3933161A Dictionary of Music and Musicians — ViolinEdward John Payne

VIOLIN (Fiddle), Viol, Viola, Violone, Violoncello. Portable instruments of different sizes, constructed on the common principle of a resonant wooden box, pierced with two soundholes, and fitted with a bridge, over which several gut strings attached to a tailpiece are stretched by means of pegs. The strings are stopped with the left hand on a fingerboard, and set in vibration with a bow held in the right. Being the only instruments with strings in common orchestral use, they are usually called 'stringed instruments,' and collectively 'the strings': but the German name 'bowed instruments' is more accurate.[1] They have been developed by the application of the bow to the Greek lyre and monochord; and their common name (Viol, Violin, Fiddle) is derived from the Latin name by which a small sort of lyre appears to have been known throughout the Roman empire. The Latin name for any kind of string is 'fides,' of which the diminutive is 'fidicula': and by a grammatical figure which substitutes the part for the whole, these terms came to designate the lyre itself, just as we now speak of the quartet of fiddles collectively as 'the strings.' In the derivative tongues the diminutive assumed various forms, which may be divided into two groups, thus:—

Latin Fides, a string
(Southern Group
Low Latin.)
(Northern Group
Old French.)
(also, Vitula, Vidula,
Vidella, Figella, &c.)


High German Fiedel
Spanish Víhuela ViolaProvencal

Low German Vedel
(French Viole,
English Viol)
Fr. Violon[3]

The Violin is the most popular and useful of all portable instruments, and indeed of all instruments except the pianoforte, and it has considerable importance as being the principal instrument in the orchestra, the main body of which is composed of violins, in their three sizes of trebles, altos or tenors, and basses. It is nearer to the human voice in quality, compass, and facility of execution than any other instrument; few are simpler in construction, and none is so cheap or so easily mastered, provided the learner sets rightly about it. In addition to the popularity which it enjoys on these accounts, the fiddle exercises an unique charm over the mind from the continuity of its existence and usefulness. Most people are aware that 'an old fiddle is better than a new one.' This, as will appear further on, is not absolutely true; although probably the majority of the fiddles in use are not new, very many being one, two, and even three hundred years old. A violin, if it be only well-made to begin with, can by timely and judicious rehabilitation, be made to last practically for ever, or at least to outlast the lifetime of any particular possessor: and few things are more fascinating than putting an old disused Violin through this process, and reawakening its musical capacities. The Violin thus enjoys a sort of mysterious immortality, the effect of which is often enhanced by the groundless idea that no good fiddles have been made since the golden age of the Cremona makers, which terminated 120 years ago, and that the secrets of violin-making are lost. In connexion with this, a good deal of enthusiasm has been lavished by connoisseurs on the beauty of design and varnish of the old Cremona Violins, and even in some useful and reputable works on this subject this enthusiasm has been carried to a point where it can only be described as silly and grotesque. A fiddle, after all, even a Stradivari, is not a work of pure art, like a piece of painting or sculpture: it is as merely a machine as a watch, a gun, or a plough. Its main excellences are purely mechanical, and though most good fiddles are also well-designed and handsome, not a few are decidedly ugly. Leopold Mozart, in his Violin-School, has some pertinent remarks on this fallacy. To choose a fiddle for its outward symmetry and varnish, he says, is like choosing a singing bird for its fine feathers.

Instruments more or less corresponding to our fiddle have been in use from very early times, and their origin has been the subject of much speculation. Bowed instruments have long been in use among various Oriental peoples: and this fact, interpreted by the fallacy that all inventions have their ultimate origin in the East, has led many to ascribe an Oriental origin to our bowed instruments. Strict examination compels us to reject this view. The harp and lyre were borrowed by the Greeks from Egypt, probably, like the alphabet, through Phœnicia: but here the debt of Europe to the stringed instrument makers of the East begins and ends. The Arabic and Hindoo instruments from which Fétis and others deduce the Violin, evidently belong to a totally distinct family. Their resonant box consists of a small drum, perforated by a stick, the top of which serves as a fingerboard, while the lower end is rested on the ground during performance. Now it can be shown that until the 15th century no European bowed instrument, except the Marine Trumpet, which is a direct descendant of the Greek monochord, was rested on the ground during performance. [See Tromba Marina.] All were played overhand, and were rested on or against the upper part of the performer's body. This alone, independently of all inconsistencies of construction, distinguishes them from the Rebab and the Ravanastram, and strengthens our conviction of their affinity with the Lyre. Most Eastern bowed instruments appear to be rude imitations of those of Europe; and the development of the latter is so clearly traceable that it is superfluous to seek their origin elsewhere. The fiddle has developed out of the lyre and monochord, just as our music has developed out of the diatonic scale which the Greeks deduced from the use of those instruments.

Though the plurality of strings of our bowed instruments, and even their common name[4] are borrowed from the lyre, their principal parts, the elongated resonant box with its soundholes, the fingerboard, and the moveable bridge, come from the monochord. As early as the legendary age of Pythagoras the Greeks obtained the intervals of the scale by cutting off the aliquot parts of the monochord by means of a moveable bridge. For this the pressure of the finger was an obvious substitute: and practical use of the monochord in training the voice must have early suggested the discovery that its tones could be prolonged by rubbing, instead of plucking them with the plectrum or finger.[5] The lyre suggested plurality of strings, and furnished a model of manageable size. Given the lyre and the monochord, the fiddle must evidently have been developed sooner or later: and we now know that as early as the 3rd century b.c. an instrument something between the two, and curiously reminding us of the stringed instruments of the middle ages, was used in the Greek colonies in Sicily. Fig. 1 represents a specimen carved on a Greek sarcophagus now used as a font in the Cathedral of Girgenti. A bas-relief in the Louvre shows another specimen of the same instrument.[6]

The resemblance between this antique instrument and the rebec and lute is noteworthy; and it possibly represents that particular form of lyre which was denominated 'Fidicula.'

The following genealogical table may assist the reader's memory:—

Marine Trumpet
Troubadour Fiddle
Viol (Viola da Gamba, Violone or common Double Bass)
Lyra, Lirone
Viol d'Amore
Violin (Tenor Violin, Violoncello or Bass Violin)

The Crwth [see that article], which appears to be a survival of the normal pattern of the small Roman Lyre in a remote part of the Empire, is an obvious link between the musical instruments of antiquity and those of modern Europe.[7] When and by whom the bow was applied to these instruments we cannot tell. But certainly long before the 13th century, various modifications of them, some plucked with the fingers or plectrum, others sounded with a bow, were in use throughout Europe under the names of Fiddle, Crowd, Rotte, Geige (Gigue, Jig), and Rebec (Ribeb, Ribible). About the 13th century an improved instrument appeared in the south of Europe concurrently with that remarkable musical and literary movement which is associated with the Troubadours. This instrument was called 'Viole' or 'Vielle'; but it is convenient to assign it the name of Guitar-Fiddle, reserving the term Viol for the later instrument with cornerblocks which is permanently associated with the name. The Guitar-Fiddle, which was intended to accompany the voice, was larger than its predecessors, increased size being made possible by giving it a waist, so as to permit the bow to reach the strings. It may be described as a rude Guitar, Hurdygurdy, and Viol in one; for we find the same instrument, in different instances sometimes plucked, sometimes bowed, and sometimes played with the wheel. When modified and developed for plucking it became the Spanish guitar, for playing with the wheel, the Vielle or Hurdygurdy, and for bowing, the Viol. The Viol was employed, as the Guitar-Fiddle had been, to support the voice: and the development of choral singing led to the construction of viols of various pitches. In the fifteenth century we first meet with experiments in constructing bowed instruments of different sizes, corresponding to the various human voices. Cornerblocks, which mark the transition from the Guitar-Fiddle to the Viol, were probably invented to facilitate the construction of the larger fiddles. Their use prepared a great advance in the art of fiddle-making: for they increased both the tension of the resonant box, and the transmission of the vibration of the strings. The construction of instruments with cornerblocks, in various sizes, was contemporary with the great development of polyphonic choral music in Germany and the Netherlands in the 15th century: and by the beginning of the next century, the Treble or Discant Viol, Tenor, Bass Viol, and Double Bass or Violone, were well established both in those countries and in North Italy.

The 'Violin' model, which differs from the Viol in having shallower sides, with an arched instead of a flat back, and square shoulders, and in being composed in all its parts of curved or arched pieces of wood, glued together in a state of tension on the blocks, first appears in Italy towards the middle of the 16th century. It completely revolutionised the fiddle-maker's art, driving out of use first the Discant Viol, then the Tenor, and last of all the Bass Viol. The Double Bass, alone, which remains a Viol pure and simple, has resisted the inroads of the Violin model in all save the soundholes. The substitution of the Violin for the Viol in all its sizes except the largest, is due to the louder tone of the former instrument, and it accords with a general principle underlying the whole history of musical instruments, which may be stated as the 'survival of the loudest.' The vibrations of the Viol were insufficient to meet the growing demand for power. As a means to this end, Viols were constructed double-strung in fifths and octaves [see Lyre], and also with sympathetic strings of metal, constituting the family of the Viola d'amore and Barytone. [See vol. i. p. 146.] But in the last century the Violin effected a complete rout of all its competitors, and its model was finally adopted for the Tenor and Bass, and sometimes even for the Double-Bass, although for the last-named instrument the Viol model is still generally used in this country. The Viol Double Bass has survived partly because it is much easier to make, partly because from this particular instrument a penetrating, rather than powerful, tone is required. The Violin extinguished the Discant Viol in Italy and Germany in the 17th century, in France and England in the 18th. England held out longest for the Bass Viol or Viola da Gamba, for this instrument continued to be manufactured and played in this country to nearly the end of the last century, when it had everywhere else become practically extinct. The models now in use for our bowed instruments have scarcely changed at all since the time of Stradivari (1680–1730): and his models varied only in the design of certain details from those in use a century earlier.

The Violin, as we have it, is therefore about three centuries old. Of all musical instruments it is the only one that has survived unchanged throughout modern musical history. The lutes, the universal companions of bowed instruments until a century and a half ago, have disappeared as completely as the spinet and the harpsichord. Wind instruments of all kinds have been completely revolutionised, but the Violin has remained for three hundred years the same: and it is probably destined to remain so while music exists, for though numberless attempts have been made to improve it they have been all abandoned.

