The first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about the violin is “classical music,” or something highbrow and classy. While it is true that violins are ubiquitous in orchestras, they are very common in country and rock music. Violins also come in electric models as well, so you can add a wide range of effects to get a myriad of sounds. So where did the violin come from, and how did it become the wildly popular instrument it is today?
Today’s violin owes its existence to an antiquated instrument called the “Lira,” which was developed and used widely in 9th century Europe. The lira developed over time into two separate types of instruments, one that was held in the arms and square shaped called the “lira da braccio” and the other positioned between the legs “lira da gamba”. Both of them were used frequently. However, as history manifested, instruments that were held in the arms became more popular and led to the development of the violin in 1550.
In the 16th through 18th centuries, Italy had what was called the “Golden Era” of violin luthiers that included the Amati, Guarneri, da Salo, Micheli, and Ruggieri families. The violins made by these families are in short supply today and worth colossal amounts of money.
Violins and Orchestras
Between the years 1600 and 1750, which is called the “Baroque Era” of music, the violin was one of the most critical instruments in classical music for a myriad of reasons. A violin tone stands out over other instruments and is perfect for melodies, rapid note sequences, and different sounds that other instruments simply cannot create. Because of this range, violins made up a large part of an orchestra and existed in two sections, known as the first and second violins. Composers would typically assign the melody to the first violin section and the second to play the harmonies and lower ranges. Knowing this fact, if you listen to some classical music, you will likely be able to hear both violin sections performing like two vocalists complimenting each other.
Playing violin in an orchestra takes years of training and requires incredible levels of finger dexterity and coordination between both hands. One hand is fretting notes while the other operates the bow that creates the string vibrations. A violinist also has to consider how much pressure to apply to both the fingerboard and the bow, which controls the type of sound you will produce. Though playing the instrument is a vital aspect of musicianship, they must be aware of music theory, how to read sheet music, understanding what the other instruments in the orchestra are doing, and know how to fit into the big picture.
From musical creations to personal growth, playing the violin offers so many benefits. What makes it even more intriguing is its incredible history behind its development and how it is still such a sought-out instrument to play in the present day. The musical tones and its ability to fulfill musical voids while promoting player confidence and enjoyment makes it such a remarkable instrument that will undoubtedly still be around for thousands of years to come.