Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Violin's sound holes

  1. Jul 11, 2005 #1
    Does anyone know the relation between integrals and the sound holes on the violin?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 11, 2005 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    What, the way that the F-holes look like an integral sign?
  4. Jul 11, 2005 #3
    Yes. I read somewhere that they were incorporated onto the violin after some violin maker was impressed with calculus. But I can't find the source.
  5. Jul 11, 2005 #4
    james stewart's calculus text has a violin or something on the cover. seeing that cover for the first time was the first time i noticed that. it made me think that math is 'musical' in some (superficial) way, the way it looks on the page or something like that.

    edit: on second thought i'm not sure that i believe that. euler was the first to use a stretched-out latin summa for an integral sign (i think) but he was around after the old-school baroque violins were made & they had the same soundholes as later ones. i think that's all true but i may be wrong. if i am wrong i'll of course look like a total bull****ter lol.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2005
  6. Jul 12, 2005 #5
    I should think Mentor Integral would know the history of the symbol, when it first came to be used.
  7. Jul 12, 2005 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    I have seen papers on vibration analysis of violins in which they discuss the formation of chladni pattern formations at various resonant frequencies. From what I remember, the sound holes seemed to always be enveloped by the nodal lines. They didn't seem to cross them. I am not sure if that is coincidence or not. But by the looks of it, the general envelope of where to put the holes is somewhat driven by the tuning of the top and the "integral" shape came from stylization that was popular in the day. I will have to keep digging on this one. Interesting question.

    EDIT: Aquick Google came up with this link:

    It doesn't exactly reference a direct expalination, but I think it's a start. I'll have to read the whole thing later.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2005
  8. Jul 12, 2005 #7
    If Euler was the first to use the stretched out S, then it was probably the other way around, that Euler used the shape of the violin sound holes. Then again, it could be a coincidence.
  9. Jul 12, 2005 #8
  10. Jul 12, 2005 #9


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    My professional bass guitarist roommate isn't sure but thinks its stylized based on a treble clef symbol. We think the area of the hole probably matters because it needs to let a certain amount of air move in and out, but other than that the geometry shouldn't matter.
  11. Jul 15, 2005 #10
    from: Dr. George Bissinger
    Professor of Physics
    East Carolina University
    Howell Science Complex


    I wish I could enlighten you and your folks about this but no one really
    knows many details about the origin/originator during the 1500-early
    1600 period of many of the things we accept as commonplace today. This
    includes f-hole shapes, which are quite variable and certainly not
    always f-shaped. In fact modern makers often change proportions to suit
    their personal whims - and in some cases this significantly affects the
    sound. So seeing integral signs prior to actual integrals is probably a
    vapor state pursuit.


    Thank you for answering George.
  12. Jul 15, 2005 #11
    That's a nice letter.

    What, though, does he mean by a "vapor state pursuit"?
  13. Jul 15, 2005 #12
    The f-hole shapes were made befor the integral, so the pursuit of this is not realistic?

    lol Now I wonder if the person who made the integral sign, got it from the violin?

    It is a very eye pleaseing shape
  14. Jul 15, 2005 #13
    It sounds like a physics term he is using to indicate that there may not be any single actual origin, no one violin or violin maker you could point to and say "Here we have the first, classic violin sound holes."
    That's my impression, but I need to know if there is actually such an endeavor in physics as a "vapor state pursuit" and what the attendent difficulties are, to be sure I'm understanding him.
    Fourier jr said it's the greek symbol summa, stretched out:
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2005
  15. Jul 15, 2005 #14
    I'm pretty sure summa is latin. Summa, which means "sum," was written with a stretched "s" (the integral sign)
    [tex]\smallint \text{VMMA}[/tex] (perhaps something like this?)
    while the modern day "s" was used as a terminal "s" (that is, used when the "s" sound ended a syllable). The greeks have something similar: sigma [tex]\sigma[/tex] and terminal sigma [tex]\varsigma[/tex].
  16. Jul 15, 2005 #15
    well I asked up in the physics threads..maybe someone will help us with "vapor state pursuit".
  17. Jul 15, 2005 #16
    Sounds like hes saying: trying to relate the f holes to the integral sign is wrong since the holes existed before the sign... Its a fruitless endeavor or a vapor state pursuit. In other words a waste of time.

    Another thought may be that since the f-holes were created so long ago that the original reason it was selected has since been lost or changed. Much in the way and story is changed over time after being told many times by many people. Hence the information is in a vapor state.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2005
  18. Jul 15, 2005 #17
    thanks for the imput :smile:
  19. Jul 15, 2005 #18
    "...but, for mine own part, it was greek to me."

    Casca in Julius Caesar
    Act I, Scene II
    by William Shakespeare
  20. Jul 16, 2005 #19
    Looks like you're more or less right about all this:

    Integral Sign -- From MathWorld
    The stretched out S to mean "summation" is due to Leibnitz.
  21. Jul 16, 2005 #20
    Musical Instrument Q & A: Violin

    Origins of the violin
    Q:I am a violinist and I am interested to know about the history of violin: who was the inventor of the first violin (I suppose the first maker of the violin is unknown.). My sister is a flutist. She is 12 and she is researching about the same thing - the history of violin - for her school. She goes to a French school and therefore she needs this information in French. She tried hard to find the information but she didn't succeed.* Quebec* 1/20/2004
    A: This is a complex question that depends on what you define as a true violin. As you suspect, the violin was not so much invented as evolved from precursors. It is widely accepted that the concept of bowed instruments began in the Middle East around 1000 AD. The essential shape we know as a "modern" violin became standard in Italy around 1550, but may have evolved as early as the previous century. At the time there were many variations on bowed instruments (largely classified by whether they were played on the shoulder or on the lrgs - viola da bracchio or viola da gamba), but the violin family eventually took prominence. Among the earliest "great" violin makers beginning from around 1540 were the Amati family: Andrea Amati, his brother Nicolo, and Adrea's sons and grandsons.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2005
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?

Similar Discussions: Violin's sound holes