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June 17, 1974

From Viols to Violons

Author Affiliations


JAMA. 1974;228(12):1520. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230370018007

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To the Editor.—  In a recent letter (227:1260, 1974) Dr. Edward Parnall erred in his naming of the string musical instruments. Specifically, the violoncello (not violincello) is not a "little little viol." It is not a viol at all, in fact.The term viol was a generic name encompassing many different instruments. These were the predecessors of the violin family of instruments. They are to the violin family what the harpsichord is to the piano.About the 17th century, the viol group was superceded by the violin group. The latter have only four strings to the viol's six; the sounding holes are made in the shape of the letter "f" instead of the viol's "c"; and the attachment of the fingerboard to the body is different. All in all, a major metamorphosis was passed through in going from viol to violin.About the year 1600, the term "violino" or violino