Baroque to modern violins

This is the multimedia appendix for the PhD thesis of John McLennan, engineer, physicist and amateur luthier. The thesis is available on line: The violin: music acoustics from baroque to romantic (34 Mbyte).


John's thesis studied the evolution of the violin from baroque to romantic, using the same violin, which physically underwent the various steps in this evolution. He built a baroque violin (originally, it looked rather like the one at right). He tested it, and had a panel of original-instrument specialists play it. Then he gradually modified it, in the ways that all of the strads have been modified over the years (changing the bass bar, retuning the belly, changing the sound post, changing and moving the bridge, replacing the neck and fingerboard, fingerboard, changing the strings and of course the bow ...). At each step, he measured the violin, and recorded the experts playing it. That violin gradually became the modern style violin at left in the photo. But it is the violin at left that you can hear in all of the sound files below, as it gradually evolves from baroque to modern.

The sound files below are often grouped in two columns, so that you can listen and compare the effects of individual changes.


First, let's look at the overall change in the instrument. Here we hear compare the baroque vs romantic violin @ 415 and baroque vs modern bow, gut strings (Player B)

    wav
    Bassano baroque violin, baroque bow

    wav
    Bassano, romantic violin, baroque bow
    wav
    Bassano, baroque violin, modern bow
    wav
    Bassano, romantic violin, modern bow
The romantic violin has a longer, heavier neck and fingerboard, at a new angle. It has a bass bar and the top plate has been retuned to adjust to this. It has a taller bridge with a different shape. However, in this comparison, it has the same strings and is played in a representative baroque pitch. Compare violins (left to right) and bows (top to bottom).

Now to individual and smaller changes. Here is the effect of the bass bar

    Player A, baroque violin @ 415, no bass bar Player A, baroque violin @ 415, with bass bar
    wav Scale wav Scale
    wav Bach partita wav Bach partita
    wav Sibelius wav Sibelius

The effect of bridge position and baroque vs modern bow

    Player B, baroque violin @ 415, bridge at standard position Player B, baroque violin @ 415, bridge below the f holes
    wav Bassano, baroque bow wav Bassano, baroque bow
    wav Bassano, short baroque bow  
    wav Rossini, baroque bow wavRossini, baroque bow
    wav Rossini, modern bow wavRossini, modern bow
Some paintings from the period, by artists famed for their accuracy, show the bridge positioned below the f holes, rather than at the f hole notches, as is standard today. These files compare these configurations.

The effect of baroque vs modern bow on a baroque violin (gut strings)

    Player B, C or D, baroque violin @ 415, baroque bow Player B, C or D, baroque violin@ 415, modern bow
    wav (B) Bassano, baroque bow wav (B) Bassano, modern bow
    wav (C) Handel, baroque bow wav (C) Handel, modern bow
    wav (B) Rossini, baroque bow wav (B) Rossini, modern bow
    wav (D) Telemann, baroque bow wav (D) Telemann, modern bow
The shaft of the baroque bow bends away from the strings, whereas the modern bow bends towards it. This and the following sets of files allow comparisons on baroque and romantic instruments.

The effect of baroque vs modern bow on a romantic violin, gut strings

    Player C or D, romantic violin @ 440, baroque bow, gut strings Player C or D, romantic violin @ 440, modern bow, gut strings
    wav (C) Bach, baroque bow wav (C) Bach, modern bow
    wav (C) Bruch, baroque bow wav (C) Bruch, modern bow
    wav (D) Bach2, baroque bow wav (D) Bach2, modern bow
    wav (D) Sarasate, baroque bow wav (D) Sarasate, modern bow

The effect of a shoulder rest and baroque vs modern bow on baroque violin @ 415, gut strings

    wav (C) Handel, baroque bow, no shoulder rest wav (C) Handel, modern bow, no shoulder rest
    wav (C) Handel, baroque bow, with shoulder rest wav (C) Handel, modern bow, with shoulder rest
The shoulder rest and chin rest permit and encourage different ways of holding the instrument and different playing gestures. They also modify the low frequency resonances of the instrument. This and the next set of files allow comparisons.

The effect of a chin rest on romantic violin @ 415, modern bow, gut strings

    wav (B) Bassano, romantic violin, no chin rest wav (B) Bassano, romantic violin, with chin rest

Further files.

wavB.R.OpenStrings.wav

wavB.R.Scale.wav

wavB.R.Scale.wav


wavC.R.BrahmsBaroqueBowGutShoulderRest.wav

wav C.R.BrahmsModernBowGutShoulderRest.wav

wav C.R.HandelBaroqueBowGutNoShoulderRestRepeatAfter.wav

wav C.R.HandelModernBowGutNoShoulderRest.wav

wav C.R.OpenStringsBaroqueBowGutA.wav

wav C.R.OpenStringsBaroqueBowGutB.wav

wav C.R.OpenStringsBaroqueBowGutC.wav

wav C.R.scale.wav


wav C.R.BachBaroqueBowGut.wav

wav C.R.BachModernBowGut.wav

wav C.R.BruchBaroqueBowGut.wav

wav C.R.BruchModernBowGut.wav

wav C.R.OpenStringsModernBowGut.wav

wav C.R.OpenStringsModernBowModern.wav


wav D.R.TelemannBaroqueBow.wav

wav D.R.TelemannModernBow.wav

wav D.R.Bach2BaroqueBowGut.wav

wav D.R.Bach2BaroqueBowModern.wav

wav D.R.Bach2ModernBowGut.wav

wav D.R.Bach2ModernBowModern.wav

wav D.R.OpenModernBowGut.wav

wav D.R.OpenModernBowModern.wav

wav D.R.SarasateBaroqueBowGut.wav

wav D.R.SarasateBaroqueBowModern.wav

wav D.R.SarasateModernBowGut.wav

wav D.R.SarasateModernBowModern.wav

wav D.R.scaleModernBowGut.wav

wav D.R.scaleModernBowModern.wav


Email address John McLennan / jmcl1597@bigpond.net.au

More violin publications by John McLennan
John's thesis: The violin: music acoustics from baroque to romantic (34 Mbyte).
Position of soundpost. For sound files and analysis, see The Effect of the Soundpost on Violin Sound

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