Violin Keywords

Scroll: The top of the neck of the violin, shaped like a scroll. The peg box is found connected to and below the scroll.

Peg Box: Found below the scroll, this part of the violin holds the pegs which tune the strings they are connected to.

Fine Tuners: Found on the tail piece of the violin these are connected to the strings and when turned put pressure, or release pressure on the strings to make the sound produced sharper or flatter.

Tailpiece: the triangular piece of metal at the bottom of the violin, the strings are attached to this and it usually has a set of fine tuners, one on each string so that the strings can be tuned very carefully within a tone or two.

Luthier: a person who makes violins.  A Luthier is also a person who specialised in repairing violins. Luthiers train for years to be skilled in the exact art of violin making and repairing.

Rosin: A plant extract that is rubbed on the hairs of the bow to lubricate it.

Silk scarf: a silk scarf is put in the case to protect the violin

Pegs: The pegs are found in the peg box and the strings are attached to them. There are pegs, one for each string.

Duster: Just an ordinary household duster, these are kept in violin cases to clean the violin with.

Shoulder rest: A strap that attaches to the violin and rests on the shoulder.

Tuning fork: A metal fork tuned to a particular note, the fork resonates and produces the note when hit on a hard surface.

Electric tuner: A small machine that tells you if you are sharp or flat when you play into it. They are available very cheaply.

Violin Rosin

Although all violinists used rosin, not many of them know its origins. Also, rosin is not just used for violinists. Lets take a look at where rosin came from and its many uses.

Whats in a name?

Rosin is also called colophony or greek pitch. The name colophony comes from ‘colophonia resina’ which is derived from the country Colophon which is an ancient Ionic city.

What is it made of?

Rosin as we know it is a tree resin in solid form. It is obtained from pine trees and other conifer plants. This raw material is then heated to vaporize the harmful element of it, the liquid terpene. This new purified form of rosin is then left to solidify and shaped into ‘cakes’ so they can be sold. When sold it is a golden yellow/brown color usually but can range from very light yellow to very dark brown/black. At room temperature it is very brittle and can smash when dropped but it does melt at very high temperatures.

Types of Rosin

Another facts that many violinists do not know is that rosin comes in two different versions for two different seasons. The lighter coloured rosins are more suited to summer and the darker rosins are more suited to winter. The darker rosins are softer and this means that they become sticky in the summer heat, making them unsuitable for use in the summertime. Lighter rosin is more suitable for the winter months and also more suitable for violins and violas, lower instruments like cellos and double basses need a darker rosin.

How it is used on a violin bow?

The rosin cake is rubbed along the hairs of the bow, as this action happens the rosin will come away onto the hairs of the bow in powder form. Violinists put rosin on their bows to lubricate it so that the bow hairs slide across the strings with ease.

Other uses for rosin.

  • Rosin is a component in printing inks and can also be found in photocopying ink and laser printing paper.
  • Gymnasts rub it on their hands to improve their grip
  • Bull riders also use it for grip on their hands
  • Ballet players sometimes rub rosin onto their shoes before performing to avoid slipping.

An interesting fact:

The dust that comes from rosin can sometimes be irritating to string players and some are even allergic to it, these days manufacturers make hypoallergenic rosin to combat this.

Hofner Violins

Hofner Violins

Hofner violins were started up by Karl Hofner, for who the company is named, in 1887. It was founded in Schonbach in Germany by Hofner who was a master violin maker and the company soon became the largest manufacturer of violins, and stringed instruments, in Germany.

His reputation was established way before World War 1 and in 1907 Karl Hofner was commissioned to repair the violin of the Saxon King. This was a very important job and it could make or break Hofners career. He fixed the violin to the highest standard and the Saxon King was very pleased.

Karl Hofner had two sons, Josef and Walter who had both joined their fathers company by 1921. Hofner as a company had entered the worldwide export market by then and were starting to get a good reputation as stringed instrument providers around the world.

Today, Hofner still produce stringed instruments for export all over the world and since their beginning to the present day have sold over two million stringed and fretted instruments.

NB: Hofner make violins from student brands to professional instruments and everything that comes in between. They also sell bows separately from violins.

