If you’ve been struggling to tell your purflings from your strings, then I’ve got your back.
Maybe you’re new to violins and want to get to know your instrument, or maybe you’re a more advanced student and need to brush up on your violin anatomy.
Either way, I’ve got you covered.
Don’t worry, I’ll leave no stone unturned.
So, the next time your violin teacher asks you to point to the “tailgut” you won’t be at a loss for words!
We’ve all been there…
Violin Anatomy: What We’ll Cover
Parts of a Violin
- Violin Anatomy: The Basics
- In-Depth Violin Anatomy
- Parts of the Violin and Their Functions (A-Z)
Violin Strings Labelled
- Basic Bow Anatomy
- In-Depth Bow Anatomy (A-Z)
Parts of a Violin
Violin Anatomy: The Basics
After my very first violin lesson, I remember my teacher walking me through all the parts of the violin.
Everything she told me went completely over my head so when she said, “I’m going to test you next week”, I just about wet myself.
So, if you’re in the same position as my 9-year-old self, it’s probably best to brush up on the basics first.
Outside Your Violin
A great violinist knows their instrument like the back of their hand. You don’t need to be able to reel off every detail straight away, but this is a great place to start.
If you look down on your violin, the parts you can see are the:
- Pegs & pegbox
In-Depth Violin Anatomy
Now that you know the basics, it’s time to go into a little more detail.
I know all of this learning is a pain in the backside but it’s going to make you a better player. If you’re in-tune with your violin you’ll be able to pick up on any inconsistencies in your sound.
Better yet, you’ll be able to tell where any strange noises are coming from! Every violinist will experience some sort of in-convenient buzzing or muffling at some point.
If you can tell where it’s coming from, it’s going to be much easier to fix!
The parts of your violin you (probably) haven’t thought about are the:
- Top nut
- Peg holes
- Brass bar
- Corner blocks
- Upper block
- Lower block
Parts of the Violin & Their Functions (A-Z)
Have you ever wondered what’s going on inside your violin?
Those parts aren’t there for no reason. Each tiny piece of wood that makes up the inside of your violin has a specific function.
I know the thought of something breaking in there is soul-destroying but it can happen. Learning what each part does will help you on that dreaded day!
If anything ever breaks in there, it’s best to know what to look for. Long story short, if you ever hear anything rolling around in there it’s a bad sign!
|Brass bar||The brass bar counterbalances the pressure on the soundpost under the bass side of the bridge. This allows for extra pressure on the strings and strengthens the top plate of the violin.|
|Bridge||The Bridge holds up the strings for extra tension and carries the vibrations down into the soundbox to create resonance and volume.|
|Blocks (Upper, Lower & Sides)||The blocks give the violin more structural integrity and provide more surface area for the luthier to attach both the top and bottom plates of the violin.|
|Chinrest||The clue’s in the name! The chinrest is a rest for your chin that helps you to hold your violin in the right position.|
|C-ribs||C-ribs form the waist of the violin and direct the sound vibrations towards the center of the soundbox, where the F-holes are.|
|F-Holes||F-holes allow sound vibrations to escape the soundbox and project from the violin.|
|Fine-tuners||Fine tuners re not essential but most violins have at least one. They allow intricate tuning of the strings and are more accurate than the tuning pegs.|
|Fingerboard||The fingerboard allows the player to press the strings down, changing the pitch of the violin. The fingerboard also carries sound vibrations for greater resonance.|
|Linings||Linings encase the violin’s ribs and give the instrument more structural strength. They also provide a larger surface than just the ribs for the luthier to secure the top and backplates.|
|Neck||The neck supports your fingerboard and holds the majority of your strings’ tension. If your neck looks as if it’s dipping in the middle then it might be starting to warp!|
|Peg Holes||The peg holes hold the tuning pegs in place. They should be just the right size for the pegs. If they’re too big, the pegs won’t be able to hold the strings in tune.|
|Pegs||Your pegs hold the tension of your strings and allow you to tune your violin. For more precise tuning, use the fine-tuners.|
|Pegbox||The pegbox houses your tuning pegs and secures the top ends of your strings.|
|Purfling(s)||Purflings are usually inlaid in ebony and reinforce the structure of the top of your violin. Most violins have two purflings but some cheaper models only have one.|
|Saddle||The saddle is usually made from strong wood (like ebony or boxwood) and supports the tailgut. It also alleviates some of the pressure created by the strings and bow.|
|Scroll||The violin’s scroll is purely for aesthetic purposes but can indicate how well a violin has been crafted. Generally speaking, the more refined the scroll, the better the violin.|
|Strings (G, D, A, E)||The strings are the violin’s main source of sound. They generate vibrations when plucked or played by a bow. Strings can be made from different materials to produce varying tones.|
|Tailgut||The tailgut secures the tailpiece to your violin and holds the tension created by the strings. If your tailpiece is not properly secured by the tailgut, your bridge could fall or you could experience a muffled sound.|
|Tailpiece||The tailpiece houses the fine-tuners and secures the strings to the end of the violin. The tailpiece impacts the sound of your violin massively. Fun fact – tailpieces made from different materials generate different tones!|
|Top Nut||The top nut determines the height (or the action) of the strings and stops them from resting on the fingerboard.|
|Waist||The violin’s waist allows the player’s bow to move freely. The smaller the violin’s waist, the better the playability.|
Violin Strings Labelled
If you choose one aspect of the violin’s anatomy to learn today, it should probably be the names of the strings. Knowing the names of the strings won’t just make you a better violinist, it will ultimately make playing (and reading music) a whole lot easier!
