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African violin sounds
Author: Prof Martina Meincken
Published: 18/06/2020


Wood used for musical instrument needs to meet certain physical and acoustical properties and not all wood species are suitable as tonewoods. While guitars are often made from various (indigenous) wood species, violins worldwide are made from imported Spruce for the front plate and Maple for the back plate. This wood tends to be slow grown, very old and is typically dried naturally for up to 50 years. In a research project of the past two years we characterised various indigenous (South) African wood species and determined how they fit into different classification schemes to determine the suitability of the wood to be used as tonewood.

Four species gave promising results: Yellowwood and Blackwood for the front and Sapele and Hardpear for the back. None of these were, however, several decades old, or dried. The wood was carefully handpicked and kiln dried to obtain the best possible raw material. The first violin was made from Yellowwood and Sapele by Hannes Jacobs in Pretoria - one of the best luthiers in South Africa - and the sound compares very well with his traditional instruments.

The process of making of the African violin and its sound can be seen / heard under: 



The second violin will be made in our Department as part of various student projects and a local luthier will assist with the final finetuning and the assembly. For more information contact Prof. Martina Meincken at at the Department of Forest and Wood Science or visit: