Were Amati and Stradivarius violins constructed to sound like human voices?

Posted on: May 30, 2018

“A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that not only do great violins sing like humans, those built by different makers may remind us of different types of human voices,” writes Cara Giaimo in last Monday’s (5/21) Atlas Obscura. “The new study’s lead author, Bruce Hwan-Ching Tai … a chemical biologist and a classical music buff … and his colleagues [recorded] a violinist, Chu-Hsuan Feng, playing 15 different violins: five made by the Stradivari family, three made by the Amati family, four made by other Cremonese luthiers, and two made by Brescian luthiers…. They then had 16 choir members, eight male and eight female, sing the same scale eight times, once for each of the following vowel sounds: ‘had, head, heard, heed, hod, hoed, hud, who’d.’ … They put them through sonic analysis, seeing how different aspects of the violin and human sounds matched up…. The researchers found that, despite lacking this human vocal architecture, the violins, too, produce formants with ‘vowel-like qualities.’ … While Amati and da Salo violins had formants that resembled those of bass and baritone singers, Stradivari violins’ formants were more similar to tenors and altos.”

Posted May 30, 2018