Every instrument has its own particular history which also involves bizarre, unbelievable and rather random facts! And this is the case with violins too. But before we go on, let’s settle a couple of things, so we are on the same level when it comes to definitions.
However, first things first. What is a violin? It is a stringed instrument, whose number of strings varies according to the manufacturer and the type of device you need for a certain performance. It is believed that it has its roots in the vielle, which was a musical tool common in Medieval Europe, which was born from the Byzantine lyra.
The violin as we know and love it today, originated in the middle of the sixteenth century, in bohemian Italy. Andreea Amati is commonly referred as being its first designer, a fact consolidated by the pictures of the instrument that surfaced in the same era and area he lived in.
At this time, in Italian and French documents, the word we use today for the instrument, ‘vyollon’ and ‘violino’ started to appear. By the end of 1556, the use of the violin was becoming more common in Europe.
Another cool fact is that the modern violin, a word which derived from the ancient Latin word “vitula”, or stringed instrument, came into existence because people thought the lyre was too heavy and too hard to be carried around, so they needed an alternative that sounded just as good.
While the violin stagnated in design and had not seen much of a visual transformation since the Italian artist first made it, Stradivarius came and took notice of the instrument and made significant structural and design changes to enhance and improve the sound and, alternatively, to expand the range of the musical instrument.
He enlarged the body by using bolder “f” holes, he heightened the bridge and extended the fingerboard. Moreover, he also added a chinrest which made playing the violin for extended periods much more comfortable. This was also the time when the gut strings were replaced with metal strings, for a sharper sound, contrary to the previous warm tone.
Violins are intricate pieces of art. It takes more than 70 pieces to build one, and it is usually made of wood. The most expensive violin ever was created by another Italian, by the name of Giuseppe Guarneri. This luxurious violin was the talk of the music world and appraised at a value that nowadays would exceed $18 million.
And the last fun fact I want to share with you is an underrated one. In 2010, the world record for the fastest violin playing was broke by Ben Lee. He is now the current record holder, and to set it he played “Bumblebee” at 15 notes per second in less than 58 seconds.