Studying the acoustical evolution of the violin

Posted on: February 13, 2015

“Acousticians and fluid dynamicists at MIT, along with violinmakers at the North Bennet Street School in Boston, have analyzed measurements from hundreds of Cremonese-era violins, identifying key design features that contribute to these particular violins’ acoustic power, or fullness of sound,” writes Jennifer Chu in Tuesday’s (2/10) MIT News, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “The team acquired technical drawings of Cremonese-era violins from museums, collector databases, and books, as well as X-ray and CAT scans of the instruments…. The researchers found that a key feature affecting a violin’s sound is the shape and length of its f-holes, the f-shaped openings through which air escapes: The more elongated these are, the more sound a violin can produce.… The thickness of a violin’s back plate also contributes to its acoustic power.… The researchers found that [violins] slowly evolved to more elongated f-holes and thicker back plates … [and] that any change in design could reasonably be explained by natural mutation [or] craftsmanship error…. Nicholas Makris, a professor of mechanical and ocean engineering at MIT, says the group’s results may be useful for master violinmakers looking to design more powerful, fuller-sounding instruments—although he acknowledges, … ‘Mystery is good, and there’s magic in violinmaking.’ ”

Posted February 13, 2015