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Sat 22 Sep 2012 - 1:09 am UTC
from Wikipedia : A sound hole is an opening in the upper sound board of a stringed musical instrument. The sound holes can have different shapes: round in flat-top guitars; F-holes in instruments from the violin, mandolin or viol families and in arched-top guitars; and rosettes in lutes. Bowed Lyras have D-holes and Mandolins may have F-holes, round or oval holes. A round or oval hole is usually a single one, under the strings. F-holes and D-holes are usually made in pairs placed symmetrically on both sides of the strings.
I would like to know who came up with the f-hole design and why is it in a stylized "f" shape? Does the shape really matter?
Wed 26 Sep 2012 - 4:04 pm UTC
I'd have to go with Amati, at least in violins.
This article on the history of violins:
dates them only back to the 1550's or so, and includes a picture of an Amati with f-holes that possibly dates to 1558. So, if he wasn't the first, he was pretty darned close.
Fri 28 Sep 2012 - 11:04 am UTC
David... We may almost be there.
Fri 5 Oct 2012 - 11:37 am UTC
Regarding your three questions I found these further details:
1) Who came up with the f-hole design?
The pdf-file of the 2010 publication "Acoustic function of sound hole design in musical instruments" by Hadi Tavakoli Nia, is accessible from here:
On page 59 of this pdf-file
you'll find a short description of the development of sound-holes in violins.
Apparently, therefore, there was a development from c-holes to f-holes.
Here is a page where you'll find an explanation how "the violone C-holes started to develop into F-holes", thereby referring to "transitional type instruments":
Additional information can be found on the pages accessible from the book "The Lira Da Braccio" by Sterling Scott Jones:
I assume that it currently has not been established which particular person first designed f-holes.
2) Why is it in a stylized "f" shape?
3) Does the shape really matter?
According to the abstract on page 3 (pdf-file) of the 2010 publication "Acoustic function of sound hole design in musical instruments", as mentioned above:
"the evolution of sound holes in violin family" is "consistent with a drive decreasing the void area and increasing the resonance bandwidth for a fixed resonance frequency".
Please let me know which additional information you hope to find.
Fri 5 Oct 2012 - 12:04 pm UTC
Thank you for continuing investigating my three questions. I accept we may never know who in particular can be titled the creator of the "f" hole as it was an evolutionary trial and error process. David Sarokin came as close as I could reasonably expect to naming an individual from circumstantial evidence.
The link you have cited describes the analysis that resulted in the present day design.. from the MIT information:
"Investigating the evolution of sound-holes in violin family from circular geometry in at least 10th century to the present-day f-hole geometry..."
I believe I now have all the information that I can expect to learn from this question. Please post your information as the answer. I will owe David for his contribution :)
Fri 5 Oct 2012 - 8:16 pm UTC
Thank you for accepting the results of my research as an answer to your question. Here are some additional details I would like to mention as well.
In the article "How, when and where the specific technological features of the violin family appeared" by Christian Rault (2007):
you'll find a "Chronology of technical features on western bowed instruments".
Regarding "ff soundholes" the author refers to the painting by Gaudenzio Ferrari, The Madonna of the Orange Trees, 1529–30 (San Cristoforo Church, Vercelli), as shown in Fig. 11.
Another page claims to present "The Oldest Violin in History":
namely a painting by Gaudenzio Ferrari (d. 1546)
displaying "protoviolins" of various sizes, i.e. according to the description, in Italian, here:
Ribuck already mentioned "Lira da braccio" by Giovanni Daria (around 1525):
Finally, here is a "Comparison of Soundhole Views" of "Four Stringed Instruments by Andrea Amati":
Please let me know should you require any further clarification.
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