How does a violin work?

How does a violin work?

5 minutes

How does a violin work? The brilliant Violinist Jamie Hutchinson will tell you all about it.

Jamie covers all the basic mechanics of the Violin, including:

  • What strings are made of (and what they used to be made of…)
  • How to pluck strings
  • How to use a bow
  • How the strings vibrate to make the sound
  • How wood can change the sound quality

Jamie shows how a violin works by demonstrating on her 300-year-old Italian violin.

Watch the footage now, filmed at Abbey Road Studios, then head over to look at our Beginner’s Guide To The Violin.

So How Does a Violin Work?

A violin produces sound by the vibration of the strings. Violinists need two techniques using the player’s two hands to make a sound:

  • The left hand is used for producing specific pitches by pressing down the strings at different points along the fingerboard.
  • The right hand is used to vibrate the strings by either plucking them (known as pizzicato) or by bowing them (known as arco).
  • The bow is made from horsehair and has a wooden back to keep the hair tight in place.
  • The player tucks the instrument between their chin and shoulder. Use your right hand to bow or pluck, and the left hand on the fingerboard.
  • When you bow or pluck a string, it makes that string vibrate very fast in a circular motion (look at our video to see slow-motion footage of the string).

Techie Alert

To make music, the air around the vibrations from the strings compresses the air molecules, allowing space for the air to retract (called, rarefactions).

Humans can hear these 'oscillations' because they occur on frequencies that our ears can listen to.

It's incredible to realize that music is simply vibrations.

How sound is produced through vibration

Other parts of the violin​

Parts of a violin

Scroll and Tuning Pegs | The neck of the violin is carved out from a single piece of wood. At the end, the wood curves around – we call this the scroll. The strings are attached to the tuning pegs, which are inserted into the scroll incredibly tightly, and held in place only by friction.

Nut | A small piece of wood between the pegbox and fingerboard. It has four notches, one for each string to emerge over the fingerboard.

Fingerboard | The surface where the fingers press down on the strings.

Ribs | The thin strips of wood that wind around the sides of the violin, connecting the top and the back to form the soundbox of the violin.

Strings | The length of the string affects the frequency. The violin has four strings; E, A, D and G. They are made from steel, although in the ‘old days’, they were made from dried out sheep intestine! Yuk!

Purfling | A thin strip of three-ply wood in a channel around the edge of the violin, protecting the instrument from damage.

F-holes | The two holes from which sound emerges are called the F-holes. They are shaped like curved f’s.

Fine tuners | Small tuners located on the tailpiece. They tune the violin but in smaller increments than the pegs do. Smaller violins have fine tuners for all strings, but full-size violins tend to have them only for the E string.

Chin rest | A shaped piece of wood or plastic on which you rest your chin and jawbone. It’s attached near the tailpiece.

Bass bar | The bass bar is a part that runs the length of the body, from the bass side of the Bridge to the neck. The bass bar allows the energy from the Bridge to transfer to a large area of the top plate.

Other parts of the violin

A violin bow is a wooden stick that is strung with horsehair. There are five parts of the bow that a string player needs to know:

Parts of a violin bow
  • The bow stick | The wooden backbone that runs down the length of the entire bow.
  • The bow hair | Horsehair string parallel to the bow stick; creates the vibration against the string.
  • The tip | The uppermost portion of the bow.
  • The frog | A small piece of wood attached to the handle of the bow; this is the other place where the hair is attached to the actual wood of the bow.
  • The grip | A rubber and metal part near the base of the bow stick.

Summary

The violin is an incredibly complex instrument that is massively versatile. Understanding how the instrument works and what the individual components are will help you become a better violinist overtime…

Let us know in the comments below if you liked the video.

How does a violin work?

FAQ's

How does violin make sound?

The violin makes a sound by either plucking a string with your finger or bowing a string with your bow. This makes the string vibrate, which sends sound waves through the body of the instrument.

Is violin really hard to play?

The violin is hard to play, but all instruments are hard to play. Starting to learn a new instrument is a steep learning curve, but one which is worth it. Find out more here.

Is violin good for beginners?

The violin is an excellent instrument for beginners. Group classes are standard, and being able to play in an orchestra along with many other violinists is a thrill, unlike any other. Click here to find out more about the violin.

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