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An introduction to construction and playing the violin

When this type of bridge is used, the instrument can be referred to as a 'fiddle', a term originating from the instrument's use in folk music. A person who plays the violin is called a violinist or fiddler, and a person who makes or repairs them is called a luthier, or simply a violin maker. History of the violin The words "violin" and "fiddle" come from the Middle Latin word vitula, meaning "stringed instrument," [1] but "violin" came through the Romance languages, meaning small viola, and "fiddle" through Germanic languages.

The violin emerged in northern Italy in the early sixteenth century. Most likely the first makers of violins borrowed from three types of current instruments: The oldest documented violin to have four strings, like the modern violin, was constructed in by Andrea Amati. Other violins, documented significantly earlier, only had three strings.

The violin immediately became very popular, both among street musicians and the nobility, illustrated by the fact that the French king Charles IX ordered Amati to construct 24 violins for him in It is now located in the Ashmolean Museum of Oxford University.

Amati family of Italian violin makers, Andrea AmatiAntonio AmatiHieronymus Amati INicolo AmatiHieronymus Amati II Guarneri family of Italian violin makers, Andrea GuarneriPietro of MantuaGiuseppe Guarneri Joseph filius AndreaePietro Guarneri of Veniceand Giuseppe del Gesu Stradivari family of Cremona Gagliano family of Italian violin makers, Alexander, Nicolo I and Ferdinand are outstanding of these Giovanni Battista Guadagnini of Piacenza Jacob Stainer of Absam in Tyrol Significant changes occurred in the construction of the violin in the eighteenth 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.

Violin Bow

Violin construction and mechanics A violin typically consists of a spruce top, 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" 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" of a violin depends on its shape, the wood it is made from, the "graduation" the thickness profile of both the top and back, and the varnish which coats its outside surface.

The varnish and especially the wood continue to improve with age, making the fixed supply of old violins much sought-after. All parts of the instrument which are glued together are done so using animal hide glue, a traditional strong water-based adhesive that is reversible, as glued joints can be disassembled if needed. 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 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" technically called curly maple.

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.

Ebony is the preferred material because of its hardness, beauty, and superior resistance to wear. The maple neck alone is not strong enough to support the tension of the strings without bending, relying on its lamination with the fingerboard for strength. The shape of the neck and fingerboard affect how easily the violin may be played. 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. Bridge blank and finished 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 instrument. The tailpiece anchors the strings to the lower bout of the violin by means of the tailgut, which loops around the endpin, 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 in to the tailpiece. At the scroll end, an introduction to construction and playing the violin strings wind around the tuning pegs in the pegbox. Strings usually have a colored "silk" wrapping at both ends, for identification 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. Strings Strings were first made of sheep gut, stretched, dried and twisted. Modern strings may be gut, solid steel, stranded steel, or various synthetic materials, wound with various metals. Most E strings are unwound and usually either plain steel or gold-plated.

Violinists carry replacement strings with their instruments to have one available in case a string breaks. Strings have a limited lifetime; apart from obvious things, such as the winding of a string coming undone from wear, a player will generally change a string when it no longer plays "true," with a negative effect on intonation, or when it loses the desired tone.

The longevity of a string depends on how much and how intensely one plays. The "E" tends to break or lose the an introduction to construction and playing the violin tone more quickly because it is smaller in thickness compared to the other strings.

Pitch range The compass of the violin is from the G below the middle C to the highest register of the modern piano. The top notes, however, are often produced by natural or artificial harmonics, as placing fingers very close to the bridge on the highest string can often produce a very unpleasant and imprecise tone.

Acoustics The arched shape, the thickness of the wood, and its physical qualities govern an introduction to construction and playing the violin sound of a violin. Patterns of the nodes 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.

Sizes Children typically use smaller instruments than adults. Violins are made in so-called "fractional" sizes: Extremely small sizes were developed along with the Suzuki program for young violinists. Such small instruments are typically intended for beginners needing a rugged fiddle, and whose rudimentary technique may not justify the expense of a more carefully made one.

With the violin's closest family member, the viola, size is specified as body length in inches rather than fractional sizes. The form of the "full-size" viola averages 16 inches 40 cm. 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 fine full size violins.

Tuning Scroll and pegbox, correctly strung The pitches of open strings on a violin 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 to which the string is attached.

They permit very small pitch adjustments with much more ease than the pegs. Fine tuners are usually used with solid metal or composite strings that may be difficult to tune with pegs alone; they are not used with gut strings, which are more elastic and don't respond adequately to the very small movements of fine tuners.

Some violinists have fine tuners on all 4 strings; most classical players have only a single fine tuner on the E string. Most violinists prefer one fine tuner because fine tuners often can damage the top of the violin. To tune a violin, the A string is first tuned to a pitch usually hertzusing either a tuning device or another instrument.

When accompanying 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. The tuning G-D-A-E is used for most violin music. Other tunings are occasionally employed; the G string, for example, can be tuned up to A.

The use of nonstandard tunings in European classical music is known as scordatura; in some folk an introduction to construction and playing the violin, it is called "cross-tuning. While most violins have four strings, there are some instruments with five, six, or even seven strings. 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 flat. If the instrument's playing length, or string length from nut to bridge, is equal to that of an ordinary full-scale violin a little less than 13 inches, or mmthen 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 often used in jazz or folk music. Bows Bow frogs, top to bottom: A typical violin bow may be 29 inches At the frog end, a screw adjuster tightens or loosens the hair. Just forward of the frog, a leather thumb cushion and winding protect the stick and provide grip for the player's hand. The winding may be wire, silk, or whalebone now imitated by alternating strips of yellow 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 "white" technically, a grey male horse, although some cheaper bows use synthetic fiber.

Occasional rubbing with rosin makes the hair grip the strings intermittently, causing them to vibrate. The stick is traditionally made of brazilwood, although a stick made from this type of wood which is of a more select quality and higher price is referred to as pernambuco wood both types are taken from the same tree species.

Some student bows are made of fiberglass. Recent innovations have allowed carbon-fiber to be used as a material for the stick at all levels of craftsmanship. Playing the violin The standard way of holding the violin is under the chin and supported by the left shoulder, often assisted by a shoulder rest.

This practice varies in some cultures; for instance, Indian Carnatic or Hindustani violinists play seated on the floor and rest the scroll of the instrument on the side of their foot. The strings may be sounded by drawing the hair an introduction to construction and playing the violin the bow across them arco or by plucking them pizzicato.

The left hand regulates the sounding length of the string by stopping it against the fingerboard with the fingertips, producing different pitches. First Position Fingerings Left hand and pitch production As the violin has no frets to stop the strings, the player must know exactly where to place the fingers on the strings to play with good intonation.

Through practice and ear training, the violinist's left hand finds the notes intuitively by proprioception or muscle memory. Beginners sometimes rely on tape placed on the fingerboard for proper left hand finger placement, but usually abandon the tape quickly as they advance.

Another commonly-used marking technique uses white-out on the fingerboard, which wear off in a few weeks of regular practice.

The fingers are conventionally numbered 1 index through 4 little finger.