On Frequency Curves of Violins

Translated from Hermann Meinel. Über Frequenzkurven von Geigen. Akust. Z., 2, 22-33 (1937)

  • Christina Fan
  • George Bissinger


Hermann Meinel’s classic article from 1937 presents a pioneering application of new measurement technology to some important “single-parameter” systematic investigations of the violin, viz., i) too-thick → normal → too-thin plate tuning, ii) loose(normal) → tight → removed soundpost, iii) too-high → normal → flat arching, and iv) before → after varnishing. Meinel used a bowing machine for excitation and a single microphone for response measurements. All the signature modes radiate nominally isotropically hence single microphone radiation measurements are still valid at low frequencies; in the high frequency region it is best to adopt a more statistical approach and look at an overall amplitude envelope.

Author Biographies

Christina Fan

In 2006-2007 Dr. Christina Fan left Germany to spend a year abroad at the East Carolina University Acoustics Laboratory, arriving when the Strad 3D project was about to commence, and became a participant. During that year the Meinel article was translated and afterwards she moved on to get her PhD from the University of Heidelberg in Germany. She is now working at Roche Diagnostics in Mannheim.

George Bissinger

George Bissinger, now retired, started working with violins in 1971, tuning bassbars and doing cavity gas-exchanges in collaboration with Carleen Hutchins, before moving to East Carolina University in 1973. The technological revolution of the mid-1980s was a powerful motivator to start a modal analysis (EMA) program at ECU in 1989.  After a soundpost removal experiment highlighted how inadequate purely mechanical vibration measurements were in explaining the drastic effect of soundpost removal on violin sound, the experimental effort was directed to include acoustic measurements. With the aid of a National Science Foundation grant in 1998 the experimental program evolved into the ECU Acoustics Laboratory, the first facility devoted to violin structural acoustics, to develop a zero-mass-loading, automated, simultaneous mechanical-acoustical measurement system in an anechoic chamber, with each instrument also undergoing CT scans to extract density and shape information for future simulations. The first measurements of violin radiation efficiency, effective critical frequency, f-hole radiation and quantitative characterization of violin energy loss mechanisms were made at the ECU Acoustics Laboratory. In 2006 the Acoustics Laboratory hosted the Strad 3D Project in collaboration with Polytec, Inc and the Violin Society of America to make the first 3D vibration plus acoustic measurements of three old-Italian violins. Presently he is working on a book covering almost a half-century of progress in the scientific understanding of the violin.