What is the history of orchestra?

how and when did it start?

It started with the violin.

Evolution of the Violin

"Early violinmakers appear to have based the violin on three stringed instruments in use at the time: the lira, the rebab from Arab culture, and the Renaissance fiddle. The rebab is thought have been in use as early as the 8th century and is still played today. The pinnacle of violin making was the late 1500s to the late 1600s when the Amati, Guarneri, and Stradivarius violins were made. Basic violin construction remains the same, but variations in body shape, depth, wood type, string, and bows are all factors in the resonance and quality of the sound an individual instrument produces.”

"Today, violins are manufactured in different sizes for different musicians. Children just learning to play may use a fractional size violin. Small-framed adults may use what is called a lady's violin, which is a bit shorter than the typical instrument.Violins have played an important role in music throughout history. Violins are used in the country, jazz, baroque, rock, classical, folk (where it is sometimes called a fiddle), and orchestral genres. The beauty of the instrument, its magnificent sound, and its rich history make the violin the predominant string instrument in orchestras today." Violins were based on three-stringed instruments, such as the Lira, the Rebab, and the Renaissance Fiddle. Violins were first created during the late 1500s to the late 1600s. The construction remains the same, but variations in body shape, depth, wood type, string and bows are all factors in the resonance and quality of the sound each violin makes.


I find it surprising that the violin was based off other instruments, I always though it was it's own thing. I think the different sized violins make it easier so that everyone can play the violin if they want. In an orchestra, violins seem to always have the melody, I think that may be because the violins were made first.

Then the cello

“The cello actually originated in the early 16th century as a member of the violin family. The earliest violins were an amalgam of the features of well-known instruments in common use about 1500: the rebec, the renaissance fiddle and the lira da braccio. It is now well known that the viols were actually not ancestors of the violins in any decisive aspect of construction, tuning or playing technique. Agricola, writing in 1529, describes instruments of the early violin family with different ranges, including a bass instrument with three strings tuned F-C-G (with F being the lower string, then ascending in fifths). H. Gerle, writing in 1532, describes an instrument with the same tuning as our modern cello, C-G-D-A, in ascending order. An instrument turned a whole note lower (Bflat-F-C-G) continued popular in England and France into the 18th century.

The earliest known makers of instruments that would be recognized today as cellos were Andrea Amati (who died before 1580) of Cremona, Gasparo da Salo (1540-1609) of Brescia and his pupil Giovanni Paolo Maggini (1581-1632). Their cellos were larger than modern cellos (up to 80 cm in length), and survivers have been shortened.

One famous cello made by Amati, is called "The King." The violoncello has paintings of the arms, devices and mottoes of Charles IX, the king of France. Because of its decorations it is believed to be one of the thirty-eight violoncellos ordered for Charles IX. On the center of the back can be seen the crown over the remaining outline of the coat of arms. The physical characteristics of this violoncello are not much different from the modern day violoncello. This allows us to conclude that violoncellos have not changed much since then. (Cowling, The Cello, pg. 28)

The move toward a smaller cello took place in Bologna in the 1600's when silver-wound lower strings were invented. It should be noted here that many luthiers were making cellos before the famous Stradivari appeared on the scene. However, it was Stradivari who decided around the year 1707 to go with a length of about 75 cm, and this became the standard. It is also of interest that the necks of the entire violin family of instruments were lengthened during the 18th century. It was also in the early 18th century that cello makers experiment with five string cellos. Some think that Bach may have had the five string cello in mind for his 6th Cello Suite. " In the early 16th century, the cello was recognized as a member of the violin family. The earliest violins were almost exact copies of commonly used instruments in 1500: the Rebec, the Renaissance Fiddle, and the Lira. It is well known today that viols were not ancestors of the violin.


In my opinion, the cello is the best instrument in an orchestra, it's not too low, like the double bass, and not too high, like the violin. The large history that the cello has makes it even more valuable to me, learning new things about the history of the cello makes me feel connected to it even more. The cello's great ascent through history gives it a powerful sound and gives the audience a heartwarming feeling.