The model of the Violin, which the experience of centuries and the ingenuity of many generations of mechanics thus wrought out, appears at first sight eccentric and capricious. It might be thought that any sort of resonant box, and any sort of frame strong enough to hold the strings, would equally answer the purpose. The fact however is, that every minute detail has its use and meaning. Suppose, for instance, the fiddle were made with straight sides. In this case, unless either the resonant box is so much narrowed as to spoil the tone, or the bridge is considerably heightened, with the same result, the bow could not reach the outer strings. Suppose, again, it were made of the same general outline, but without cornerblocks, like a guitar. In this case the vibrations would be more numerous, and their force would be consequently less; the tone would be thin, as may be proved with one of the many guitar-shaped fiddles which have been occasionally made in all periods. Suppose it made with a flat back like the Viol: in this case, though the tone might be improved in the high treble, it would be deficient in depth in the middle and bass, unless indeed it were made considerably larger and deeper. If the curves of the various parts or the shape and position of the bridge and sound-holes are materially altered, the capacity for vibration is injured, and the tone deteriorates in consequence. If the body of the instrument is lengthened at the expense of the fingerboard, the player's left hand is cramped; if the whole length is increased the instrument becomes too large to be conveniently handled. Probably every structural alteration that could be suggested has been at some time tried and dismissed. The whole design of the fiddle has been settled gradually in strict accordance with the requirements of tone and execution.

The total normal length of the violin has been determined by the length of the average human arm bent at a convenient angle. The length of the handle or neck has been determined by the space necessary for the average human hand to manipulate the fingerboard; and since 'shifting' on all the strings has become general this length has increased. The length of the resonant box is the first of these measurements less the second. Its central or smallest breadth is determined by the requirements of bowing, as applied to a bridge of sufficient breadth and height to set the in-instrument properly in vibration. The other breadths and lengths are determined by the necessity of allowing a sufficient vibrating length for the strings, while keeping the bridge in the centre, i.e. on a line dividing the superficial area of the belly into two equal parts, or nearly so. The tongue, so to speak, of the violin, that which corresponds to the reed of a wind instrument, is the bridge; and the action of the bridge depends upon the soundpost. The soundpost is a slender cylindrical block, fixed at both ends, performing the double function of transmitting certain vibrations from the belly to the back and of making a firm base for one foot of the bridge. The bridge is a true reed; its treble foot is rigid, and rests on that part of the belly which is made rigid by the soundpost. Its bass foot rests on that part of the belly which has a free vibration, augmented and regulated by the bass bar: and it is through this foot that the vibration of the strings is communicated to the belly, and thereby to the mass of air in the fiddle. The treble foot of the bridge is therefore the centre of vibration: the vibrational impulse is communicated by the bass foot alone, and undulates round the treble foot in circles, its intensity being modified by the thicknesses and curves of the belly and by the incisions called the soundholes.

The steps by which this instrument, at once so simple and so complex, has been produced, are easily traced: its intermediate forms can be studied in artistic monuments, and some of them even still exist. Old stringed instruments have generally died hard: and very primitive ones have maintained their place side by side with the improved ones founded upon them. Thus the Marine Trumpet, which is the oldest bowed instrument, and represents the earliest development of the Monochord, long continued in use concurrently with instruments of a more advanced kind, and is not yet quite obsolete. [See Tromba Marina.] A Guitar-shaped Violin, which is directly descended from the Fidel of the Troubadours, has been made and used in all ages. Similarly the Rebec long continued in use side by side with the violin.[8] The Viola da Gamba has never been completely effaced by the Violoncello. But perhaps the most singular survival of all is the Welsh Crwth, which is simply the small lyre, as introduced by the Romans into Celtic Britain, adapted by some slight modifications for use as a bowed instrument. In tracing the history of stringed instruments it is necessary to beware of assuming that the same name always designates the same instrument. 'Violino' and 'Violon,' for instance, were at first commonly employed to denote the Tenor. [See Tenor Violin.] 'Violoncello' is literally the 'little violone' or bass viol. The Violone itself, as its augmentative termination implies, was a 'big Viola,' and originally designated the Bass Viol. When the Double Bass-Viol became common, the name was transferred to this larger instrument. It then became necessary to find a new name for the small Bass, and hence the diminutive name 'Violoncello.' When our modern Violoncello, which is properly the 'Bass Violin,' came into use, the original name and the functions of this small Violone were transferred together to the new instrument, which still retains them. 'Vielle,' now appropriated to the hurdy-gurdy, denoted in the 13th century the instrument which we have called the Guitar-Fiddle. 'Fiddle,' 'Crwth,' 'Geige,' and 'Ribeca,' all now frequently employed in various languages to designate the modern violin, are properly the names of distinct instruments, all now obsolete. 'Lyre' has been employed at different times to designate all sorts of bowed instruments. 'Viola,' which seems to have been the original Provençal name of the guitar-fiddle, and afterwards designated Viols of all sizes, is now appropriated to the Tenor Violin. But it is needless to multiply instances. No rational account of the development of instruments can be obtained from the use of names. For this purpose we must examine the instruments themselves when they exist: when they have perished we must have recourse to artistic representations, which, however imperfect, are all we have to rely on before about 1550, a century later than the earliest development of bowed instruments as a class by themselves. For, although the fittings of the two classes differed, it was not until the 15th century that any constructive difference was effected between plucked and bowed instruments. In that century the discovery seems to have been made that an arched back and a flat belly were best for the plucked class, and a flat back and arched belly with inwardly curving bouts for the bowed class; and hence the lute and the viol. A higher bridge, supported by a soundpost, in the bowed class, completed the separation. Both however were strung alike: and down to the time of Bach the same music often served for both, and was played with identical stringing and fingering.

It is curious that both the pianoforte and the violin owe their origin to the monochord. Familiarity with the monochord might have early suggested that by stopping the strings of the lyre upon a fingerboard the number of strings necessary to the latter instrument might be diminished by two-thirds, the tuning facilitated, and the compass extended. But before any improvement in this direction was ever made, the monochord itself had been developed into other instruments by the application of the bow and the wheel. The monochord consisted of an oblong box, at each end of which was fixed a triangular nut. A peg at the tail end of the box served to attach the string: at the other end the string was strained tight, at first by weights, by changing which the tension and pitch of the string were altered at pleasure, afterwards by a screw. Beneath the string were marked those combinations of the aliquot parts of the string which yielded the diatonic scale. The belly was pierced with soundholes near the tail; a moveable block or bridge somewhat higher than the nuts served to cut off so much of the string as was necessary to produce the desired note. This moveable bridge has survived in all bowed instruments, though its position is never changed; and it will serve to the end of time to connect them with their original.

This now-forgotten instrument was the main foundation on which mediæval music rested. By its aid the organ was tuned, and the voice of the singer was trained to the ecclesiastical scales, the principal of which, with their Authentic and Plagal tones, were graduated upon it in parallel lines. The oldest representations of the monochord show it horizontally placed on a table and plucked with the finger: but as the most primitive of bowed instruments is simply a bowed monochord, it may fairly be assumed that the bow was early employed to render its tones continuous. Probably a common military bow was originally used. Nothing could be more natural. The monochord was used, as already said, to tune the organ and to train, the voice: and its efficiency in both respects would be greatly increased by thus prolonging its sounds. The wheel was probably used at an early period as a substitute for the bow; and the monochord was thus ready for further developments.

Adapted so as to be handled vertically, i.e. with one end on the ground, it became the Trummscheidt or Marine Trumpet. [See Tromba Marina.] In its primitive form, the Trummscheidt must have been very unlike the mature instrument as described in that article. As we find it in old pictures, it was a monochord about 6 feet long, the lower part consisting of a large wooden sheath, 4 feet long and about 10 inches wide at the bottom, and diminishing to 5 inches in width where it joins the handle. The handle and head together were about 2 feet long. It had a common bridge, and was played, not in harmonics, but by stopping and bowing in the ordinary way. We know from Mersenne that it was occasionally strung with two or more strings, thus forming, if the expression is permissible, a double or triple monochord.

Whether the second modification of the monochord, in which it retains its horizontal position, and the string is set in vibration by a wheel and handle, and which is represented by the Organistrum or Hurdy-gurdy, preceded or followed the Trummscheidt in point of time cannot be determined. Structurally the Organistrum departs less from the monochord than the Trummscheidt does, because the horizontal position is retained: on the other hand, the invention of the wheel and handle cannot have preceded that of the bow, for which it is a substitute. Originally the Organistrum was an ecclesiastical instrument, and it may be said to be a combination of the monochord and the organ. It was made of large size, and was played, like the organ, by divided labour, the performer being solely concerned with the clavier, while an assistant supplied the rotary or grinding motion which produced the tone. The large Organistrum is found in the sculpture over the celebrated door of Santiago at Compostella, which proves its position among ecclesiastical instruments. But we have also actual specimens which appear to have been used in the church. Two are preserved in the Germanic Museum at Nuremberg, in both of which the size and ornamentation leave no doubt as to their ecclesiastical character.[9]

Meanwhile, the Roman Lyre or Fidicula, in various modified forms, had never gone out of use. Introduced into Celtic Britain by the Romans, the Fidicula was called by the Britons 'Crwth,' a word which signifies 'a bulging box.' Latinised as 'Chrotta,' this became by phonetic decay 'Hrotta' and 'Kotte.' The meaning of the word, taken together with existing pictures, gives us a clue to its shape. The upper part consisted of two uprights and a crosspiece or transtillum, the lower part of a box bulging at the back, and flat at the front where the strings were extended. From the illustrations in old manuscripts it appears that sometimes the resonant box was omitted and the type of the primitive harp was approached. In either form the primitive fidicula must have been of small size. It apparently had neither bridge nor fingerboard, and was plucked with the fingers. But in a celebrated ancient 'Harmony of the Gospels' in the Frankish dialect, attributed to Ottfried von Weissenburg (840–870), we find the Lyre, the Fiddle, the Harp, and the Crwth, all enumerated in the Celestial Concert.[10] Were any of these instruments played with the bow? In other words, does this passage indicate that the art of fiddling is a thousand years old? The writer is inclined to think that it does. It is hard to see how so many sorts of stringed instruments could have been differentiated, except by the circumstance that some of them were played with the bow: and in an English manuscript of not much later date belonging to either the 10th or 11th century, we have a positive representation of an English fiddler with fiddle and bow, the former being, in fact, the instrument called by Chaucer the Ribible, and afterwards generally known by the name in its French form 'Rebec.'

Certainly in the 11th or 10th, probably in the 9th century, the bow, the bridge, and the fingerboard, all derived from the monochord, had evidently been applied to the 'Fidicula' or 'Crwth.' The instrument is altered precisely as might have been expected. The crosspiece and uprights have disappeared. Their place is taken by a neck and head, the latter forming a peg-box; and the bulging lower part of the instrument is modified to suit the change. It may well be, however, that this primitive bowed instrument was the direct descendant of the lute-shaped fidicula which the Girgenti sarcophagus (p. 267) proves to have existed before the Christian era, and that it is identical with the 'Fidula' of Ottfried.

Sometimes the crosspiece and uprights, placed somewhat closer together, were retained side by side with the new features, the neck and fingerboard. The above cut, from Worcester Cathedral, serves to illustrate the coalition of the Crwth and Rebec, the upper part of the instrument being intermediate between the two. The instrument thus produced is the bowed Crwth, to which, following Mr. Engel, it may be convenient to assign the name of Crowd, leaving the original word Crwth to designate the primitive fidicula plucked with the fingers. In point of tone and execution the Crowd and the Rebec were identical. The Crowd was the Crwth with the addition of a bridge and a fingerboard: the Rebec was the Crowd minus its uprights and crosspiece, and having a pear-shaped body. The name Fidel, the decayed form of 'Fidicula,' probably indifferently applied to both, and was afterwards used for the larger instrument presently mentioned.

