Stradivarius' secret was inside!

Two Belgians lift the veil on the mystery of the structure of the Stradivarius.

This research is to appear in The Strad Magazine February 2022.

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           The interior volume of the violin is, literally, built in “perfect chord”!

Yes, it's not just varnishes! André THEUNIS is a luthier in Brussels, trained at the school of Mittenwald, and passed by the prestigious house “WE Hill & Sons” in England.

Alexandre WAJNBERG is a musician and scientific journalist from the ULB (Team-Sciences RTBF, Radio Campus). Together, they publish an original research allowing to understand the structure of the Stradivarius and the violins of the Cremonese family, the Amati, the Guarnerius.

 

The design and proportions of the violins remain a mystery. How is it that from its birth, the violin found the forms that we know, which have hardly changed in four centuries, perfectly adapted to the production of sounds?

 

Complex combinations of circles? Geometry of the Golden section? Root of 2, and other irrational magnitudes?…  There is no shortage of hypotheses, which presuppose elaborate mathematical skills, incompatible with the knowledge of a 17th century craftsman, even from Cremona. So what method could Antonio Stradivari have followed?

 

André Theunis and Alexandre Wajnberg started from the tools and measuring systems in use in Cremona in the 17th century. Noting that the distance between the two saddles - 483 mm - is almost equal to the cremonese unit - the braccio -, the authors sought other dimensions of the violin also expressed in round numbers, or in simple fractions of this unity !

 

And by a counter-intuitive trick - which only a master luthier could imagine - they found the solution in the interior vibratory space of the instrument, in its dimensions measured quite differently than usual, from the molds of Stradivarius preserved in Cremona.

As a result, there is no longer any need to introduce irrational mathematical values to account for the dimensions of violins. The authors' simple and elegant hypothesis is based on the rules of musical proportionality known since Pythagoras. Mathematized in 1558 by Gioseffo Zarlino, they were dominant in the culture of Stradivari's time! Clearly, the rational proportions of the violin are in phase with those of the natural scale, known as Zarlino.