The violin is the smallest of the four types of stringed instruments in an orchestra. It is also the highest sounding instrument of the string family. The term violin means "little viola" in Italian. It has four strings and is played by placing the instrument under one's chin and drawing the bow, made of horsehair, across the strings. The violin is an exquisite instrument, capable of many sounds equaled only by the human voice. Its high, clear tones soar above the other instruments, which is why it's the traditional solo instrument. It's made of various types of hardwood, which allow the sound to resonate through it.
Famous names among the modern-day violinists are Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman, Isaac Stern and current prodigies Sarah Chang and Midori. In addition to traditional orchestras, the violin is also used in Cajun music, bluegrass, western swing, jazz and chamber music.