o lin] the treble instrument of the modern
History of the Violin
Musicians have used many kinds of stringed
instruments for thousands of years, but no one
knows when they began using bows to make the
music rather than plucking the strings. In the
1400's, players started using bows to play
instruments of the guitar family. These bowed
guitars developed into instruments called viols.
The first violins date from the 1500's, but
they were developed from the early bowed
instruments rather than from the viols. By the
the late 1600's, most musicians favored the
violin family, and the viols dropped out of use.
In the 1600's, Antonio Stradivari, a
violin-maker in Cremona, Italy, perfected the
design of the violin and produced some of the
finest instruments ever known. A Frenchman named
François Tourte perfected the bow in the late
of the Violin
The violin-maker uses soft pine or spruce for
the belly of the violin, and maple or
sycamore for the back and the ribs.
The scroll and pegbox are made
of maple. The shapes of the back and belly are
typically carved out of solid pieces of wood.
The two f-holes allow the sound to
The violin has four strings, which are tuned
in fifths. The first (E string) is
generally made of steel. The second (A)
string and the third (D) are often made
of plain catgut, a material made from the
intestines of sheep, but some players prefer to
use A or D strings made of a thinner gut
over-wound with fine aluminum wire. The fourth (G)
string is generally made of gut covered with
silver or copper wire. The strings are attached
to pegs set in the head of the violin.
The player tightens the strings with these pegs
to tune them to the correct notes.
The bridge stands on the belly,
midway between the two f-holes. It supports the
strings, and is not permanently attached to the
belly. A pattern of holes is cut into the bridge
to give it greater flexibility. The sound-post,
a thin rod of pine, is wedged between the back
and the belly underneath the bridge, inside the
violin. The sound-post conducts the sound from
the front to the back of the violin. It also
supports the belly against the pressure of the
strings. The bass-bar, a bar of pine
that is glued on the underside of the belly,
gives further support for the belly.
The bow is a curved, springy stick
about 27 inches long that has a flat ribbon of
hair attached to it. The ribbon on a traditional
violin consists of more than 150 horsehairs
attached to the point of the bow and to a sliding
wood block called a frog or nut
at the other end. By turning a screw set into the
end of the bow, the player can move the frog back
and forth to tighten the hair against the spring
of the bow.
World Book Encyclopedia
Chicago: World Book-Childcraft International,
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