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Learn More about the Violin’s Great History

By Joseph, published on 23/02/2018 Blog > Music > Violin > Violin Facts: Everything You Need to Know About the Violin

Buying a violin or fiddle is good, knowing your instrument is better. As both a 16th-century invention and a musical instrument, the violin is an amazing object and full of history.

From Mozart to Vivaldi via Lully, the violin underwent several changes and luthiers like Stradivarius (one the most famous violin makers) helped make the instrument as we recognise it today.

Whether opting for an acoustic violin or an electric violin, you should learn more about the violin family of stringed instruments which includes the cello, viola, and double bass. This will help you become more attached to your instrument, which you’ll spending a lot of time with once you start your violin tutorials.

If you haven’t got a violin yet, you should do your research on which one to get, work on your right and left hand placement on the fingerboard, and then work towards becoming a skilled musician and performing in the orchestra.

The History of the Violin

The origins of the violin are shrouded in mystery. The violin was first mentioned in the 1520s and was a descendant of instruments like the rebec and the viol later on. These instruments were used in several places around the world.

The first violin came from Andrea Amati’s workshop in Cremona in the north of Italy. A luthier made Charles IX of France a violin in 1564 when he was still a prince. After that, the instrument became popular.

This, and other great violin makers like the well known Guarneri, helped make Cremona the home of violin making. Henry IV later decided to officially recognise the luthiers by creating training for novice makers of string instruments.

A bit later, one of Amati’s students would make violin history. Antonio Stradivari would improve upon the violin’s build quality, making it a luxury instrument. The quality was so high that many of these instruments are still around nowadays.

Who makes violins? Luthiers became famous around the 16th century. (Source: pixabay.com)

In the 17th century, Claudio Monteverdi composed the first opera that included a violin, L’Orfeo. This helped to kick off the violin’s success.

Jean-Baptiste Lully, under the instruction of Louis XIV, helped convert Molière’s literature into musical masterpieces. The two artists basically invented the French comédie-ballet genre.

The history of the violin doesn’t end there. At the beginning of the 20th century, a new type of violin came about, the electric violin. It helped the violin slowly adapt to the new styles coming out throughout the 20th century. This is why there are rock, jazz, and pop groups using violins in addition to the other instruments you’d usually expect.

The violin’s history doesn’t end there, though. We’ll soon see violins being printed!

Do You Know Who The World’s Most Famous Violinists Are?

Mozart, Schubert, Berlioz, the list goes on and on. A lot of musicians, over the course of history, have written violin parts for their compositions. Some of them have written compositions dedicated solely to the instrument.

So who are the greatest violinists of all time?

Who are the popular violinists nowadays?

Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) is certainly one of the first composers to introduce the violin into their music which was being performed for royalty. Unsurprisingly, he was from Cremona, the birthplace of the violin. In 1607, the virtuoso composed the opera L’Orfeo. This is a piece that sticks in most people’s minds since it was considered the first classical opera ever written.

The French composer Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687), the king’s official violinist, helped promote the beautiful instrument. He composed music to accompany pieces by Molière such as the Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme and Georges Dandin.

Later on, Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) made history with The Four Seasons. This piece is actually a quartet of violin concerto pieces and is considered one of the most important pieces of all time.

Then there were great violinists like:

NameBornDied
Antonio Vivaldi16781741
Johann Sebastian Bach16851750
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart17561791
Niccolò Paganini17821840
Pablo de Sarasate18441908
Jascha Heifetz19011987
David Oïstrakh19081974
Yehudi Menuhin19161999
Isaac Stern19202001

These helped make the violin more popular between the 18th and 20th centuries. Many of them toured internationally and gained public acclaim.

How long does it take to learn to play the violin? You could become a famous violin player. (Source: Josh Sorenson)

Now it’s time to make way for younger prodigies. Samvel Yervinyan (51), Camille Berthollet (18), Lindsey Stirling (31) or even Daniel Lozakovich (16) are some violinists who’ve gained popularity in recent years.

