The violin is one of the most famous instruments in the world.
Everyone knows what a violin looks like and probably what one
sounds like, but not many people know the limits and capabilities
of the violin.
The violin was born in Italy during the 16th century. Andrea Amati (1511-1577), an Italian that lived during this time, was perhaps the inventor of the violin. This man was commissioned by the French king Charles IX to create these instruments. In the 16th century, violins looked very different -- they were covered with ornate drawings and paintings. Very few violins from this era still exist today, and they are considered priceless artifacts.
Knowledge of violin making continued to pass through the Amati
family for several generations. Eventually, the highly prized and
secret method for creating violins found its way to two men:
Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) and Andrea Guarneri (1626-1698).
Violins made by Stradivari and the Guarneri family still exist and
are some of the most expensive and most highly prized violins
After surviving for about 300 years, these antique violins have desirable resonant and sonorous qualities. As all string instruments receive high amounts of usage over a long period of time, the sound will gradually improve. To understand why this happens, we must first look at the mechanics of sound production in a violin.
As the bow is drawn across the string, the string vibrates. As the string vibrates, the wood that it is directly touching begins to vibrate also. Instantly, the entire violin vibrates at the same frequency as the string. This is what causes the sound to be produced. Particularly good violins have wood that vibrates very easily. In less expensive and high-quality instruments, the wood does not tend to vibrate as easily, and less sound is produced.
As a violin is played often over the years, tiny particles are shaken out of the wood. In addition, the vibrating wood becomes more flexible and able to vibrate. Together, these effects allow the sound to become more resonant and vibrant. This is why those old violins by Stradivari are worth so much today.
Of course this process of aging applies to all string
instruments, not just violins. Extremely old violas and cellos made
by Stradivari are prized just as much as their violin