KNUT GUETTLER & SUSAN HALLAM
Research on the physics of bowed stringed instruments can help the string teacher to explain the underlying acoustical phenomena and to develop corresponding pedagogical strategies. The first part of this chapter surveys current and historical acoustical research, focusing on information that can be related to technique. This section discusses not only the bowed attack with specific exercises to improve performance, but also other topics such as harmonics, rosin, timbre, and aspects of room acoustics during performance. An overview of psychological research relating to the distinctive aspects of playing a bowed stringed instrument and the characteristics of string players follows. This considers the importance of well developed aural skills, practice, and conscientiousness on the part of the player to develop high levels of expertise. The need for the teacher to demonstrate and provide opportunities to develop aural schemata, and give detailed constructive feedback is also discussed.
The first serious acoustical research on the violin can be dated back to the first half of the nineteenth century, when the French physicist Felix Savart borrowed from violin maker Jean Baptiste Vuillaume free top and back plates of violins crafted by Stradivari, Guarneri, and others, to examine how they vibrated at different frequencies (Savart, 1819, 1840). Contrary to popular belief, Savart discovered that the sound post does not function primarily to transmit the vibrations from the top to the back of the violin. Rather, its main function is to impose a nearly stationary point about which the top plate can rock.
The next major step toward an understanding of the acoustics of the violin was taken by Hermann von Helmholtz (1862/1954). Through acoustical filtering he was able to break tones down into pure tone components or partials (i.e., fundamental plus overtones), whose relative amplitudes influence timbre. In this