Founding a Family of Fiddles

For three or four centuries string quartets as well as orchestras both large and small, have used violins, violas, cellos and contrabasses of classical design. These wooden instruments were brought to near perfection by violin makers of the 17th and 18th centuries. Only recently, though, has testing equipment been good enough to find out just how they work, and only recently have scientific methods of manufacture been good enough to produce consistently instruments with the qualities one wants to design into them. Now, for the first time, we have eight instruments of the violin family constructed on principles of proper resonance for desired tone quality. They represent the first successful application of a consistent acoustical theory to a whole family of musical instruments.

The idea for such a gamut of violins is not new. It can be found in Michael Praetorius's Syntagma Musicum published in 1619. But incomplete understanding and technological obstacles have stood in the way of practical accomplishment. That we can now routinely make fine violins in a variety of frequency ranges is the result of a fortuitous combination: violin acoustics research - showing a resurgence after a lapse of 100 years - and the new testing equipment capable of responding to the sensitivities of wooden instruments.

As is shown in figure 1, our new instruments are tuned in alternate intervals of a musical fourth and fifth over the range of the piano keyboard. Moreover each one has its two main resonances within a semitone of the tuning of its middle strings. The result seems beyond a doubt successful musically. Over and over again we hear the comment, "One must hear the new instruments to believe such sounds are possible from strings."

Figure 1 - NEW INSTRUMENT TUNING spans the piano range with eight fiddles that range in size from 210-cm contrabass to a 27-cm treble. The conventional violin is the mezzo of the new series. Colored keys show tuning of new instruments and white dots that of conventional instruments.

New Instrument Tuning

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