The violin is a traditional Italian wooden stringed instrument that is the archetype of the entire violin family. It produces a beautiful, high-pitched sound, and it’s considered to be one of the hardest instruments to play.
The first violin was crafted in Italy at the beginning of the 16th century, and it was used in its original state and form for two hundred years before it received significant modifications in its design and form. The violin trend caught on throughout Europe, and halls were filled with violin music shortly after its arrival.
The 18th and the 19th centuries are known for violin-oriented music – it’s safe to say that musicians those days preferred the sound of this magnificent little instrument. Some of the most famous violin brands created back then were Stradivari, Guarneri, Amati, Brescia, and Cremona.
The Violin Family
The violin was so famous that it was used as a model for many other instruments. Educated musicians and teachers from Renaissance Italy invented the term violin family (violas da braccio) so that it could be easily distinguished from the viola family (violas da gamba). Since then, these families have merged, forming the list of the most used violin-based instruments:
- Large Form Cello
- Small Form Cello
- Tenor viola
- Contralto Viola (Counter-Alt)
- Large Violin
- Small Violin
- Piccolo Violin
- Double Bass
Violin is traditionally a 4 Stringed instrument, but you can also see it in the variation where it has 5 strings. Usually, the tuning of these strings is the same as the traditional bass guitar – E, A, D, G. Originally, violinist prefer synthetic strings over those steel strings. The “standard E” tuning is a matter of preference, but there are various others, including the violin open tuning, standard A, standard C, and many more.
The Violin’s Sound
Describing a sound with words is very hard, mainly because everyone perceives music differently. It’s hard to imagine that there are two people who can experience a song in the same way, with the same chills, thrill, and enthusiasm, but we could try to explain the tone in several situations:
- The violin sounds bright
- The violin has the highest pitch of any of the string instruments in an ensemble which makes it sound bright in comparison to any other string instrument.
- The violin sounds important
It doesn’t matter what genre it is, or what function the violin has – you can’t ignore the sound of the violin in a song. Even if it’s just an easy melody, you will hear it, and you will remember it because of its higher pitch.
- The violin is often a synonym for beautiful sadness
Did you ever hear of the phrase “And the world’s smallest violin played”? It often portrays a funeral or intense depression. The violin can literally weep when you play it, and that’s the beauty of it.
- The violin can also sound epic
Apart from classical music, the violin is often used in various electronic and pop music, even heavy metal. In these settings, the violin sounds pretty epic – fast-paced rhythms and high-pitched squeals sound epic all the way.
Originally, the violin came from Italy where it got the name violin. Nowadays there are different names which people use to refer to the violin, such as Violon (French), Geige (Germany), Violina (Balkan States), Keman (Turkey), and Fiddle (when used in folk music genres). There’s no real significance in naming it differently apart from the fact that you might hear people from various nationalities calling the violin by a different name.
The violin became famous in the 16th century when it dominated the classical music scene. It was used to create mellow melodies when played in rhythm sections and to create a vivid atmosphere when it was used in the lead section, but that’s not all the violin can be used for.
With the insurgence of the violin into the dominant music genres of the 50s, 60s, and later, people used the violin in various music genres for various different roles:
- Jazz Music – Jazz musicians often used violin for complex sections, creating a tense, but comfortable atmosphere;
- Rock Music – Violins were often used in rock to accentuate refrains and bridges;
- Blues Music – Blues players often focus on sad melodies which violins play very well;
- Electronic Music – It is commonplace in electronic music to make intros with violin instruments;
- Metal Music – Since metal music has various sub-genres, violin’s versatility is pretty hard to describe. Ranging from alternative progressive metal where the violin was used with extreme skill, over power metal where it was used as a lead, ending with doom and black metal where musicians used violin to create a haunting, dark atmosphere;