Music historians have long suspected that the inventors of the violin wanted to imitate the human voice, and a study out Monday shows how 16th to 18th century luthiers in Italy did it.

Researchers at National Taiwan University asked a professional violinist to play 15 antique instruments, including one from 1570 by Andrea Amati, the early 16th-century luthier from Cremony, Italy who is considered to be the father of the modern four-string violin.

Others played in the study were from the Stradivarius family, conceived by Antonio Stradivari, who improved upon Amati's design.

First, researchers recorded scales played on the 15 antique instruments played by a professional violinist and recorded at Taiwan's Chimei Museum.

Then, they recorded the voices of eight men and eight women, ranging in age from 16 to 30 years, who sang common English vowels.

Performing a thorough acoustic analysis, they found that an Amati violin dating to 1570 and a Gasparo da Salo violin dating to 1560 mimicked the basses and baritones of male singers, "raising the possibility that master violinmakers from this period may have designed violins to emulate male voices," said the report.

"In contrast, Stradivari violins were marked by elevated formants, making them relatively more similar to female voices," such as tenors and altos, the researchers added.

"These properties may explain the characteristic brilliance of Stradivari violins."

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-05-violin...oices.html#jCp

Acoustic evolution of old Italian violins from Amati to Stradivari

Abstract

The shape and design of the modern violin are largely influenced by two makers from Cremona, Italy: The instrument was invented by Andrea Amati and then improved by Antonio Stradivari. Although the construction methods of Amati and Stradivari have been carefully examined, the underlying acoustic qualities which contribute to their popularity are little understood. According to Geminiani, a Baroque violinist, the ideal violin tone should “rival the most perfect human voice.” To investigate whether Amati and Stradivari violins produce voice-like features, we recorded the scales of 15 antique Italian violins as well as male and female singers. The frequency response curves are similar between the Andrea Amati violin and human singers, up to ∼4.2 kHz. By linear predictive coding analyses, the first two formants of the Amati exhibit vowel-like qualities (F1/F2 = 503/1,583 Hz), mapping to the central region on the vowel diagram. Its third and fourth formants (F3/F4 = 2,602/3,731 Hz) resemble those produced by male singers. Using F1 to F4 values to estimate the corresponding vocal tract length, we observed that antique Italian violins generally resemble basses/baritones, but Stradivari violins are closer to tenors/altos. Furthermore, the vowel qualities of Stradivari violins show reduced backness and height. The unique formant properties displayed by Stradivari violins may represent the acoustic correlate of their distinctive brilliance perceived by musicians. Our data demonstrate that the pioneering designs of Cremonese violins exhibit voice-like qualities in their acoustic output.

http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1800666115