Violins are really amazing instruments. Do you know how old yours is? Or where it was made? Do you know what kind of wood was used, or how long it took to make?
Mine was made right here in Warroad by Bob Wenzel, and it is about 15 years old – just a youngster by violin standards. As an instrument ages, its sound changes – so the ones that are hundreds of years old usually have a deep, grown up sound. Its easy to think that because violins are delicate – they really aren’t as sturdy as a tuba or kettle drum – they might not last very long. But they do. And some of the really old ones are found in the most surprising places.
Recently I listened to someone tell the story of how they had recently pulled their grandfather’s old violin out from under the guest bed. Instead of hanging it on the wall as a sentimental memento of family history, they took it to a local luthier to see if it was worth repairing. The luthier said it was an Amati, a violin from one of The Great Names in the history of violin craftsmanship. It was the kind of story – and instrument – that make my fingers itch to play, if only to experience a connection with the violinists who came before me.
I realized I’d forgotten my basic History of The Violin 101. I thought you might like to re-explore it with me and find out just how much the violin has changed over the last 500 years. Click here to watch a video about how the design has changed over time (I am so grateful for the addition of a chinrest!), and here to see a quick exploration of how luthiers make violins (my favorite part is the purfling).
Do you know? Did Antonio Stradavarious, Nicolo Amati or Menegheni come first? Leave me a comment and tell me what you learned!