A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Belly (violin tribe)

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BELLY. The belly or upper part of the instruments of the violin tribe, is perhaps the most important of all, as it is the first to receive through the bridge the vibrations of the strings, and to communicate them to the whole body of the instrument. Soft wood being more easily set in vibration in all its parts, the belly is invariably made of deal, while the back and sides, which are not intended to vibrate to the same extent, but rather to throw back the waves of sound, are made of harder wood—maple.

As a rule, wood of narrow grain is preferred for the belly, although there are some fine old instruments with bellies of wide-grained wood. The thickness of the belly is also of very great importance: if too thick, the instrument will be weak in tone; if too thin, the tone will be hollow and bellowing. The power of resonance is enhanced by the slightly arched form of the belly. The wood is thickest in the centre, and gradually gets thinner toward the sides. The gradation in which this is executed varies greatly with different makers, and also depends on the special qualities of the individual piece of wood of which a belly is made. The position and shape of the so-called f-holes likewise greatly influence the quality of tone. The great makers of the Brescia school, Caspar da Salo and Maggini, made the f-holes large and almost upright; the Amatis, Stradivari, and Guarneri gave them a more slanting position, made them smaller, and infinitely more graceful in shape. Close to the edge the belly is inlaid with a single or double line of purfling, which is merely intended to improve the outward appearance of the instrument.

[ P. D. ]