Violin family

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Description:
The violin family of musical instruments was developed in Italy in the sixteenth century. The standard modern violin family consists of the violin, viola, cello, and double bass.

Instrument names in the violin family are all derived from the root viola, which is a derivative of the Medieval Latin word vitula (meaning "stringed instrument"). A violin is a "little viola", a violone is a "big viola" or a bass violin, and a violoncello (often abbreviated cello) is a "small violone" (or, literally, a "small big viola"). (The violone is not part of the modern violin family; its place is taken by the modern double bass, an instrument with a mix of violin and viol characteristics.)

The instruments of the violin family may be descended in part from the lira da braccio and the medieval Byzantine lira.



Characteristics

The playing ranges of the instruments in the violin family overlap each other, but the tone quality and physical size of each distinguishes them from one another. Both the violin and the viola are played under the jaw, the viola being the larger of the two instruments, with a playing range reaching a perfect fifth below the violin's. The cello is played sitting down with the instrument between the knees, and its playing range reaches an octave below the viola's. The double bass...
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