Whether you adore country picking’ on the fiddle or Stravinsky compositions in the concert hall, violins have a sound easily adaptable to a variety of musical genres. They have always looked different since their heyday during the 16th century, but the violin has a recognizable tone and appearance. Some of the most valued instruments have sold for millions of dollars at auction. National Violin Day on December 13 recognizes a most versatile instrument’s impact and cultural contributions.
National Violin Day Timeline
The First Violin
Italian violin maker Andrea Amati built the earliest documented four-string violin.
Louis XIII created a violin orchestra
His “King’s 24 Violins” orchestra became a royal sensation and raised the profile of this exciting instrument.
British violinist sets world record
Ben Lee is believed to be among the world’s fastest violinists, having set the record for playing the composition “Bumblebee” in just over a minute.
A Japanese fundraising auction brought in $15 million for “Lady Blunt,” an original 1721 Stradivarius.
National Violin Day Activities
- Enjoy your favorite violin movies
- National Violin Day gives you absolute permission to indulge yourself with anything violin-related. We suggest you make it a cinema night. Kick off your “violin-a-thon” with every movie you can think of that revolves around violins. We’re going to get you started with three — “The Red Violin,””The Devil’s Violinist,” and “Soloist.”
- Listen to as much violin music as you can stand
- National Violin Day encourages you to pack your iPod with endless violin tracks. Hop from genre to genre, starting with Paganini compositions and ending up with your favorite bluegrass songs. Invite some friends, cook some food, and there you go.
- Sign up for violin lessons
- National Violin Day is your time to fulfill a lifelong fantasy finally. You want to play the violin! So sign up for classes. But while you’re learning, be a good neighbor and pass out earplugs to the folks upstairs and across the hall. They’ll love you for it.
5 Noteworthy Things To Remember About Violins
- They can help you relax
- Fictional detective Sherlock Holmes played the violin as a way to fight stress.
- They’re older than you think
- There’s evidence that Turks and Mongolian horse riders from inner Asia were the world’s earliest fiddlers, playing a double-stringed upright instrument made with a horsehair bow and strings — which also featured a horse’s head at the neck.
- They’re good exercise
- If you’re trying to lose weight, you can burn 170 calories per hour playing the violin.
- Early compositions were not written explicitly for violins
- Before the 1600s, violins were used to accompany choruses; it wasn’t until later that pieces highlighted their solo musical virtuosity.
- A misconception about what strings were made of
- In the past, it was said that the lines were made of ‘catgut,’ which makes people think of cats — but the word came from ‘cattle gut’ because the lines were made from the cleaned intestines of cattle or sheep, which were being harvested for food (no cattle or sheep were harmed for the sole purpose of creating a violin).
Why We Love National Violin Day
- Violins and fiddles are pretty much the same
- The burning question among aficionados on National Violin Day is whether or not violins and fiddles are the same. By and large, they are, with the sole difference being that a fiddle can have a fifth string, unlike most violins, which only have four lines. Country music fiddlers further differentiate that the fifth string is plucked and not bowed. Both instruments are usually made from either maple or spruce woods that give the instrument a beautiful finish — and the hairs on the bow are made from the hair from a horse’s tail (no horses are harmed in making a violin or fiddle bow).
- They were not always considered high-class instruments
- Violins date back to the Persian Byzantine era of the ninth century. Of course, they didn’t look like modern violins, but they were strung. There were variations, including the Arabic rebar, the medieval fiddle, and other portable stringed instruments. Unfortunately for the violin, before the 16th century, musicians who played them were considered low-class and unable to play music in prestigious courts or stately homes. This impression may have changed when professional violinists in the Italian town of Brescia, a center of violin-making, petitioned the government to consider their trade more highly so as not to be associated with the “base, vile, and crude” music of more common musicians.
- Violins showed up in works of art
- The Europeans prized violins. One way of expressing their stature was to include them in paintings in churches and palaces. During the Baroque artistic period, violins started popping up everywhere in images. After all, how could you have a decent celestial choir without violins? It’s why you can see early European portraiture depicting cherubs and gods playfully holding or caressing violins.