The violin is a complex instrument that takes years of study to master. There are several different ways to play the violin that fit different settings and themes. Most of the playing styles were invented hundreds of years ago, but there are some styles that were invented much more recently. Changing the way the violin is played can completely change the sound and tone of the instrument, making it the perfect accompaniment to nearly any musical style.
Before 1800, the violin had a variety of playing styles. The violin originated in the Middle East, Byzantine Empire and India. These countries had their own style of play, mostly mournful and haunting. The notes were usually played long. During the 1500s and 1600s, the violin was used in Renaissance style music, with short, broken notes and a hybrid of string plucking and using the bow. In the late 1600s and throughout the 1700s, the Baroque style of music was used for the violin. The style of violin playing during the Baroque period was typically all one volume, and notes were played in a shortened style with clear breaks between most notes.
1800 to 1900
During the Classical and Romantic music periods, the way the violin was played changed. Higher contrasts during the same song were introduced, such as playing one line of music loudly then suddenly dropping to a softer volume in the next line. The notes were also drawn out longer and richer than in the Baroque style of playing. Some of the changes were introduced along with the use of brass instruments in music. Many modern violinists are taught using the Classical style of play.
There are several styles of violin folk music, depending on the region. In Europe and the United States, fiddle music is the most-used folk style. A fiddler often plays several notes together and will use a mixture of other sounds, such as hitting the base of the violin for a tapping sound. Fiddle music uses fast playing and a high amount of pressure on the bow to accomplish the fiddle style. Other European countries have a slightly different style, including the polka style, where notes are fast and short and the Irish style, where the notes are long and haunting. In India, the violin has different strings, and is played like a cello, with the base touching the ground. In China, the violin is usually played with high notes that are long and lingering. Middle Eastern folk music is similar to that of European or American style.
Late 1900s and Beyond
Most styles of playing violin were introduced hundreds of years ago. However, a few newer styles were introduced much more recently, around the 1980s with the introduction of synthesized music. Synthesized violin music uses an electric-powered violin to create entirely new sounds for the instrument. Typically, this style of music is played with sweeping notes or extremely fast notes, similar to electric guitar solos. The electric violin is also a new invention, with the ability to plug into a sound system to produce a crackled sound similar to an electric guitar. Jazz-style violin music is also a style of violin-playing that was little used before the 1960s. Blue grass is a hybrid style of violin music between jazz and fiddle music.