The Violin Scroll
Sander Markus's recent limerick included the wonderful lines,
"Who was the lout Who snuck in and rolled up the scroll?".
This got me wondering who invented the scroll, when, where, and why.
Is the scroll really necessary? As I see it (and of course I may be wrong), it is little more than a decorative appendage useful for marketing, and for displaying the carving skills of who made it, perhaps the luthier's apprentice. Absence of the scroll, a substantial lump of wood, would reduce the overall weight of the violin, which may have an effect on the tone; the violin would be easier to hold, which is an important consideration for beginners, more so if the "violin" happens to be a viola. Access to the pegbox, particularly in the A-peg region would be easier.
Isn't it basically for hanging?!!
I have noticed players tuning with the pegs and not grasping the scroll in the palm of their hand, I figured they must have those 'geared' pegs.
I small number of the people I have played music with have had "scrolls" that were instead carvings of people or trolls or even other things. I always found them to look gross and would not want such a violin.
We can experiment by adding lumps of Blu-Tak to the scroll to find how much the extra mass affect the tone. I imagine there will be little effect on the high-frequency "bloom" and projection but more on the "balance of power" at the low end.
I read somewhere that the scroll's purpose is to function as a counterweight to the part of the fingerboard that extends past the neck. Not being a luthier I have no idea if this is correct information or not.
It is an ornament. Visually, the scroll fits the violin soundbox forms.
I had an adult student a few years ago that didn't have a scroll on her violin. The end of her violin just tapered off into a point. Not only that, the F holes were carved to be about twice the size of normal ones. I was so disturbed by the sight of her violin, it took several lessons for me to get used to looking at it. I had taken for granted how beautiful violins are to look at, and when the basic form was changed, it bothered me.
Someone who has a spare VSO in their workshop could experiment by taking off the scroll, and possibly tapering what is left, as Rebecca describes in her post, to explore what effect the amputation would have on the sound.
Trevor, that sounds like a great use for a VSO! But if the scroll is taken off, would that mean it would become an SO because the true violin shape had been lost? lol!
Trevor Jennings on 10/24: "Someone who has a spare VSO in their workshop could experiment by taking off the scroll..."
Thank you, Don, that's just the sort of experimental feedback I was expecting. It confirms my instinctive thoughts that there would be an observable effect.
The end of the violin was inspired by a deceased nautilus that washed up on the shores of Italy after floating from tropical seas attached to a giant decaying kelp raft. The fisherman that found it took it to the local shell collector who happened also to be a violin maker (he made his violins from hardwood from shipwrecks that washed up from the seas).
Seriously, what *is* the history of the scroll? I've seen historical instruments (lutes, and that sort of thing) with decorated ends. Who first came up with a scroll specifically? Was it Da Salo? Amati? Probably earlier than that? Sorry, too lazy to Google :-)
It would follow that the weight of the scroll COULD affect elements of sound. When I bought my violin, the neck was way too thin, so we put a shim in the neck to bring it up to spec, and the sound definitely changed (unfortunately, it took a little bit of a hit).
Ah... Google again,... interesting read: http://blog.feinviolins.com/2013/04/why-scrolls.html
I find it a bit boring that 99% of scrolls are identical more or less. Different designs don't have to be cherub heads or whatever but can even be variations on the scroll design.
Chistopher Payne wrote:
Me too, David!
Maybe Don or David would like to enlighten us on whether the Italian architect Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola (1507-1573) had anything to do with the violin scroll, which first appeared on a violin when Vignola was around age 25 or so?
And what about those marvellous old Jacob Stainer violins with lion's head scrolls, angels, etc.? A friend of mine played on one, a very beautiful sounding instrument, with a splendid lion glaring fiercely over her delicate wrist, tongue lolling out. It looked just magnificent.
I had a schoolfriend whose violin had a bearded old man's head for a scroll. I've heard people sneer at that kind of thing, but I gather the violin was an antique of some value.
The Oct. 2020 issue of "the STRAD" magazine has a 3 page article "Organic scroll carving" by luthier Peter Bingen of Minneapolis on pages 66,67 & 69 in which he describes and illustrates his process for shaping and carving scrolls his "vision" for each instrument.
The violin is part of a system. Not only is the weight a factor, but the location of that weight. Violins can be very sensitive to that. As with everything else, it may not matter on a particular violin, the difference may not be to your tastes; also 95% of the people who listen to you won't hear the difference and 30% of the players who play it will declare there's no change. And the change may well be in behavior more than actual sound.
I really doubt that omitting a scroll would make a violin easier to hold. Violins are so light to begin with. When I tune my violin I tend to clutch the scroll with my 4th finger and if it weren't there I think that would make things harder, not easier. As for the origin of the scroll, a previous teacher told me that it's based on the Fibonacci sequence and was probably designed by early instrument makers in Greece making instruments that predate violins. This makes sense to me, given the Greek affinity with mathematics and design.
There are many ways the Fibonacci sequence operator can be applied to creating a spiral. Yesterday I measured the spirals on one of the violins I purchased from a maker friend of mine. It seems he applied the Fibonacci operation every time the spiral line crossed a specific diameter. That looks just right to me!
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