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stevenwong

F-hole History and Reasons

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Hi All,

A few days ago, someone asked me these questions:-

1. What are the reasons for the design of the f-hole?

2. Why is the f-hole shaped in such a way?

3. Why cant the f-hole shaped in other fashions?

4. Is there a history behind the shape of the f-hole?

Well, I was dumbfounded. I didn't know what to say as I have never asked those questions before. I took the violin as it is and never asked such questions....

Will someone be kind enough to enlighten me....?

Steve

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The old viols (Gambas) had C holes. According to the hills, the lower part of the C holes was reversed when the viollin was invented, creating the f holes.

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I have read about this somewhere sometime - at least some theories.

Is it something to do with the fact that the "f' also represented the sound "s"

until modern times....

label2ak6.jpg

That would make it very appropriate for the sound-hole

being the first letter of the word for sound

- from the latin "sonare" to the Italian "suono" or 'sonata"?

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The C-holes had a shape somewhat too similar too the line of the C-bouts, always looks slightly strange, and sort of not contrasting enough, something that certainly did not escape the eagle eyes of the early violin designers. Also, the violin has a narrow waist and relatively wide hips, something that didn't fit the idea of a c-hole so well anymore.

I don't know if there were instruments with f-holes made before Andrea Amati, they are in case very few, so basically I would say that the f-hole is an integrated part of the Cremonese violin design, wich is a VERY well thought out system of shapes. A violin with c-holes would be very tricky to make flexible enough in the bridge aerea, resulting in a very harsh poor sound. Any other shape you'd give these holes would deteriorate the sound, function or stability of the instrument. The f-holes frees the movement of the tables' acoustical centre in a just perfect way, and their position and shape are some of the most vital mechanical details in a violin.

Also, the cremonese knew very well that when you cut through a plate like that, you need a shape that starts and ends with a circular hole, as the circle prevents weakness and cracking. (Actually an old method for preventing a crack from becoming any longer was to drill a whole at the end of it. It is still used on cracked cymbals, I think). The choice was just too obvious: F-holes!

However your questions are hopeless on an internet forum, you're asking for a book, probably one that isnt't written yet; perhaps there are a few words of wisdom in the new Francois Denis book, what do I know?

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Right! I think I found what I was looking for.

During the period of history in question 1500-1550

the Renaissance was in full swing in France and

the world of letters and arts dominated the figure of Francis I

who reigned from 1515 to 1546. During his time the cultural life

of the country was transformed and many of the greatest artisans

of Italy, including Learnado da Vinci, found their way to the court.

Music, musicians and instruments were also in demand.

It is suggested that instruments commissioned for the French royal court

were decorated with the motive "f" in homage to the King

and this became the pattern and the norm.

(Andrea Amati received a similar commisiion for a large number of instruments

for the Spanish court)

(cf. Paolo Peterlongo, The Violin.

N.B. the author proposes tantalisingly that the suggestion was made

by da Vinci himself, a theory he himself dismisses.)

Personally, I find all this a bit implausible but for what it's worth......

I think rather, as Magnus has noted, they form part of a sofisicated

acoustic and structural system combined with a sense aesthetic beauty.

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Stop-drilling cracks in aircraft skins will indeed prevent the crack from spreading beyond the hole; however, the magnitude of the "crack" made by the f-hole is such that this solution is unlikely. But starting the f-holes with these holes may make the process of cutting into the table less risky. (It should be obvious that I know nothing of the violin-making process).

In a way it's a pity that the more or less perfect violin shape was brought forth so early. Further experimentation has more or less hit the wall, insofar as few luthiers have gontten very far in challenging what seems to be an almost Platonic ideal. On the other hand, why mess with success?

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Omobono, Yes that is a nice crwth but not one with ff holes. Page 29 of the text i sighted has the drawing. I would post it but have yet to familiarize myself with the process of posting pictures here. I have accumulated a number of JPegs of pre Amati 15th century ff holes on early pre violin vieles.

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What I wanna' know is,  why are they called "F" holes and not

"S" holes?

-I guess the French did have a bit more pull in such things than

the Spanish (g)  and the Italians, well, you can't very easily

make "I" holes.  

Good thing they weren't making fiddles in Albania...

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Someone mentioned in a violin making book, that thee is an optimal constant k

where k is a ratio of air volume V in side a violin and A, the total area of ff-hole.

If A is too big, the violin sound is weak.

If A is too small, a nasal osund will result.

He adjust the sound by making the ff-hole smaller first and enlarge it as

required.

I don't know that part, I am not a luthier. Any comment?