The 'Geige,' which some authorities have treated as an independent instrument, appears to be practically identical with the Rebec. In the Nibelungenlied the instrument played by the 'Videlar' is called the 'Gige,' though the bow is always called 'Videlbogen.' Mediæval sculpture, painting, manuscripts and heraldry yield numberless illustrations of the 'Geige.' If there was any marked difference between it and the Rebec it amounted to this, that the Rebec had a narrower pear-shaped body, like the lute, while the Geige had a short neck fitted to an oval or circular resonant box.

The accompanying woodcut is taken from Cologne Cathedral, and shows the Geige of the 13th century.

The next, from the Kreuz-Capelle in Burg Carlstein in Bohemia, shows the improved one of the 14th century. The name 'Geige' probably contains the root 'jog' or 'jig,' the connection lying in the jogging or jigging motion of the fiddler's right arm.

A writer of the 13th century gives instructions both for this small fiddle, which he calls 'Rubeba,' and for the larger Fidel, then just coming into use, which he calls 'Viella.'[11] The Rubeba or Rebec, according to him, had two strings only, which were tuned by the interval of a fifth, the lower being C, the upper G. 'Hold it close to the head,' he writes, 'between the thumb and forefinger of the left hand.' He then minutely describes the fingering, which is as follows:—

{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \cadenzaOn c'4-0^"2nd String." d'-1 e'-2 f'-3 \bar "|" g'-0^"1st String." a'-1 b'-2 c''-3 d''-4 \bar "|" }

It will at once strike the reader that we practically have here the second and third strings of the violin. A third string was soon added: and we know from Agricola that the highest string of the three-stringed Rebec was tuned a fifth higher, thus:—

{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \time 3/2 <d'' g' c'>1 }

1st String.
2nd String.
3rd String.

We have here practically the three highest strings of the violin: and it is thus clear that the violin, in everything except the ultimate shape of the resonant box and the fourth string, is at least as old as the 13th century, and probably very much older. Another striking illustration of the identity of fiddling and the fiddler now and six hundred years ago is afforded by the bow- hands of the mediæval players, whose grasp of the bow is generally marked by perfect freedom and correctness.

These early mediæval fiddles were small instruments of simple construction and slight musical capacity, chiefly used in merrymakings to accompany song or dance. Companies of professional players were maintained by noblemen for their amusement: witness the four-and-twenty fiddlers of Etzel in the Nibelungenlied. The reader will remember that Etzel's private band of fiddlers, richly dressed, and headed by their leaders, Schwemel and Werbel, are chosen as his messengers into Burgundy: and among the noble Burgundian guests whom they bring back is the redoubtable amateur fiddler Volker, who lays about him like a wild boar with his 'Videlbogen starken, michel, unde lanc,' doing as much execution, says the rhymer, as an ordinary man with a broadsword. Volker 'der videlar,' or 'der spileman,' as he is often called, is not a mere figment of the poet. Everything proves the mediæval fiddles to have been popular instruments, and their use seems to have been familiar to all classes. Wandering professional musicians, 'fahrende Leute,' carried them from place to place, playing and singing to them for subsistence. Among the amateurs who played them were parsons and parish clerks: witness the parish clerk Absolon of Chaucer, who could 'play tunes on a small ribible,' and the unfortunate parson of Ossemer, near Stendal, who, according to the Brunswick Chronicle (quoted by Forkel), was killed by a stroke of lightning as he was fiddling for his parishioners to dance on Wednesday in Whitsun-week in 1203.[12]

These primitive fiddles apparently sufficed the musical world of Europe until the 13th century. Their compass seems to have been an octave and a half, from C to G, including the mean notes of the female or boy's voice. The extension of the compass downwards is probably the clue to the improvement which followed. It may be observed that the development of musical instruments has always been from small to large and from high to low: the ear, it would seem, seeks ever more and more resonance, and musical requirements demand a larger compass: but the development of the Song in the hands of the Troubadours affords an adequate explanation of the fact that the fiddle-maker about this time strove to make his resonant box larger. But there is an obvious limit: if the belly is greatly widened the bow cannot be made to touch the strings without making the bridge of inordinate height. Some ingenious person, about the 13th century, devised an alternative: this consisted in constructing the sides of the resonant box with a contrary flexure, giving the contour of the instrument a wavy character, exactly like the guitar, and making a sort of waist. By this means the bridge could be left at the proper height, while the capacity of the instrument in respect of size, compass, and resonance was increased. Some unknown mechanic thus invented what came to be called in Northern Europe the Fidel, in Northern France the Vielle, in Southern France and Italy the Viole. We have called it the Guitar-fiddle. There can be little doubt that Provence is its motherland, and that it first came into use among the Troubadours.

The invention of the waist was the first principal step in the development of the Viol, and this feature was only possible in instruments constructed like the monochord and hurdy-gurdy, with sides or ribs. The Geige, Crowd, and Rebec were constructed on the principle of the Lute, which still survives in the Mandolin: they consisted of a flat belly and a convex back, joined oyster-fashion by the edges. No improvement as regards resonance was possible in these oyster-shaped instruments: the fiddle of the future required a certain depth in all its parts, which can only be given by sides or ribs. No other instrument was capable of a waist: and as the reader is aware, the body of such an instrument was ready to hand in the small organistrum or hurdy-gurdy. The Guitar-fiddle was simply a Hurdy-gurdy played with the bow. The description of it by Jerome of Moravia proves that it was a harmonic as well as a melodic instrument. It had five strings, the lowest of which was a bourdon, i.e. was longer than the rest, and did not pass over the nut, but was attached to a peg outside the head. In the long Bourdon of the Troubadour's-fiddle we thus have the origin of the fourth string, which was afterwards reduced to the normal length by the expedient of covering it with wire. The two highest strings were usually tuned in unison: this enabled the player either to double the highest note, or to play in thirds, at pleasure. Jerome of Moravia gives three different tunings, and probably others were in use, each being adapted to the music intended to be performed.

The Guitar-fiddle was larger than the Geige and Rebec, and approximated in size to the Tenor. [See opposite, Fig. 6.] This instrument is probably the Fidel of Chaucer. It has place in English life as an instrument of luxury.

For him [i.e. the Oxford Clerk] had lever ban at his beddes hed
A twenty bokes, clothed in black and red,
Of Aristotle and his philosophy,
Than robes rich, or Fidel or Sautrie.
(Canterbury Tales, Prologue.)

Existing representations of the Fidel appear to indicate that the increased length of the instrument was not at first accompanied by a corresponding increase in the length of the strings, and that it was fitted with a tailpiece and loop of unusual length. It had no corner-blocks. A good idea of the mediæval Fidel may be gained from the modern Spanish or common guitar, which appears to be simply the improved Fidel of the Troubadours minus its bridge, tailpiece, soundpost and soundholes. It has precisely the same arrangement for the pegs, which are screwed vertically into a flat head, which is often, but not always, bent back at an angle with the neck. The guitar, however, requires no bridge, and no soundpost: its tailpiece is glued to the belly, and it retains the primitive central soundhole, which in the bowed instrument gives place to a double soundhole on either side of the bridge. [See Soundholes.]

We now reach a step of the greatest importance in the construction of bowed instruments, the invention of 'corner-blocks.' This improvement followed naturally from the invention of the waist. A modern violin has two projecting points on each of its sides, one at either extremity of the bouts or bow-holes which form the waist of the instrument. In the classical pattern, which has prominent corner-blocks, these projections form a sharp angle: in the older ones, including the viols, the angle is less acute, and the corner therefore less prominent. These corners mark the position of triangular 'blocks' inside, to which the ribs of the instrument are glued, and which are themselves glued to the back and belly, forming, so to speak, the corner-stones of the construction. They contribute enormously to the strength and resonance of the fiddle. Corner-blocks, as well as bowed instruments of the larger sizes, first appear in the 15th century: and as large fiddles can only be conveniently constructed by means of corner-blocks we may fairly conclude that the two inventions are correlative.

The writer inclines to ascribe the origin of corner-blocks to Germany, because it was in that land of mechanical inventions that the manufacture of the viol in its many varieties was chiefly carried on by the lute-makers from 1450 to 1600, because the earliest known instrument-makers, even in France and Italy, were Germans, and because it is in the German musical handbooks of the first part of the 16th century—Virdung, Luscinius, Judenkünig, Agricola, and Gerle—that we find the viol family for the first time specifically described. This invention was the turning-point in the development of bowed instruments. It not only separated them definitely from their cognates of the lute and guitar class, but it gave them immense variety in design, and rendered them easier to make, as well as stronger and more resonant. Whether double or single corner-blocks were first employed, is uncertain. Possibly the first step was the introduction of single corner-blocks, by which the ribs were increased from two to four, the upper ones having an inward curvature where the bow crosses the strings. The illustration is from a drawing by Raffaelle, in whose paintings the viol with single corner-blocks occurs several times. [For another specimen, see Soundholes, Fig. 3.] Single corner-blocks were occasionally used long after the introduction of double ones. The writer has seen very good old Italian tenors and double-basses with single corners. A well-known specimen in painting is the fine Viola da gamba in Domenichino's St. Cecilia. The vibration is more rapid and free than that of the instrument with double corners, but the tone is consequently less intense.

But the foundation on which fiddle-making was finally to rest was the viol with double corners. Double corners produced a new constructive feature, viz. the 'middle bouts,' or simply the 'bouts,' the ribs which curve inwards between the two corner-blocks. While the corner-blocks enormously increased the resonance of the fiddle, the bouts liberated the right hand of the player. In early times the hand must have been kept in a stiff and cramped position. The bouts for the first time rendered it possible for the fiddler to get at his strings: and great stimulus to playing must have been the consequence. It was long before the proper proportions of the bouts were settled. They were made small and deep, or long and shallow, at the maker's caprice. At one period, probably an early one, their enormous size rendered them the most conspicuous feature in the outline. It would seem that fiddlers desired to carry their newly-won freedom of hand to the uttermost: and the illustrations in Agricola prove that this preposterous model prevailed for instruments of all four sizes.

The fantastic outlines which were produced by this extravagant cutting of the bouts were sometimes further complicated by adding more blocks at the top, or bottom, or both, and by cutting some of the ribs in two pieces, and turning the ends in at right angles. The former of these devices was early abandoned, and few specimens of it exist: but the latter was sometimes used for the viola d'amore in the last century. Its tendency is to diminish the vibrational capacity, and the intensity of the tone. Its adoption was partly due to artistic considerations, and it is capable of great variety in design. But it naturally went out of practical use, and the viol settled down to its normal model about the beginning of the 16th century, by the final adoption of the simple outline, with double corners and moderately long and shallow bouts.

