��SOTTO VOCE, 'under the voice/ in an undertone; a direction of frequent occurrence in vocal music, where its meaning is obvious. It is transferred however to instrumental music, where its meaning is less clear. By some per- formers it is considered that the diminution in tone should be produced by artificial means, as by the soft pedal on the piano, or the sordino on the strings, while others take it as simply equiva- lent to a kind of pp. It may be taken as a universal rule that a sort of hushed effect is in- tended. A notable instance of its use occurs in the opening of the Choral Symphony. [J.A.F.M.]
SOUNDBOARD or SOUNDING BOARD. Another word for BELLY [see vol.i. p. 220]. The wood employed for the soundboards of European instruments, on account of its resonant qualities, is the light and elastic Abies Excelsa or Spruce Fir. [A.J.H.]
SOUNDHOLES, ory*-HOLES,two curvilinear openings in the belly of a stringed instrument, one on each side of the bridge. They are popularly
supposed to let out the sound ; but they are in fact indispensable to its production. But for the soundholes the belly of the fiddle would remain stiff and motionless under the bow. By cutting the soundholes on each side, the thick central section of the belly, extending from the top to the bottom block, and fortified by the bar, is liberated in the middle, and vibrates readily under the bow. It communicates its vibration to the rest of the instrument, and musical tone is the result. It is obvious that the vibration of the central section must be considerably affected by the place, size, and shape of the soundholes : and their true place and size, like that of the bridge, was first determined by the makers of Cremona about the end of the i;th century. Their shape is considerably older.
Fig. 2 shows the development of the sound- hole from its primitive form. The primitive soundhole was round, like that of the guitar, Fig. I (from a painting in the Florence gallery). Experiment soon proved that it was better to leave the central section entire from top to bottom,
����and to cut out only the lateral edges of the circle on each side, crescentwise (Fig. 2). The circular soundhole was thus transformed into a pair of crescents, turned face to face ; and this continued to be the normal form of soundholes in the I4th and 1 5th centuries. Fig. 3, a tenor viol from a picture by Montagna in the Accademia, Milan, is a late specimen. The expedient of placing them back to back (Fig. 4) is as old as the
����middle of the I4th century. This design event- ually prevailed for the viol in the i6th century,
��and remained the distinctive mark of the viol tribe as long as viols continued to be made. (Fig. 4 is from a large Viola da Gamba, by Henry Key of South wark 1611.) It was used for the Viola da Gamba in England as late as the middle of the last century, and in France somewhat later. It still survives in the hurdy- gurdy. [See HURDY-GURDY, vol. i. p. 758.]
The modern soundhole with a contrary flexure was developed from the crescent soundhole by reversing the lower half of the figure (see Fig. 2). In some early instruments these were placed back to back (Fig. 5, from tenor viols in the carved choir-screens of Cremona Cathedral, early in the i6th century). But experiment soon showed the expediency of placing them front to front (Fig. 6, from a very early Italian violin, about 1580), and the soundhole thus attained the familiar shape which is distinctive of the violin tribe. The makers of the i;th century slightly improved the outline. Fig. 7 shows the fiddle soundholes of Stradivari, and their position with reference to the corners. Stradivari first used the fiddle soundhole for his viols, rejecting the crescent shape, and in this he was followed by the other Italian makers.