Every instrument has a history that also involves bizarre, incredible and random facts! Violin players, enthusiasts and music lovers – here is my compilation of 10 interesting violin facts! Which of these did you already know? I was particularly surprised at number 2 and 6.

I hope you enjoy this article and don’t forget to comment below if there is anything you would like to add. I look forward to hearing from you. 

1. The Original Violin

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The modern violin, believed to derive from the Medieval Latin word vitula, which means ‘stringed instrument’, was created in the 1500s by Andrea Amati in Cremona, Italy. Andrea was an Italian luthier and was asked to build the violin as a lighter alternative to the lyre. He was also the founder of the Cremonese School Of Violin Making, where Antionio Stradivari himself became a pupil in the late 1600s. He quickly rose to fame, known for making intricate quality instruments and showing his originality by making alterations to Amati’s original model. While the violin has not seen much visual change since it was first made by Amati, Stradivarius made significant structural changes to enhance the sound and extend the range of the instrument. This was done by enlarging the body, using bolder ‘f’ holes, heightening the bridge and extending the fingerboard. During Stradivarius’s time, chinrest was also added for extra comfort. The original gut strings, which produced a warmer, more mellower tone were also replaced by metal strings.

You can view the pictures of what is believed to be one of Andrea Amati’s violins that survived to this day. This violin can be found in the Metropolitan Museum Of Art in New York City. 

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2. Fastest Violinist

The world record as the fastest violinist is still held by Ben Lee. He is a Sussex-born electric violinist, composer, producer, and is part of the rock violin duo FUSE, along with Linzi Stoppard. In 2010 he beat the world record, previously held by David Garrett, who set the record in 2008 by playing ‘Bumblebee’ in 1 min 6.56 seconds or 13 notes per second. Ben Lee trumped David’s record by playing the same piece of music in amazing 58.515 seconds an average of 15 notes per second. You can see Ben’s performance below. Do you think you can beat him? 

3. For The Young Violin Geniuses…

Violin’s are known to come in a variety of different sizes to suit every player’s height and size. Did you know that the smallest size violin available is 1/64! This is perfect for children aged 2-3, therefore, they can start learning the violin around the same time as they learn to talk. See this incredible video of Akim Camara, performing on stage alongside world-famous Andre Rieu when he was only 3 years old! 

4. World’s Largest Violin

The world’s largest playable violin was constructed by 15 dedicated violin makers from Markneukirchen, Germany. It is 4.27 metres tall and 5.22 metres wide and sounds 3 times lower than a conventional violin. How would you like to have one of these in your house? 

The world’s largest violin being played:

5. MRI Scan

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Studies have shown for a while that children, who have received musical training from a young age, develop better motor skills, faster mental processing on different tasks and enhanced abilities in other activities outside of their musical studies. However, if you look at a string players’ brain under an MRI scan, the parts of the brain that are sensitive to left hand finger motions prove to be more responsive. This means that these regions of the brain that are responsible for finger motions have become more advanced. In fact, string players who have started learning from an early age will have a more prominent change in their brain, although, according to studies this does not relate to the hours of practice. So there you have it, your musical skills not only stay with you as a gift for years to come but also leave imprints on your brain development. 

6. When Regular Strings are Not Available…

Ever wondered how your violin would sound if you used human hair as strings? Well, wonder no more as people behind the Hair Music experiment have done exactly that. They have separated strands of hair and glued them together to create a similar feel to metal wound strings. It is kind of strange and also very impressive at the same time! So the next time you snap a string, you will know what to do for a quick fix…

7. Violin Spider

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Brown Recluse spider also has nicknames like brown fiddler, fiddleback spider and violin spider. Why? If you look closely, the spider has a distinct marking on the front of its body, which looks a lot like a violin. The Brown Recluse, is a fairly small, mellow creature, that will rather avoid conflict, however, it does bear a hemotoxic venom, that can be potentially deadly and is normally released when the spider is pressed up against skin. Brrrr…Before this article gives you nightmares, it is worth noting, these spiders usually inhabit South California to West Arizona and in majority of cases will not bite or attack humans, therefore, you shouldn’t really fear this spider, simply appreciate the cool marking on its back. 

8. Skipping The Gym For a Violin Practice – guilt free!

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If you are worried that violin practice takes up so much of your time that you are too busy to exercise, don’t worry! Recent studies have shown that playing a violin burns approximately 175 calories an hour. That is around 2/3 of a Snickers bar (total 250 calories) or a medium glass of wine (159 calories). So go ahead, practice hard and feel free to treat yourself after – you’ve earned it! 

9. Cycling With Your Violin

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Mr Christian Adam holds the world record of artistic cycling and multitasking in his own lane, in other words, cycling backwards while playing violin. So for those of us who want to stay fit while not missing a minute of valuable practice time, this method might be exactly what you are looking for (cycling forward might be easier and less dangerous though).  Upon achieving this milestone, Christian covered a total distance of 60, 45 km cycling backwards while playing his violin for 5:08 hours. This took place back in 1963 on St. Gallen highway in Switzerland, before the highway was fully open of course. 

10. The Most Expensive Violin

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The most expensive violin to date is the Lady Blunt, which is a Stradivarius violin made in 1721. The instrument has been named after Lady Anne Blunt, Lord Byron’s granddaughter, who owned it for 30 years. This violin was sold in an auction by Nippon Music Foundation at £9.3 million to raise money for the victims in Japanese tsunami in 2011. The current owner’s name was kept anonymous, however, Lady Blunt was also pre-owned by collectors such as Jean Baptiste Vuillaume, Baron Johan Knoop, Sam Bloomfield and WE Hill & Son. It is admired for its immaculate condition even after all these years. Would you spend millions on a legendary and unique piece of instrument like this? 

About the author

Diana was Normans Piano & Strings specialist for a number of years. She is a singer songwriter, plays piano and speaks 3 languages. In her spare time, she enjoys travelling as well as blogging about anything.

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Comments

  • Sal Presti 26/07/2015 at 8:25 pm

    What about Anne Akiko Meyer’s 18 million dollar Vieuxtemps gGarneri del Gesu violin as the most expensive?

    Reply
    • Diana Stone 03/08/2015 at 9:06 am

      Hi Sal,

      Thanks for spotting this, unfortunately, Vieuxtemps Guarneri didn’t come up on my research for some reason. Just found this list of the most expensive violins, I am guessing the prices just keep rising:

      http://www.cmuse.org/12-most-expensive-violins/

      Reply