Ever found yourself listening to a piece of music and wondering what that instrument is? You might have searched and found the answer to be a violin, but your curiosity was not satisfied. What type of violin?
Perhaps you are considering purchasing a violin for yourself or as a gift and aren’t sure which violin to choose? There are a few different types of violins, and it can be tricky, even as an experienced musician, to know all the differences.
Thankfully, we are here to help you today! Keep reading to see the different types of violins, so you are never left in the dark again!
What is a violin?
Before we get into the different violins, let’s have a little refresh and remind ourselves what a violin is. A violin is a stringed instrument that has been around since the 16th century.
The instrument has four strings and is usually played with a horsehair bow. It is generally of treble pitch, with a range from G to C.
The strings sit on a rounded body that narrows at the middle and have two -f-shaped sound holes.
Violins are typically used in classical music, orchestras, and folk music. There is also a rise in violins featuring in rock songs too, making them a versatile instrument.
Different types of violins
Violins can be categorized by their time period or by genre.
Today we will look at both to allow you to go forward and identify the types of violins no matter the setting!
Way back before the violin was invented, similar instruments were being used. The Byzantine Empire’s lira was used in an upright position, while the lira de braccio, viol for the arm, was held against the chin, similar to a violin.
A three-stringed Violetta was also used before the violin and placed under the chin. Again, a viol was similar and gained popularity around the same time as the violin.
These instruments are occasionally referred to as early violins, but it is best to consider these as separate instruments in their rights.
The Baroque violin was first made in the 16th century. Typically, it has a shallower neck angle that is thicker to support the tension of strings. The string tension is lower than it is on a classical violin.
As techniques changed, the range of a violin could be extended during the 18th century. As this happened, original Baroque instruments were altered to meet these new standards.
As we just mentioned, techniques changed in the 18th and 19th centuries, allowing the violins to change, giving us the classical violin. This type is also referred to as the modern or acoustic violin interchangeably.
The classical violin has an increased string tension, range, and sound projection compared to the Baroque violin. The neck is slender and is now viewed as the benchmark-setting for violins.
In recent years the classical violin has been made from a range of woods and features comfortable fittings such as a chin rest. The added chin rest stops the violin from dropping as the player changes its position and provides added comfort.
Better strings and rosins were invented in the 20th century to improve the sound a classical violin makes.
Sometimes referred to as John Stroh created the horn-violin or violinophone in the late 19th century. It features a horn rather than a soundbox to produce a sound that offers a different timber to a classical violin.
These tend to be much louder than classical violins and are similar to the Romanian horn violin, although the Romanian horn is much narrower.
The horn violin never gathered much popularity as it has a thinner and harsher sound than the classical violin. It is also a costly instrument and not one you are likely to see in your local music store.
Electric violins have been circulating since the 1930s, although pick-ups were used before this to create a similar effect. Electric violins produce their sound electronically without the use of sound boxes or f-holes. Thanks to this, the style can vary, with many abandoning the traditional design of the violin.
An electric violin’s sound can be distorted as it is amplified, which can help depending on the genre of music the violin is being used for.
A semi-electric violin is also known as an electric-acoustic or violin with a pick-up. These violins produce sound acoustically but are fitted with a pick-up to amplify the sound electronically.
These types of violins retain the original acoustic feel that is lost in fully electric violins. A semi-electric violin will not be overly loud when the amp is not plugged in, the same way an electric or bass guitar operates.
Pick-ups are easy to add to classical violins to convert them into semi-electric violins. However, you may need to make some adjustments to the violin, such as inserting a hole into the violin’s body.
Adjusting your existing classical violin is a good option as it saves purchasing another violin while allowing you the benefits of amplification.
As we mentioned earlier, the types of violins can also be determined by genre: the two main ones being Fiddle and a 5-string violin, which we shall look at now.
Often used as slang to describe a bowed stringed instrument, the fiddle is generally used to describe a violin used in country or folk music. A fiddle will typically have a flatter bridge, which allows the player to perform double or triple stops easily compared to a classical violin.
Essentially a fiddle and violin are the same instruments that can be differentiated by the context and style they are played in.
A 5-string violin can be either electric or acoustic and includes an additional 5th string compared to other violins. The C string will sit below the G string and combines the ranges of a violin and viola in one instrument.
It can take some time to adapt to a five-string violin if you have only used four-string violins before, as the angle the bow touches the string is slightly different.
5-string villains are great for country music as you can fill the sound with lower notes and the decreased angle between strings makes it easier to perform double and triple stops.
As you can see, there are a few different types of violins available to choose from; whether you want a classical violin or the modern electric, there is sure to be a type that will serve all of your needs!