VIOLIN (diminutive from viol), a stringed musical instrument played with the bow. Like other bow-instruments now in use, it consists of a wooden sonorous chest, formed of two slightly arched surfaces, known as the back and belly, united by sides or ribs, And with a curve or hollow on each side in the middle of the length—a neck or finger board attached to the chest, and strings, fastened at one end to the belly by a tailpiece or projection of wood, and at the other to the head or extremity of the nebk, where they can be tightened or loosened at pleasure by turning-pins. The strings thus passing over the belly are raised up from it by a bridge; and on the belly there are two sound holes opposite each other, of a form resembling the letter f, or rather the long f. The sounds are produced by drawing a bow across the strings, the upper surface of the bridge being convexly curved, so as to enable the bow to be drawn along each string separately, with out coming in contact with the rest. The modern violin has 4 strings of gut, the lowest covered with fine silvered copper wire, or sometimes, in the best instruments, with silver or even gold wire. These strings are tuned in fifths, thus, — S and et the highest string is called the first. The bow is held in the right hand, and the differ ent sounds of each string are obtained by stopping, i.e., pressing it with the fingeragainst the fingerboard at certain distances thus shortening the vibrating portion, and raising the pitch of the sound. Very high notes are produced by the harmonics (q.v.) of the string, which, instead of being pressed against the fingerboard, is touched lightly, the sound resulting from the vibration being, not as in ordinary cases, of the part of the string between the point of stopping and thebridge, but of a harmonic section of it. A. peculiar modification of tone is produced by the application of the mute, or sordino, a little wooden instrument placed on the bridge. A violin or other bow-instrument may occasionally be played pizzicato, i.e., with the fingers, as a harp or guitar. The compass of the violin is about three octaves and a half, from to with all the "ar intermediate semitones; but the highest notes are apt to be harsh and squeaking. Though chiefly an instrument of melody, it is to a limited extent capable of harmony by double stops—chords of two notes may be struck together, and three or four notes may be played in arpeggio. Few instruments can compare with the violin in power of expres sion and execution. It has an unlimited command over a very wide range of sounds,
to which any degree of piano and forte, of staccato and legato, can be imparted. In orchestral music, there are always two different violin parts for treble and alto, known as first and second violin; and the same is generally the case when the violin is used in concerted music, the usual arrangement of stringed quartett music. being for two violins, viola, and violoncello.
Recent writers trace the origin of the violin to the Indian ravanastron, yet played by the poor Buddhist monks who go begging from door to door, and traditionally believed to have been the invention of Ravana, king of Ceylon, 5,000 B. C. From the ravanastron sprang the gouda of Russia, and the crwth of Wales—the latter in use before the 6th c. —both of which seem to have differed from later instruments of the seine tribe in hav ing the upper surface of the bridge flat, so that all the strings had inevitably to be sounded at once. The viol (q.v.) was the more immediate precursor of the violin and of its relatives of deeper pitch, the violoncello and double bass. The earliest violins seem to have been those of Gasparo di Salo in Lombardy, 1560-1610. During the 17th c., the family of the Amati at Cremona, including Andrew, his sons Jerome and Antonio, and Nicolo, son to Jerome, produced violins, the wonder of succeeding times, whose tone and quality more recent makers have in vain sought to equal. Antonio Stradivari, also of Cremona, pupil of Nicolo, if possible surpassed the Amati, and for a time the repute of Cremona was kept up by the families or the Guarneri and Ruggieri. Next to the Cremonese violins, in the estimation of connoisseurs, stand those of the Tyrolese makers, .Jacob Stainer, and Matthias Klotz and his sons. Experience has shown that the minutest details of form and proportion, and the material of which each separate part is made, are matters of vital importance to the quality of the violin. The great makers seem by a succession of delicate experiments and observations to have attained to acoustical qualities of high perfection, which their careful workmanship and extreme dexterity enabled them in all cases unfailingly to reproduce.—See Otto's Treatise on the Structure and Preservation of the Violin; Sandys and Forster, History of the Violin; Fetis, Notice of Antonio Stradivari, with Researches on the Origin and Transformations of Bow-instruments; Hart, The Violin (1875).