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Title    Stradivari and Guarneri Treated Soundboards With Various Chemicals, Study Shows
Date    Monday August 23 2021, @03:45PM
Author    janrinok
from the I'm-thinkin'-of-good-vibrations dept.

Stradivari and Guarneri Treated Soundboards With Various Chemicals, Study Shows

upstart writes:

Stradivari and Guarneri Treated Soundboards with Various Chemicals, Study Shows:

Two renowned violin makers from Cremona, Italy, Antonio Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri 'del Gesù,' treated their instruments with various chemicals that produced their unique sound, and several of these chemicals have been identified for the first time: borax and metal sulfates for fungal suppression, table salt for moisture control, alum for molecular crosslinking, and potash or quicklime for alkaline treatment.

In string instruments, specially selected woods act as transducers of mechanical energy from vibrating strings into acoustic energy.

Violin-family instruments, including violas and cellos, are made of two types of tonewoods: Norway spruce (Picea abies) for soundboards and maple (Acer sp.) for ribs and back plates.

Curiously, leading violinists today still prefer antique instruments made by Antonio Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri 'del Gesù.'

Stradivari made about 1,200 violins in his lifetime and sold them only to the very rich, including the royalty. Today, there are about 600 Stradivari violins remaining. He also made violas and cellos that are highly prized.

Guarneri 'del Gesù' had trouble selling his work, but his instruments are now considered equal in quality and price to Stradivari violins.

[...] "All of my research over many years has been based on the assumption that the wood of the great masters underwent an aggressive chemical treatment, and this had a direct role in creating the great sound of the Stradivari and the Guarneri," said Professor Joseph Nagyvary, a researcher in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at Texas A&M University.

[...] "Both Stradivari and Guarneri would have wanted to treat their violins to prevent worms from eating away the wood because worm infestations were very widespread at that time."

[...] "This new study reveals that Stradivari and Guarneri had their own individual proprietary method of wood processing, to which they could have attributed a considerable significance," Professor Nagyvary said.

The Secret of the Stradivari Violin Confirmed

upstart writes:

The secret of the Stradivari violin confirmed:

[Professor Joseph Nagyvary] said that the varnish recipes were not secret because the varnish itself is not a critical determinant of tone quality. In contrast, the process of how the fresh spruce planks were treated and processed with a variety of water-based chemical treatments is critical for the sound of the finished violin.

Such knowledge was needed to gain a "competitive advantage" over other instrument makers, he said.

Nagyvary added that the team found the chemicals used were found all over and inside the wood, not just its surface, and this directly affected the sound quality of the instruments.

He said that further research is need to clarify other details of how the chemicals and wood produced pristine tonal quality.

"First, one needs several dozens of samples from not only Stradivari and Guarneri, but also from other makers of the Golden Period (1660-1750) of Cremona, Italy," he said. "There will have to be better cooperation between the master restorers of antique musical instruments, the best makers of our time, and the scientists who are performing the experiments often pro bono in their free time."

Nagyvary has been involved with violin research much of his 87 years. He first learned to play in Switzerland on an instrument that once belonged to Albert Einstein.

Journal Reference:
Cheng-Kuan Su, Szu-Yu Chen, Jen-Hsuan Chung, et al. Materials Engineering of Violin Soundboards by Stradivari and Guarneri [open], Angewandte Chemie International Edition (DOI: 10.1002/anie.202105252)

Original Submission #1Original Submission #2


  1. "upstart" -
  2. "Stradivari and Guarneri Treated Soundboards with Various Chemicals, Study Shows" -
  3. "Norway spruce (Picea abies)" -
  4. "maple (Acer sp.)" -
  5. "Antonio Stradivari" -
  6. "Giuseppe Guarneri 'del Gesù.'" -
  7. "The secret of the Stradivari violin confirmed" -
  8. "10.1002/anie.202105252" -
  9. "Original Submission #1" -
  10. "Original Submission #2" -

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