The Physics & Mechanics of the Violin

Created by Cara Orji

String Instruments
Vio l

• They are not ALL the same!!!! • 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
Bass fish


String/Double Bass

Bass guitar

• 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

• • 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”

- 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




The Bow cont’d
Sul ponticello Sul tasto

More Sound Effects
• Pizzicato


• • • • • • 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.