Modern and Baroque Styles
What is the difference between the standard modern violin and the baroque violin?
A baroque violin is generally tuned a semitone lower than the modern violin to A415 (as opposed to A440) and has a shorter more horizontal neck angle. The strings are also made from uncovered gut (rather than steel covered gut or synthetic strings), this creates a lower overall tension across the instrument thereby generating a warmer, if less powerful, tone quality. The bow is also shorter and concave, with a tapering toward the point. There are other subtle differences, such as a thinner sound-post and bass-bar, but otherwise the violin has remained almost unchanged for the last 400 years!
Do you need to learn the modern violin first?
No, but due to the greater resilience of steel strings (not to mention the fact that they stay in tune for longer!) it is often easier to start with the modern violin.
Where can I buy gut strings?
Most online string shops and good violin dealers stock gut strings, but be aware that uncovered gut comes in a variety of gauges/tensions/varnished/un-varnished and it helps to have some background knowledge first!