The Italian, Antonio Stradivari, spent most of his life dedicated to the creation of musical instruments, converting himself into one of the most prolific and well-respected makers of violins, cellos and violas of his time. Hundreds of years later, musicians nowadays follow in his wake, trying to emulate the sonority and harmony of his instruments. But what was the secret that distinguished a Stradivarius violin from every other? The answer is in the wood.
The melody of natural wood
The violin, the Spanish guitar, the recorder or the oboe all have something in common: the use of natural wood in their manufacture. Wood is one of the most important materials used to make musical instruments thanks to the technical characteristics which mean it can be used to create different kinds of congruence and harmony.
There are different types of wood, which affect the tone of the instrument and help to produce the final sound. Not all wood is apt for all instruments. Together, the typology, the finish or the vibrating quality provide the particular acoustic signature and the “voice” of each musical instrument.
A wood for each instrument
Traditionally, Stradivarius violins were made with spruce for the top and maple for the rest of the violin, and were treated with minerals which are difficult to find today. Ash, meanwhile, was and still is most commonly used for wooden guitars since, properly treated, it helps to create the sound board necessary to create the perfect tone in the future instrument. Wooden recorders or xylophones are made using a bamboo base and ukeleles, with mahogany or koa.
Wood is very important when equipping instruments with their characteristic cadence. As Stradivari knew, the essence of the music was in the wood.