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Buy a violin or Fiddle? What you need to know about the bowed stringed instrument before your purchase

Violins for sale: things to know when buying a violin

  • What is the difference between a violin and a fiddle?
  • When and where was the violin invented?
  • How is a violin made?
  • How is the sound of the violin produced?
  • Violin makers - what is the importance of craftsmanship in violin making?
  • Old violins and new violins - which one sounds better?
  • Important violin makers of yesterday and today
  • Important Violinists - Famous Violinists

What is the difference between a violin and a fiddle?

Violin and fiddle - these two terms are synonymous and refer to the same stringed instrument. Since "violin" (it.: violino) as a loanword tends to suit a higher style of language, it is sometimes said to denote the special quality of a better violin. Nevertheless, even the best violins in the world were certainly referred to as fiddles. However, until the end of the 19th century, violin was a pejorative term and therefore part of a tradition that stretched back to the late Middle Ages.

When and where was the violin invented?

The origins of the violin lie largely in the darkness of history. It probably developed in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance from predecessors such as the violin, the rebeck, the gig, the krusher and the trumschet. This phase ended with the work of Antonio Stradivari, the luthier of the Amati family and world-renowned master, and since then the model of the violin has been modified only in individual respects.

How is a violin made?

The violin consists of a resonating body called the "body" on which the four strings are drawn. A tailpiece attached to the lower side holds the lower end of the string, while the upper end is wrapped around the pegs of the peg box - this allows the tension of the string to change continuously when tuning. The upper end of the peg box is traditionally decorated with a scroll that rolls forward, typical of the Renaissance or Baroque period. The necessary distance between the strings and the body, as well as the transmission of vibrations, is ensured by a small wooden "bridge", also known as the bridge, which is fixed to the top of the body by the pressure of the strings, without any further fixation. Above the bridge, the strings pass through the fingerboard to reach the yard, which is the lower end of the peg box and creates the distance between the strings and the fingerboard needed to play the notes. Most violins are made of certain European and exotic types of wood. For the top of the body, spruce has proven itself, preferably from the higher mountains; the back and sides of most instruments are made of maple. Ebony is usually used for the fingerboard and the inlays (usually three-piece inlays) that surround the top and back. In addition to the interior of the body, the violin is coated with a clear, colored varnish based on oil or alcohol, which plays an important role in the vibrational behavior and sound of the instrument.

How is the sound of a violin produced?

The sound of a violin is largely influenced by the quality of the wood used, which is why the material used for the top and back is also known as "tone wood". The body is excited by the vibrations of the strings, mediated by the bridge, which transmits the movement to the top of the instrument. Underneath the bridge, a small wooden rod, also known as a soundpost, ensures that the vibrations are transmitted to the back of the body. This makes the entire cabinet and the air inside vibrate; this amplifies the tone of the vibrating strings, and the resonance of the instrument itself gives it a special, individual tone. Additional transmission and a certain amount of vibration damping within the soundboard is provided by so-called bass bars, which are glued to the inside of the soundboard, slightly off-center. Because of their great importance in shaping the sound, the sound post, bridge and bass bar are also known as the "acoustic elements" of the violin. Subtle modifications to them allow the luthier to improve the sound of the violin with relatively minor interventions.

Violin makers - what is the importance of craftsmanship in violin making?

Violin making is a craft whose requirements and basic working methods have not changed significantly since the days of Stradivari and Amati. This does not contradict the fact that today the worldwide market for stringed instruments is strongly determined by industrial production; top quality violins are still made purely by hand and artistic highlights are still the result of the careful work of experienced masters - whose special skills are indispensable, especially for the care and restoration of historic violins and for optimizing the sound of a good violin.

Old violin or new violin - which one sounds better?

There is no law of nature that says that a new or old violin sounds better or worse on its own. The decisive factor for a good sounding violin is first and foremost the quality of the instrument, which is determined by many factors - from the material properties of the tone wood to the care taken during processing and the correct intonation of the violin. However, it goes without saying that many older violins are characterized by a particular tonal quality, a mature tone, which is not found in this form in newer instruments. Moreover, the artistic statements of historical violin makers, preserved in the sound of their antique instruments, are a curious inspiration for musicians of our time.

Important and famous violinists

Famous violinists have not only left their mark on the history of music, but have often had enough influence on contemporary violin makers. Among them - in chronological order - are

  • Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713)
  • Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
  • John Giorgio Pisendel (1687-1755)
  • Giovanni Battista Viotti (1755-1824)
  • Rodolphe Kruse (1766-1831)
  • Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840)
  • Henri Vieuxtemps (1820-1881)
  • Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931)
  • Giorgio Enescu (1881-1955)
  • Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987)
  • Stefan Grappelli (1908-1997)
  • Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999)
  • Franz "Schnuckenack" Reinhardt (1921-2006)
  • Ida Haendel (1928-2020)
  • Sigiswald Kuyken (* 1944)
  • Itzhak Perlman (* 1945)
  • Didier Lockwood (1956-2018)
  • Pavlo Beznosiuk (* 1960)
  • Anne-Sophie Mutter (* 1963)
  • Joshua Bell (* 1967)
  • Leonidas Kavakos (* 1967)
  • Daniel Hopper (* 1973)
  • Patricia Kopatchinskaya (* 1977)
  • Hilary Hahn (* 1979)