The Wonderful History of the Violin

“Music is an evolutionary adaptation, one that helps us navigate a world rife with contradictions. This is the universal purpose of music,” so states Leonid Perlovsky, a physics and cognition researcher. His statement comes after scientists struggled to answer why humans need or made music, despite proving its vast benefits and its profound influence on mankind.

Realizing the advantages of music may seem like second nature now, as we are surrounded by music, played on the radio, television, in movies or shops, and at home. Our experiences and memories are often tied to music. It doesn’t take long for us to consider learning an instrument or wanting our children to learn one. It’s well known and indeed proven by science that music is an asset for humanity. It’s a lauded stress reliever and in an anxiety inducing environment, music has become a tool to help us concentrate or relax, thereby improving our lives. Not only is music enjoyed as entertainment, it’s a social lubricant too, and a powerful connector. Even for those living in mostly silent worlds, music can be enjoyed and experienced through vibration. There is no doubt that music and instruments are and will remain a vital part of our lives.

So let’s dive in and delve deeper into the history of one of our most beloved instruments: the violin. Likened to the human voice, the violin is an evocative instrument that speaks to our souls and can transport and carry the entire orchestra. It’s no wonder that it has captured our attention and remains one of the most popular instruments for music students to this day.

The modern violin has been around for roughly 500 years, typically constructed from maple wood or spruce, with over 70 different parts, making it one of the most complex instruments today. Not known for being the easiest instrument to master, music students the world over can attest to the fact that the violin is known as one of the most difficult instruments to play, after the oboe.

Violin Luthier

Violin Luthier

The violin made its debut in 16th-century Italy, where they were used primarily for popular dance music. Later during the 18th, and 19th centuries further modifications were made to give the instrument a more powerful sound and projection. These adaptations are responsible for the violins popularity today as composers began including the violin in orchestral music and it slowly replaced the viol as the primary string instrument in chamber music.

The modern representation of the violin that we recognize today can trace its history all the way back to the Middle Ages with records of stringed instruments existing in Europe in similar forms such as the lute. It is thought, however, that the first bowed, stringed instruments may have originated in Central Asia with instruments like the morin khuur from Mongolia. These instruments then traveled via spice and silk routes to other parts of the world. After their arrival in Europe, instrument craftsmen created their own take on them, using traditional European crafting techniques.

The Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi included violins in the orchestra of his opera Orfeo (first performed in 1607)which is said to be one of the first compositions for violins in history. But Andrea Amati is sometimes credited as the inventor of the modern violin. He created many violas, and Viols and The Charles IX, a violin he named after the King of France, is the oldest violin that still exists today, it can still be viewed in the Ashmolean Museum collection, in Oxford. Concurrently Gasparo de Salò is also credited with creating the modern violin at around the same time as Amati. Da Salò was also an expert double bass player and around 80 of his instruments are known to have survived to the present day.
The violin is now one of the most popular instruments in the world. Old violins tend to be sought after over mass produced factory violins by intermediate and advanced players because of their superior craftsmanship, resonance, and because the tone and timbre of the violin is thought to mature over the lifetime of the instrument. The most famous violin maker is the ‘Golden Age’ luthier Antonio Stradivari, whose violins now sell for millions of dollars.

Itzhak Perlman is considered the most famous violinist today. He has been in the public eye since 1958 when he performed on the Ed Sullivan Show. Since then, he has appeared with the top orchestras around the world, he’s played for Queen Elizabeth II, and has played violin solos on movie soundtracks.

How did violin get its name?

The word “violin” comes from Italian violino, a diminutive form of viola, which owes its roots to Medieval Latin vitula (“stringed instrument”). This latin word is believed to stem from Vitula, Roman goddess of joy, or from related Latin verb vitulari, “to exult, be joyful.”

What is the most beautiful violin piece?

The Chaconne from Sonata No. 2 in D minor is the single most famous and celebrated violin piece in the history of solo violin music.

If you would like to learn more about the other instruments in the string family, check out our post here, and learn more about what kind of stringed instrument could be for you! You can rent a violin from us, and start your violin journey today. And we have a whole range of violins available for professional musicians for music event rental or short term rental.

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