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The Physics & Mechanics

of the Violin
Created by Cara Orji
String Instruments
• They are not ALL the
same!!!!
l
Vio • Don’t confuse violin with
viola!
• Or viol with viola!
• Or string/double bass with
bass guitar or bass fish!
• Or cello with bass!

Violin vs. Viola


Cello
Bass fish

String/Double
Bass Bass
guitar
Sound

• Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College


Edition
- Definition: “vibrations in air, water, etc. that
stimulate the auditory nerves and produce the
sensation of any auditory effect that is distinctive
or characteristic of its source”
• # of vibrations per second = frequency

- measured in
cycles per second
or Hertz (Hz)
Construction of the Violin

This diagram showing the anatomy and nomenclature of the violin is provided by Atelier
Labussiere.
Construction cont’d

Cross section at the bridge,


seen from the tailpiece end.

A violin in the
baroque style made
by John McLennan.
How the Violin Works
• The pitch of a vibrating string depends on these four factors:
- thickness
- tension
- length
- mode of vibration
• The bridge – between the f holes
- yes, they are called “f holes,”
but not for the reason that you’re thinking
• The soundpost & bass bar (inside)
- for movement and vibration
• The body
- belly (top plate), back plate
• The bow
- articulation and sound effects
Materials
• Softwoods
- belly, bass bar, linings, purfling, soundpost
- spruce, pearwood, willow
• Hardwoods
- back plate, neck/fingerboard/scroll, chin rest, pegs, ribs,
tailpiece, bow
- maple, ebony, mahogany, oak, pine
• Resin
- Definition: “any of various solid or semisolid, viscous, usually clear or translucent,
yellowish or brownish, organic substances exuded from various plants and trees . . . And are
used in varnishes and lacquers”
• Gut
- Definition: “tough cord made from animal intestines, used for violin strings, surgical
sutures, etc.”
- metal, nylon, silk, braided saltwater fishing line
- synthetic core with aluminum/silver wound
• Horsehair
• Hard plastics
- chin rest, tailpiece/fine tuners
The Bow
Col legno

Collé

Spiccato

Tremolo
The Bow cont’d
Sul ponticello Sul tasto
More Sound Effects
• Pizzicato

• Vibrato
Bibliography
• http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw.violintro.html

• The Strad. Aug. 2008.

• Stradivari’s Genius: Five Violins, One Cello, and Three Centuries of Enduring Perfection.

• Havighurst, Jay. Making Musical Instruments by Hand. 1998

• The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Musical Instruments

• Neufeldt, Victoria E. Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition. New York: Simon &
Schuster, Inc., 1988.