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Violin family

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The Violin family of instruments was developed in Italy in the 17th Century. The modern violin family consists of the violin, viola and cello, along with the double bass. While the violin, viola and cello are true members of the ancestral violin family, the double bass's origins are generally believed to be of the viol family, due to its sloping shoulders, its tuning, and its sometimes flat back.

Instrument names in the ancestral violin family are all derived from the root viola, which may have come from the Medieval Latin word vitula (meaning "stringed instrument). A violin is a "little viola", a violone is a "big viola" or a "bass viola", and a violoncello (often abbreviated cello) is a "small violone" (or, literally, a "small big viola"). (The violone is not part of the modern violin family; its place is taken by the modern double bass or "bass viol".)

The instruments of the ancestral violin family may be descended in part from the lira da braccio.

[edit] Characteristics

The playing ranges of the instruments in the modern violin family overlap each other, but the tone quality and physical size of each distinguishes them from one another. Both the violin and the viola are played under the chin, the viola being the larger of the two instruments, with a playing range reaching a perfect fifth below the violin's. The cello is played sitting down with the instrument between the knees, and its playing range reaches an octave below the viola's. (The double bass is played standing or sitting on a stool, with a range that typically reaches a minor sixth, an octave, or a ninth below the cello's).

All string instruments share similar form, parts, construction, and function, and the viols bear a particularly close resemblance to the violin family. However, instruments in the ancestral violin family are set apart by similarities in shape, in tuning practice, and in history. They have four strings each, are tuned in fifths (the bass is tuned in fourths), are not fretted, and have four rounded bouts.

[edit] Uses

The members of the ancestral violin family are the most used bowed string instruments in the world today. Although all share a place in classical music, they are also used (less often) in jazz, rock, and other types of popular music, where they are often amplified, or simply created to be used as electric instruments. The violin is also used extensively in fiddle music, country music, and folk music. (The double bass plays an indispensible part in both classical and jazz music forms).

One of the most popular and standardized groupings in classical chamber music, the string quartet, is composed entirely of instruments from the ancestral violin family. This similarity in the manner of sound production allows string quartets to blend their tone colour and timbre more easily than less homogeneous groups. This is particularly notable in comparison to the standard wind quintet, which, although composed entirely of wind instruments, comprises four fundamentally different ways of producing musical pitch.

[edit] See also

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