Origins of the Violin

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Category : Music

Where did one of the world's most popular instruments come from anyways?

Instruments like the violin which are played with a bow have their origins in the Byzantine lira and Islamic rabab, dating back as far as the 9th century. These types of instruments often had very boxy bodies, and spread throughout Europe in the subsequent centuries before the first true violins began to emerge in Italy in the 16th century. Violins quickly eclipsed previously favored cello-like instruments in popularity, and were in high demand.

Violins proliferated through the 17th and 18th centuries, and although violin design has remained remarkably standardized since then, there were several small changes introduced, especially as 19th century music asked more and more of the instrument. To accommodate higher notes, the fingerboard of violins grew grew longer, and to better supplement a full orchestra, the angle of the fingerboard was subtly changed to produce a louder tone. Additionally, the chin rest was introduced.

Musically, the violin has seen an interesting arc through the years. What started as a folk instrument became a staple of classical music when the modern violin emerged during the Renaissance. While the violin is primarily tied to classical music today, it also retains its folk origins. Irish, bluegrass, country western, and even Arabic tunes often use violins or violin-like instruments.   

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