Questions for ‘Tests challenge whether centuries-old violins really are the best ever’


Some violins made centuries ago in Italy have a reputation for unmatched quality and sound. In fact, neither musicians nor audiences could tell much difference between them and modern-made instruments in a host of studies.

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To accompany feature “Tests challenge whether centuries-old violins really are the best ever


Before Reading: 

1. What might lead some objects to become more valuable with age? What might lead other objects to lose value with age?

2. Many objects come from well-known name brands. Do you think a name-brand item is better than one without a famous label? Why or why not?

During Reading: 

1.   Who are the two most famous 16th and 17th century Italian violinmakers?

2.   What does it mean for an object such as a musical instrument to “evolve”?

3.   What are three ancestors of the modern violin? How did they differ from a true violin?

4.   What is the significance of the shape of a stringed instrument’s sound holes? According to Nicholas Makris, why might instrument makers have changed this shape over time?

5.   What is one challenge that scientists face when studying rare violins? What is one way they have overcome this challenge?

6.   How have scientists disproven the idea that denser wood made the sound of Stradivarius violins so special?

7.   What difference did Hwan-Ching Tai and his colleagues discover between wood from 16th-century violins and modern wood?

8.   How did Claudia Fritz and her colleagues successfully compare the sound of old Italian violins to that from modern instruments?

9.   What did Fritz’s team learn about musicians’ preferences, based on playing both new and old violins?

10.  In Fritz’s studies, what did listeners in an audience report about the sound of new versus old violins? Overall, which violins did they prefer?

After Reading: 

1.   The story discusses the evolution of stringed instruments. Think of an object or technology that you use regularly and describe how it has evolved over time.

2.   Some of Fritz’s studies asked listeners to decide which instrument’s sound they liked best. How do you decide what type of music to listen to? What type of music do you like best and why? Think about it: What features make that music so appealing to you?