Violins made by the Italian masters Stradivari and Guarneri more than three hundred years ago are still the finest in the world. The brilliance and resonance of their tone is legendary, and scientists and musicians alike have been puzzling over the “secret” to the instruments’ tone for centuries.
Finally, researchers may have discovered a clue: mineral treatments applied to the wood before the violins were constructed. The treatments, which included aluminum, copper, and zinc, were probably used to prevent fungus and worms. A serendipitous result was a hardening of the wood, which may give the instruments their unique sound.
I can’t help wondering, though, if the metals in the mineral treatment affected the tone. Metals have a more brilliant, resonating sound – think of cymbals, trumpets, or a pot lid crashing to the floor – than wood. Perhaps adding that touch of metal brightened and clarified the violins’ sound.
Scientists are still studying this phenomenon, in the hope of creating more stringed instruments with the “Stradivarius sound.”
Read more about this amazing discovery here.