The violin, sometimes known as a fiddle, is a wooden chordophone (string instrument) in the violin family. Most violins have a hollow wooden body. It is the smallest and thus highest-pitched instrument (soprano) in the family in regular use.[a] The violin typically has four strings (some can have five), usually tuned in perfect fifths with notes G3, D4, A4, E5, and is most commonly played by drawing a bow across its strings. It can also be played by plucking the strings with the fingers (pizzicato) and, in specialized cases, by striking the strings with the wooden side of the bow (col legno).
A violin is tuned in fifths, in the notes G3, D4, A4, E5. The lowest note of a violin, tuned normally, is G3, or G below middle C (C4). (On rare occasions, the lowest string may be tuned down by as much as a fourth, to D3.) The highest note is less well defined: E7, the E two octaves above the open string (which is tuned to E5) may be considered a practical limit for orchestral violin parts, but it is often possible to play higher, depending on the length of the fingerboard and the skill of the violinist. Yet higher notes (up to C8) can be sounded by stopping the string, reaching the limit of the fingerboard, and/or by using artificial harmonics.
The left hand determines the sounding length of the string, and thus the pitch of the string, by "stopping" it (pressing it) against the fingerboard with the fingertips, producing different pitches. As the violin has no frets to stop the strings, as is usual with the guitar, the player must know exactly where to place the fingers on the strings to play with good intonation (tuning). Beginning violinists play open strings and the lowest position, nearest to the nut. Students often start with relatively easy keys, such as A Major and G major. Students are taught scales and simple melodies. Through practice of scales and arpeggios and ear training, the violinist's left hand eventually "finds" the notes intuitively by muscle memory.
Beginners sometimes rely on tapes placed on the fingerboard for proper left hand finger placement, but usually abandon the tapes quickly as they advance. Another commonly used marking technique uses dots of white-out on the fingerboard, which wear off in a few weeks of regular practice. This practice, unfortunately, is used sometimes in lieu of adequate ear-training, guiding the placement of fingers by eye and not by ear. Especially in the early stages of learning to play, the so-called "ringing tones" are useful. There are nine such notes in first position, where a stopped note sounds a unison or octave with another (open) string, causing it to resonate sympathetically. Students often use these ringing tones to check the intonation of the stopped note by seeing if it is harmonious with the open string. For example, when playing the stopped pitch "A" on the G string, the violinist could play the open D string at the same time, to check the intonation of the stopped "A". If the "A" is in tune, the "A" and the open D string should produce a harmonious perfect fourth.
Violins are tuned in perfect fifths, like all the orchestral strings (violin, viola, cello) except the double bass, which is tuned in perfect fourths. Each subsequent note is stopped at a pitch the player perceives as the most harmonious, "when unaccompanied, [a violinist] does not play consistently in either the tempered or the natural [just] scale, but tends on the whole to conform with the Pythagorean scale." When violinists are playing in a string quartet or a string orchestra, the strings typically "sweeten" their tuning to suit the key they are playing in. When playing with an instrument tuned to equal temperament, such as a piano, skilled violinists adjust their tuning to match the equal temperament of the piano to avoid discordant notes.
The fingers are conventionally numbered 1 (index) through 4 (little finger) in music notation, such as sheet music and etude books. Especially in instructional editions of violin music, numbers over the notes may indicate which finger to use, with 0 or O indicating an open string. The chart to the right shows the arrangement of notes reachable in first position. Not shown on this chart is the way the spacing between note positions becomes closer as the fingers move up (in pitch) from the nut. The bars at the sides of the chart represent the usual possibilities for beginners' tape placements, at 1st, high 2nd, 3rd, and 4th fingers.
