The main parts of the violin are the front, also called the belly, top, or soundboard, usuallymade of well-seasoned spruce; the back, usually made of well-seasoned maple; and the ribs,neck, fingerboard, pegbox, scroll, bridge, tailpiece, and f-holes, or soundholes (seeillustration). The front, back, and ribs are joined together to form a hollow sound box. Thesound box contains the sound post, a thin, dowel-like stick of wood wedged inside underneaththe right side of the bridge and connecting the front and back of the violin; and the bass-bar, along strip of wood glued to the inside of the front under the left side of the bridge.
The soundpost and bass-bar are important for the transmission of sound, and they also give additionalsupport to the construction. The strings are fastened to the tailpiece, rest on the bridge, aresuspended over the fingerboard, and run to the pegbox, where they are attached to tuningpegs that can be turned to change the pitch of the string. The player makes different pitches byplacing the left-hand fingers on the string and pressing against the fingerboard. The strings areset in vibration and produce sound when the player draws the bow across them at a right anglenear the bridge.Among the prized characteristics of the violin are its singing tone and its potential to play rapid,brilliant figurations as well as lyrical melodies. Violinists can also create special effects bymeans of the following techniques: pizzicato, plucking the strings; tremolo, moving the bowrapidly back and forth on a string; sul ponticello, playing with the bow extremely close to thebridge to produce a thin, glassy sound; col legno, playing with the wooden part of the bowinstead of with the hair; harmonics, placing the fingers of the left hand lightly on certain pointsof the string to obtain a light, flutelike sound; and glissando, steadily gliding the left-handfingers up and down along the string to produce an upward- or downward-sliding pitch.HistoryThe violin emerged in Italy in the early 1500s and seems to have evolved from two medievalbowed instrumentsthe fiddle, also called viele or fiedel, and the rebecand from theRenaissance lira da braccio (a violinlike instrument with off-the-fingerboard drone strings).Also related, but not a direct ancestor, is the viol, a fretted, six-string instrument that appearedin Europe before the violin and existed side by side with it for about 200 years.
The earliest important violin makers were the northern Italians Gasparo da Sal (1540-1609)and Giovanni Maggini (1579-c. 1630) from Brescia and Andrea Amati from Cremona. The craftof violin making reached unprecedented artistic heights in the 17th and early 18th centuries inthe workshops of the Italians Antonio Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri, both from Cremona,and the Austrian Jacob Stainer.Compared with the modern instrument, the early violin had a shorter, thicker neck that wasless angled back from the violin’s front; a shorter fingerboard; a flatter bridge; and stringsmade solely of gut. Early bows were somewhat different in design from modern ones. Theseconstruction details were all modified in the 18th and 19th centuries to give the violin a louder,more robust, more brilliant tone.
A number of 20th-century players have restored their18th-century instruments to the original specifications, believing them more suited for earlymusic.Used at first to accompany dancing or to double voice parts in vocal music, the violin wasconsidered an instrument of low social status. In the early 1600s, however, the violin gainedprestige through its use in operas such as Orfeo (1607), by the Italian composer ClaudioMonteverdi, and through the French king Louis XIII’s band of musicians, the 24 violons du roi(“the king’s 24 violins,” formed in 1626). This growth in stature continued throughout thebaroque period (circa 1600-c.
1750) in the works of many notable composer-performers,including Arcangelo Corelli, Antonio Vivaldi, and Giuseppe Tartini in Italy and Heinrich Biber,Georg Philipp Telemann, and Johann Sebastian Bach in Germany. The violin became theprincipal force in the instrumental genres then currentthe solo concerto, concerto grosso,sonata, trio sonata, and suiteas well as in opera. By the mid-18th century the violin was oneof the most popular solo instruments in European music. Violins also formed the leadingsection of the orchestra, the most important instrumental ensemble to emerge in both thebaroque and classical (circa 1750-c. 1820) eras; and in the modern orchestrastill the mostimportant instrumental ensemble in Western musicthe violin family