Concurrently with these experiments on the outline, we trace a series of experiments on the place and shape of the soundholes and bridge. For a sketch of the development of the former, the reader is referred to the article Soundholes. Their true place, partly in the waist, and partly in the lower part of the instrument, was not defined until after the invention of the violin. In the guitar-fiddle the soundholes had naturally fallen into something nearly approaching their true position. But the invention of the bouts displaced them, and for nearly a century we find them shifting about on the surface of the instrument. Sometimes, indeed, it occurs to the early viol-makers to leave them in the waist between the bouts. But at first we frequently find them in the upper part of the instrument, and this is found even in instances where their shape is of an advanced type.

Later, we usually find the soundholes and bridge crowded into the lower part of the instrument, near the tailpiece, the instrument-maker evidently aiming at leaving as much as possible of the belly intact, for the sake of constructive strength. The illustration is from Jost Amman's 'Büchlein aller Stände,' and represents a minstrel of the 16th century performing on a three-stringed Double Bass.

Afterwards the soundholes are placed between the bouts, the extremities of both approximately corresponding, the bridge standing beyond them. This arrangement prevailed during the early half of the 16th century. It was not until the violin model had been some time in use that the soundholes were lowered in the model, extending from the middle of the waist to a short distance below the bouts, and the bridge fixed in its true place in the middle of the soundholes.

The Bridge, the most important part of the voicing apparatus, and in reality the tongue of the fiddle, was perfected last. [See Stradivari.] The plan of cutting a small arch in the moveable block of the monochord, so as to check the vibration as little as possible, is probably of Greek origin, and in the Marine Trumpet the bridge, which has only one string to support, can be made proportionately small, and its vibrating function more perfect. [See Tromba Marina.] The polychord instruments of the Middle Ages required a more massive support; but the bridge-like character was always maintained, the pattern being from time to time modified so as to produce the maximum of vibration without loss of strength. The soundpost beneath the treble foot of the bridge is of uncertain antiquity. At first, it would seem, the expedient was tried of lengthening one foot of the bridge, and passing it through the soundhole, so as to rest on the centre block of the back: this primitive bridge and soundpost in one have been found in existing specimens of the Crwth. The superior effect of a separate soundpost, supporting the bridge and augmenting the vibration, must soon have been discovered: and many early pictures of fiddles with bridges leave no doubt that it was extensively in use. [See Soundpost.]

The scale of the larger mediæval viols makes it probable that the vibration of the belly under the bass strings was regulated by a Bass-bar. Cross-bars were early employed to strengthen the back of the viol and the belly of the lute; and observations of their effect on the vibration possibly suggested the use of a longitudinal bar for the viol. The bass-bar is at least as old as the invention of corner blocks, and probably older. Concurrently with the development of the Viol in its larger sizes, we find a characteristic change in the head or peg-box, which completely transformed the physiognomy of the instrument. The mediæval peg-box was invariably flat, like that of the Guitar, the pegs being inserted at right angles to the face of the instrument; see figures 2, 4, 5, 6, and 7, from the last of which the reader will at once understand how this form of peg-box facilitated the addition of bourdons, though it afforded but a weak and imperfect means of straining the strings to their due tension and keeping them in their proper place. When the invention of the larger viols superseded Bourdons, the flat peg-box gave place to the modern one, which bends back so that the strings form an obtuse angle in crossing the nut; the pegs are transverse instead of perpendicular, and have a support in each side of the box; the tensive force is applied direqtly instead of obliquely, in the direction of the fiddle's length. The top of the improved peg-box was often surmounted by a human or animal's head. This, however, obliged the fiddle-maker to have recourse to the artist for the completion of his work. A volute was therefore substituted, the well-known 'scroll' of the fiddle, on the curves of which accomplished fiddle-makers employed the same taste and skill which they displayed in the curved lines and surface of the body.

About the end of the 15th century we find the viol with the distinctive features above indicated fully developed, in its three principal sizes, Discant, Tenor, and Bass, in general use. They had at first sometimes four, sometimes five, and sometimes six strings, which were tuned by fourths, a single major third being interpolated in the five and six stringed instruments, in order to preserve the same tonality in the open notes. This device was borrowed from the Lute. The fixed number of six strings, and the settled tuning by fourths with a major third in the middle, is proved to be at least as old as 1542 by a method published in that year at Venice.[13] The tuning is as follows:

Discant. Tenor. Bass.
{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \time 3/2 <c' e' a' d''>1 }
{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \time 3/2 <d' g'>1 }
{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \time 3/2 d'1 }
{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \time 3/2 \clef bass <d g>1 }
{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \time 3/2 \clef bass <g, c f a>1 }
{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \time 3/2 \clef bass <d, g, c e a>1 }

The relative tuning of the Viols is evidently derived from the parts of contemporary vocal music: and the early concerted music written for the Viols is always within the compass of the relative voices. It seems, in fact, to have been entirely based upon vocal music. As early as 1539 we have vocal compositions professedly adapted to be either played or sung (buone da cantare et sonare).[14]

This parallelism between the parts of vocal and stringed music explains why in early theoretical works we hear little or nothing about the Double Bass. We may however assume that it was employed as a sub-bass in octaves to the voice and Bass Viol. Strung with three, four, five, and even six strings, the lowest would by analogy be tuned a fourth lower than those of the Bass Viol, as at (a); and this is in fact the tuning of the modern Double Bass. The tuning for completely strung instruments was probably as at (b), but the highest strings would be ineffective, and liable to break, and they could have been of little use in playing a sub-bass:

(a) (b)
{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \time 3/2 \clef bass <g, d, a,,>1 }
{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \time 3/2 \clef bass <a,, d, g, c e a>1 }

and as the pressure of useless strings impairs the resonance of the instrument, it may be assumed that the upper strings came to be gradually abandoned. The trio of viols, tuned as prescribed by the 'Regola Rubertina' of 1542, continued in use unaltered for a century and a half as the basis of chamber-music: for Playford's 'Introduction to the Skill of Musick' gives the same tuning without alteration. We may therefore take the duration of the school of pure six-stringed viol music as about a hundred and fifty years (1550–1700). During the latter part of this period the Violin and Tenor Violin came steadily into use for orchestral purposes in substitution for the Treble and Tenor Viols, and the invention of the Violoncello or Bass Violin completed the substitution of the new model for the old. The trio of viols was in fact rather a theoretical than a practical musical apparatus: and its two highest members had but little significance apart from the rest. The Treble or Discant Viol, feeble and delicate in tone, though employed in concerted music, never took the place of the more powerful Rebec and Geige, which continued in popular use until they were ultimately driven from the field by the Violin. The Tenor Viol laboured under a great disadvantage. Being too large and too clumsy to be played fiddlewise, it became the practice to rest the lower part of the instrument on the knee, and its shoulder upon the arm, the left hand being elevated at the height of the head. It was then bowed underhand, the bow passing obliquely over the strings. This difficulty must have tended to check its musical usefulness: and as the lowest string of both the Discant and Tenor Viol was little used, it was at length omitted, and makers were thus enabled to construct Tenor Viols of more manageable size. The German and French Treble and Tenor Viols of late manufacture have only five strings, the lowest in each, as in the Violin and Tenor, being G and C respectively. The Treble and Tenor Viols thus gradually approximated in size and tuning to the Violin and Tenor, by which they were ultimately effaced. The five-stringed Treble Viol survived longest in France, where it was called 'Quinton' or 'Pardessus de Viole': and from the very numerous specimens which were sent forth in the last century from the workshops of Guersan and other Parisian makers, there can be no doubt that it was a fashionable instrument, in fact probably a musical toy for ladies of quality. The stop being an inch shorter than that of the Violin, and the tuning by fourths and a third entirely obviating the necessity of employing the fourth finger, it is easily played by small and comparatively unpractised hands. The back and ribs of Guersan's Quintons are usually built up of parallel staves of sycamore and cedar, a method which not only makes the tone extremely soft and resonant, but combined with fine finish and elegantly carved scrolls gives them a most picturesque appearance. The illustration is from a specimen in the writer's possession.

The development of the Viola d'Amore, which is briefly described below, probably prevented the use of the common Tenor Viol, without sympathetic strings, as a solo instrument. Built large enough to give a resonant note on the lowest open string, C, the five-stringed Tenor Viol is undoubtedly a difficult instrument to manage: but after some practice it may be commanded by a player with an arm of sufficient length. The best have thick whole backs, cut slabwise or on the flat, instead of on the cross, and the flamingsword soundhole, which Fio. 11. the German makers preferred, seems to favour the development of tone. The tone is rich and penetrating: and the writer has heard the five-stringed Tenor Viol played in concerted music with good effect. The illustration represents one made in 1746 by Elsler of Mainz. [See Tenor Violin.]

The Bass Viol alone, of the original Viol family, developed into an instrument having important musical qualities of its own, and secured a noticeable place in musical history under its Italian name of Viola da Gamba. This is no doubt due to its long-continued use as an orchestral bass, and to its similarity in tuning to the Theorbo Lute. In the latter quarter of the 16th century, and throughout the 17th, while the Violin and the Tenor were taking the place of the higher Viols, the Bass Viol maintained its place, and afforded a wide field to a considerable school of players and composers, principally in England, France, and the Low Countries. It was the first bowed instrument to receive treatment commensurate to its capacities, a circumstance which is accounted for by the fact that its tuning is practically identical with that of the lute, and that both instruments were practised by the same players. Throughout the 17th century, the Viola da Gamba closely followed in the wake of the lute, and the two reached their highest development at the hands of French composers in the early part of the 18th century. The command of the six-stringed finger-board which the lutenists had attained through two centuries of incessant practice was in fact communicated by them to bowed instruments through the medium of the Baas Viol. By the middle of the 17th century, before anything having any pretensions to musical value had been written for the Violin, and still less for the Violoncello, many species of composition had been brought to a considerable degree of perfection on the Lute, and this development of the Lute was directly communicated to the Viola da Gamba. The great mass of Viola da Gamba chamber-music of the 17th century which still exists in manuscript, is evidently adapted from lute music. The Corrente, Chaconne, Pavane, Gig, Galliard, and Almaine, were favourite measures for both: the Prelude, in which the capacity of the instrument for modulation was displayed, was also much the same; but the Viol was especially employed in the 'Division on a Ground,' which was the delight of English musicians in the 17th century. So completely was this the case that in Sympson's well-known Method for the Viola da Gamba the instrument is named the 'Division Viol.' It was made in three sizes, that used for division being of medium size: the largest size was used for the 'Concert Bass,' played in combination with other Viols: a size smaller than the Division Viol was used for Lyra or Tablature playing, in which the composer varied the tuning of the Viol, and employed tablature instead of staff notation for the convenience of the player.

