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Orchestral bowed strings

What is a bowed instrument?

Bowing (Italian: Arco) is a method used in some string instruments, including the violin, viola, cello, and less commonly, the double bass (of the violin family) and the old viol family.

Are there other bowed instruments?

Ancestors of the modern bowed string instruments are the rebab of the Islamic Empires, the Persian kamanche and the Byzantine lyra. Other bowed instruments are the rebec, hardingfele, nyckelharpa, kokyū, erhu, igil and sarangi. The hurdy gurdy is bowed by a wheel.

20th Century: Claude Debussy, Arnold Schoenberg, Bela Bartok and Igor Stravinsky.

Key Points

The violin developed from the Lyre. The modern form of the violin was principally designed by Andrea Amati in 16th century Italy.

Did you know?

Stradivari is believed to have created 1,100 violins in Cremona, Italy and 650 are believed to still be in existence.


Orchestral Bowed Strings

The medieval violin emerged in 10th-century Europe, deriving from the lyra (Greek:λύρα, Latin:lira, English:lyre), a bowed string instrument of the Byzantine Empire, considered as the ancestor of many European bowed instruments.

The 'Modern' Violin

It is Andrea Amati who is the known developer of the violin. Amati apprenticed as a lute maker and in 1525, he became a master instrument maker.

The earliest noted violin makers were Gasparo da Salò and Giovanni Maggini, both Italians, but it is during the 17th and early 18th centuries that the art of violin making reached its peak. The Italians Antonio Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri as well as the Austrian Jacob Stainer are most noted during this period. Stradivari was an apprentice to Nicolo Amati, Andrea Amati's grandson.

By the mid-18th century, the violin enjoyed a vital place in instrumental music ensembles. In the 19th century, the violins' rise to fame continued in the hands of virtuoso violinists such as Nicolò Paganini and Pablo de Sarasate. In the 20th century the violin reached new heights both in technical and artistic aspects. Isaac Stern and Fritz Kreisler are some of the well-known icons of the period.