The violin is the smallest and highest-tuned member of the violin instruments family. The violin first appeared in northern Italy in the beginning of the 16th century. The oldest surviving violin is the "Charles IX" by Andrea Amati, made in Cremona, 1564. Probably, the most famous and legendary violin is the "Le Messie" (also called the 'Salabue'), made by Antonio Stradivari in 1716. It is now stored in the Ashmolean Museum of Oxford. The violin has always been an object for true stories, legends, myths and movies and is, certainly, the most valuable member of the violin family. It is the most important of all the instruments in classical music, having an outstanding and very expressive sound. The violins usually occupy the largest part of the orchestra and are divided into the first and the second violins. The violin offers itself for virtuosity more than any other instrument. It is also widely used in folk music, where the musicians commonly call it a fiddle.
The double bass is the largest and lowest-tuned member of the violin instruments. Probably, the first double bass soloist in European classical music was Domenico Dragonetti, a friend of Beethoven. Giovanni Botessini was a virtuoso of the double bass of the 19th century and wrote a number of concert pieces for the instrument. In the 20th century, the double bass became a necessary low-sounded addition to the sounds of trumpet instruments and other musical equipment in chamber music compositions, however, the musicians still rarely use it as a solo instrument. Nevertheless, the double bass is one of the most prominent instruments in jazz; moreover, it contributed much to the extensive evolution changes in the jazz stream.
The cello is larger than a violin and smaller than a double bass. The name "cello" is an abbreviation for the Italian "violoncello" with a meaning of "little violone" or "small double brass". The violone is an obsolete instrument, similar to a double bass. The earliest known cello dates back to 1529, Italy. The cello has found the best application in the European classical music. It is not only an integral part of the contemporary orchestra but also one of the major instruments. The musicians seldom use the instrument in rock and pop compositions. The most prominent groups, using the cello in their performances, are Apocaliptica (heavy metal songs) and Rasputina (a mixture of cello style with Gothic music).
The viola is a member of the violin instruments family, which is a little bit larger than a violin and more variable in its proportions. The viola is primarily devoted to classical music, the compositions of pop or folk music, including viola-playing, come across very rarely. Until the 20th century, it was a very important part of chamber music performances, though was seldom in use as a solo instrument. In the 20th century, more composers began to write for the viola, encouraged by the emergence of specialized solo violists, such as Lionel Tertis (December 29, 1876 - February 22, 1975), who was an English violist and one of the first viola players to find international fame.
Today, all the instruments of the violin family are available in various models. For instances, the newest models of a double bass are more transportable in comparison with the older ones. There is a great variety of violas and cellos. In spite of this, the designers still follow the traditions, laid out by the old masters in the violin instruments making.