Violins are the smallest and highest pitched instrument of the violin family (which also includes the cello). The world violin is derived from the Middle Latin word, “vitula,” which means stringed instrument. It is made of wood with gut, nylon, synthetic, or steel strings. The type and age of the wood and varnish of a violin will greatly affect the sound. Sound tends to appreciate with the age of the violin which creates a viable market for older violins that are desired acoustically as much as for antique appeal.
The violin as we know it was first developed in 16th century Italy but it was predated by numerous stringed instruments some also played with a bow. The Greek lyre and the medieval fiddle or “vielle” are among the earliest known. In the Middle Ages an instrument called the “rebec” was carved from a single piece of wood and fiddle like instruments were an important component to the Turkish and Mongolian equestrian culture. Nearly every culture had a stringed predecessor to the violin such as the Chinese erhu or the Indian esray. The lira da braccio is perhaps closest to the violin and was a Renaissance stringed instrument that would accompany Italian lyricists as they improvised poetry in the 15th and 16th centuries.
The oldest known 4-stringed violin was created by Andrea Amati in 1555. Violins became swiftly popular although they were initially seen as lower status instruments. They gained great popularity in Baroque music and as early as 1560 King Charles IX of France had placed an order for 24 violins from Amati. The oldest remaining violin is from this collection. Other early violin makers include Giuseppe Guarneri, Jacob Stainer, and Giovanni Maggini. The Italian violin maker Antonio Stradivari was an apprentice to Amati’s grandson, Nicolo Amati. His name has become a sort of trademark for early violins.
Composers Antonio Vivaldi and Johann Sebastian Bach wrote important and memorable music for the violin and it has since become one of the most central instruments to classical music. Violins are also used for the melody or for rapid and difficult series within the music and are also prominent in jazz music. Joe Venuti was an early jazz violinist in the 1920s. Stuff Smith, Regina Carter, and other jazz violinists were known for their improvisation skills as musicians. Violins remained prominent in 1960s soul music and disco music but took a backseat to 1980s popular music. They re-emerged in popular music with British folk-rock and with rock bands such as the Dave Matthews Band. Violins are also used throughout the world in international music styles such as Indian classical music or Carnatic music. With the introduction of the Suzuki teaching method in the mid-20th century, violin lessons are being increasingly taught to students at a younger age.
Whether just beginning to learn violin or preparing for a professional concert, there is a wide selection available of violins, electronic violins, violin accessories, and violin cases. Choose from time honored brands such as Karl Wilhelm, Bellafina, and Yamaha for your perfect violin.