Honors Program Theses


Open Access Honors Program Thesis

First Advisor

Curtiss Hanson, Honors Thesis Advisor


Violin--Construction; Wood--Quality; Vibration;


It is generally accepted that every violin has different tone quality in terms of intonation and the depth of the harmonics produced. The best violins are made by experienced luthiers that craft each with precision to produce the best possible tonal quality. The quality of the finished violin is dependent upon both the specific shape and the vibrational response of the wood used in its construction. Because the hard wood used in violin construction is inhomogeneous, the composition and structure of material used is critical to the final product.1 Luthiers would initially rely on their experience to feel the vibrations and intuition as to the quality of wood used, which is an extremely subjective method of analysis. Then, as they progressed in their skills, it became much easier to make violins of similar sound and sound quality when they were made from the same kind of wood. Today, most violins are made from spruce, maple, and artificial materials.2 Luthiers craft each violin by hand, carving the wood so that the assembled violin generates a pleasing sound. In the construction process of many wooden instruments such as guitars or violins, tone wood is used. The selection criteria for tone wood is broad and can vary depending on the type of instrument being constructed, along with personal preference of the crafter. Several common criteria include the species of the tree, lack of structural defects in the wood, stiffness, and properly dried wood.2 No matter how many selection criteria are kept constant when selecting tone wood, the innate structural makeup of wood prevents the construction of two identical violins. While there is a variety of tone wood available, pernambuco has remained a popular yet elusive choice of wood for string instrument bows. Pernambuco is so heavily sought after due to its reputation as the only material in the world, natural or synthetic, that provides the highest quality of performance bows.3 However, due to the
excessive use of pernambuco in past centuries coupled with its slow growth rate and sometimes poor quality, this decline in the wood has forced a search for alternative wood materials such as spruce and maple.3 Today violins and other string instruments are most often made with the hardwoods spruce and maple due to their abundance and general consistency in quality.4 With the inability to produce identical violins and the introduction of new tone wood materials, the importance of analytical methods to analyze the quality of violins from an objective standpoint continues to grow. The creation of a method to perform this objective analysis with reliable accuracy using two-dimensional vibrational modal analysis is explored further here.

Year of Submission



Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

University Honors Designation

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (27 pages)



File Format