Occasionally the tuning of the Division Viol itself was varied: the two favourite 'scordature' of the English players, usually called the 'Harpway' tunings, from the facilities they afforded for arpeggios, were as follows:

Harp-way sharp. Harp-way flat.
{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \time 3/2 \clef bass <d, g, d g b d'>1 }
{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \time 3/2 \clef bass <d, g, d g bes d'>1 }

The following 'harp-way' tunings have been noticed by the writer in old German compositions for the instrument:—

{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \time 8/1 \clef bass <d, a, d fis a d'>1^\markup \small \center-align "(1) Sharp." s <d, a, d f a d'>^\markup \small \center-align "(2) Flat." s <d, bes, d f bes d'>^\markup \small \center-align "(3) Sharp." }

The use of these tunings greatly increases the resonance of the Viola da Gamba, and facilitates execution in thirds on the upper strings: but the writer is unacquainted with any instance of their use, or of the use of any other scordatura, by the classical writers for the instrument. The great writer for the Viola da Gamba was De Caix D'Hervelois, who flourished early in the last century: but there were many others of less note. The writings of De Caix, like those of Bach, occasionally require the seventh string, tuned to Double Bass A, a fourth below the sixth string. This was added towards the end of the 1 7th century, by a French violist named Marais. [See Scordatura.]

The latest development of the Viol was the construction of instruments with sympathetic strings of metal. These date from the 16th century: their properties are scientifically discussed in the 2nd Book of Bacon's 'Natural History' (1620–1625). The fanciful name 'd'Amore,' given to these instruments, relates not to any special aptitude for expressing amorous accents, but to the sympathetic vibration of the open metallic strings, stretched over the belly, to the tones of those which pass over the fingerboard. They were made in several sizes. Even Kits are found made with sympathetic strings (Sordino d'Amore): the next largest size was called the Violino d'Amore, and in its later type was a Violin rather than a Viol. It usually has pegholes for five sympathetic strings: there exists a very curious one by Stradivari, guitar-shaped.[15] The Tenor size became more generally known as the Viola d'Amore, an instrument in very general use in Italy and Germany in the 17th and 18th centuries. The instrument is invariably made with 'flaming-sword' soundholes, and often has a 'rose' under the finger-board. The sympathetic strings, of fine brass or steel wire, are attached by loops at the bottom to small ivory pegs fixed in the bottom block above the tail-pin; they are then carried through small holes drilled in the lower part of the bridge, under the finger-board, which is hollowed for the purpose, and over an ivory nut immediately below the upper nut, into the peg-box. In the earlier instruments the sympathetic strings are worked by pegs similar to those of the gut-strings: but the later plan was to attach them to small wrest-pins driven vertically into the sides of the peg-box, and tune them with a key, a preferable method in all respects. The sympathetic apparatus was of two species, the diatonic and the chromatic, the former consisting of six or seven, the latter of twelve or more strings. In the former species the strings are tuned to the diatonic scale, the lowest note being usually D, and the intervals being adapted by flattening or sharpening to the key of the piece in performance. In the chromatic description this is unnecessary, there being twelve strings, one for each semitone in the scale, so that every note played on the instrument has its sympathetic augmentation. Sometimes a double set (24) of sympathetic strings was employed. In the classical age of this instrument, the time of Bach and Vivaldi, it was tuned by fourths and a third like the tenor viol. Following the example of the Viola da Gamba, a seventh string was added about the beginning of the last century, and ultimately the so-called 'harp-way' tuning of the Lute and Viola da Gamba came to be generally adopted, which was ultimately modified thus:

Flat. Sharp.
{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \time 3/2 <d' f' a' d''>1 }
{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \time 3/2 <d' fis' a' d''>1 }
{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \time 3/2 \clef bass <d f a>1 }
{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \time 3/2 \clef bass <d fis a>1 }

The latter tuning was most employed, and is used in the well-known obligato part in Meyerbeer's 'Huguenots.' The Viola d'Amore is a singularly beautiful and attractive instrument, but the inherent difficulties of execution are not easily surmounted, and as every forte note produces a perfect shower of concords and harmonics, all notes which will not bear a major third require to be very lightly touched. The illustration represents a diatonic Viola d'Amore dated 1757, by Rauch of Mannheim.

The 'English Violet' mentioned by Mozart and Albrechtsberger is identical with the Viola d'Amore: the former applies the name to the chromatic Viola d'Amore, to which he assigns fourteen sympathetic strings, the latter to a common Viola d'Amore having six instead of seven strings. Why the Germans called it 'English' is a mystery, for the writer has never met with nor heard of a true Viola d'Amore of English make. The 'Violetta Marina,' employed by Handel in the air 'Gia l'ebro mio ciglio' (Orlando), and having a compass as low as tenor E, appears also to be simply the Viola d'Amore.

The Viola da Gamba with sympathetic strings was at first known as the Viola Bastarda, but after undergoing considerable mechanical improvements in the sympathetic apparatus, it became the well-known Barytone, the favourite instrument of the musical epicures of the last century. [See Barytone.] The seventh string added to the Viola da Gamba by Marais was usually employed in the Barytone. The sympathetic apparatus of the Barytone is set in a separate metal frame, and has an independent bridge.

The disuse of instruments with sympathetic strings is easily explained. They added little or nothing to the existing means of producing masses of musical sound. They were essentially solo instruments, and were seldom employed in the orchestra. Nothing but continuous use in professional hands in the orchestra will keep a musical instrument from going out of fashion: and it invariably happens that the disuse of instruments in the orchestra only shortly precedes their disuse in chamber music. The practical extinction of these instruments is to be regretted. Originally invented as a means of augmenting the tone of the Viol, they acquired a character entirely unique, and are undoubtedly capable of further development.

The early employment of the Violin and Tenor Violin in the orchestra left the Treble and Tenor Viols exclusively in the hands of amateurs, who only slowly relinquished them. The pure school of concerted viol-playing seems to have held its ground longest in England: the 'Fantasies' of Gibbons,[16] and those of many other composers, which repose in manuscript in the libraries, sufficiently indicate the extent to which the art was cultivated. In performance, the parts were usually doubled, i.e. there were six players, two to each part, who all played in the fortes: the piano passages were played by three only. To accompany voices, theorboes were added in the bass, and violins in the treble: but the English violists of the 17th century long regarded the violin as an unwelcome intruder. Its comparatively harsh tone offended their ear by destroying the delicate balance of the viol concert: Mace denominates it 'the scolding violin,' and complains that it out-tops everything.[17] When the 'sharp violin,' as Dryden calls it, was making its way into music in England, it had already been nearly a century in use on the continent. The model had been developed in Italy: the treble violin had first come into general use in France.

Of the viol family the most important seems originally to have been the Tenor. This agrees with the general plan of mediæval music, in which the tenor sustains the cantus or melody, the trebles and basses being merely accompaniments. The violin apparently originated in the desire to produce a more manageable and powerful instrument for the leading part. The Geige and Rebec were yet in use: perhaps the contrast between their harsher tone and the softness of the discant viol may have suggested the construction of a viol with a convex back modelled like the belly. But the extreme unhandiness of the tenor viol is probably the true key to the change. It was impossible to play artistically when supported on the knee, and too large to be held under the chin. At first, it would appear that violin-makers made it handier in the latter respect by cutting away the bottom, exactly as the top was sloped away to the neck: and viols thus sloped at the bottom are still extant. The more effective expedient of assimilating the back to the belly not only reduced the depth at the edges but rendered it easier to retain in position. The first instrument to which we find the name Violino applied was the tenor, and the common violin, as a diminutive of this, was the 'Violino piccolo.' [See Tenor Violin.]

However the idea of assimilating the model of the back to that of the belly may have originated, it must have been quickly discovered that its effect was to double the tone. The result of making the instrument with a back correlative to the belly, and connected with the latter by the sides and soundpost, was to produce a repetition of the vibrations in the back, partly by transmission through the ribs, blocks, and soundpost, but probably in a greater degree by the concussion of the air enclosed in the instrument. The force which on the viol produced the higher and dissonant harmonics expended itself in the violin in reproducing the lower and consonant harmonics by means of the back. [See Harmonics.]

The invention of the Violin is commonly assigned to Gaspar Duiffoprugcar, of Bologna, and placed early in the 16th century: and it has been stated there still exist three genuine violins of Duiffoprugcar's work, dated before 1520.[18] The name is obviously a corruption. There existed in the 16th century in Italy several lute-makers of the Tyrolese name Tieffenbrücker;[19] and as some of them lived into the following century it is possible that they may have made violins. But the authenticity of any date in a violin before 1520 is questionable. No instrument of the violin pattern that can be fairly assigned to a date earlier than the middle of the 16th century is in existence, and it is scarcely credible that the violin could have been so common between 1511 and 1519, seeing that we find no mention of it in contemporary musical handbooks which minutely describe the stringed instruments of the period. In default of any better evidence, the writer agrees with Mr. Charles Reade (quoted in Mr. Hart's book, 'The Violin' p. 68) that no true violin was made anterior to the second half of the 16th century, the period of Gaspar di Salo and Andreas Amati. The earliest date in any instrument of the violin pattern which the writer has seen, is in a tenor by Peregrino Zanetto (the younger) of Brescia, 1580. It is, however, certain that tenors and violins were common about this time, and they were chiefly made in the large towns of Lombardy, Bologna, Brescia, and Cremona. The trade had early centred in the last-named city, which for two centuries continued to be the metropolis of violin-making; and the fame of the Cremona violin quickly penetrated into other lands. In 1572 the accounts of Charles IX. of France show a payment of 50 livres to one of the king's musicians to buy him a Cremona violin.[20]

The difficulty of ascertaining the precise antiquity of the Violin is complicated by the fact that the two essential points in which it differs from the Viol, (1) the four strings tuned by fifths, and (2) the modelled back, apparently came into use at different times. We know from early musical treatises that the three-stringed Rebec and some four-stringed Viols were tuned by fifths: and the fact that the modelled back was in use anterior to the production of the true violin is revealed to us by a very early five-stringed Viol with two Bourdons, now in the Historical Loan Collection at the Inventions Exhibition. This unique instrument, while it has the primitive peg-box with seven vertical pegs, has a modelled back and violin soundholes: and it only needs the four strings tuned by fifths, and a violin scroll, to convert it into a Tenor of the early type.

Another very important member of the Violin family is the Violoncello, which, though its name (little Violone) would seem to derive it from the Double Bass, is really a bass Violin, formed on a different model from the Violone. It is traceable in Italy early in the 17th century, was at first used exclusively as a fundamental bass in the concerted music of the church, and it is not until a century later that it appears to have taken its place as a secular and solo instrument. Elsewhere during the 17th century and a considerable part of the 18th, the Viol Bass (Viola da gamba) was almost exclusively in use as a bass instrument. The first English violoncellos date from about the Restoration. The oldest one known to the writer is undoubtedly the work of Edward Pamphilon. It is of a very primitive pattern, being extremely bombé in the back and belly, the arching starting straight from the purfling, which is double. The writer has also seen a Violoncello by Rayman, another of the Restoration fiddlemakers. Barak Norman's Violoncellos are not uncommon, though far fewer than his innumerable Bass Viols. The earlier Violoncellos in England therefore date not long after those of Italy; the French and German ones somewhat later. The Violoncello must have been kept out of general use by its irrational fingering; for being tuned by fifths, and the fingers of the performer being only able to stretch a major third, the hand has great difficulty in commanding the scales: and it was not until the middle of the last century that its difficulties were sufficiently overcome to enable it to practically supplant the Viola da Gamba in the orchestra. [See Gamba, vol. i. p. 579.]

