The Violin is the upper-voice in the String family in an orchestra. The Violin is known historically to celebrate the human voice, due to its human shape and human-like voice. It’s fitting that Italy is the country of the Violin’s origin, it being the land of the Opera and the celebration of the human voice.
Members of the Violin family include the Violin itself, the Cello, the Double Bass and the Electric Violin. Different types of Violins have presented themselves throughout history, such as the Horn-Violin, which unsurprisingly, creates sound using a horn rather than a soundbox.
Here are twenty interesting facts about this compelling instrument.
1. The first Violin was invented in the 16th Century
Most historians believe the first ever Violin was created in the early 16th Century in Northern Italy. This area is thought to have maintained the violin-making tradition for many centuries. Then and since, maple and spruce are the two types of wood favoured by Violin-makers. Both woods are readily available in the Lombardy region.
2) The world’s most expensive Violin
The Vieuxtemps Guarneri is thought to be the most expensive Violin in the world. The Guarneri del Gesù instrument sold for a cool $16 million dollars, that’s (£10.5 million)! The instrument’s new owner anonymously donated the historic instrument on loan to violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, on loan for the rest of her life. What a generous offer!
3) Violins are very complex. Violins are made up of…
A modern Violin is made up of approximately 70 different types of wood. Now, let’s talk about the Violin’s anatomy. There are six main parts to the violin. These are the tuning pegs, the fingerboard, the F-hole, the bridge, the chin rest and the fine tuners.
4) What are the different types of Violin?
• The Violin
• The Electric Violin, as suggested by its name, uses electricity to generate sound. No F-board is required. The Electric Violin will produce a more acoustic sound when plugged into an amplifier.
• The Semi-Electric Violin is also known as the Electric-Acoustic Violin and its internal acoustics mean that it still produces an acoustic sound even when it’s not plugged into an amplifier. For this reason, it is also known as the Electric Pick-Up Violin.
• The Violin family consists of the Violin, the Viola, the Double bass, the Cello and the Violone, which is even larger than the Cello.
• Pre-Baroque stringed instruments existed, like the Baroque violin, which was the forefather of the Violin.
• The Classical Violin was invented in the late 18th, early 19th Century. The classical Violin has a slimmer neck and a higher string tension than the standard Violin.
• The Stroh Violin, which is often referred to as the Horn-Violin was developed by John Stroh in the late 19th Century. This Violin uses a horn rather than a sound box to project sound.
5) How many strings?
The Violin has four strings. These are, from high to low; E, A, D and G.
6) The Violin is a String Instrument
The string family is the largest in a modern-day orchestra. The string family is made up of the Violin, the Viola, the Cello and the Double Bass.
7) The world’s smallest Violin
The world’s smallest Violin measures in at just 3” (76.2mm). Baltaza Monaca is the owner of this tiny treasure and you can hear him play Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in A Minor here: https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/latest/biggest-and-smallest-violin/
8) The world’s largest Violin
The world’s largest Violin is the brainchild of Markneukirchen Master Luthier, Ekkard Seidl. This epic instrument measures in at 5 metres tall and weighs 397lbs (180kg). It took Ekkard Seidl 2000 hours to construct. You can marvel at the mammoth-sized Violin here: https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/latest/biggest-and-smallest-violin/
9) The origins of the Electric Violin
The Electric Violin was born in the 1920s, in the era of Blues and Jazz. Jazz and Blues musician, Stuff Smith began to play around with modifying Violins. In the 1930s and 1940s manufacturers like The Vega Company and The Electro Stringed Instrument Corporation began to produce Electric Violins. The first solid model was released in 1939 by Vega.
10) The Electric Violin’s impact on Rock music
Originally, the Violin was only considered to work in creating Classical, Blues and Jazz music. However, in the 1960s rock artists began to experiment with Electric Violins and found them to suit and amplify their style. The WHO are known for some of the best Electric Violin solos ever recorded, the unique sound of U2’s “Sunday, bloody Sunday” was created with an Electric Violin (played by Steve Whickham) and Bob Dylan used an Electric Violin to record his protest song, “Hurricane”, to name just a few examples.
11) Manufacturers continue to perfect the Electric Violin
Electric Violins didn’t reach their maturity in the 1970s and many manufacturers continue to research and modify models. The Electric Violin is less established than the Violin or Cello and is often seen as an experimental instrument. Luthier Yuri Landman created an Electric Violin with 12 strings, which are clustered in groups of four with three strings in each cluster.
12) How does the Violin produce sound?
How is the brilliant tone characteristic of the Violin created? Vibrations from the strings are transmitted to both the top and bottom plate through the bridge. This reverberates within the Violin’s hollow body, to provide its rich sound.
A bowed string vibrates, moving in a circular motion to produce the tone and the vibrations produces overtones like a rippling wave. The complex movement of the string becomes transmitted to the body by the bridge. The bridge then transmits this vibration to the Violin’s top plate through two movements. One in which it pushes down on the top plate alternately one foot at a time and the other in which both feet push down on the top plate at the same time.
The sound post is also very important. This is a post sandwiched between the top and bottom plate underneath the bridge. It transmits vibrations from top to bottom plate and also serves to preserve the shape of the Violin’s body. The piece sitting under the bridge in the Violin, on the right-hand side is the sound post.
13) Violin on the brain
Here’s some food for thought. Research studies show Violinists have faster cognitive processing speeds than the average person. Additionally, Harvard University concluded that early Violin training improves the memory. Researchers studying the brain’s plasticity regularly use the Violin to investigate how much the brain can adapt. What more reason do you need to learn?
14) How many calories per hour does playing the Violin burn?
Playing the Violin burns roughly 170 calories per hour. Ditch your work-out and get practicing!
15) Where does the name come from?
The word ‘Violin’ comes from the Medieval Latin word, ‘vitula’, which means ‘stringed instrument’ and also ‘female cow’!
16) How many hairs are in a Violin bow?
Violin bows are usually made up of 150 to 200 individual hairs. Bows can be made up of a variety of materials, such as nylon and horse-hair.
17) Alternative materials Violins have been made up of
Way back in the day, Violin strings were made from sheep gut, commonly known as Catgut. The gut was stretched, dried and twisted… how pleasant! Other materials Violins have been made up of, other than wood, include; standard and solid steel, synthetic materials, other metals and are even sometimes plated with silver… fancy! Violin strings were originally made from dried animal intestines.
18) The Violin in the orchestra
Before the roll of Conductors, the Violin was seen to be the leader of the orchestra.
19) What’s the world record of cycling backwards playing the Violin? (In case you were wondering!)
The world record of cycling backwards whilst playing the Violin (crazy, we know), stands at 60.45 km, achieved in 5 hours and 8 seconds.
20) Violins across the world
Indian Violinists sit cross-legged when playing the Violin, resting the scroll of the Violin at their feet and the bottom of the Violin underneath their chin – pretty nifty!
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