How to Buy an Electric Violin

The technological revolution of the 20th century brought new violin and music technology with it. Guitars went electric and could be amplified and the violin followed suit.

While the first electric violin was born in 1874, it wouldn’t be until 1920 until they were commonly being used. While it still hasn’t really become common in orchestral music, there are still many genres with music for the electric violin.

Aside from the lack of a sound box, which means electric violins don’t have the F holes commonly associated with violins, the instrument is similar to a traditional violin in a number of ways:

  • The body includes the bridge which the violin strings rest upon.
  • The head has a scroll and tuning pegs (they are tuned exactly the same).
  • The neck under the strings.
  • The shoulder rest

Acoustic violins are often made of wood (spruce, maple, ebony, etc.) while electric violins can be made of more modern materials like plastics. This means electric violins can have interesting shapes. In fact, they can be almost any shape as long as they have the main parts.

In the 1990s, the electric violin had a surge in popularity. There are a variety of different musical styles that work really well with the instrument. In fact, the instrument is perfect for adding new sounds to otherwise stale genres. With the help of an amp, a violinist can use pedals to change the sound of their violin. After all, the strings of an electric violin are played in the same way, it’s just the way that the sound is transferred that’s different. International rock groups can use electric violins to boost their sound.

The fact that electric violins can be amplified makes them really useful for live performances. You don’t need to mess around with microphones everywhere, you just need cables and amps. It also lends itself to recording in studios since its lighter and the performer can easily plug it straight into the desk.

The electric violin doesn’t have to be an instrument for experienced players, you can buy an electric violin to start learning on. A beginner can benefit just as much from an electric violin as an acoustic.

It’s much better when they’re learning to play because they don’t make as much noise as an acoustic violin or can be listened to via plugging in headphones.

Are you thinking about buying an electric violin?

Which one should you get?

How much do violins cost? Make sure you’re careful when buying online. (Source: Méline Waxx)

Whether you buy online or go to a dedicated music store, it’s never been easier to get violins at an affordable price.

The internet, as usual, is arguably the best place to go if you’re on a budget. There are plenty of sites like Amazon and eBay where you can pick up violins for between £80 and £150. There are also specialised music stores that offer a better range of violins and better quality violins. As you might expect, the higher the quality, the higher the price.

If you don’t like buying online, don’t worry! There are specialised music stores all over the country and specialist brick and mortar vendors. The advantage is that you can speak to adviser.

If you’re on a really strict budget, you can even opt for a second-hand violin. This means you can get a decent violin for a better price. You can get second-hand instruments online or in stores.

Violin Music: Which Songs Should Beginners Play?

So you’ve bought your violin… but where should you start?

While there’s a lot of advice out there for those learning to play the instrument, the most important thing you should do is have fun! But what are the best songs for beginners?

There’s nothing worse than having to force yourself to practise or play music. Perhaps you should look into music theory tutorials or working on how to play the violin with the help of a private tutor. Whatever you do, make sure that when you’re playing outside of class, you’re having fun. Outside of class, there’s nothing to stop you putting on your favourite violin playlist and playing along.

Just like when learning to play the guitar, ukulele, or the piano, there are plenty of video tutorials on platforms like YouTube. You won’t need to be a master of music theory before you pick up the bow and start working on your repertoire).

Grab your bow and play along! There are videos which show you how to play the songs and where to place your fingers.

How much are private violin tutorials? Time to pick up your bow and violin! (Source: pixabay.com)

So here are a few songs that are great for those playing the violin and working on their fingering or bowing:

  • Palchelbel’s Canon
  • Coldplay – Viva la Vida
  • Lindsey Stirling – Crystallize
  • Les mots d’amour – Debout sur le Zinc
  • Amazing Grace – Traditional
  • The Theme from Game of Thrones

You should be able to easily pick up sheet music or tablature for these pieces from stores, online, or you could ask your violin tutor to bring them to your violin lessons.

It’s up to you to choose from the thousands of tutorials available on the internet. There are even songs that you might think are impossible for novices that have been simplified to help anyone play them.

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