Musical instruments have existed in one form or another for many thousands of years. There were several stringed instruments made before violins, but some of them are so ancient that modern scholars hardly know anything about them, having only seen them depicted in artwork or written record. The violin has existed in its current form since the 16-th century. The first Violin makers were Italians who were probably influenced by other ancient stringed instruments from around the world.
Some of the violin’s precursors date back several thousand years. The ravanstron, rebec, and rabab are ancient stringed instruments that were used thousands of years ago. By the 11-th century, the rote and vielle had been invented. These instruments looked somewhat similar to modern violins in that they fingerboards that containing strings which players could press in order to produce different tones. The vielle was probably the instrument most similar to the modern violin, different models had between two and five strings that could be plucked or bowed.
The history of the violin itself goes back to 16-th century Italy. The Medici family commissioned a famous lute builder named Andrea Amati to make a stringed instrument that was small enough for street musicians to use but had a sound quality similar to that of a lyre. His first violins were very successful and he was soon commissioned to build an entire orchestra by King Charles IX of France. The earliest known violin still in existence, dated 1564, was from this orchestra.
The Amati family — along with fellow Italian families like the Guarneris and the Stradivaris — continued to refine and develop the violin’s design until the 18-th century, when Antonio Stradivari built a violin that formed the basis for all future models.
Acoustic violins have not changed much since the 18-th century; the designs proved they could with stand the test of time. Some innovations, such as the advent of the electric violin have been made in recent years, but the basic design remains unchanged.