Structure of the Wood used in Violins


THE many recent investigations on string instruments1 deal mainly with two problems: the theory of the mechanical and acoustical behaviour of the different parts of the instrument (and its experimental verification), and the analysis of the tones produced by the instruments. The question of the proper choice of material has made scarcely any progress since the fundamental investigations of F. Savart2. Since it has been repeatedly stated that age, treatment and varnish change the character of the wood, we investigated the structure of the wood in violins of different origin* with X-rays. Copper K α(in a few cases also molybdenum K α) rays fall (a) through the F-hole on to the back of the instrument or (b) are reflected from the edges of either top or back.


  1. 1

    C. V. Raman (summary of all of his important papers); “Handbuch der Physik”, vol. 8, pp. 355–424; H. Backhaus, “Handbuch der Experimentalphysik”, vol. 17/3, pp. 177–256; 1934. R. B. Abbott, Phys. Rev., August 1933March 1934.

  2. 2

    F. Savart, “Mémoire sur la construction des instruments à cordes et à archet”, 1819. The much more important investigations published in l'Institut, 8, 55, 69–70, 91, 122, 1840 seem to be entirely forgotten. We found them only quoted in E. Heron-Allen's book on “Violins and Violin Making” and have seen them myself only now. Savart's conclusions should certainly be checked with more modern acoustical methods.

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LARK-HOROVITZ, K., CALDWELL, W. Structure of the Wood used in Violins. Nature 134, 23 (1934).

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