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Violin for Beginners: The History

Few weeks ago, I began blogging on learning to play the piano for beginners. As someone who grew up playing the piano, I not only had fun writing the articles, but I also learned a lot more about the instrument!

This week, I will be writing about the violin, including its history, the instrument itself, and some basic tips. A great violinist will not be what they are, without learning even the most fundamental knowledge of the discipline. The violin has evolved significantly since Mozart and Beethoven, both in terms of techniques and the ability to read the notes on treble clef. However, while playing it correctly and with proper technique is a must, it is also a valuable addition to educate ourselves with the history and milestones in our road to become a great violinist. This includes acquiring knowledge of your own instrument, including the components and functionalities.

The violin

Finally, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to practice the violin on a regular basis in order to improve your skills. Did you know? Researchers have discovered that playing the instrument improves verbal memory, spatial awareness, and reading abilities. It makes use of both sides of your brain, which improves your memory. To put it another way, practice makes perfect, while achieving academic success!

Let's take a look at how the violin evolved into what it is today!

The birth of the violin

Tracked back to its ancestral origin, instruments like a violin that use bow and strings were once called bowed stringed instruments. It originated on the Eastern side of the globe (thank you, ancestors!) - exactly in the Middle East, and were known as the rabab and rebec. They were later developed into the erhu and morin khur in China, making them the orient cousins of the violin. It also evolved into the ravanastorm in India. Both erhu and the ravanastorm are only double-stringed, and played in a highly similar manner to cello.

The rabab, furthermore, is the mother of all European bowed instruments. The rabab spread west and by the 11th and 12th century, and then made its way to Western Europe. In the Byzantine era, it evolved into a fiddle or lira. Then, European civilization developed two distinct bowed instruments = the lira da braccio and lira da gamba, nearing the end of the Middle Ages.

When compared to its forefathers, the violin has finished itself as an instrument in Europe. It was not known as a single instrument that evolved through time, like the piano is, yet the first of its form emerged as its current shape around 1550 - around the 15th or 16th century. For such a magnificent instrument, it is rather new! The history of the violin is thought to have originated from an artwork depicting a violin from the time period. How unique!

The initial movers and shakers of the violin

Do you know? The two earliest violin makers were both from northern Italy. The first violin manufacturers known historically were Andre Amati of Cremona and Gasparo di Bertolotti of Salon. You can still see the oldest violin ever made by Andre Amati in 1565, as shown in the picture below!

The oldest existing violin made by Andre Amati.

You probably need to take extra precautions when playing it!

Other than these two, names like Giuseppe Guarneri, Antonio Stradivari, Micheli and Rugeri families are synonymous to the art of violin-making. Other than these craftsmen, popular classical composers, like Monteverdi, Mozart, and Bach were also known to contribute to the performance and development of the violin. For instance, Bach’s violin sonatas express the intricate technique that are full of technical demands, which eventually showcase the glory and capability of the instrument.

Viol: The known relative

The violin was completely envisioned around the 15th and 16th centuries, as I have mentioned above. Do you know, though, that there was a highly similar instrument made in 14th century Europe called the viol? Both the viol and the violin flourished in the same eras, and they even coexisted throughout the Baroque period.

The distinctions are as follows:



C-shaped sound hole

F-shaped sound hole

Six, seven, or more strings tuned in fourth

Four strings tuned in fifths

Fretted fingerboard

Unmarked fingerboard

Thicker in shape

Leaner in shape

The viol.

What else do you want to know about the violin’s origin? Let us know in the comment section below!

Next week, I will be talking about the few steps to start your violin practice and career. Stay tuned for it!

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