The upper limit of the violin's range is largely determined by the skill of the player, who may easily play more than two octaves on a single string, and four octaves on the instrument as a whole. Position names are mostly used for the lower positions and in method books and etudes; for this reason, it is uncommon to hear references to anything higher than seventh position. The highest position, practically speaking, is 13th position. Very high positions are a particular technical challenge, for two reasons. Firstly, the difference in location of different notes becomes much narrower in high positions, making the notes more challenging to locate and in some cases to distinguish by ear. Secondly, the much shorter sounding length of the string in very high positions is a challenge for the right arm and bow in sounding the instrument effectively. The finer (and more expensive) an instrument, the better able it is to sustain good tone right to the top of the fingerboard, at the highest pitches on the E string.
All notes (except those below the open D) can be played on more than one string. This is a standard design feature of stringed instruments; however, it differs from the piano, which has only one location for each of its 88 notes. For instance, the note of open A on the violin can be played as the open A, or on the D string (in first to fourth positions) or even on the G string (very high up in sixth to ninth positions). Each string has a different tone quality, because of the different weights (thicknesses) of the strings and because of the resonances of other open strings. For instance, the G string is often regarded as having a very full, sonorous sound which is particularly appropriate to late Romantic music. This is often indicated in the music by the marking, for example, sul G or IV (a Roman numeral indicating to play on the fourth string; by convention, the strings are numbered from thinnest, highest pitch (I) to the lowest pitch (IV). Even without an explicit instructions in the score, an advanced violinist will use her/his discretion and artistic sensibility to select which string to play specific notes or passages.
Playing an open string simultaneously with a stopped note on an adjacent string produces a bagpipe-like drone, often used by composers in imitation of folk music. Sometimes the two notes are identical (for instance, playing a fingered A on the D string against the open A string), giving a ringing sort of "fiddling" sound. Playing an open string simultaneously with an identical stopped note can also be called for when more volume is required, especially in orchestral playing. Some classical violin parts have notes for which the composer requests the violinist to play an open string, because of the specific sonority created by an open string.
Where three or four simultaneous notes are indicated, the violinist will typically "split" the chord, choosing the lower one or two notes to play first before immediately continuing onto the upper one or two notes, with the natural resonance of the instrument producing an effect similar to if all four notes had been voiced simultaneously. In some circumstances, a "triple stop" is possible, where three notes across three strings can be voiced simultaneously. The bow will not naturally strike three strings at once, but if there is sufficient bow speed and pressure when the violinist "breaks" (sounds) a three note chord, the bow hair can be bent temporarily onto three strings, allowing each to sound simultaneously. This is accomplished with a heavy stroke, typically near the frog, and produces a loud and aggressive tone. Double stops in orchestra are occasionally marked divisi and divided between the players, with some division of the musicians playing the lower note and some division playing the higher note. Double stops (and divisi) are common in orchestral repertoire when the violins play accompaniment and another instrument or section plays melodically.
In some genres of historically informed performance (usually of Baroque music and earlier), neither split-chord nor triple-stop chords are thought to be appropriate; some violinists will arpeggiate all chords (including regular double stops), playing all or most notes individually as if they had been written as a slurred figure. However, with the development of modern violins, triple-stopping has become more natural due to the bridge being less curved. In some musical styles, a sustained open string drone can be played during a passage mainly written on an adjacent string, to provide a basic accompaniment. This is more often seen in folk traditions than in classical music.
The most essential part of bowing technique is the bow grip. It is usually with the thumb bent in the small area between the frog and the winding of the bow. The other fingers are spread somewhat evenly across the top part of the bow. The pinky finger is curled with the tip of the finger placed on the wood next to the screw. The violin produces louder notes with greater bow speed or more weight on the string. The two methods are not equivalent, because they produce different timbres; pressing down on the string tends to produce a harsher, more intense sound. One can also achieve a louder sound by placing the bow closer to the bridge.
Since the Baroque era, the violin has been one of the most important of all instruments in classical music, for several reasons. The tone of the violin stands out above other instruments, making it appropriate for playing a melody line. In the hands of a good player, the violin is extremely agile, and can execute rapid and difficult sequences of notes. 2b1af7f3a8