Fungus makes violins sound 'like Stradivarius'

The tone of a Stradivarius violin can be achieved on new violins by treating the wood with a particular fungus, a study has shown.

Stradivarius violin

Fungi can make a new violin sound like a Stradivarius, a Swiss wood researcher has discovered. His research has shown that treating the wood of a new violin with a specific fungus (Physisporinus vitreus and Xylaria longipes) can increase the elasticity and change acoustics of the instrument's body.

Stradivarius violins were made from a kind of wood particular to the late 17th century violin-maker's environment. The wood was said to have lower density and higher elasticity, exactly the same qualities that the fungus-treated wood aims to recreate.

Professor Schwarze of the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology made the discovery, commenting: "The unique feature of these fungi is that they gradually degrade the cell walls, thus inducing a thinning of the walls. But even in the late stages of the wood decomposition, a stiff scaffold structure remains via which the sound waves can still travel directly."

It is hoped that the discovery will mean student players will in the future be able to learn on instruments with a higher-quality sound than standard beginner models.

Professor Schwarze also said it would "give young musicians the opportunity to play on a violin with the sound quality of an expensive - and for most musicians unaffordable - Stradivarius."

Watch a Stradivarius violin in action

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