Instrument of the Month: The Violin
Fun Facts about the Violin
- The violin is the smallest and highest sounding member of the string family.
- The sound of the violin is high, bright, and sweet.
- A standard violin is around 24 inches long.
- The body is constructed generally from a combination of sycamore, pine, spruce, and maple woods. The fingerboard is made from rosewood or ebony.
- The strings are metal or nylon, or occasionally from an organic animal fiber. From left to right, the strings are called G, D, A, and E strings. The names of the strings come from the note each sounds in the “open” position (with no fingers depressed).
- A violin bow is around 29 inches long, made of Pernambuco wood from Brazil, with nylon or horsehair.
- You play the violin by tucking it between your chin and shoulder. Your left hand presses down on the strings to change the notes, and your right hand moves the bow or plucks the strings.
- There are more violins in the orchestra than any other instrument. There can be as many as 30 or more violins in an orchestra!
- In an orchestra, violins get divided into two groups: first and second. First violins often play the melody.
These are the strings of the violin up close!
From left to right, the strings are called G, D, A, and E strings.
Here you can see members of our San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra and how they play the violin.
About the String Family
The string family makes up more than half of the orchestra. Although many of the string instruments look similar, they are very different in size and sounds. As you can probably guess from the name, all of the instruments in this family have strings. All of the string instruments, excerpt the harp, have curvy hollow wooden bodies and long necks. The strings are stretched from the pegs at the top of the neck, over the body, and down to the tailpiece. All can be played with a bow, or by plucking the strings.
Where do you find violins in an orchestra?
There are more violins in the orchestra than any other instrument. How many violins do you see? Count them! (Hint: They are the blue and green instruments!)
In an orchestra, violins get divided into two groups: First Violins and Second Violins. To make them easy to see in this drawing, the First Violins are the blue-colored ones and the Second Violins are green.
Listen to the Violin
Here are two wonderful pieces of music that feature the violin, written by the composer Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741). Vivaldi wrote music about the four seasons of the year. Click on the links to hear his musical snapshots of winter and spring.
Vivaldi – Winter, from The Four Seasons (1:57)
Brrrr! It’s winter, and it’s cold and wet outside. But you’re inside sitting next to the fireplace, all toasty warm. Vivaldi’s music captures the scene. The solo violin creates a mood of peaceful contentment, while the rest of the strings play pizzicato—plucking their strings—to create the sound of raindrops against the windowpane.
After you listen, draw a picture of a winter scene. Play the music again while you draw! Send it to us using the button below.
Vivaldi – Spring, from The Four Seasons (1:15)
It’s springtime! When spring arrives, the birds greet it with their happy songs. Vivaldi’s “birds” are two violins, playing music that sounds like chirping and warbling. All of the strings play at first; then comes the birds’ springtime greeting.
After you listen, draw a picture of birds chirping in springtime. Play the music again while you draw! Send it to us using the button below.
Click the button below to send us your drawing!
Connect the Dots
Be an Artist!
Color in the violin and add a fun background, or draw your own violin. You are the artist and can use whatever colors or designs you like to make it special!
Click the photo to print and draw
Click the button below to send us your art! We will add it to our online KIDS’ GALLERY,
along with these other fine examples of kids’ art:
Build a String Instrument
Lesson Plan for Teachers
Learn More about the Violin
0:01 Introduction: San Francisco Symphony violinist Polina Sedukh explores mood and emotion in music—how the music makes us feel. She shows some of the many different sounds and effects the violin can produce to create a variety of moods and emotions
0:44 Sounds/effects: Singing, whisper, complain or cry, squeak like a rusty door, chirp like a little bird, snapping sounds
2:37 Emotions: Cheerful, fearful, loving, sad, passionate, calm and comforting, worried and searching, charming and humorous, dramatic, scary, spooky, sneaky
9:08 Some other ways music is used: For a happy ending, fiddling, to make someone dance, a trip to the zoo, nature and birds, to soothe someone who is sad, laughing at silly jokes
More Music for Violin
Here is music featuring a solo violin and the orchestra, written by the composer Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908). The music is in two parts: the first is slow and moody, then it speeds up into a wild dance called a tarantella.
INTRODUCTION AND TARANTELLA
Composed by Pablo de Sarasate
Featured Dance: Tarantella
The tarantella is a fast dance with jerky movements. According to an old folk legend, this lively dance got its name from a certain kind of spider—the tarantula! As the story goes, anyone who was bitten by a tarantula danced this wild dance as the cure. It sounds scary, but the frenzied motions of the tarantella are really fun! Many people dance the tarantella today as part of festive celebrations, such as weddings, birthdays, and picnics. This is the composer Pablo de Sarasate’s version of a tarantella, which he wrote for solo violin and orchestra.