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"What I wanna' know is, why are they called "F" holes and not "S" holes?"

Perhaps because they look like "f", not like "S"?

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Yuen's post brings up an interesting question.

Yuen's "K" obviously does have a HUGE effect on the violin's tone.

All one has to do to prove this is bow a note and cover-up a small

part of either hole with the left hand.  

SO:  have any of you ever experimented with an un-varnished

violin, starting with a thinner f-hole, and slowly opening it up?

 Ever go even wider than the norm?  Surely every

instrument would have a slightly different ideal opening size, no?

Even with two violins of exactly the same dimensions,

one will have less top vibration than the other, hence less LF

content. Couldn't that exactly-same proportioned violin possibly

benefit from a slghtly larger f-hole? (or vice-versa?)

Taking this further, when a repairman does a set-up, quite a few

things are done to shape the tone. If the sounds is really not

happening, why is a subtle adjustment of the f-hole size not

attempted (as a last resort) at least with lower-to-mid level

instruments?

Suppose one has a violin that has had some of the f-hole filed

away,  an unfortunately common practise when there is

soundpost-setter damage.  We've all seen pics of such

instruments.  Would it not be adviseable to add some aged

spruce back on, recarve the f-hole to its proper dimension, then do

aethetic touch-ups with laquer sticks or whatever?  -Because

if those holes are now too big, no other amount of set-up or mods

will ever yield optimum results, correct?

just askin.'

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Albania...sheesh.  

I'll assume at this point Allan that your self imposed ban on

technical discussions is over?  Congratulations.

I had been told at one point that the f hole shape was little more

than aesthetics and tradition...but that the notches on said

f-holes served to mark the placement of the bridge.  A

properly constructed and set up violin can vary in arching and

width, but length should be a static number, and thus being static,

bridge placement for string lengths should always be the same.

 Therefore, when carving the holes the placement of the

f-hole, and from there the notches, and from there the bridge,

should be evident before the strings ever go on.

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I am a teacher.

 

I have several Gambas that my students are playing.   They play traditional music for the most part.

We live in a rural area of the Appalachian Mountains, and I have had a lot of trouble trying to find out ...

EXACTLY... where to place the bridges, as they have un-notched C holes, and not Notched F holes.

Even on line dealers have been able to give me NO information.

We have gambas from 15.5 to 22 3/4 in. 

 

Will anyone help us?  There must be a formula as there is with Dulcimers..on the body size or the string length, in determining where to place the Bridge.

THANK you for you kind help.

 

cjm

 

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I am a teacher.

 

I have several Gambas that my students are playing.   They play traditional music for the most part.

We live in a rural area of the Appalachian Mountains, and I have had a lot of trouble trying to find out ...

EXACTLY... where to place the bridges, as they have un-notched C holes, and not Notched F holes.

Even on line dealers have been able to give me NO information.

We have gambas from 15.5 to 22 3/4 in. 

 

Will anyone help us?  There must be a formula as there is with Dulcimers..on the body size or the string length, in determining where to place the Bridge.

THANK you for you kind help.

 

cjm

Hope this helps:

 

https://ccrma.stanford.edu/marl/CASL/documents/LaBarre_Dissertation.pdf

 

Everybody ought to take a look at this, his methodology is detailed and closely resembles violin practice.

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What intrigues me about f holes is the sharp point and the very narrow gap from the point to the opposite side.  It's not pretty.  But I'll bet it's important.  I've never found discussion of that in the technical literature.

I wonder if anyone has studied that little detail.

Alan

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There has been some studies on the shape of the f-holes and how that affects the air velocity pumping into and out of the holes. My sense was that although the science was reasonable, the effect it has on any noticeable tone of the violin was more speculation.

The fundamental purpose of the f-holes is to "tune" the air cavity to some desired frequency (around 270 to 290 Hz). For this, the total length of the f-hole is the most influential on the tuning, rather than the actual shape or width.

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There was a recent scientific paper published which claimed that the f-hole came to its present shape, which is superior to the shapes used in older instruments, by means of a process akin to biological evolution.

Many people on this forum with actual expertise in how violins are made, however, believe this paper to be deeply flawed. However, it might still be useful as a starting point for locating other information.

Here is one article about the paper I'm referring to, and here's an early news article from The Strad about it.

Here is an article from The Strad magazine discussing some of these flaws.

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F hole should not  have any sharp corners because it will create a crack ( a crack will start ) from there if there is one.

So if you try to design a new shape from a relatively long line whether it is l or S or f, which doesn't have a sharp pointed corner inside, it will eventually end up becoming the f hole shape we are familiar with.

 

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