Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Ten surprising facts about the violin

By Ayana Young


As one of the most renowned and recognizable instruments in the modern orchestra, the violin’s petite shape and magnified sound charms listeners, players and dreamers alike. Beyond the aesthetic and captivating sound, the history of the violin is just as enticing.

  1. A 3-string version of the violin was portrayed in an early 16th Century painting from Ferrera, Italy, thought to be used as solely a dance-music instrument.
  2. A beroza is a pasty substance used for rubbing the bow of a sārangi, violin, etc.
  3. Shin’ichi Suzuki, a Japanese violin teacher, founded the Tokyo String Orchestra which introduced baroque music to Japanese listeners.
  4. The colloquial term for a violin is the fiddle often referring to when it is specially tuned and played in a folk style.
  5. In the early 1900s America saw the emergence of renowned African American fiddlers like Howard Armstrong, who in 1930 recorded what is now a regarded as a legendary session for Vocalion Records with the Tennessee Chocolate Drops and played in the 1933 World’s Fair.

  6. violin-small

  7. The electrofonic violin is a semi‐electric instrument developed in 1938 by Marshall Moss, leader of the National Symphony Orchestra, Washington, and William Bartley, an engineer.
  8. Antonio Stradivari, widely regarded as the greatest ever violin maker, learnt his craft from Nicola Amati before working independently.
  9. Johann Sebastian Bach’s mastery of the violin is often noted as secondary to his mastery of the keyboard, but his skill with both was astounding. The themes in his solo-violin works mirror the general principle underlying all Bach’s music: the heightening of activity as musical materials succeed one another and return in more elaborate guises. These works are analogous to other cycles such as the Brandenburg Concertos, the Inventions, the Well-Tempered Clavier.
  10. Niccolo Paganini is often recognized as one of the greatest violin virtuosos whose works include 24 Caprices Le Carnaval de Venise, Le Streghe God Save the King and Harold en Italie—which, upon him falling ill, he was never able to play.
  11. While India has its own tradition of bowed instruments referenced in ancient music treatises and mythical accounts of India, the violin was swiftly adopted by Indian musicians following its introduction in the 18th century through French traders on the eastern coast.

Do you have an interesting fact about violins you would like to share? Comment below and share with your friends!

Ayana Young works in online marketing at Oxford University Press.

The Oxford Index is a free search and discovery tool from Oxford University Press. The Index is designed to help you begin your research journey by providing a single, convenient search portal for trusted scholarship from Oxford and our partners, and then point you to the most relevant related materials — from journal articles to scholarly monographs.

Subscribe to the OUPblog via email or RSS.
Subscribe to only music articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS.
Image credit: Violin via Shutterstock.

Read More in…

Recent Comments

  1. Hank Cash

    Um, really?

  2. Katlynn Hanks

    In 1759 Joseph Merlin invented roller-skates. To introduce his invention he entered a ballroom playing the violin. Unfortunately he did not know how to stop and crashed into a full-length mirror, breaking his violin.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *