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Musical Instrument Directory

Violin

classical violin
Name: Violin
Other Names: Fiddle
Classification: Stringed instrument. Primarily bowed, occasionally plucked. Held under the chin on the left shoulder.
Hornbostel-Sachs classification: 321.322-71 - Composite chordophone sounded by a bow.
Related Instruments: The violin is the primary member of the violin family. Other instruments in the violin family include the viola, violoncello, double bass and the rarely played octobass.
Developed: The violin was developed in Northern Italy in the 16th century. In the 18th century, the violin underwent some major structural changes to improve the timbre (tone quality) of the instrument.
Types: Classical, baroque, modern and fiddle violins are all variations of acoustic violins. Five-string and electric violins have become more popular as it becomes easier to modify the instrument, and violins for children come in various sizes from 1/16th through to full-size.
Tuning: G-D-A-E
Playing Range: G3 to E7. Advanced players may use harmonics to increase this range to C8.
Musicians: Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Itzhak Perlman, Nigel Kennedy, Vanessa Mae.
Use our online violin tuner Use our online chromatic tuner

The violin is the primary member of the violin family. It has four strings tuned in perfect fifths, and is played rested on the shoulder while using a bow. Music for the violin is written using the treble clef. The violin was first developed by instrument makers in Northern Italy who drew upon earlier Middle Eastern bowed instruments as inspiration. The violin is a versatile melodious instrument, which is also easy to transport due to its small size. As such, the violin is used in many genres of music including classical, country and bluegrass, Hungarian and gypsy, Celtic, pop and jazz.

History of the Violin

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The violin was developed in Northern Italy in the mid-16th century. It is believed that the violin was first designed by Italian instrument craftsmen who crafted the violin family instruments after seeing similar early Middle Eastern and Byzantine bowed stringed instruments. A number of different bowed stringed instruments were developed in Europe in the 16th century, inspired by these Middle Eastern and Byzantine instruments, which has made it relatively difficult to determine the early history of the instrument. The violin became popular with both low and high-class musicians due to its relatively low cost and accessibility. The violin underwent some extensive changes between the 16th and 19th centuries to adjust the tonal quality of the instrument. Violins can now be mass-produced, however many professional luthiers still hand-craft the instruments. Older violins are still sought after for their superior tone.

For more information on the history of the violin, see our History of the Violin article.

Types

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The violin has had an extensive history, which so far has spanned over 450 years. As such, the violin has various different forms from specific time periods, as well as variations meant to enhance different playing styles and genres (such as a flatter bridge to aid double-stopping on the fiddle-violin, commonly used in country music). Violins also come in different sizes, so that children can learn the violin. Modern violins can produce sound either electrically or acoustically. Sometimes on modern instruments the range of the violin is extended to include the lower C-string, which effectively combines the ranges of both the violin and its sister instrument; the viola.

For more information on different types of violin, see our Types of Violins article.

Parts of the Violin

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parts of the violin

To learn more about the different parts of the violin, see our Parts of the Violin article.

How to Tune the Violin

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The violin has four strings which are tuned in fifths. The scientific pitch of the strings from lowest to highest is: G3, D4, A4, and E5.

Standard Violin Tuning - A4(Hz):440
String Scientific pitch Helmholtz pitch Semitones from Middle C Frequency (Hz)
G G3 g -5 196.00
D D4 d′ 2 293.66
A A4 a′ 9 440.00
E E5 e′′ 16 659.26

Online Violin Tuners

Online Violin Tuner - Tune a violin using the standard GDAE tuning.

Online Instrument Tuner - Tune a violin by using the microphone on your computer.

For more information on how to tune the violin, see our How to Tune the Violin article. This article contains information on how best to tune your violin, and tips to make tuning your violin easy!

How to String a Violin

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Violin strings can sometimes snap when tuning. They can also start to unwind, which causes a 'fuzzy' or 'buzzing' sound when you play. If you have an old violin that has not been played for a while, the strings may lose their flexibility and quality of tone. If you have strings that have been regularly played, then the strings can become dirty from the natural oils secreted by the fingers and from rosin, which can build up a sticky residue on the surface of the string between the bridge and the fingerboard. Restringing a violin can be a daunting task for beginners, but with the right information and some practice, soon you will be restringing like a pro!

To learn how to restring a violin, see our How to String a Violin article.

How to Play the Violin

Read the full article: How to Play the Violin

The violin is held under the chin while bowed, and occasionally plucked. Orchestral and chamber violinists sit while playing, taking care to keep their backs straight so to avoid shoulder and back strain. Soloist violinists usually stand while playing which allows the player to have more room to move. Violinists read music written on the treble clef. Advanced players have a playing range on the violin of four octaves, which can also be further extended using natural and artificial harmonics.

To learn more about how to play the violin, see our How to Play the Violin article.

Articles about the Violin

antique violin Violin Buyers Guide

What should you look for when you buy a violin? This article gives a run-down on the things you really need to know before buying (or selling) your violin.

violin accessories Violin Accessory Guide

From shoulder rests to rosin, chin rests to mutes, this article explains all about violin accessories, and what to watch out for when you buy them.

man cleaning a violin How to Maintain a Violin

How do you get the best tone out of your violin? By making sure you maintain it well! This article will tell you all you need to know to keep your violin singing (and looking) beautiful.