H5-V

The Hofner H5-V is available in full size, three quarter size, half size and quarter size. It is designed as a student violin, for use at entry level, and accommodates a student who is looking for the very best in an entry level violin. The violin is made of solid flamed maple wood with genuine purfling. It is hand varnished with shaded spirit varnish. It is available not only in the original famed finish but in golden brown and dark brown.

H66HV-V

This violin comes from Hofner’s ‘Concert’ range, which are slightly better than the intermediate range. This particular violin is made from solid flamed maple and hand varnished using traditional methods that date back to when Hofner first started making Violins in Germany. The violin comes with Dominant strings and is available in every size from full size to quarter size.

H215-AS-V

This violin is called the ‘Stradivari’ as it is modelled on one of the famous Stradivarius violins. It is only available in full size. The violin is new, but has been tastefully aged to give it the look of an antique.

White Instruments

An interesting point about Hofner as a company is that they produce what they call ‘white instruments’. Which is basically a violin with only the fingerboard attached and no varnish (hence the name ‘white’. These violin shells are made for people who want to make a project out of putting a violin together, Hofner also sell a large number of violin accessories which can be used to put together one of these white violins.

Cecilio Violins

Cecilio violins take their name from the patron saint of music, St Cecilia. Cecilios main aim is to produce high quality instruments at affordable prices. Their buisness started out when they realised that many people, especially famillies with children, where trying to figure out how to afford good quality instruments. Cecilio then decided to make it their mission to make instruments that were both affordable and a good quality.

All Cecilio violins are handcrafted and are aproved as they are designed with the student instrumentalist in mind. Each instrument is tested at the factories where it is made and then again when it gets to its destination. Cecilio violins want to make sure that you get the best quality possible from your violin.

NB: As well as strings Cecilio also sell Woodwind and Brass instruments, for more information on these visit www.ceciliomusic.com

A wide range of string instruments…

Cecilio make Violins, Violas and Cellos (although not double basses).

Rosewood Student Violin

The Rosewood Student Violin (code CVN-100) is sold at $199.99. The body ofthe violin is made from a hard carved solid spruce top. The back and sides are made from solid maple which is a hardwood. The violin is finished with a high quality varnish. The fingerboard, pegs and chin rest are all made of Rosewood.

This violin is available in all sizes from full size to the smallest 1/32 for the tiniest hands.

CVN-700

Hand Rubbed Oil Finish Highly Flamed 1 Piece Back Violin

This violin is the best violin that Cecilio has to offer and is sold at $1,299.99. The violin is made from solid maple and spruce. The maple used in this violin is aged for a minimum of 7 years. The back and sides of this violin have a flamed look on the back and sides.

This violin comes in full size only and comes with a case, in a cresent shape. The case also comes with a hygrometer, inbuilt padded neck restraint and bridge protector.

It was red and yellow and green and black and…

CVN-300 Violin in Purple Color

Just like Andrew Lloyd Webbers ‘Joseph and his Technicoloured Dreamcoat’, Cecilio have a range of brightly coloured violins to appeal to children. So far in the range they have black, blue, purple and pink violins. These violins are all available in full size and come with lightweight hard cases, a brazilwood bow (with genuine unbleached horse hair). The strings on these violins are described as ‘high quality’ but aren’t specified in brand. These violins also come with an extra bridge which is useful to have  and something that most violins don’t come with. The case also comes with a rosin.

The violins themselves are made from solid spruce tops and solid maple back and sides. The fingerboard is made of ebony as are the pegs and chin rest. The tailpiece is made of an unspecified metal alloy and comes with four fine tuners which is useful as not all new violins come with fine tuners.

Violin Bows

The bow is an essential part of playing the violin. Without a bow the violin can’t make much sound. Not many people know that it only takes one string to create a sound from the violin. A violin bow however has many hundreds of hairs attached to it.

A violin bow can be very expensive. Some violin bows can cost as much as the violin. As a general rule the bow should cost half the amount of money that the violin cost. Professionals however can pay thousands (and rarely millions) for their bows. A violin bow is made from wood and horse hair although some are made from synthetic hair, these are usually the cheaper and lesser quality bows.

In recent years bows have started to be made from fiber glass and it makes them fairly inexpensive. This is a great idea for violinist who is clumsy and tends to break their bows a lot. Fiber glass is a tougher material than wood and doesn’t break as easily as wood. So if you’re the kind of person who breaks things easily it may be wise to invest in a fiber glass bow. Fiber glass bows are also a popular choice as a practise bow.

