May 2014

5%: the A 440 mezzo violin

May 20, 2014 16:42

Five percent. The dimensions of the of the A 440 mezzo violin plates are scaled just 5% larger than the 14" violin grand pattern that has been in use since the 1720's. My mezzo violin has good projection over the full range from the open G then all the way to up. And, it was made in a Chinese workshop.

Top luthiers are able to make instruments with strong projection over all strings using the standard 14" patterns. It takes significant skill for them to achieve really great instruments. But when lesser makers and production shops using the same patterns, many things fall apart. At the bottom of the barrell, there is the VSO.

May 20, four years ago, FedEx delivered my mezzo from Bob Spear, one of his imported instruments. Each year, I have written a blog for about it. For me, returning to the violin after 50 years, it is the perfect instrument. One that rings well and is easy to play and it projects all of which make it a joy to play, but still, in playing, I need to do everything right.


The price is in line with the beginning of serious student instruments at about $1200. (Currently Bob's prefered imported instrument is the master shop level at less than $1800. More hours are invested, in Ithaca, finishing and improving graduation and set up of these instruments.) Should you be in the market, add one of these to your list to consider. Also handmade mezzos can be ordered From Spear in Ithaca and Joris Wolters in Belgium.

Where did the A 440 mezzo come from? It was the last instrument developed by the CatGut Accoustical Society. In the 1960's, the CAS scaled up and down a set of eight violins based on the violin. It was required for the set of these instuments to cover the full range of the piano wit h some overlap. It was also required that all notes played on each instrument project well. The scalings of these instruments were based on acoustical paramenters, not dimensional measurements.

At the beginning of research, the violin was thought to be the perfect instrument and there was no plan to change it. But when the first octet was complete and played as an ensemble, the violin was overpowered by each of the octet instruments. Therefore back to the calculations, based on their experience gained on the other seven instruments the A 440 mezzo was designed. For more, find the Singing Woods Violin website.

The first set worked, but Carleen Hutchins and the physicists were not satisfied therefore went back to work and revised all instruments into a Generation II. In this century, Bob Spear with the help of physicists has developed Gen III and IV instruments with improvement at each generation. These instruments are not the brainchild of an individual claming to have found the secrets of Stradivarius but dedicated acoustic scentists and luthers.

I am now adding "A 440" to mezzo as there is another group who make a set of strings for the violin but to be tuned an octive lower. They also call it a mezzo. Therefore a 14" instrument is the A 220 mezzo. You can find the strings on the internet. If you are looking an A 220 instrument look at the tenor violin from the octet. It will fill the hall with sound and many overtones lost by amplifiers.

If Stradivarius had lived for another 25 years, I believe that he would have developed the A 440 mezzo. Unfortunately, he died prematurely at 93.

Would you play a 5% larger violin in order to gain the benefits of the A 440 mezzo?


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