From lowest to highest, the violin’s strings are G, D, A, and E. If you think a little mnemonic would help you to remember, here’s one I thought of earlier – Gorillas Don’t Abandon Elephants. My Australian friend once said she remembered violin strings because GDAE sounds a little like g’day if you try to sound out the letters.
So, if you live down under, you’re welcome!
We’re not done yet! It’s time to learn your bow anatomy. To be honest, it’s pretty straight forward but you may as well learn it while you’re here. We all know how excited I get about violin facts!
Basic Bow Anatomy
Let’s start from the bottom up, shall we?
First, we have the screw which allows you to tighten or slacken the tension of your bow hair. Then we’ve got the frog. I wish I knew some cool story as to why it’s called that but I honestly have no idea. Anyway, then we’ve got the grip which (yup, you guessed it) gives you something to hold onto.
Then, on the other side of the bow, you’ve got the hair. Lastly, there’s the stick (you know, that long wooden part).
Oh, there’s also the tip. It’s just known as the tip (funnily enough) or the “tip mortise” if you’re fancy.
In-Depth Bow Anatomy (A-Z)
Nope, not done yet my little violin anatomy apprentice! The bow is a complicated bit of kit, I’ll have you know. In all seriousness, it’s a good idea to know your bow inside and out, you know, just in case something falls off!
|Part of Bow||Function|
|Bow Hair||The bow hair is the part of the bow that generates sound when slid along the strings by the player.|
|Chamfer||The chamfer stops the sharp edges of the tip from breaking off.|
|Cheek||The cheek of the bow doesn’t particularly have a function, it is the flat side of the tip of the bow and is shaped to give the bow proper balance.|
|Comma||The comma has a similar function to the chamfer. It stops the sharp edges of the front ridge from breaking and curves down from the tip to the stick.|
|Ebony Liner||The ebony liner is the section between the wood of the bow and the ivory on the tip mortise. It gives the tip extra strength and helps to balance the bow.|
|Frog||Encases the screw that allows you to tighten and slacken the bow hair.|
|Front Ridge||The front ridge of the violin bow is carved for balance and shapes the stick to the point of the tip.|
|Grip/Leather/Thumb Piece||The grip is where the player rests their thumb while playing. Fun fact – early bows like the Baroque bow didn’t have thumb pieces.|
|Head Mortise||The head mortise houses the top end of the bow hair.|
|Lapping||Violin luthiers use lapping to balance the violin bow. They add an extra few grams to the frog-end of the bow by wrapping metal around the stick. It also stops the wood of the bow from being damaged when the grip is worn down.|
|Nose||The nose connects the front ridge down to the tip of the bow.|
|Parisian Eye||The Parisian eye usually indicates the quality of the bow. Lower quality bows will have Parisian eyes made of shell or even painted on whereas high-end bows might have gold ones.|
|Peak||The peak should mark where the bow hair stops on the other side. Violinists can use this as an indication when they’re playing.|
|Stick||The stick is the wooden part of the bow that is weighted to allow the violinist to put the ideal pressure on the strings as they play.|
|Tip||The whole end of the bow (the tip mortise) is generally referred to as the tip.|
|Tip Plate||The tip plate protects the wood of the bow and adds weight to the tip.|
|Three-part Button/Screw||The screw allows the player to slacken or tighten the bow hair, either to maintain the shape of the bow when they’re not playing or to vary the pressure on the strings.|
|Throat (frog)||The throat of the frog is sometimes where players rest their thumb when playing. It also separates the bow hair from the bow stick.|
|Throat (tip)||The throat of the tip separates the bow hair from the stick at the top of the violin bow.|
Soon You’ll Know Your Violin Like the Back of Your Hand
I bet that was a lot to take in.
Don’t worry, just start with the basics and build up to the more in-depth stuff.
Regardless of the type of violin, they are complicated little instruments, that’s why they sound so great! Knowing the ins and outs of your violin makes choosing upgrades so much easier.
Now you’ll know what to look for to make sure you’re buying a fantastic violin! Brushing up on your violin anatomy makes you a much better violinist as well.
I know studying your frog or your soundbox is probably the last thing you want to do but it’s worth it.
Soon you’ll know your violin like the back of your hand!
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Fiona is a musician and writer. When she’s not working, she’s either playing the ukulele or finding another instrument to add to her collection.