Violino Piccolo

While looking through the score of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto’s I ran across an instrument I had never seen before. It was called the violino piccolo and appeared to be written in a key other than C like the rest of the stringed instruments.

Evidently the violins were not very easy to play in the higher registers. The violino piccolo addressed the problem. The instrument was about 13 inches long and looked very similar to a child’s 3/4 size violin, but it was tuned a 3rd or 4th higher. The higher tuning allowed musicians to play the same notes as a violin lower on the fretboard which made it much easier to play. The smaller size and higher tuning gave it a brighter sound in the higher registers

As the design of the modern violin evolved the fretboard was extended toward the bridge. Better technical construction and new playing techniques eventually pushed the violino piccolo out of common use and violin piccolo parts are now played by normal sized violins.

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3 Replies to “Violino Piccolo”

  1. I have found strings for a 4/4 violin that permit tuning up a minor third (Brandedburg 1)
    e” D’Aderioo guitar string Diameter 0.008 in. Material Steel.
    a’, d’ g Supersensitive Sensicore Viola (17″/18″) strings.

    These strings permit tuning to g”, c”, f’, bb up a minor third, Violin in Eb.

    Let the violin settle for a while before rejecting the set-up.

  2. Hi Mark, fascinating. I understand Bach used this instrument in three works (the famous Brandenburg Concerto 1) and two cantatas. In the Brandenburg 1, he sets the scordatura to the pitch of an e-flat clarinet. I feel the sound of the violin piccolo is VERY charming and not as ‘beefy’ to the full sized violin. (I’m a violinist by the way). Nice blog, buddy!

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