Structure of the bow

At the end of the bow is a structure called the ‘frog’. This clamps the bow hairs to the bow at one end and has a metal adjuster which is twisted to adjust the tightness of the hairs on the bow. The hairs are clamped at the other end of the bow, which is the tip. The tip of the bow is the most delicate part of the bow and can break easily if the bow is not treated well.

How to care for your bow

Even though the bow hairs must be tightened in order for it to be played they must not be tightened when the bow is put away. If the bow hairs are tightened for a long period of time then it could cause damage to the bow. The hairs on the bow are also replaceable and must be replaced every so often. Professional musicians usually do this once a year or before if the bow looses too much hair. Vigarous violin playing can result in the hairs on the bow breaking and having to be removed. The hair on the bow must also be treated well. Violinist put a substance called rosin on their bows to lubricate it and help it slide across the bow. Rosin is a plant extract which is collected and formed into a cake to dry, that solid cake is then dragged across the bow and the rosin rubs off on the hairs.

Yamaha Electric Violins

Yamaha Electronic Violins

Yamaha are a Japanese company which make everything from violins to motorbikes. They have been making instruments for 50 years. Yamaha are most known for their pianos which are made in Japan and exported all over the world. They also make acoustic violins which are starting to be really favoured by professional musicians.

Yamaha’s electric violins look like you would expect an electric violin to. Their bodies are mostly cut away and areas for plugging in amplifiers and pickups.

Yamaha make their violins, and especially their electric violins, with the performer and the needs of the performer in mind.

EV – 205

The EV – 205 is described by Yamaha as giving a ‘big, expressive sound’ which will hold its own in a band but still has the characteristics that an acoustic violin has. It can still make that delicate sound of an acoustic. One of the great features about electric violins is that they can be used as an acoustic as well, they won’t produce as good a sound but it means that they can be used for practising on.

One of the most defining features of the EV-205 is that it has the option to add a 5th string, a C which is a 5th beneath the G string which is traditionally the lowest string on a violin. Many contempory violinists use violins with an extra string so that it gives them extra range and a lower range. The E string is the highest string on the violin but obviously higher notes can be played. By adding an extra string to the violin, it means notes below a G can be played, this gives the violin the range of a vviola and more. The 5 string model also has a wider neck and wider bridge in order to accommodate the extra string.

EV – 204

This electric violin has 4 strings so in that sense it is more traditional than the EV-205. It comes in three colours, one of which is a natural wood colour. The EV-204 has the left quarter cut away. And doesn’t have any noticeable buttons or dials on its body. The weight of the EV-204 is 717 grams including batteries which makes it quite heavy for a violin. The entire violin body is made of maple and the fingerboard is made of ebony. Both of these woods are hard woods which means that they’re hardwearing above all. Soft woods often ‘bend’ and warp in humid weathers but hard woods do this a lot less.

Fender Electric Violins

Fender Electric Violins

Fender are originally an electric guitar manufacturer and their name has been associated with all things electrical in music for many years. Fender dates back to 1945 when they first started up.

Their electric violins are of a very good quality and can cost from many hundreds of dollars to many thousands of dollars. Fender have also made digital violins but these are less popular as electric violins are more used by performers.

One point to note about Fender electric violins are that they are quite full bodied. Lots of electric violins have cut away bodies but it seems that Fender wanted to keep the more traditional shape.

Fender FV-1 Violin

Fender call this violin a ‘great alternative to a traditional violin’. The FV-1 is very quiet without amplification and is quiet enough to practise on. When plugged in it can be incredibly loud and great for playing in loud music venues.

The Fender FV-1 is made from a solid spruce top, it has a maple back and maple sides and neck. The finger board is made from the hard wood ebony, the bridge is made of hardwood as are the pegs in the peg box. This violin comes with a bow, the hair comes from the tail of a horse and isn’t synthetic. The violin also comes with a hard case which is perfect for travelling and a rosin so that the bow can stay lubricated. There is a common misconception that because electric violins are electric, the bow doesn’t need to be too decent because all the sound will be produced by the electricity and not the strings vibrating when the bow is dragged across them. This isn’t the case as the vibrations still need to be created to be picked up by the pickup and for  a sound to be created.