The adoption of four strings, tuned by fifths, for the Violin in its three sizes, really marks the emancipation of bowed instruments from the domination of the Lute. Such impediments to progress as complicated and various tunings, frets, and tablature music were thus removed. In most respects this change facilitated musical progress. The diminished number of strings favoured resonance; for in six-stringed instruments there is an excessive pressure on the bridge which checks vibration and increases resistance to the bow. By the change the fingering was simplified, though in the larger instruments it was rendered more laborious to the executant. Composers, though still obliged to regard the limited capacities of stringed instruments, were able to employ them with less reserve. Music, however, cannot be said to have lost nothing by the abandonment of the Viol.[21] The Violin affords fewer facilities for harmonic combinations and suspensions, in the form of chords and arpeggios. Bowed instruments tended more and more to become merely melodic, like wind instruments. Effect soon came to be sought by increasing the length of the scales, and employing the higher and less agreeable notes, the frequent use of which, as in modern music, would have shocked the ears of our forefathers. It is often supposed that early violinists were not sufficiently masters of their instrument to command the higher positions. Nothing can be more absurd. In addition to what has been stated under the head Shift, it may be observed that many existing compositions for the Viola da Gamba prove that very complicated music was played on that instrument across the strings in the higher positions, and the transfer of this method of execution to the violin obviously rested with individual players and composers. Bach's Violin Solos represent it in the hands of one of transcendant genius; but Bach, with unfailing good taste, usually confines the player to the Lower registers of the instrument. The tuning of the principal stringed instruments thus become what it is at the present moment and is probably destined to remain.

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 <d' a' e''>1^\markup \small \center-align "Violin." s <d' a'>^\markup \small \center-align "Tenor." s s^\markup \small \center-align "Bass." }
\new Staff { \clef bass \override Staff.Stem #'stencil = ##f
 s1 g4*4/1 s <c g> s << { <d a>1 } \\ { <c, g,>4*4/1 } >> } >> }

The strings indicated by solid notes are 'spun' or 'covered' strings that is, they are closely enveloped in fine copper or silver wire. The others are of plain gut, usually called 'cat-gut,' and perhaps at one time derived from the cat, but now manufactured out of the entrails of the sheep. The Tenor and Violoncello, it will be observed, are octaves to each other. A smaller Bass, intermediate between the Tenor and the Violoncello, and in compass an octave below the Violin, whence the name 'Octave Fiddle,' sometimes applied to it, was in use in the last century, but has long been abandoned. A Violoncello of smaller dimensions, but of identical pitch with the ordinary Violoncello, and chiefly used for solo playing, appears to be the same instrument which L. Mozart, in his Violin School, calls the 'Hand-bassel,'[22] and Boccherini the 'Alto Violoncello.' Boccherini intimates on the title-page of his Quintets that the first Violoncello part, which extends over the whole compass of the ordinary instrument, may be played on the Alto Violoncello.

The 'Violino piccolo' of Bach, which Leopold Mozart (1756) describes as obsolete in his time, was a three-quarter Violin (Quartgeige), tuned a minor third above the Violin.

{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \clef bass \mark \markup \small "(a)" \time 3/2 <c, g, d a e'>1 }
The invention of a smaller Violoncello with five strings, tuned as at (a), and thus combining the scales of the Violoncello and the Octave Fiddle, is ascribed to J. S. Bach. It was called Viola Pomposa, but never came into general use. It appears, in fact, to have been merely a reproduction of an old form of the Violoncello, which is mentioned by L. Mozart as obsolete. [See p. 267b.]

The musical development which followed closely on the general employment of the Violin family throughout Europe is treated in other articles. [See Violin-playing.] Extraordinary as this development has been, it has produced no constructive changes in the instrument, and only the slightest modifications. The increased use of the upper shifts has indeed necessitated a trifling increase in the length of the handle, while the sound-post, bridge and bass-bar are larger and more substantial than those formerly in use. It might probably be further shown that the strings were smaller and less tense, and lay closer to the finger-board, and that the tone of the fiddle was consequently somewhat feebler, thinner, and more easily yielded. In other respects the fiddle family remain very much as they came from the hands of their first makers three centuries ago.

The reason of the concentration of fiddle-making at Cremona is not at first sight apparent. The explanation is that Cremona was in the 16th century a famous musical centre. This is partly due to the fact that the Cremonese is the richest agricultural district of Lombardy, and was mainly in the hands of the monasteries of the city and neighbourhood. These wealthy foundations vied with each other in the splendour of their churches and daily services, and furnished constant employment to painters, composers, and instrument-makers. The celebrity of Cremona as a school of music and painting was shared with Bologna; but its principal rival in fiddle-making was Brescia, where Gaspar di Salo, the two Zanettos, Giovita Rodiani, and Maggini, made instruments from about 1580 to 1640. The characteristics of these makers, who compose what is sometimes called the Brescian School, are in fact shared by Andreas Amati, the earliest known maker of Cremona. To speak of a 'Brescian School' is misleading: it would be more correct to class their fiddles generally as early Italian. The model of these early Italian violins is generally high, though the pattern is attenuated: the middle bouts are shallow; the f-holes are narrow and set high, and terminate abruptly in a circle like that of the crescent soundhole. (See Fig. 6, vol. iii. p. 641.) The scroll is long, straight, and ungraceful. The violins are generally too small; the tenors are always too large, though their tone is deep and powerful. Violoncellos of this school are not met with. The substantial excellence of the makers of Brescia is proved by the fact that the larger violins of Maggini, and the Double Basses of Gaspar di Salo are still valued for practical use. De Beriot played on a Maggini Violin: and Vuillaume's copies of this maker once enjoyed a high reputation among French orchestra players for their rich and powerful tone.

The reputation of the Cremona violins is mainly due to the brothers Antonio and Girolamo Amati[23] (Antonius et Hieronymus), who were sons of Andrew Amati, and contemporaries of Maggini. [See Amati.] The idea of treating the violin as a work of art as well as a tone-producing machine existed before their time: but so far the artistic impulse had produced only superficial decoration in the form of painting or inlaying. The brothers Amati, following unconsciously the fundamental law of art-manufacture that decoration should be founded on construction, reduced the outlines and surfaces of the instrument to regular and harmonious curves, and rendered the latter more acceptable to the eye by a varnish developing and deepening the natural beauty of the material. Nor did they neglect those mechanical conditions of sonority which are the soul of the work. Their wood is of fine quality, and the disposition of the thicknesses, blocks, and linings, leaves little to be desired. Those who came after them, Nicholas Amati, Stradivari, and Joseph Guarnieri (del Gesu), augmented the tone of the instrument. But for mere sweetness of tone, and artistic beauty of design, the brothers Antonius and Hieronymus even yet remain unsurpassed. The illustration (Fig. 13), shows the soundholes, bouts, and corners of the most famous maker of the family, Nicholas Amati, the son of Hieronymus (1596–1684). He began by copying most accurately the works of his father and uncle; his early violins are barely distinguishable from theirs. Between 1640 and 1650 his style developes unconsciously into that which is associated with his own name. His violins become larger, the thickness is increased in the middle, the blocks are more massive and prominent, and the soundholes assume a different character. But these changes are minute, and tell only in the general effect. And the same love of perfectly curved outlines and surfaces rules the general design. During a very long life Nicholas Amati varied from his own standard perhaps less than any maker who ever lived. After his time the Cremona violin was carried to its utmost perfection by his pupil Antonio Stradivari (1649–1737). [See Stradivari; and for some account of other makers see Albani, Amati, Gagliano, Grancino, Guadagnini, Guarnieri, Landolfi, Serafin.]

The principal varieties in the design of violins of the classical period will be illustrated by a comparison of Figs. 13, 14 and 15. Fig. 14 is from a violin by Stainer; Fig. 15, from a Tenor by Joseph Guarnerius. [For an illustration of a violin by Stradivari, see vol. iii. p. 728.] After Cremona, Venice among Italian towns produced the best fiddle-makers; then come Milan and Naples. The pupils and imitators of Stradivari maintained the reputation of the Italian Violins during the first half of the last century: but after 1760 the style of Italian violin-making shows a general decline. This is partly attributable to the fact that the musical world was by this time amply provided with instruments of the best class, and that the demand for them declined in consequence. Good instruments, however, were made by some of the second-rate makers of the latter part of the century. One of the best of the Italian makers, Pressenda, worked at Turin in the present century.

The violin-makers of South Germany form a distinct school, of which some account will be found under Klotz and Stainer. Munich, Vienna, Salzburg, and Nuremberg, produced many fiddle-makers. The makers of France and the Low Countries more or less followed Italian models, and during the past century there have been many excellent French copyists of Stradivari and Guarnieri; two of the best are noticed under Lupot and Vuillaume: besides these there have been Aldric, G. Chanot the elder, Silvestre, Maucotel, Mennegand, Henry, and Rambaux. The numerous English makers are reviewed under the head London Violin Makers. The oldest English school, represented by such makers as Urquhart and Pamphilon, had much quaintness and beauty of style: but the fame of the Stainer and Cremona patterns soon effaced it. The only English makers of any note now living in London, are Furber and the Hills.

