A brief history of the violin

Hmm - to be honest if you wanted to you could write a whole book on the history of the violin. What with discussions on who really developed it, the instruments the violin owes its roots to, the famous makers, tracing the spread of the violin around the world, exploring the interplay of the social changes over the years that affected the music being written and the status with with the violin was viewed, I could keep you here for a loooong time >:-).

No no, wait! don't leave yet! Look, I'll do you a deal - how about I bullet point the main facts for you first, and then show you where you can go for more details if you are interested?

Okay, ready to race through a brief outline of the history of the violin? Here we go....

  • The violin combines features from the rebec, Lira de braccio and the renaisance vielle. As such, it wasn't so much 'invented' as developed out of existing instruments of the day. What's that? you don't know what they look like? Hey no problem - have a look here.
  • The violin was first developed in the early to mid 1500's.
  • The development of the violin is most commonly attributed to Andrea Amati.
  • The first centers of violin making were in northern Italy, notably Brescia and Cremona.
  • Violin making spread from Vienna to Paris via trade routes of the day. (Mirecourt in France is still a center of violin making today)
  • Some of the most famous names in violin making are Nicolo Amati (grandson of Andrea Amati), Antonio Stradavari(1644 – 1737) and Giuseppe Guarneri del gesu (1698 – 1744)
  • Most modern instruments are modelled after either Stradivari or Guanari violins.
  • At first the violin held a lowly social status until the early 1600's.
  • Greater demands on the Violin by performers and composers (principally greater use of higher registers and a more powerful sound desired), resulted in changes to the instrument including lengthening the neck, setting it at an angle to the body, and strengthening the bass bar.
  • The chin rest wasn't introduced until the 1800's.
  • The modern bow was developed in France by Françoise Xavier Tourte ( 1747 - 1835 ) (thus the name for the modern bow - the tourte bow)

If you want to go into more detail on the history of the violin have a look at


This is a 1999 thinkquest project by three young violinists which covers the history, manufacture, science and playing of the violin as well as the violin family and musicians. Very nicely done, and worth perusing.

Back to the violin information page