Sharpening scientific tools violin making

“Sharpening the scientific tools for violin making”, Online conference organised by Claudia Fritz, Institut d’Alembert, Sorbonne Université – CNRS, Paris, 5 – 9 October 2020. Program.

Videos of the global event:

Video of Iris Brémaud’s talk:

Online conference on the 6th of October 2020:

  • Brémaud Iris (2020). Tonewoods: at the crossroads between wood physics and craftsmanship knowledge.


“Tonewoods” could be primarily defined by their historical processes of selection – and current processes of choice – by instrument makers. Yet, understanding the causes underlying these selection processes, as well as some consequences resulting from these choices, calls for a wide span of disciplines. In this talk, I will present a possible methodology to bridge the craftsmanship uses and knowledge of tonewood, together with wood science (in the wide sense of the term) and some insights from social sciences and humanities. The proposed methodology is organised in 5 steps that form a “loop”: (1) Surveys with artisans to collect wood knowledge and encountered issues; (2) Identification of underlying physical-mechanical phenomena; (3) Exploration of the diversity and variability of wood species and properties; (4) Physical-mechanical consequences of processes and treatments used in craftsmanship; (5) Analysis of the sensory perception of wood variability and properties by its expert users. After an introduction to the basics of wood physics, the different steps of this transdisciplinary methodological approach will be illustrated by an array of research, grounded upon analytical review of literature of the past decades, and continued by research we recently conducted on wood uses by musical instrument makers, with a focus on luthiers of string instruments, and occasional illustration from other organological families.