The trade of making viols and violins was engrafted on the profession of the lute-maker, and to this day the Italian and French languages express 'violin-maker' by Luthier and Liutaro, though lute-making has long been obsolete. In Cremona and some other Italian towns, principally Venice and Milan, the demand for the violin produced workmen who devoted themselves primarily to making bowed instruments, and to whom the lute tribe formed a secondary employment: but the earlier violins of Germany, France and England were produced by men whose primary employment was lute-making. Hence the uncertainty and inferiority of their models, though their workmanship is often praiseworthy and always interesting. But as the Cremona violin spread all over Europe, the lute-makers of other countries at first unconsciously, afterwards of set purpose, made it an object of imitation. The original violin models of England, Germany, and France, were thus gradually extinguished; and since about the middle of the last century scarcely any other models have been followed than those of the Cremona makers. It was about this time that a change, from an artistic point of view disastrous, swept over the art of violin-making. This change seems to have been the result of a demand for more and cheaper fiddles, and it originated in Italy itself. We know from Bagatella's singular brochure on the Amati model, that 'trade fiddles' (violini dozzinali), cheap instruments of coarse construction, probably made by German workmen, were sold by the dozen in Italy in the last century. Such fiddles were soon produced in far greater numbers in Germany and France. In Germany the manufacture of 'trade fiddles' was first carried on at Mittenwald, in Bavaria, where it originated with the family of Klotz; it afterwards extended to Groelitz: early in the last century Mirecourt in French Lorraine became a seat of the trade; and in recent times Mark-Neukirchen in the kingdom of Saxony has risen to importance. These towns still supply nine-tenths of the violins that are now made. 'Trade' or common violins can be bought for fabulously low sums. The following is the estimate of M. Thibouville-Lamy, of Mirecourt, Paris, and London, the principal fiddle-maker of our time, of the cost of one of his cheapest violins:—

s. d.
Wood for back  2
{{{1}}}belly  2
{{{1}}}neck  1
Workmanship in neck  2
Blackened fingerboard  2
Workmanship of back and belly  3
Cutting out by saw  1½
Shaping back and belly by machinery 1  0
Varnish 10
Fitting-up, strings, bridge and tail-piece  9½
3  7
6 per cent for general expenses  3
3 10
15 per cent profit  8
4  6

Ludicrously low as this estimate is, it is certain that one of these fiddles, if carefully set up, can be made to discourse very tolerable music. Vast numbers of instruments of better quality, but still far below the best, costing from £1 to £2 10s., are now sold all over the world. Mirecourt and Markneukirchen mainly produce them: of late years the latter place has taken the lead in quantity, the German commercial travellers being apparently more pushing than the French; but the Mirecourt fiddles have decidedly the advantage in quality, having regard to the price.

But violins of a superior class to the trade fiddle, of good workmanship throughout, and in every way excellent musical instruments, though inferior to the best productions of the classical age, have been and still are made, not only at Mirecourt, but in the principal musical centres of Europe. London, Paris, Vienna, and Munich, have had a constant succession of violin-makers for the past two centuries. The English violin manufacture suffered a severe blow by the abolition of duties on foreign instruments, and it can hardly be said that the musical stimulus of the last few years has caused it to revive. Those makers who carry on their trade in England are chiefly employed in rehabilitating and selling old instruments, and their own productions, too few in number, are usually bespoken long beforehand. At present, therefore, an intending purchaser will not find a stock of new instruments by the best English makers: but it is to be hoped that, as the demand increases, they will find means to increase the supply. Messrs. Hill & Sons charge £15, Mr. Duncan of Glasgow £12, for their violins.

Those who wish to purchase a new violin of the best quality ready made, cannot do better than resort to the French makers. Vuillaume, now deceased, was a few years ago at the head of the list, and sold his violins for £14: they are now worth considerably more. The sale prices of instruments by some living French makers are as follows:—

Violins. Tenors. Violon-
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
Gand & Bernardel, Paris 16  0  0 18 13  4 26 13  4
Miremont, Paris 13  6  8 16  0  0 24  0  0
Cherpitel, Paris 10 13  4 13  6  8 24  0  0
Thibouville-Lamy, Paris and London  8  0  0  8  0  0 16  0  0
Geronimo Grandini, sen. Mirecourt  4  6  8  4  6  8  8 13  4

M. Thibouville-Lamy has all these on sale; his own instruments are highly recommended.

Instruments of good quality are made in this country by W. E. Hill & Sons, 72 Wardour Street; Charles Boullangier, 16 Frith Street; G. Chanot, 157 Wardour Street; Szepessÿ Bela, 10 Gerrard Street; Furber, Euston Road, all in London: G. A. Chanot, of Manchester, and George Duncan, of Glasgow, are also excellent makers. Among foreign makers, the following may be mentioned—in Vienna, Zach, 1 Kärnthner Strasse; Bittner, 1 Kärnthner Strasse; Lembök, Canova Strasse; Voigt, Spiegel Gasse; Gutermann, Maria-Hilf Strasse: Rampftler, Burggasse, Munich; Sprenger, 34 Garten Strasse, Stuttgart; Hammig, Leipzig; Lenk, Promenade Platz, Frankfort-on-the-Maine; Liebich, Breslau; Mougenot, Brussels; Hel, Lille; Marchetti, Milan; Guadagnini Brothers, Turin; and Ceruti, Cremona.

Old instruments, however, are generally preferred by purchasers, especially those by the old Italian makers. Among these, the best instruments of Stradivari and Guarnieri del Gesù form a distinct first class; their prices range from £200 to £500. Inferior instruments by these makers can be bought at from £100 to £200. The very best instruments of second-class makers often realise over £100: but ordinary instruments by second and third-rate makers can generally be bought at prices ranging from £20 to £50: while old Italian fiddles of the commonest description are considered to be worth from £10 to £20. Fair instruments by old French, German, and English makers can be bought at still lower prices, ranging from £3 to £10. Red instruments, other things being equal, will generally fetch somewhat more than yellow or brown ones. The principal English dealers in old violins are Hill & Sons, G. Hart, G. Chanot, and Withers.

Old violins may be divided into two classes, those made on the 'high' and the 'flat' model respectively. The latter, which is characteristic of Stradivari and his school, including all the best modern makers, is undoubtedly the best. The 'high' model, of which Stainer is the bestknown type, was chiefly in use with the German and English makers before the Cremona pattern came to be generally followed in other countries. It is, in fact, a survival of the Viol, for which instrument the high model is the best: even Stradivari used the high model for the Double Bass and the Viola da Gamba. But a high-modelled violin, however handsome and perfect, is practically of little use. The tone, though easily yielded and agreeable to the player's ear, is deficient in light and shade, and will not 'travel.' The flatness of the model, however, must not go beyond a certain point. Occasionally a violin is met with, in which the belly is so flat as to have almost no curvature at all. The tone of such violins is invariably harsh and metallic.

The question is often asked, are old Italian violins really worth the high prices which are paid for them, and are not the best modern instruments equally good? In the writer's opinion the prices now paid for old Italian violins, always excepting the very best, are high beyond all proportion to their intrinsic excellence. The superiority of the very best class indeed is proved by the fact that eminent professional players will generally possess themselves of a full-sized Stradivari or Giuseppe Guarnieri, and will play on nothing else. There can be no doubt that these fine instruments are more responsive to the player, and more effective in the musical result, than any others; and as their number, though considerable, is not unlimited, the purchaser must always expect to pay, over and above their intrinsic value, a variable sum in the nature of a bonus or bribe to the vendor for parting with a rare article, and this necessarily converts the total amount paid into a 'fancy price.' But when we come to inferior instruments by the great makers, and the productions of makers of the second and third class, the case is widely different. Such instruments are seldom in request by the best professional players, who, in default of old instruments of the highest class, use the best class of comparatively modern violins; and the prices they command are usually paid by amateurs, under a mistaken idea of their intrinsic value. No one with any real idea of the use of a violin would pay £100 for instruments by Montagnana, Serafin, or Peter Guarnerius, when he could buy a good Vuillaume, Pressenda, or Lupot for from £20 to £30: yet the writer has constantly known the first-named price realised for Italian instruments of decidedly inferior merit.

Though Tenors and Violoncellos of the highest class are as valuable as Violins, Tenor and Violoncello players can usually procure moderately good instruments more cheaply than Violinists. Not only are the larger instruments less in demand, but while old English Violins are useless for modern purposes, the Tenors and Violoncellos which exist in large numbers, are generally of very good quality, and many players use Banks and Forster Tenors and Basses of these makers by preference. Double Basses by the great makers are rare and not effective in the orchestra: professional players usually choose old English ones, or modern ones by such makers as Fendt and Lott, who made the Double Bass a speciality.

Fiddle-making is so little practised as a trade in this country, that a short explanation of the process may be useful. The question is often asked whether the belly and back of the fiddle are not 'bent' to the required shape, and the enquirer hears with surprise, that on the contrary, they are 'digged out of the plank,' to use the words of Christopher Simpson, with infinite labour and care. The only parts of the Fiddle to which the bending process is applied are the ribs.

In construction, the violin, tenor, and violoncello may be said to be identical, the only difference being in the size and in the circumstance that the ribs, bridge, and soundpost of the violoncello are relatively higher than those of the other instruments. The tenor is one seventh larger than the violin, the violoncello twice as large: the double-bass is about double the size of the violoncello. The number of separate pieces of wood which are glued together for the fixed structure of the violin is as follows:—

Back  2 pieces (sometimes 1)
Belly  2 {{{1}}} (sometimes 1)
Blocks  6 {{{1}}}
Ribs  6 {{{1}}} (sometimes 5)
Linings 12 {{{1}}}
Bar  1 {{{1}}}
Purfling 24 {{{1}}}
Nut  1 {{{1}}}
Fingerboard  1 {{{1}}}
Handle or Neck  1 {{{1}}}
Lower Nut  1 {{{1}}}
Total 57

The moveable fittings comprise thirteen additional parts:—

Tailpiece  1
Loop  1
Button or Tailpin  1
Screws  4
Strings  4
Soundpost  1
Bridge  1
Total 13

The violin thus consists of seventy different parts, all of which, except the strings and loop, are of wood. The wood employed is of three sorts—maple for the back, handle, ribs and bridge; ebony for the fingerboard, nuts, screws, tailpiece and button; the purfling is partly of ebony, partly of maple; the belly, bar, blocks, linings, and soundpost are of pine. All metal is a profane substance in fiddle-making: no fragment of it should be employed, whether constructively or ornamentally. The parts must be put together with the finest glue, and with invisible joints.

The tone, other things being the same, depends largely on the quality of the maple and pine used. The wood must not be new: it should have been cut at least five or six years, and be well seasoned. It is, however, not advisable to use wood that is so old as to have lost much of its elasticity. Both pine and maple should be as white as possible, with a grain moderately wide, even, and as a rule perfectly straight. Local shakes and knots render the wood useless. Curves in the grain derange the vibration, and are therefore usually avoided: but the writer has seen violins in which a slightly curving grain has produced an exceptional power of tone.

The belly and back are often made each out of a single block of wood. This, however, is wasteful, and they are usually made each in two pieces. A square block of maple of suitable grain for the back, having been selected somewhat exceeding in length and in half- breadth the dimensions of the intended fiddle, and about an inch and a half thick, the saw is passed obliquely through it from end to end, dividing it into two similar pieces, each having a thick and a thin edge. The thick edges are planed perfectly true and glued together. The figure of the grain, when the fiddle is made, will thus match in the halves.

The first thing to be done is to settle the design of the instrument. The modern maker invariably adopts this from a Stradivari or a Giuseppe Guarnieri (del Gesu) fiddle, sometimes mixing the two designs. The old makers generally worked by rule of thumb, using the moulds of their predecessors, and if they made new patterns only slightly varied the old ones as experience suggested. It was by a succession of such minute experimental changes that the classical patterns were reached, and though attempts have been made to reduce their designs to mechanical principles, and to frame directions for constructing them by the rule and compasses[24] no practical violin-maker would think of doing so. There is no reason why he should slavishly copy any model: but his design should be based on study and comparison of classical patterns, not upon any theoretical rules of proportion.

