What do the following have in common?
symphony orchestra, string quartet, Stradivari, high school orchestra, Yehudi Menuhin, string orchestra
Thats right – it is the Violin.
So what is a violin?
Here are various violin facts of interest.
A violin is a musical instrument with four strings played with a bow or plucked and is the smallest, highest sounding member of the string family. A violin consists of a soundbody or belly with two f shaped sound holes, a fingerboard attached to one end, four strings and a separate bow. All in all a violin consists of no fewer than eighty four pieces.
The soundbody is made of wood and it increases the volume of sound. The two f shaped sound holes in the soundbody allow sound vibrations to escape from the body of the instrument. The four strings made of cat gut or fine spun metal are held in place by pegs at one end of the fingerboard and the tailpiece which is attached to the belly. There is a wooden bridge near the tailpiece which supports the strings. The bow is a flexible stick with horsehair stretched across, used to produce sound vibrations when moved on the strings.
A violinist holds the violin firmly under the chin on a chin rest fixed to the left of the tailpiece and raised slightly from the soundbody. A pad is placed between the back of the violin and the body to strengthen the grip of the chin and collarbone on the violin, if desired. A sound is produced when the violinist draws the bow with the right hand across the string(s). The left hand is used to finger the desired note and this is done by pressing the string (s) down along the fingerboard. The length of the string alters depending on where the finger is pressed and this will give the varied notes.
Before a violinist plays music, the violin needs to be tuned. Tuning is done using the four open strings and an external source such as another instrument eg piano or oboe or electric tuner. Each string is plucked and if they do not sound the same as the equivalent note on the other instrument or tuner then the pegs are turned either tighter or looser. The open or full length strings of the violin are G D A E which are fifths apart ie the interval of G to D is a fifth and so on.
Once tuning is done then sounds are created. The sound of the violin is nearer to the human voice than any other instrument. The violin produces sounds ranging three and half octaves and music is written on a treble clef stave. Violin players can play a wide range of music from solo playing to group playing in orchestras eg symphony, string and high school, string quartets, smaller jazz bands and more. It is interesting to note that a violin can be modified to become an electric violin where a lead attachment to the soundbody is added. You hook a lead from the violin attachment to an amplifier thus creating a louder sound suitable for violinists to play jazz-pop music of the twentieth and twentyfirst century.
Lets go back in time to the sixteenth century. This is when violins first emerged. Some great violins were being made in Italy by people such as the Amati family from Cremona, namely Andrea, his sons Antonio and Girolamo, Girolamo’s son Nicolo and Nicolo’s son Giralamo. Andrea perfected the violin, his two sons made some changes but Nicolo was considered the greatest of the Amatis. He had pupils, Antonio Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri who produced great violins and passed the craft on to their families.
Italians also composed some great music for the violin and these included Arcangelo Corelli (1653 – 1713 ), Antonio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741 ) and Giuseppe Tartini (1692 -1770 ). Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750 ) from Germany composed three partitas for solo violin which was a landmark for solo violin. And this was just the beginning. There were many great violin composers over the years.
There were also many great violinists over the ages. These included the four Baroque composers mentioned above. Others included Joseph Haydn ( 1732 – 1809 ), Wolfgang Mazart ( 1719 – 1787 ), Niccolo Paganini ( 1732 – 1840, Joseph Joachin ( 1831 – 1907 ), Ludwig Spohr ( 1784 – 1859 ). George Enesco ( 1881 – 1955 ), Yehudi Menuhin ( 1916 – 1999 ) and Nigel Kennedy ( 1956 – ). Nigel Kennedy was a pupil at The Yehudi Menuhin School founded by Yehudi Menuhin in 1963. This is just a small example of violinsts as the list is large.
Hope you have enjoyed reading the various violin facts of interest. As you can see the violin has had a good few hundred years of history with great creators, composers and players. This small instrument with a wooden body, strings and bow to help produce the sound can play some wonderful music once tuned, whether it be solo or in a group. It is a beautiful instrument to listen to.