, so it is important for the violin to be in a steady, unmoving
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Andrew Bird with violin, 2009.
Lindsey Stirling performing at TEDx Berkeley, 2012.
Eric Stanley performing at TEDx Richmond, 2013.
Up through at least the 1970s, most types of popular music used bowed
string sections. They were extensively used in popular music
throughout the 1920s and early 1930s. With the rise of swing music,
however, from 1935 to 1945, the string sound was often used to add to
the fullness of big band music. Following the swing era, from the late
1940s to the mid-1950s, strings began to be revived in traditional pop
music. This trend accelerated in the late 1960s, with a significant
revival of the use of strings, especially in soul music. Popular
Motown recordings of the late 1960s and 1970s relied heavily on
strings as part of their trademark texture. The rise of disco music in
the 1970s continued this trend with the heavy use of string
instruments in popular disco orchestras (e.g., Love Unlimited
Biddu Orchestra, Monster Orchestra, Salsoul Orchestra,
With the rise of electronically created music in the 1980s, violins
declined in use, as synthesized string sounds played by a keyboardist
with a synthesizer took their place. However, while the violin has had
very little usage in mainstream rock music, it has some history in
progressive rock (e.g., Electric Light Orchestra, King Crimson,
Kansas, Gentle Giant). The 1973 album Contaminazione by Italy's RDM
plays violins off against synthesizers at its finale ("La grande
fuga"). The instrument has a stronger place in modern
jazz fusion bands, notably The Corrs. The fiddle is sometimes a part
British folk rock
British folk rock music, as exemplified by the likes of Fairport
Convention and Steeleye Span.
The popularity of crossover music beginning in the last years of the
20th century has brought the violin back into the popular music arena,
with both electric and acoustic violins being used by popular bands.
Dave Matthews Band
Dave Matthews Band features violinist Boyd Tinsley. The Flock featured
Jerry Goodman who later joined the jazz-rock fusion band,
The Mahavishnu Orchestra. James' Saul Davies, who is also a guitarist,
was enlisted by the band as a violinist. For their first three albums
and related singles, the British group
No-Man made extensive use of
electric and acoustic solo violin as played by band member Ben Coleman
(who played violin exclusively).
Yellowcard has made a mainstay of violin in its music.
Violinist Sean Mackin has been a member of the band since 1997. Los
Salvadores also combine punk and ska influences with a
Doom metal band
My Dying Bride
My Dying Bride have used
violin as a part of their line-up throughout many of their
albums. The violin appears prominently in the music
of Spanish folk metal group
Mägo de Oz
Mägo de Oz (for example, in their 1998
hit "Molinos de viento"). The violinist (Carlos Prieto a.k.a.
"Mohamed") has been one of the group's most popular members with fans
since 1992. The instrument is also used often in
symphonic metal, particularly by bands such as Therion, Nightwish,
Within Temptation, Haggard, and Epica, although it can also be found
Gothic Metal bands such as Tristania and Theater of
Tragedy. The alternative rock band Hurt's vocalist
plays violin for the band, making them one of few rock bands to
feature violin without hiring a session worker. The
folk metal band Ithilien use violin extensively along their
Progressive metal band Ne Obliviscaris feature a
violin player, Tim Charles, in their line-up.
Independent artists, such as Owen Pallett, The Shondes, and Andrew
Bird, have also spurred increased interest in the instrument. Indie
bands have often embraced new and unusual arrangements, allowing them
more freedom to feature the violin than many mainstream musical
artists. It has been used in the post-rock genre by bands such as A
Genuine Freakshow, Sigur Rós, Zox, Broken Social Scene, and A Silver
Mt. Zion. The electric violin has even been used by bands like The
Crüxshadows within the context of keyboard based music.[citation
Lindsey Stirling plays the violin in conjunction with
electronic/dubstep/trance rifts and beats.
Eric Stanley improvises on the violin with hip hop music/pop/classical
elements and instrumental beats. The successful indie rock and
baroque pop band
Arcade Fire use violins extensively in their
arrangements. Indian, Pakistani, Turkish, and Arabic
pop music is filled with the sound of violins, both soloists and
Folk music and fiddling
Main article: Fiddle
The fiddler Hins Anders Ersson painted by Anders Zorn, 1904
Like many other instruments used in classical music, the violin
descends from remote ancestors that were used for folk music.
Following a stage of intensive development in the late Renaissance,
largely in Italy, the violin had improved (in volume, tone, and
agility), to the point that it not only became a very important
instrument in art music, but proved highly appealing to folk musicians
as well, ultimately spreading very widely, sometimes displacing
earlier bowed instruments. Ethnomusicologists have observed its
widespread use in Europe, Asia, and the Americas.
When played as a folk instrument, the violin is usually referred to in
English as a fiddle (although the term fiddle can be used informally
no matter what the genre of music). Worldwide, there are various
stringed instruments such as the wheel fiddle and
Apache fiddle that
are also called "fiddles".
Fiddle music differs from classical in that
the tunes are generally considered dance music, and various
techniques, such as droning, shuffling, and ornamentation specific to
particular styles are used. In many traditions of folk music, the
tunes are not written but are memorized by successive generations of
musicians and passed on in what is known as the oral tradition.
Many old-time pieces call for cross-tuning, or using tunings other
than standard GDAE. Some players of American styles of folk fiddling
(such as bluegrass or old-time) have their bridge's top edge cut to a
slightly flatter curve, making techniques such as a "double shuffle"
less taxing on the bow arm, as it reduces the range of motion needed
for alternating between double stops on different string pairs.
Fiddlers who use solid steel core strings may prefer to use a
tailpiece with fine tuners on all four strings, instead of the single
fine tuner on the E string used by many classical players.
As well as the Arabic rababah, the violin has been used in Arabic
Main article: Electric violin
Acoustic and electric violins
Electric violins have a magnetic or piezoelectric pickup that converts
string vibration to an electric signal. A patch cable or wireless
transmitter sends the signal to an amplifier of a PA system. Electric
violins are usually constructed as such, but a pickup can be added to
a conventional acoustic violin. An electric violin with a resonating
body that produces listening-level sound independently of the electric
elements can be called an electro-acoustic violin. To be effective as
an acoustic violin, electro-acoustic violins retain much of the
resonating body of the violin, and often resemble an acoustic violin
or fiddle. The body may be finished in bright colors and made from
alternative materials to wood. These violins may need to be hooked up
to an instrument amplifier or PA system. Some types come with a silent
option that allows the player to use headphones that are hooked up to
the violin. The first specially built electric violins date back to
1928 and were made by Victor Pfeil, Oskar Vierling, George Eisenberg,
Benjamin Miessner, George Beauchamp,
Hugo Benioff and Fredray
Kislingbury. These violins can be plugged into effect units, just like
an electric guitar, including distortion, wah-wah pedal and reverb.
Since electric violins do not rely on string tension and resonance to
amplify their sound they can have more strings. For example,
five-stringed electric violins are available from several
manufacturers, and a seven string electric violin (with three lower
strings encompassing the cello's range) is also available. The
majority of the first electric violinists were musicians playing jazz
fusion (e.g., Jean-Luc Ponty) and popular music.
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.
Basic physics of the violin
List of solo violin pieces
List of violinists
Violin making and maintenance
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Retrieved 5 September 2015.
^ Allen, Edward Heron (1914). Violin-making, as it was and is: Being a
Historical, Theoretical, and Practical Treatise on the Science and Art
of Violin-making, for the Use of
Violin Makers and Players, Amateur
and Professional. Preceded by An Essay on the
Violin and Its Position
as a Musical Instrument. E. Howe. Accessed 5 September 2015.
^ Choudhary, S.Dhar (2010). The Origin and Evolution of
Violin as a
Musical Instrument and Its Contribution to the Progressive Flow of
Indian Classical Music: In search of the historical roots of violin.
Ramakrisna Vedanta Math. ISBN 9380568061. Retrieved 5 September
^ Belluck, Pam (April 7, 2014). "A Strad? Violinists Can't Tell". New
York Times. Retrieved April 9, 2014.
^ Christopher Joyce (2012). "Double-Blind
Violin Test: Can You Pick
The Strad?". NPR. Retrieved 2012-01-02.
^ a b "Violin". www.etymonline.com. Online Etymology Dictionary.
Retrieved 20 May 2017.
^ a b "Viola". www.etymonline.com. Online Etymology Dictionary.
Retrieved 20 May 2017.
^ a b c d "Fiddle". www.etymonline.com. Online Etymology Dictionary.
