Stradavarius sound from graphite and balsa

Violin engineering: image modified from via wikipedia
Violin engineering: image modified from via wikipedia
Can we make violins today that sound as sweet as those made by Antonio Stradivari? Joseph Curtin (Ann Arbor, Mich.),who received a 2005 MacArthur Foundation “genius award” for his violin designs, thinks so. In reference to violins made by Douglas Martin, Curtin stated that

“the traditional violin became obsolete in early July of 2005.”

One of Mr. Martin's prototype violins, Balsa 4, when passed around at a violin design workshop at Oberlin College, startled the participants with its punch and responsiveness. Using balsa for lightness and graphite for stiffness, Martin is breaking the traditional violin design rules.

New materials "sing"

Another violin maker to use modern materials like graphite fibers is Martin Schleske. Ingolf Turban, a touring concert violinist, compared Mr. Schleske’s latest violin, which has a top made of a mix of spruce and graphite, with a 1721 Stradivarius by recording passages from Mozart’s Violin Concerto in D Major with each. He told Mr. Schleske he preferred the new one.

I have never been playing any violin with such a singing E string,” Mr. Turban said in a testimonial. “It is no longer like playing violin but like singing.”

Violin acoustics analysed in physics laboratory

George Bissinger, a physicist at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., is using medical-imaging gear, laser scanners, arrays of microphones and computers to measure and model how the parts of a violin react once energy is introduced by a bow, fingertip, pick or, in the laboratory, the repeated taps of a tiny hammer.

Particularly important, Dr. Bissinger said, is determining which factors translate the side-to-side sawing of a bow on a string into vertical motions of the violin top. “Up and down is what matters,” he said.
Another important influence, particularly on low violin notes, is the movement of air in and out of the f-holes, Dr. Bissinger said. If the dimensions are right, the air sloshes forward and back like disturbed water in a bathtub (or air in an organ’s pipes) at rates that increase the instrument’s volume.

Want to learn more?

I recommend viewing the video and multimedia graphics found in the New York Times post, "String Theory: New Approaches to Instrument Design".

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

babylynn's picture
babylynn says:

i never want to see a wolf!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

posted on Sat, 11/24/2007 - 4:57pm
Geoffrey Ames, MD, HMD's picture
Geoffrey Ames, MD, HMD says:

Well, Stradivarius and all of the masters did not know calculus, have laser scanners and did CT scans on their violins. They used sacred geometry for their stringed instruments. They used the golden mean (phi, 1.618 or 0.618) and/or music harmonic ratios. You people are barking up the wrong tree, unless you use phi in violin designs.

posted on Thu, 06/18/2015 - 12:50pm

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <h3> <h4> <em> <i> <strong> <b> <span> <ul> <ol> <li> <blockquote> <object> <embed> <param> <sub> <sup>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may embed videos from the following providers vimeo, youtube. Just add the video URL to your textarea in the place where you would like the video to appear, i.e.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Images can be added to this post.

More information about formatting options