The violin and viola are the smallest instruments of the string family. They come from a very long line of instruments dating back to the 16th century. Even before then were early versions like the rebec and viol, each with a different shape to what we know today and played in a different way.
Italian instrument makers helped develop our modern stringed stringed instruments and these instruments that were made at that time and still exist are treasured. The great string making families of that time are still household names. The best known is of course Stradaveri but there was also Amati, Guaneri and Guadagnini. This long history can still be seen in the names used for each part of the violin. The strings have not changed much since these early days, unlike the winds, and still use traditional materials like horsehair bows.Many violinists still even have gut strings!
These instruments now come in different sizes to adjust for a growing child. As the child develops they must trade up to a larger instrument. To measure for an appropriate violin (or viola) extend the student’s left arm palm up and select the size of instrument that enables him to curl fingers around the scroll and into the peg box comfortably.This is just a rough guide, a better judge of size is best done by a qualified violin teacher.The photo below shows all the usual sizes of violin and the age that each is played.
Violins are often made for very small people Here is a 1/16 size violin played by a three- year- old
Listen to a six- year-old play a quarter size violin
These part sizes interestingly do no refer to the actual dimension of the instrument, thus a 1/2 size violin is not half the size of a full sized one.
It is only when a full sized violin is played that you hear the resonance expected from a violin.
Listen to a 14- year-old play a full size violin
The viola is basically a large violin. Its size makes it lower and more mellow than the violin. Many who do not like the high pitched sound of the violin, love the viola.
Here is a 14 year old performing on a viola
The viola is basically a large violin. Its size makes it lower and more mellow than the violin. Many who
Cello is this instrument’s shortened name. It is played sitting down with the instrument held between the knees. Its bigger size means it has a beautiful mellow sound, lower than the viola, but it can also play very high. Cellos like violins come in different sizes. If the cello is the right size it should rest at mid chest while in playing position with the tuning pegs against the ear, but again it needs a professional to assess the size needed.
Watch a half sized cello played by an eleven year old
This instrument, although the largest of the strings, is also the most versatile. It will happily play as a part of a classical orchestra, but also belongs to a jazz band, concert band, folk bands. An electric form was created and this is an important part of every rock band. Don’t be put off by its size, it also is made in various sizes to suit the height of the player.Here is a young player performing on a cello which has been strung as a double bass.
Even it is so large, the double bass can still sound beautiful.
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