national violin day celebrates a versatile instrument

An Italian invention The word “violin” comes from the Medieval Latin word “vitula,” meaning “stringed instrument.” The violin family h...

An Italian invention

The word “violin” comes from the Medieval Latin word “vitula,” meaning “stringed instrument.” The violin family has four members and includes the viola, cello and double bass.

“Violin”and “fiddle”are names for the same instrument. They are featured in all types of music: classical, bluegrass, country, jazz and even rock.

The first four-string violin, similar to its modern cousin, was created by Andrea Amati in Italy nearly 500 years ago. Some of Amati’s violins survive. The oldest, dated 1564, is at a museum in England. The museum also has what might be the most famous violin in the world. It was made by Italian Antonio Stradivari in 1716 and is valued at about $20 million, because it is in near-perfect condition, with its original varnish.

In 2013, a violin made in 1741 by another Italian, Giuseppe “del Gesu” Guarneri, sold for close to $18 million. The unidentified buyer has given concert violinist Anne Akiko Meyers permission for lifetime use of the instrument. Sweet!

Putting it together

Violins are made of mostly spruce or maple. It takes 70 pieces of wood, fit snugly together, to make one. A person who makes or repairs violins is called a luthier (LOO-tee-ur).

A violin bow has 150 to 200 hairs, which usually come from the tails of male horses. Males, especially those from very cold climates, are preferred, because female horses pee on their tails, so their hair isn’t as thick or strong. Less expensive bows now use nylon or similar products.

Violin strings were originally made from the dried intestines of sheep and other animals. Today, steel and other man-made materials are also used.

The world’s largest playable violin was made by German luthiers in 2010. It stands 14 feet high. Playing it requires three musicians, two of whom hold the 17-foot-long bow. The smallest playable violin is 5½ inches long.

Famous fiddlers

Fritz Kreisler was a well-known violinist in 1914 when World War I started. The Austrian army sent him to fight in Eastern Europe, where his musical training helped him locate enemy artillery by listening to the pitch of incoming shells.

For her fourth birthday, Sarah Chang received a violin. She was performing concerts the next year and played with the New York Philharmonic when she was 8. In 1991 she recorded her first album. She was 10.

Lindsey Stirling, who plays acoustic and electric violin, has 12.7 million subscribers on her YouTube channel. Not bad for someone who started by taking half lessons — 15 minutes a week — because that’s all her parents could afford.

Some people think Niccolò Paganini, born in Italy in 1782, was the greatest violinist ever. He had incredibly bendable hands, possibly because of a rare medical condition. He could stretch his right thumb so far to the left, that it wrapped around his little finger. Can your thumb do that?

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Newsrust: national violin day celebrates a versatile instrument
national violin day celebrates a versatile instrument
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