The violin is a mechanically simple but acoustically complex instrument. Interestingly, it was not progressively developed and improved over time, but suddenly appeared around 1550, in its current form. The two oldest violin-makers in history were from northern Italy: Cremona’s Andre Amati and Salon’s Gasparo di Bertolotti. Violins that these two made still remain to these days. Indeed, Andre Amati made the oldest violin in existence today around 1565.

The construction of the violin generally consists of: a source board, also known as top plate, table, or belly. Next,  maple ribs, two end blocks, a neck, a bridge, and a sound-post. Finally, we have four strings and various fittings, optionally including a chin-rest. This one may attach directly over, or to the left of the tailpiece.

The violin produces sound by means of a vibrating surface that interacts with the surrounding air. As the surface moves backwards and forwards, it decreases and increases the surrounding air pressure. The pressure variations travel rapidly away from the source in the form of soundwaves. They spread out, filling the space around the listener. The primary source of these vibrations in the case of a violin is a bowed or plucked string. The string itself produces virtually no sound on its own because its surface area is too small to drive the air.

However, the body of the violin is designed to act as a mediator between the string and the air. The vibrating string creates a time-varying force at the bridge, which causes the whole body to vibrate in sympathy. The sound we hear comes from the tiny vibrations induced on the wooden structure. Through the resonance of the violin body, and the large, lightweight plates, mechanical amplification is achieved. This setup makes the instrument an efficient sound radiator, not unlike the cones of a loudspeaker.

A characteristic feature of the violin body is its hourglass-like form, and its top and back arching. The shape of the hourglass comprises 2 upper bouts, two lower bouts, and two concave C-bouts at the waist, which provide clearance for the bow.

A violin’s tone or sound depends on its shape, the wood from which it is produced, the graduation of both the top and back, and the varnish that coats its outer surface. Just as importantly though, is the luthier ‘s ability to put all this together.

There’s a variety of reasons why the majority of glued joints in this instrument use animal hide glue instead of standard white glue. For instance, hide glue is capable of a thinner joint than most of the other types of glues. It’s also brittle enough to crack with carefully applied force and is removable with warm water. This makes it possible to disassemble and service the violin while keeping its integrity and construction virtually intact. 

Violin Tuning

From low to high, strings on the violin tune to G3, D4, A4, and E5. Therefore, the lowest note it can execute tuned normally is G3. The highest note is less well defined. E7, two octaves above the open string E5 can be considered a realistic limit for orchestra pieces. However, often it’s possible to play higher, depending on the fingerboard length and the violinist’s skill.