Graham’s perspective on violin development
The essential and acoustic design of the violin has not changed since the mid 16th century when Andrea Amati in Cremona, Paolo Maggini in Brescia and Jacob Steiner in Absam produced superb instruments in sufficient numbers to establish the violin , viola and violoncello as the core of stringed instruments which are the foundation of orchestras and ensembles to this day. While the ensuing centuries saw changes to the neck and fingerboard configuration and string technology, the sounding body design of these musical marvels remains unexcelled. The comparison of the musical quality of original master violins relative to the recent and contemporary copies of them has been inconclusive and only confirms the masterful design of the founding makers.
During the 80’s, like many emerging violin makers, I made violins to a range of patterns taken from instruments of the “golden age“ Italian, German, French and English masters. While it was possible to relate different tonal characters to arching profiles of the various European schools, the musical quality of any new instrument depended more on the wood properties and graduations of the tops and backs than on the traditional patterns on which it was made. Frequency response profiles (“voice traces”) of the new and old instruments confirmed this conclusion, but indicated the importance of the edge graduation of the tops and backs.
Since 1983 I have developed the design of violins made from Australian tonewoods and found that careful regulation of the edge thicknesses yielded a strong response in the 2Khz part of the 2-5Khz band vital to the distinctive voice of the violin. This feature gave the Native wood violins a clear, warm voice noted in the recitals of the winners of the Kendall National Violin Competition (KNVC) playing these instruments on their subsequent concert tours. A quarter century of making and assessing the ‘Aussiewood’ violins has now realised an instrument of unique tonal and aesthetic value - see KNVC website.