Who would not want to go and see an orchestra? I bet almost everyone wants to, considering that orchestras are often fantastic to watch because it is a large musical ensemble. Orchestra had a long history dating back to the renaissance period or even earlier. At present, it has four main sections: percussion, brass, woodwinds, and strings. The string section, of course, is an exciting section of the orchestra, and the highest-pitched among the string instruments is the violin.
You will often find the violins in front of the ensemble, moving in synchrony and carrying the symphony’s harmony. The violin is the smallest, yet it screeches with the highest pitch among the string instruments. It is also known as the fiddle.
Most violins feature a hollow body made of wood. It has four strings with notes of G3, D4, A4, and E5. Tuned in perfect fifths, you can play it using a bow that you run across its strings. You can also pluck the strings using your fingers (pizzicato), and in some cases, you can strike its strings using the bow’s wooden side (col legno).
The violin is not only important in the orchestra; it is also valuable to different musical genres like country music, bluegrass, jazz. Moreover, you will find electric violins used in jazz fusion and rock music. Besides, in non-Western music, the violin has also found its way.
The Amazing Sound of Violin
I remember the very first time I listened to the violin during my sister’s wedding; my jaw dropped upon hearing its resounding high and bright sound that was so sweet to listen to. Its sound literally could draw out tears from its listeners. It could inspire awe and produce deep emotions. It could also come as a whisper that was soothing to the ear and affects the human soul.
The sound of the violin appears to be very similar to the human voice. This is because it produces various sounds and could express through music the human emotion’s full range. The violin is not a lesser instrument, for it is voluminous and projects its sound well. Moreover, it shows the quickness and nimbleness of an extraordinary instrument as it quickly responds to the bow.
In the typical orchestra, you will usually find more violins than other instruments. In fact, you will find 30 violins or more in an orchestra. The violins get generally segregated into two sections, with the first playing the melody.
The violin is diminutive compared to the double bass. It is only 24-inch long and around 29 inches in length. To play it, you need to tuck it in between your shoulder and chin. You also use your right hand to pluck or move the bow across the strings while your left hand presses on the strings to alter the pitch.
Violin’s Pitch Range
Tuned in fifths, the strings of violins have the following notes of G3, D4, A4, and E5. Its lowest note is the G3 or G below the middle C or C4. You can even tune it down to the D3 on rare occasions. Of course, the highest note, although not well defined, is pegged at E7, two octaves over the open string (E5), which is the standard limit of the orchestra’s violin sound.
Nevertheless, you can still play it higher, depending on the fingerboard’s extent and the violinist’s skill. You can even sound it up to C8 by engaging in string stopping as you reach the fingerboard’s limit and by utilizing artificial harmonics.
Factors Affecting the Pitch Level
You can definitely change the pitch of string instruments by varying the string tension. Strings, of course, aren’t infinitely flexible when they are strung between two supports. So, you can vary their pitch by varying the following:
You can vary the pitch of a string by varying its length. The longer the string is, the lower its pitch, while the shorter it is, the higher its pitch. The frequency by which it vibrates is usually inversely proportional to its length.
When setting up a string, you only connect one end to the nut and another end to the bridge on any plucked or bowed instrument. A good example would be a double bass. Since it has a low range, it requires a scale length of about 42 inches.
The violin scale, on the other hand, is around 13 inches. On this shorter scale, your left hand will quickly reach a slightly greater range than that of two octaves without necessarily shifting position.
The second way to adjust the pitch of a string is by changing its tension. It will be good to remember that a violin string with lower tension will produce a lower pitch, while a string with higher tension will produce a higher pitch.
You can adjust your violin strings’ tension, for example, by adjusting the tuning pegs. It also has fine tuners—tiny metal dials—near its bottom. Mathematically, the frequency of a string is proportional to the tension’s square root.
Lastly, you can vary the pitch of a string by changing its linear density. But what is a linear density? Well, it is the mass per unit length of a string. To achieve a higher linear density for a string, manufacturers wind strings with metal, especially for double bass or bass piano.
Strings with heavier metal windings create a lower pitch than those with no metal windings. You will see these windings in double bass strings. You will not see these metal windings on strings with a higher pitch.
Manufacturers usually wrap the string with thin metal wires to increase its linear density to produce a very low-pitch string. These wires add mass to the strings without making them too stiff. It is likewise helpful to remember that the frequency is also inversely proportional to the linear density’s square root.
The violin—being the highest-pitched instrument in the string section—can produce that characteristic brilliant and rich tone which everyone would love. The violin produces this rich sound because of its excellent structure. String vibrations are usually transmitted to the top and bottom plates of the violin via the bridge.
These vibrations then reverberate inside the hollow body of the violin, producing that fantastic sound. The bowed string vibrates in a circular motion, and this movement produces its fundamental tone. The violin is indeed a great instrument for it produces a variety of sounds and projects these sounds well to its listeners’ delight.