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Developments in the 18th and 19th centuries

In the 17th century the violin was most commonly held by resting the button against the chest. As composers began to write more complex music that involved shifting to higher positions in the middle of the 18th century, violinists began to hold the instrument under the chin, as it is held today.

Composers in the 18th and 19th centruries started to make greater demands of the violin as an instrument, asking performers to play more in higher positions. Makers responded by lengthening the fingerboard and increasing the angle of the neck, and strengthened the connection of the neck to the body.

Leopold Mozart in his Treatise on the Fundamental Principles of Violin Playing in 1756 describes two ways of holding the violin - against the chest, or under the chin. Geminiani in 1782 wrote that the only way to hold the violin securely is under the chin. Louis Spohr is credited with inventing the chin rest in 1820. By the early 19th century the pedagogy of holding the violin between the shoulder and chin was well established.

The baroque violin bow had a stick that arched in the opposite direction from the modern bow. Before the invention of the screw, the tension was added to the hair manually, using the thumb. Baroque bows were constructed in varying lengths, to be used to perform different styles of music. Fast dances would be performed using a very short bow, and slower Adagios would be performed using longer bows.

The development of the violin bow to it's modern form was perfected by François Tourte (1774-1835). Tourte determined that pernambuco was the ultimate material for bows given it's weight, strength and elasticity. Pernambuco wood comes from South America, in fact Pernambuco is the name of a region in Brazil.

Prior to 1775 the violin bow's length and weight had not been standardized. Tourte established the optimal length of the violin bow at 74 to 75 cm.


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