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The Violin

The violin is one of the primary instruments in classical music and orchestras.

The Violin Family

There are four main instruments in the violin family. They all have similar shapes, use a similar bow, and are played in a similar fashion. The main difference is in the size of the instrument which affects the range of notes they can play. The larger the instrument, the lower the range of notes.

Here they are from smallest to largest:
  • Violin - The smallest and most popular of the family. The violin has the highest pitch.
  • Viola - Slightly larger than the violin, the viola has a lower pitch. It's played in the same manner as the violin.
  • Cello - The cello is quite a bit larger than the viola. Cello players sit down the play the cello resting the bottom of the cello, a metal spike, on the ground.
  • Double Bass - The double bass is the largest and lowest pitch member of the violin family. Musicians stand to play the double bass with the bottom resting on the ground. Often the double bass is plucked to create a deep bass sound often used in folk music and jazz.

The cello is played with a bow while sitting down

Violins in Classical Music

Violins play a major role in classical music. There are different groupings of classical music where the violin and its family members are used:
  • Symphony Orchestra - There are generally more violins than any other instrument in an orchestra. Orchestra's have two sections of violins known has the first and second violins. They each play a different part. In a modern orchestra there will usually be around 16 violinists in the violins I and 14 in violins II.
  • Concerto - A concerto is when there is a solo instrument accompanied by and orchestra. Often the solo instrument will be a violin.
  • Chamber Ensemble - Chamber ensembles are smaller groups of instruments often featuring the violin.
  • String Quartet - The string quartet is a popular grouping of musicians and instruments to play classical music. This group generally includes two violins, one viola, and a cello.

A classic string quartet group

Violin in Other Music

The violin is used in other music as well including folk music, rock and pop music, and jazz. In folk music the violin is often called the fiddle. The fiddle is the same musical instrument as the violin, but the style of music played is different. Fiddle music is generally folk music played with a lively beat that people can dance to. In pop and rock music the violin is generally part of a string section played as part of the background.

Fun Facts about Violins
  • The name violin comes from the Latin word vitula, which means stringed instrument.
  • A musician who plays the violin is called a violinist or fiddler.
  • The violin is the highest pitched instrument in the string section of an orchestra.
  • The rock band Kansas used the violin in much of their music such as there song Dust in the Wind.
  • Sometimes practice violins are made without the large hollow body so they don't make as much noise.
  • It is customary to finish a violin song with a downbow.

More on the violin: Other musical instruments:

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