What Does the Violin Sound Like?

The violin does not have an easily defined sound. Bright, metallic, open, solemn and veiled are some adjectives that appear frequently in descriptions of the violin's sound.

The violin yields sound by way of its strings, its bridge, belly and body. A violinist induces sound from the violin by either bowing the strings or plucking them, which is indicated in a musical score by the word "pizzicato."

A violin's strings vibrate when a violinist plucks or bows them. The vibrations transfer to the bridge, which holds the strings at the lower end of the violin. The bridge then transfers vibrations to the belly and throughout the violin's body.

The vibrating body creates airwaves within the violin's body cavity, and these changes in air pressure produce sound waves. The quality and type of sound that occurs depends as much upon the violinist's technical approach as it does upon the very material that constitutes the violin's body and its strings.

The size and shape of the violin, and the thickness and length of a violin's strings, generally produce higher frequencies. However, there is no universal timbre associated with each of the violin's registers.

Whether the resulting timbre is reedy, velvety, silvery, dark or hot, the violinist is solely responsible for eliciting it. Similarly, there are no sounds in nature that resemble the violin's sound, so descriptions of its sound often tax superlatives and demand the use of metaphor.