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Silk Road: Connecting Cultures, Creating Trust,
Silk Road Story
2: Bowed Instruments, Smithsonian Center for Folk life and Cultural
Heritage  (accessed 2008-09-26)
^ Hoffman, Miles (1997). The
NPR Classical Music Companion: Terms and
Concepts from A to Z. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
^ a b Grillet 1901, p. 29
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Instruments. Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology, University of Chicago
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Ages, their evolution and development". London: William Reeves:
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Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 2006-09-22.
^ Deverich, Robin Kay (2006). "Historical Background of the Violin".
ViolinOnline.com. Retrieved 2006-09-22.
^ Bartruff, William. "The History of the Violin". Archived from the
original on 2007-02-08. Retrieved 2006-09-22.
^ It is now in the Vestlandske Kunstindustrimuseum in Bergen, Norway.
Violin by Antonio Stradivari, 1716 (Messiah; la Messie, Salabue)".
Cozio.com. Retrieved 2008-09-26.
^ Kennedy, Michael (2017). The
Oxford Dictionary of Music. Oxford
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Viol and Lute Makers of
Venice 1490 -1630.
Venice Research. p. 441.
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Violin changes by 1800". Retrieved
Stradivarius violin sold for £9.8m at charity auction". BBC News.
2011-06-21. Retrieved 2011-06-21.
^ Piston, Walter (1955). Orchestration, p.45.
^ Laird, Paul R. "Carleen Maley Hutchins' Work With Saunders". Violin
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^ Seashore, Carl (1938). Psychology of Music, 224. quote in Kolinski,
Mieczyslaw (Summer - Autumn, 1959). "A New Equidistant 12-Tone
Temperament", p.210, Journal of the American Musicological Society,
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^ Eaton, Louis (1919). The Violin. Jacobs' Band Monthly, Volume 4.
p. 52. Retrieved November 16, 2012.
^ Bissing, Petrowitsch. Cultivation of the
Central States Music Publishing Company. Retrieved November 16,
^ Applebaum, Samuel (1957). String Builder, Book 3: Teacher's Manual.
New York: Alfred Publishing. p. 4.
ISBN 978-0-7579-3056-0. . "Now we will discipline the
shaking of the left hand in the following manner: Shake the wrist
slowly and evenly in 8th notes. Start from the original position and
for the second 8th note the wrist is to move backward (toward the
scroll). Do this in triplets, dotted 8ths and 16ths, and 16th notes. A
week or two later, the vibrato may be started on the Violin. ... The
procedure will be as follows: 1. Roll the finger tip from this upright
position on the note, to slightly below the pitch of this note."
^ Schleske, Martin. "The psychoacoustic secret of vibrato". Retrieved
11 February 2010. Accordingly, the sound level of each harmonic will
have a periodically fluctuating value due to the vibrato.
^ Curtin, Joseph (April 2000). "Weinreich and Directional Tone
Colour". Strad Magazine. Archived from the original on May 29, 2009.
Retrieved May 23, 2009. In the case of string instruments, however,
not only are they strongly directional, but the pattern of their
directionality changes very rapidly with frequency. If you think of
that pattern at a given frequency as beacons of sound, like the quills
of a porcupine, then even the slight changes in pitch created by
vibrato can cause those quills to be continually undulating.
^ Fischer, Simon (1999). "Detache". Strad. 110: 638 – via Music
^ "Die Sängerin und Geigerin
Yilian Cañizares in Moods". Neue
Zürcher Zeitung. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
^ "Ithilien - discography, line-up, biography, interviews, photos".
www.spirit-of-metal.com. Retrieved 2017-03-12.
^ Self, Brooke (April 9, 2011). "Lindsey Stirling—hip hop
violinist". Her Campus. Archived from the original on
^ Tietjen, Alexa. "Get Your Life From This
Violin Freestyle Of Fetty
Wap's "Trap Queen"". vh1.com. VH1. Retrieved May 13, 2016.
^ Martinez, Marc (October 3, 2010). "Eric Stanley: Hip Hop Violinist".
Fox 10 News (Interview). Phoenix: KTSP-TV. Retrieved December 11,
^ a b Harris, Rodger (2009). "Fiddling". okhistory.org. The
Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Retrieved 9 February
Violin Harlequin finish". Jordan Music. Retrieved
Viol and Lute Makers of
Venice 1490–1630, by Stefano Pio (2012),
Venice research, ISBN 978-88-907252-0-3
Violin and Lute Makers of
Venice 1640–1760, by Stefano Pio (2004),
Venice research, ISBN 978-88-907252-2-7
Liuteri & Sonadori,
Venice 1750–1870, by Stefano Pio (2002),
Venice research, ISBN 978-88-907252-1-0
Violin Forms of Antonio Stradivari, by Stewart Pollens (1992),
London: Peter Biddulph. ISBN 0-9520109-0-9
Violin Playing and Teaching, by Ivan Galamian (1999),
Shar Products Co. ISBN 0-9621416-3-1
The Contemporary Violin: Extended Performance Techniques, by Patricia
and Allen Strange (2001), University of California Press.
