Can Science Discover the Source of Stradivari violin’s Quality?

2017-08-12 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ String Instrument News

For many years, experts and violin enthusiasts wanted to find out how a very old Stradivari violin gets its unique sound. Numerous theories begin to surface. Some would conclude that because the wood of the Stradivari is so old, it helps create a distinctive fuller sound. But all of these are theories. However, there is one theory which might come close to explaining the Stradivari’s qualitative sound.

The National Taiwan University held a research on Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri’s violins. According to the scientists who conducted the study, it is possible that the preparation of the wood during those times has an enormous contribution the how the violin’s sound. It was an old practice during that particular period to bathe the wood to protect it from bacteria that might damage it. This research was published in the National Academy of Sciences.

The basis of their research was on scraps and maples they get from two violins and cellos made by Antonio Stradivari and a violin created by Giuseppe Guarneri. When the scientist that conducted the research compared the maples they take from Guarneri and Stradivari’s instrument with modern day violins; they found out that there are differences in their chemical properties. The aging of wood, vibration, and chemical treatments are the reason for the differences in chemical properties. Other elements such as aluminum, calcium, and copper were present in the scraps and maples from Stradivari and Guarneri violins. These findings prove that the wood in these violins was treated by such chemicals, which was never practiced by modern violin makers. However, what they have proven is just the difference in chemical properties, but its effect on the overall quality of the instrument is just a possibility.

Another part of their research has discovered that 17th and 18th-century instruments have 25 per cent less moisture on some of their wooden parts compared to modern instruments. The reason for this is the decomposition of wood. It is possible that if the moisture quantity is less in the instrument, it can produce clearer and fuller sound. On the other, experts could not prove if Stradivari and Guarneri are aware of the chemical preparations made on the wood before they formed it into a complete masterpiece. It was indeed possible that wood merchandisers would traditionally bathe the wood they sell with chemicals to protect it from decomposition, wood boring insects, and diseases.