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Violin family: Into the woods

The members of the violin family—the violin, viola, cello, and double bass—are made of wood. But on any one instrument you may find four or even five different kinds of wood. The top, also called the “table,” or “belly” of the instrument, will be made of spruce—a strong, light, but soft wood. The back, and the sides—which are also called the ribs—will almost always be made of maple, which is a very hard wood.

Maple is also the wood from which the scroll, the neck, and the bridge are carved. The wood that runs under the strings, called the fingerboard, is generally made of ebony, which is an extremely hard wood, and the tuning pegs—which hold the strings at one end—and the tailpiece—which holds them at the other—may be carved from ebony, rosewood, or boxwood. For violins and violas, ebony, rosewood, and boxwood are the woods of choice for the chinrest, too.  

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.