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In a previous post about the Freestyle Violin Project I documented how two violins, a “dark” sounding one and a “bright” sounding one , were made without the use of measuring tools. The actual dimensions of the materials used and the parts created were recorded and kept secret from the violinmakers until the violins were completed.

Finished dimensions

(Not all data has been collected yet)

The dimensions for the body mold were taken from a CT scan of the Plowden Del Gesu and given on a storystick (without units) to the violinmakers. The finished Bright Violin measured in very similar to the Plowden, with the exceptions of the body length which had been deliberately lengthened by about 7mm, and the stop length at 197.5 is 5-7mm longer than intended.

Thickness Maps

Thicknesses (graduations) were guessed at by the makers using feel, by flexing the plates and by holding the top plate up to a light. The thicknesses are remarkably normal. The Dark Violin was intentionally built with thicker plates. On hearing the Dark violin played, but before seeing the thickness numbers, it was generally agreed that it sounded as though the plates were too heavy.

The Violinmakers guessed att the densities of the wood billets before using them

Guessed DensityMeasured density
Italian Spruce.41.39
German Spruce.42.45
Wide flamed maple.60.60
Narrow flamed maple.62.56
Guessed and actual densities of the wood used. The guesses were a bit hit and miss and seem to have been influenced by the linear dimensions of the billets: larger billets appearing denser.

Guessing games

Weight and thickness. The entire Violinmakers Workshop was invited to guess the weight and the max and minimum thicknesses of the finished plates.Their guesses and the actual measured thickness and weight is given in red on the chart below .

The back of the Dark Violin was perceived as being lighter than it actually was. The other guesses at weight spanned the actual number. Guesses at the thicknesses were consistently overestimated.

Perceived weight and stiffness. Participants were also were invited to comment on the stiffness of each plate, declaring them: + = stiffer than normal, 0 = normal, – = less stiff than normal. The same grading was applied to the perceived relative weights of the plates. + = Heavy, 0 = normal, – = light. The sample size is also given so, for example, 9 out of the 11 participants thought that the Dark Fiddle had a heavy back.

Few of the participants felt that any of the plates were lighter or less stiff than normal. A majority of the participants noticed that the Dark back felt heavier and stiffer than normal. The Dark team had intentionally built the plates heavier than normal, and the measurements confirmed this.


With the notable exception of the top length and stop length on the Bright Fiddle, the violins came out remarkably normal. People proved to be not very good at guessing wood densities in raw billets, however on finished plates perceptions were generally very accurate.

The takeaways from the entire project might be:

  • Invest time in measuring the raw wood, guesses of density are not very accurate.
  • Given the similarity on tone of the two violins, despite our best efforts, it appears that the qualities of the materials used may have more effect on the tone of the instrument than its design.
  • Guesses at measurements of standard violin parts were fairly accurate. Relying on informed intuition might at least be a useful check on measured numbers.

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