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Why is the violin so hard to play?

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The violin is one of the most well loved and popular musical instruments ever to have been invented. Yet it is also one of the most difficult instruments to play, requiring great skill to produce a pleasant sound.

The vibration of bowed violin strings has been investigated since the nineteenth century, and in recent decades increasingly complex and realistic mathematical models of this motion have been developed. This approach can be used to determine why one violin is ‘easier to play’ than another. The answer concerns how the vibrating string responds to particular bowing gestures, but many details remain unknown. Current research focuses on the frictional behaviour of rosin, the sticky material used to coat the hairs of a violin bow to make it work.

Jim Woodhouse is Professor of Structural Dynamics at the Cambridge University Engineering Department. His research interests all involve vibration, with musical instruments providing a particular focus.

This event has been made possible by a grant from the East of England Museum Hub

This talk is part of the Whipple Museum of the History of Science series.

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