The Violin: Its History and Making, by Karl Roy (2006),
Fiddle Book, by Marion Thede (1970), Oak Publications.
Latin Violin, by Sam Bardfeld, ISBN 0-9628467-7-5
The Canon of
Violin Literature, by Jo Nardolillo (2012), Scarecrow
Press. ISBN 0-8108-7793-7
Violin Explained - Components Mechanism and Sound by James Beament
(1992/1997), Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-816623-0
Antonio Stradivari, his life and work, 1644-1737', by William Henry
Hill; Arthur F Hill; Alfred Ebsworth Hill (1902/1963), Dover
Publications. 1963. OCLC 172278. ISBN 0-486-20425-1
An Encyclopedia of the Violin, by Alberto Bachmann (1965/1990), Da
Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80004-7
Violin - And Easy Guide, by Chris Coetzee (2003), New Holland
Publishers. ISBN 1-84330-332-9
The Violin, by Yehudi Menuhin (1996), Flammarion.
The Book of the Violin, edited by Dominic Gill (1984), Phaidon.
Violin-Making as it was, and is, by
Edward Heron-Allen (1885/1994),
Ward Lock Limited. ISBN 0-7063-1045-4
Violins & Violinists, by Franz Farga (1950), Rockliff Publishing
Viols, Violins and Virginals, by Jennifer A. Charlton (1985),
Ashmolean Museum. ISBN 0-907849-44-X
The Violin, by Theodore Rowland-Entwistle (1967/1974), Dover
Publications. ISBN 0-340-05992-3
Violin and Viola, by Robin Stowell (2001), Cambridge
University Press. ISBN 0-521-62555-6
The Complete Luthier's Library. A Useful International Critical
Bibliography for the Maker and the Connoisseur of Stringed and Plucked
Instruments by Roberto Regazzi, Bologna: Florenus, 1990.
The Violin, by George Dubourg (1854), Robert Cocks & Co.
Violin Technique and Performance Practice in the Late 18th and Early
19th Centuries, by Robin Stowell (1985), Cambridge University Press.
History of the Violin, by William Sandys and Simon Andrew (2006),
Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-45269-7
The Violin: A Research and Information Guide, by Mark Katz (2006),
Routledge. ISBN 0-8153-3637-3
Per gli occhi e 'l core. Strumenti musicali nell'arte by Flavio
Dassenno, (2004) a complete survey of the brescian school defined by
the last researches and documents.
Gasparo da Salò
Gasparo da Salò architetto del suono by Flavio Dassenno, (2009) a
catalogue of an exhibition that give complete informations on the
famous master life and work, Comune di Salò, Cremonabooks, 2009.
Grillet, Laurent (1901). "Les ancetres du violon v.1". Paris.
Lalitha, Muthuswamy (2004).
Violin techniques in Western and South
Indian classical music: a comparative study. Sundeep Prakashan.
Schoenbaum, David, The Violin: A Social History of the World's Most
Versatile Instrument, New York, New York : W.W. Norton &
Company, December 2012. ISBN 9780393084405.
Templeton, David, Fresh Prince: Joshua Bell on composition,
hyperviolins, and the future, Strings magazine, October 2002, No. 105.
Young, Diana. A Methodology for Investigation of Bowed String
Performance Through Measurement of
Violin Bowing Technique. PhD
Thesis. M.I.T., 2007.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Violin.
The violin: How to select a violin, its provenance and value
Harrison, Robert William Frederick (1911). "Violin".
Encyclopædia Britannica. 28 (11th ed.). pp. 102–107.
"Violin". The New Student's Reference Work. 1914.
Researches into the early history of the violin family (Carl Engel,
1883) - (Authentication required.)
A New History of
Violin Playing: The
Vibrato and Lambert Massart's
Revolutionary Discovery (Zdenko Silvela 2001)
Five string violin
Tenor violin/Tenor viola
Cello da spalla
Scordatura (changing string tuning)
and genres of music
Double bass concerto
Violin musical styles