Parts of the Violin

Shaped like a woman's body, the violin is one of the most important instruments of the 20th century. I always marvel at the combination of physics, chemistry, mathematics, and art that make up a violin. Understanding the parts of the violin and how they work together is essential to playing.  The top and back of the violin are carefully hand carved to exact measurements in order for the violin to have the best possible sound.

The violin makes a sound by drawing the bow across the strings which then sends vibrations across the bridge of the violin. The bridge is one of the most important parts of the violin as it is responsible for all the vibrations of the violin. Inside the violin we have two parts-the wood brace and the sound post.  The brace is a long narrow piece of wood that runs the length of the body of the instrument giving the body extra support. On the other side of the bridge is the sound post. The sound post is a narrow dowel held in place by the tension of the bridge pushing down on the violin. As the bridge vibrates, the sound waves travel down the sound post, into the body of the instrument and finally out through these two F holes.

The bridge is not glued in place but is suspended by the violin strings so it can vibrate while the instrument is being played. The sound post inside the violin is also not glued in place but held in place by the pressure of the bridge resting above it. Therefore, it is imperative that we are always careful to never bump or move the bridge.

Violin strings are typically made of a gut material that metal is wound around, making them flex and move as well. Because of this, we must tune our violin several times each day. The pegs at the top of the violin can be turned to tighten or loosen the violin strings. The wood that holds the pegs in place is shaped like a box, so we call this the peg box. At the other end of the violin is a tailpiece to hold the strings in place and some violins have what we call fine tuners to make small adjustments when tuning. The tailpiece is held onto the violin by a “button” at the bottom of the instrument.  This piece of wood here is an attachment called the chin rest, where you rest your chin while you play.

Price levels for violins vary from Stradivarius and Ginaouses that are worth millions of dollars to violin-shaped objects that you can buy on Amazon but are not worth anything. One of the ways you can tell if you are getting a good quality instrument is to evaluate the scroll of the violin. It is typically hand carved and the higher quality of instrument, the better carved it will be.

Equally important to the violin is the bow. The stick or main part of the bow is made out of either wood or carbon fiber then horsehair is attached from the tip of the bow and the base to this box shaped part that we call a frog.

Horsehair may shorten or lengthen with heat and humidity, so we want to tighten our bow before we play and loosen it before we put it away. We do this by turning the screw at the end of the violin bow. This moves the frog to either tighten or loosen the bow hair. Each time you get out your violin, apply a thick substance called rosin onto the bow. Rosin is, in essence, tree sap. This makes the bow hair sticky and enables it to create a sound when you play it. You never want to touch the violin bow hair because skin oil mixed with the rosin makes the horsehair unplayable.