The violin, the most commonly used member of the modern string family, is the highest-sounding instrument of the group. Its four strings are stretched over a high, arched bridge that permits the playing of one or two strings at a time, as well as the nearly simultaneous sounding of three of four as chords. The overall length of the violin average about 60 cm (23.5 in), whereas the sounding length of the strings, from bridge to the nut at the end of the fingerboard, is about 32 cm (12,75 in).
The instrument is held on the left side of the body, while the right hand holds the bow. The wider end of the instrument place between the player’s left shoulder and chin, while the left hand encircles its neck, the fingers stopping the strings to produce the various pitches. Sound is produced by drawing the bow across the strings to make them vibrate, or by plucking the strings (pizzicato). The range of the violin extends from G, the lowest open string, upward nearly four octave. Introduced into Europe at a time when the viol was the commonest stringed instrument, this descendant of the medieval fiddle was considered more suitable for dance music and rustic merrymaking than for the church or nobleman’s chamber. By the beginning of the 17th century, Giovanni Gabriell and Claudio Monteverdi were using the violin in their instrument ensembles, and general acceptance of the instrument followed shortly thereafter.
The earliest important center of violin making was Bescia, where Gaspara da Salo (1540-1609) and Giovanni Paolo Maggini (1581-1630) worked. Cremona became the center of manufacture when the instruments of Amati family, and later those of the Stradivari family). The Italian master builders of the 17th and early 18th centuries are esteemed above all others, but makers from other areas achieved high recognition, among them the Tyrolese brothers, Jacob and Markus Stainer, the Klotz family in Bavaria, where the Klotzes had worked, but also a decline in quality. There the custom originated of putting labels bearing the names of famous makers, mostly Italian, into instruments, not to deceive buyers, but to identify the style of instruments with facsimile labels sometimes mistakenly believe that they have an undiscovered masterpiece an all-but-impossible dream. Excellent violin makers exist in the United States, but the old instruments posses a special aura that is prized by performers. Because the value of old instruments increases with time, the best of them are owned and treasured by professionals or housed in special collections.
A: 18th Century Instrument
B: Modern Violin
1. The bridge
2. The wedge
3. The neck