Measuring Violin Bow Force During Performance

  • Rodrigo SarloEmail author
  • David Ehrlich
  • Pablo A. Tarazaga
Conference paper
Part of the Conference Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Mechanics Series book series (CPSEMS)


Violin bowing is a complex skill and controls a majority of the sound produced by the instrument. Yet despite significant interest in the modal analysis of violins, comparatively little work has been done to study the complexities of this “input.” In this work, we have used fiber optic strain sensors, a modern strain sensing technology, to test a novel method for measuring bowing force during violin performance. Gaining greater insight into how violinists vary bowing force to create sound could not only lead to better violin excitation methods for modal analysis but might also key in discovering indicators of violin quality and musician preferences. Live performance testing was performed by a professional violinist on two violins of differing quality and at different volume levels. The results showed a log-linear relation between bowing force and volume. In addition, a bowing gesture named the “average down-up stroke” was found by averaging several similar gestures. Its duration was observably longer for a high quality violin compared to a fair quality sibling. Such a measure could be adapted for various gestures and styles and subsequently be explored as a potential indicator of violin quality or player preference.


Violin Bow Force Strain Instrumentation 



The authors would like the Virginia Tech Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology (ICAT) for funding this work through the SEAD mini grant. They would like to thank Luna, Inc. in Blacksburg, VA for providing the strain sensing equipment and access to their facilities. Special thanks in particular to Aida Rahim and Naman Garg for their tremendously useful assistance and interest in the project.


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Copyright information

© The Society of Experimental Mechanics, Inc. 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rodrigo Sarlo
    • 1
    Email author
  • David Ehrlich
    • 1
  • Pablo A. Tarazaga
    • 1
  1. 1.Vibrations, Adaptive Structures and Testing (VAST) Laboratory, Department of Mechanical EngineeringVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA

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