The violin is the smallest member of the string instrument family. It features four strings which are tuned in perfect fifths. This instrument, also known as a fiddle, is made primarily out of wood. The violinist plays the instrument by dragging a bow over the strings. The bow is made of wood and horsehair.
While it has ancient origins, the modern violin was constructed and developed in Italy in the 16th century. During this time, many famous violin makers emerged such as the DallaCorna family, the Inverardi family, the Micheli family, the Amati family, and the Stradivari family.
During the 18th century, some changes were made to the violin such as the angle and length of the neck. The majority of older instruments constructed before the 18th century have been modified to match this feature and thus their shape and sound have been modified as well. However, instruments from the Golden Age of violin making are highly sought after and are worth millions of dollars. Violins from makers Stradivari, Montagnana and Gesu are highly praised and cherished.
The modern European violin is thought to have evolved from stringed instruments from the Byzantine Empire and Middle East. One of the earliest known descriptions of the instrument was in the Epitome musical that was published in 1556. Around this time, the violin was already becoming popular in Europe.
The first violin to feature four strings is thought to have been constructed by Andrea Amati. Previous versions had three strings and were called violetta. The violin became very popular among a wide array of people, including nobility and street musicians. In fact, the French king Charles IX instructed Amati to make 24 violins for him. The Charles IX is one of the oldest surviving instruments from this batch of violins. During this time in history, the viola and the cello were also developed.
Composers noted to favor the violin in their music include Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Schubert, and Tchaikovsky among others. In compositions, the violin is usually the main voice of the piece.
While the modern violin has not changed much, there currently exists an alternate version known as the electric violin. It is a violin equipped with an electronic output of its sound. Most electric violins feature built-in pickups; however, there are some violins fitted with an electric pickup of some type. These violins have become popular since the 1920s and have been used in blues and jazz music.
Although it is a relatively simple instrument, the history of the violin is quite extensive and complex.