Everyone has his favorite violin maker (luthier, in formal terms). Stradivari seems to be a universal favorite. Andrea Amati's grandson or great grandson is said to have taught Stradivari but nobody really knows for sure. Here is a sample Amati from 1560. It looks kind of crude and it is. Click on the picture and you'll see how really rough it is. Violins didn't really begin to get sophisticated until about 1600. Makers used to make them out of pine or pear tree wood. For hundreds of years now, luthiers have been using maple and spruce. Though there has been some experimentation with the shape, the violin has stayed the way we see it now for more than 450 years.