Celebrating the Violin on National Violin Day

Get ready folks, because not only will we celebrate Christmas and the New Year this month but also National Violin Day which falls on December 13th!

National Violin Day is a day to honor the violin and immerse yourself in the history, art and lore of the instrument. Some easy ways to do this are to practice the violin (if you play), book a violin lesson, bring your violin for a tune-up, listen to violin music, purchase tickets to a live violin performance or attend a virtual performance, read a violin-themed book, or do some research on the history of the violin.

Here are some facts and history about the violin to get you started.

What makes a violin a violin?
  • Four strings tuned in fifths
  • Pegs entering the head laterally
  • Arched top and back
  • Articulated corners
  • Two f-shaped soundholes
  • Bassbar and soundpost
A violin is made of over 110 separate pieces. The head, neck, sides and back are made of maple wood, the top of spruce, and the fingerboard of ebony. Other woods can be used, but these are generally the woods that work best.
 
The earliest violin strings were made from thin sheets of animal gut twisted to make them strong. Modern strings have cores made from either gut, steel or synthetic polymers. They are wrapped or wound with wire strings made of aluminum or chrome-steel and occasionally gold or silver.
 
Instruments considered to be predecessors of the violin are the Arabian rabab from the 8th century, the Byzantine lyra of the 9th century, the European rebec (right) and the vielle (Medieval fiddle) of the Medieval era, and the lira da Braccio of the viol family of instruments.
 
The viol which originated in the 14th century looked similar to the violin, had six or seven strings tuned in fourths instead of fifths, a fretted fingerboard, and c-shaped soundholes instead of f-holes.

The Viola da Gamba (left) was the most well known of this family of instruments and was played similarly to a cello. The Viola da Gamba and other viols coexisted alongside violins into the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They eventually faded in popularity, however, because they could no longer compete with the violin, which had a more powerful sound and could be heard in large concert halls.
 
The above mentioned instruments were all bowed stringed instruments, though the rabab, Byzantine lyra, rebec and Viola da Gamba were all propped up and played in front of the body, while the vielle and Lira da Braccio (right) were played on the arm in a fashion similar to the way one would play a violin.
 
The first “early” true violin is believed to have been created in the early 1500s in what is today northern Italy. The templates of the violins we are familiar with today were refined by makers such as those from the Amati Family of Cremona, Italy, Jacob Stainer of the historic state of Tyrol (northern Italy-western Austria), Antonio Stradivari who studied with the Amatis, and Guarneri del Gesu of Cremona. To this day, violin making is still a deeply ingrained part of the history and culture of Cremona which is considered by many to be the "cradle of violin making."
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