FV-3 Deluxe Violin

The FV-3 Deluxe violin looks more like a traditional violin due to its paintwork and materials. One of the features which makes it look more modern is that it doesn’t have a scroll and just a peg box instead. The top of the violin is made of solid flamed maple wood. The word flamed is referring to the patterning of the wood. The back, sides and neck of the violin are also made of solid maple. The FV-3 comes with a bow, complete with finest horse hair. The case is a hard case and comes with a built in hydrometer. The violin can also comes in a ‘sunburst’ finish.

The FV-1 is priced at $719.99 and is the cheaper of the two violins featured on the Fender website. The FV-3 deluxe is priced at $899.99 and is more expensive. There is no specific reason for this is but it is probably because of the wood used for the body of the violin.

Violin Strings

Violin Strings

The violin is a string instrument and has four strings. Each string is tuned to a perfect 5th above the string before. The lowest string is a G which is the G below middle C on a piano. The next string is D, a perfect 5th above the G. The third string is an A and the fourth is an E.

The G is the thickest string and the E is the thinnest. Because of this the E string is the one that is most likely to break. The strings are also priced according to their thickness, the G string is the thickest and the most expensive and the E string is the thinnest and least expensive.

How to fit strings onto a violin

The strings are fairly easy to fit onto the violin. The strings are first attached to the pegs. There are four pegs in the peg box which is located beneath the scroll of the violin. Each peg has a hole in it, the end of the string is inserted into that hole, the string is then wound round the peg. Each string as a coloured section and all of this should be wound round the string. The other end of the string as a metal ball which fits neatly into a slot in the tailpiece of the violin, the string is then rested on the bridge in the correct slot. The string is then tightened by turning the peg. The peg is turned until it is tuned to the right note.

Brands of strings

One of the most common brands of strings is Dominant strings.

Dominant

Dominant strings are made of aluminium on perlon and come in all sizes. They also have a ball end. Dominant strings are very popular and are in the middle range of strings. Dominant make strings for Violins, Violas and Cellos.

Pirastro Olive

These strings are made of gut. Many years ago all strings were made of cat or other animals guts. It is not specified what type of gut these strings are made from. However they are wound with aluminium. They have a black binding at the peg end and a metal ball on the end.

Corelli Alliance

These strings are made from plain steel and can either have a bell or loop on the end depending on what type of tailpiece the violin has.

Most strings are sold and kept coiled up in a paper envelope. Some are sold straight and kept in tubes, most higher end violin cases come with string tubes so that the strings can be kept straight.

Violin Cases

Violin Cases

Violin cases typically come in two shapes, oblong and rectangular. Choosing a violin case isn’t an exact science it is more up to your price range and the style of case that you want. All cases have around the same amount of protection to the violin. There are some specialist cases for violins to travel in and these generally tend to be more padded than ordinary cases.

Hard Cases

The term ‘hard case’ refers to the outer coating of the violin case which is generally made from a hard plastic and lined with a velvety material to cushion the violin. A basic hard case will have slots for two bows but not any more than that. It will also have a small pocket inside the case for rosin and a cleaning cloth.

An example of a cheap hard case is this case from vivaceviolin.com

 

RRPing at £70/$140 this is a budget case but is hardwearing and does the job well. It weighs 2kg and measures 375mm in length. The outside of the case has two little locking clips to keep the case together. It is unclear from the website if the case has zips but most hard cases don’t have.

This next case is an example of a hard case with lots of extras. The price of this case is £400/$800 approximatley.

 

This case has a hard back but as you can see from the picture, a very sophisticated interior. This case  is meant for travelling, with its hard exterior and shock absorbant insides, any violin placed inside this case will be very well protected from any bumps or knocks. This case is constructed from a series of high performance materials , one of which being a three ply, AIREX structure. The technology involved means that the case is incredibly lightweight. It is also watertight due to the airseal around it. It also has four bow holders and a string tube for any spare strings that have to be kept straight.

One brand of violin cases (and all over instrument cases) is Gig. Known as Gig Bags these cases are ultra modern and have been very popular with children and teenagers. Unfortunatley even though they look good the same can not be said about their quality. The zips have often been reported as problematic in Gig cases and often break between 6 months and a year of use. Gig cases are often brightly coloured which makes them appeal to children even more. However if you are buying a case for your child don’t be fooled by the bright colours and kooky design, in my experience it is better to go for a duller looking case that does the job well.