Having settled the design, whether a tracing from an old instrument, or an entirely new one, the first thing is to trace the outline on a plate of hard wood about as thick as a piece of cardboard, and to cut this carefully out with the pen-knife. This is called the Pattern, and it serves both for back and belly.

The next thing is to make the Mould, which is made out of a block of hard wood about three quarters of an inch thick. Its outline stands three eighths of an inch all round inside that of the Pattern. Having cut out the mould to the requisite size and shape, the workman cuts rectangular spaces for the six blocks, large ones at the top and bottom and small ones at the four corners. The next thing, and one of great importance, is to trim the edges of the mould so that it shall be everywhere perfectly at right angles to the faces. Eight finger-holes are now pierced, to enable you to manipulate it without touching the edges. The making of the mould requires the greatest care and nicety: and fiddlemakers will keep and use a good one all their lives. In addition to the pattern and the mould the fiddlemaker requires four templates of varying size, cut to curves which are the reverse of the principal curves of the surface. The largest is the curve lengthwise in the middle of the fiddle (1), the other three are transverse, being (2) the curve of the surface at the greatest width in the upper part, (3) that at the narrowest part of the waist, (4) at the greatest width at the lower part.

The first part of the fiddle actually made is the back. The block out of which it is made is first reduced to the exact shape of the pattern; its upper surface is then cut away and brought to the right curves by the aid of the four templates. The maker then hollows out the inside, gauging the proper thicknesses by means of a pair of callipers. Precisely the same method is used for the belly, but its thicknesses are everywhere somewhat less than those of the back.

The top and bottom blocks are next prepared and shaped, temporarily fixed in the mould by means of a single drop of glue, brought to the exact height of the mould by the knife and file, and cut to the right shape by the aid of the pattern. The next task is to prepare a long strip of maple planed to the right thickness for the ribs. The proper length of each rib is ascertained on the mould by means of a strip of cartridge paper, and each rib is then cut off to its length and the edges prepared for joining. The ribs are now dipped two or three times in water, and bent to the curves of the mould by means of a hot iron. They are then placed in position on the mould and glued to the blocks; eight moveable blocks of wood, trimmed as counterparts to the ribs, one in each bout, one in the outer curve of each corner block, and two at the top and bottom, are applied outside them, and the whole mass is tightly screwed up in a frame and left to dry. When the frame and moveable blocks are removed, the ribs and blocks form a structure which only requires the addition of the back and belly to be complete. The back is first glued on, and the inside joint is filled up with linings of pine passing from block to block and dovetailed at each end into the blocks, similar linings are now glued to the upper edge of the ribs and brought to a flat surface. Lastly, the belly, on which the bass bar has already been fitted, is glued on, and the resonant box is complete.

The design and cutting of the head, the carving of the volute, and the double grooving of its back, are among the most difficult branches of the violin-maker's art. When the handle is ready it is accurately fitted and glued to the top block and to the semicircular button at the top of the back, which hold it firmly in the angle they form. The fiddle is now ready for varnishing. After being sized, three or more coats of varnish are successively applied. This is of two kinds, one made with oil and the other with spirits of wine. Oil varnish is long in drying; hence in this country, except in hot weather, the process is tedious, and the old English makers usually preferred spirit varnish, which dries very quickly. The best makers in all countries have used oil varnish, the soft texture of which penetrates and solidifies the wood without hardening the tone.

When the varnishing and polishing are completed the fingerboard is glued on, and the violin is then ready for its moveable fittings. The pegholes are now pierced, the pegs inserted, and the button prepared for the bottom block. The sound-post is made so as to fit the slopes of the back and belly and inserted in a perfectly vertical position: this is ensured by observation through the bottom block and soundholes. The bridge is then prepared and fitted, the tail-piece looped on, and the violin is ready for stringing.

Many of the best fiddle-makers, however, seldom make new instruments, which can be produced more cheaply and expeditiously by inferior workmen. Their principal and most profitable occupation is the purchase, restoration, and sale of old ones, which are preferred by modern purchasers, the best, because they really surpass in workmanship and appearance any of modern times, the inferior ones, because age has rendered them more picturesque to the eye, and easier to play. An old violin has generally to undergo many alterations before it is fit for use. If any part is worm-eaten, it must be renewed. If the blocks and linings are out of repair, or badly fitted, they must be properly arranged. Cracks must be united; if the belly or ribs have been pressed out of shape, they must be restored to shape by pressure on the mould: the damage to the belly, above the soundpost, which is sure to have occurred, must be repaired; if the old bass-bar remains, a larger and stiffer one must be provided, to enable the belly to bear the increased tension of a higher bridge. In almost every case the neck must be 'thrown back,' i.e. so re-arranged as to raise the lower end of the fingerboard farther above the belly, and thus admit of a bridge of the modern height: the new handle, carefully grafted into the head, must be made of somewhat greater length than the old one. The peg-holes, enlarged by use, must be plugged and repierced: a new bridge and sound-post must be adjusted with all the accuracy which these important details demand. Great labour and attention are demanded by an old violin, and it will be thrown away unless every detail of it is considered with strict reference to the particular type of instrument which is in hand. Hence the restoration of old instruments demands a knowledge of the fiddle which is wider and deeper than that required for the mere fiddlemaker.

For further information on the subject of the Violin the reader is referred to Rühlmann's 'Geschichte der Bogen-Instrumente' (Brunswick, 1882), a collection of valuable materials, with an excellent Atlas of Illustrations; Dubourg on the Violin (R. Cocks & Co.); Mr. Hart's excellent work, 'The Violin' (Dulau & Co.); M. Vidal's 'Les Instruments a Archet,' 3 vols. 4to. Paris, 1876–8, and Mr. E. H. Allen's recent publication 'Violin-making as it was and is' (Ward & Lock).
  1. A German authority insists that the true name is 'Bow-string instruments.'
  2. The form Fideille is not found, so far as the writer knows, in literature, its place having been early taken by the decayed form 'vielle': but its past existence is demonstrable by analogy. Brachet (Grammaire Historique de la Langue Française, p. 285) gives the following instances of the French forms assumed by Latin words in -iculus, -a, -um: Abeille (apicula), Orteil (orticulum), Sommeil (somniculus), Péril (periculum), Oreille (auricula), Corneille (cornicula), Ouallle (ovicula), Vermeil (vermiculus), Aiguille (acicula). From this list, to which may be added Corbeille (corbicula), we may safely conclude that Fidicula became in the oldest French 'fideille,' which form was transmitted with very little alteration to Anglo-Saxon and Old High German, while to France itself it became by phonetic decay 'Vielle.'
  3. 'Violon' is the old French diminutive of 'Viole,' and exactly equivalent to 'Violino.'
  4. Fiddle, i.e. fidicula, = lyre.
  5. The similarity between some ancient Welsh airs and the Greek modes suggests that these airs may be remnants of the popular music, of Greek origin, which spread with the sway of Rome over Western Europe.
  6. If the finger be slightly rosined a continuous tone can be produced. The Glass Harmonica is an example in which the finger performs the functions of a bow.
  7. Carl Engel, 'The Early History of the Violin Family,' p.111.
  8. See the article Rebec. In that article the author erroneously stated that no specimen of the Rebec was known to exist, an error shared by M. Vidal (Instruments à Archet. vol. 1, p. 18) and by M. Chouquet 'Catalogue Raisonné des Instruments du Conservatoire,' p. 2 ('Impossible d'en retrouver un seul aujourd'hui'). In the Exhibition of Ancient Musical Instruments at Milan in 1881 no less than six genuine specimens were exhibited.
  9. One very large and heavy one has a crucifix carved near the handle, and the lid ornamented with carvings: the other has the sacred monogram and sacred heart.
  10. 'Sih thar ouh al ruarit
    Thas organa fuarit
    Lira joh Fidula
    Joh managfaitu Swegala
    Harpha joh Rotta
    Joh thax joh Guates dohta.'
    (Schilter, Thesaurus Antiq. Teut. vol. I. p. 379.)

  11. Jerome of Moravia (a Dominican monk of Paris), 'Speculum Musices,' printed in Coussemaker, Scriptores de Musica Medii Aevi. Tom. i. The original MS. is in the Bibliothèque Nationale; Fonds de la Sorbonne, No. 1817. A French translation, with notes by M. Perne, appeared in Fetis's Revue Musicale for 1827.
  12. 'In dussem Jore geschah ein Wundertrecken bey Stendal in dem Dorpe gehrten Ossemer, dor sat de Parner des Midweckens in den Pinxten und veddelte synen Buren to dem Danse, da quam eln Donnerschlach, and schloch dem Parner synen Arm aff mid dem Veddelbogen und XXIV Lüde tod up dem Tyn.'
  13. Regola Rubertina, che insegna a sonar di Viola d'arco tastada, da Sylvestro Ganassi del Fontego. (Rühlmann, Gesch. der Bogeninstrumente, p. 202.)
  14. 'Apt for viols and voyces' is frequently found on the title-pages of the English madrigals of the 17th century.
  15. Now in the possession of P. Johns. Esq. The instrument was probably tuned like the ordinary violin, and the five sympathetic strings tuned to c, d, e, f, and g, the sympathetic tuning being however varied to suit the key.
  16. Edited by Rimbault for the Musical Antiquarian Society. The Preface is full of interesting information as to viol music.
  17. Music's Monument, p. 288.
  18. Wasielewski, Die Violine im xvii. Jahrhundert, p. 3. The dates are Stated as 1511, 1517, and 1519.
  19. Besides Gaspar we hear of Magnus, Wendelin, Leonhard, Leopold and Uldrich Tieffenbrücker. Magnus was a lute-maker at Venice, 1607. Wasielewski, Geschichte, etc., p. 81.
  20. A Nicolas Dolinet, joueur de fluste et violon du dict sieur, la somme de 50 livres tournois pour luy donner moyen d'achepter un violon de Cremone pour le service du dict sieur. Archives curieuses de l'Histoire de France, vol. viii. p. 355.
  21. Schubert's Sonata for the Pianoforte and Arpeggione (a revived form of the Viola da Gamba) is in fact a tribute to the musical capabilities of the Viol. [See Arpeggione.]
  22. In Austrian dialect 'Bassel' became 'Bassetl,' and even 'Pasedel.' See Nohl's Beethoven, iii. note 244. So too 'Bratsche' was corrupted into Pratschel. (Engel. 'Musical Myths,' i. 160.)
  23. Amatus is originally a Christian name. Identical with Aimé, which in the feminine form survives in French and English (Aimée, Amy). The correct family name is 'de' Amati' (De Amatis).
  24. The most noticeable of these is the 'calcolo' of Antonio Bagatella an amateur of Padua, published in 1782, by which he pretends to reveal the secret of the proportions used by the brothers Amati. It is reprinted in Folegatti's 'Il violino esposto geometricamente nella sua costruzione' (Bologna, 1874). Bagatella seems to have ruined many a good violin by adapting it to the Procrustean bed of his 'calcolo.'