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Re: what makes a great violin

I happened to be reading a great old work "Science and Music" by Sir James
Jeans, first published in 1937 in which the topic of violin tone is
discussed.  Let me quote:

"Backhaus has examined the frequencies of the body vibrations of a
first-class Stradivarius, and finds that the majority are fairly evenly
distributed between 3200 and 5200.  In other violins the frequencies are
usually lower and also less evenly distributed. A good modern violin shewed
a distribution which approached that of the Stradivarius in uniformity, but
the frequencies themselves were about 500 cycles lower.  In a poor modern
violin, the frequencies were not only less well distributed, but were also
about 1000 cycles lower.  In brief, the bad violin picks out certain rather
low harmonics in an arbitrary way, and reinforces these unduly, while the
good violin picks out a wide band of high harmonics and reinforces these
rather impartially."

Solving the inverses problem of how the Stradivarius does this physically
is a much more difficult (and lucrative - if solved) question.  For more
details on this, once could perhaps see the Backhaus papers in Benchmark
Papers in Acoustics, Volume 6, Dowden Hutchinson and Ross 1976 (Also, take
a look at the Catgut Acoustical Society Library
http://ccrma-www.stanford.edu/marl/CASL/ which contains the only Backhaus
reference I could find).

Erick Gallun
Postdoctoral Fellow
Hearing Research Center
Boston University