Know about Violin, the Solo and Accompaniment Instrument of Carnatic Music
The violin emerged in its definitive form between 1520 and 1550 in northern Italy with Milan as its centre. The first violin makers in the area included, from Brescia, Giovan Giacomo Dalla Corna (1484-1530) and Zanetto de Michelis da Montechiaro (1488-1562). The instruments of these violin makers were not all violins that had reached the final phase of their evolution. Amongst the instruments that bear a date are two violins by Andrea Amati(1500? – 1576), built between 1542 and 1546, that had only three strings in their primitive form. But from 1555 several documents testify to the existence of the four-stringed violin: the first four-stringed violin by Amati that has come down to us is dated precisely 1555.
The famous school of Cremona was established by Antonio Amati (1555-1640?), Girolamo Amati (1556-1630) and Girolamo’s son, Nicola (1596-1684).In Brescia the first great master was Gasparo di Bertolotti da Salò (1540-1590). Giovanni Paolo Maggini (1580-1632) was his most important pupil. The school of Brescia declined after Maggini, while Cremona retained its uncontested first place.
The pupils of Nicola Amati were Girolamo Amati II (1649-1740), Andrea Guarneri (1626-1698), G.B. Rogeri (1666-1696), Francesco Ruggieri (1645-1700),Paolo Grancino (1655-1692) and probably also ANTONIO STRADIVARI (1644-1737).
Giovanni Maria Dalla Corna founded perhaps the violin making school of Venice. Elsewhere violin making schools appeared early in France, in Paris around 1550, then inMirecourt, Nancy and Lyon.
Jacob Stainer (ca. 1621.1683, Absam, near Innsbruck in Austria) emerged as the first great violin maker north of the Alps. His renown at one point outshone even that of the school in Cremona! H.I. Biber, Jean-Sebastien Bach, F. Veracini, Locatelli, Leopold Mozart played Stainer violins
Brief description of the parts of the violin and the wood used.
The parts of the violin.
- Scroll, peg box, pegs, neck and fingerboard (Maple and ebony)
- Top , Ribs, Back and F-holes (Pine, Maple and ebony for purfling)
- Sound post, tailpiece and top-nut. (Pine and ebony)
The parts of the bow.
- Point, Frog and stick
- Hair and screw
The Indian pre-cursor to the violin
The Ravanastron (this instrument is said to have belonged to a sovereign of India 5000 years before Christ), the Rabab or Rebab (very ancient, it was played in Persia, in Arabia and in North Africa), the Rebec (the rubebe or rebel or rebec was brought to southern Europe in the Middle Ages by Muslim merchants and artists)… and many other more or less rudimentary instruments dating back to ancient times are considered to be interesting – although distant – precursors of the violin.
The potential of the violin, as seen by the early pioneers in playing Carnatic music on it.
All Gamakas can be produced effectively in the violin. Hence the early pioneers adapted their ideas to the needs of a melodic quotient in a concert.
- Melodious and powerful tones are possible in a violin, which can reach many – there was no external amplification in the period before 1940, or even later.
- Continuity and modulation in sound can be maintained by the bow. Discrete notes too can be produced.
- The violin can relatively (vis-à-vis the Flute and the Veena) be easily tuned to any pitch. Strings can also be changed quickly. The range of notes easily playable on a violin also suited the needs of a Carnatic music concert. Hence violin slowly but surely became popular among musicians and music lovers.
Why is the violin held differently while playing Carnatic music?
- Nature of Gamakams – Jaru and kampitam etc need the violin to be held very firmly. Hence the performer rests the violin scroll on his heel and props it up against his chest.
- All performers sit and perform. This could also have been a reason for the necessity for this posture.
- The importance of firm and yet flexible grip. Besides holding the violin so as prevent shaking, the violin also needs to admit of bowing on various strings, and switching from high positions in fingering to lower ones, and vice- versa.
- The main types of grip, as can be seen to have evolved are:
- Between ankle and chest or
- Between ankle and Collar bone (clavicle bone)
- Since this grip causes discomfort, various stands to hold the violin have also come into use of late.
The principles of bowing, and holding the bow.
- Always play perpendicular to the string.
- Distance from bridge and thickness of string. Flat of the hair and side of the hairs used.
- Explain the variations in speed and pressure of the bow.
- Gripping the bow:
- Role of thumb, Index finger and ring finger (or little finger)
- Role of wrist and elbow
All the above factors need to be thoroughly understood, in order to be able to use the bow effectively.
Brief description of the principles of fingering in Violin play.
Violin playing can be understood as the SSS formula (Stops, Slides and slurs).
- Stops ( These are the basic, and are used primarily for playing Shuddha swarams and Janta swarams)
- Slides (Jarus). Single and two finger slides are commonly used, to smoothly slide from one note to another.
- Slurs (Kampitams)
- Also it is necessary to note that the fingers should strive to maintain perpendicularity to the string , for producing good and steady tone.