Can Artificial Intelligence help luthiers?

Predicting the sound produced by a piece of wood and the precautions to be taken to make it sound at its best is the worry of every luthier. According to the Politecnico di Milano, however, all this is possible thanks to artificial intelligence.

Researchers from the Musical Acoustics Lab of the Politecnico di Milano have recently published their study in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. The Chilean physicist and luthier Sebastian Gonzalez and the professional mandolinist Davide Salvi show how a very simple neural network is able to predict the vibratory behavior of violin boards starting from a limited number of geometric and mechanical parameters of the board.

A possible turning point for luthiers, Gonzalez defines it: "It will not only help them do better than the 'great masters', but it will also help them explore the potential of new designs and materials. Artificial intelligence, physical simulation and craftsmanship can come together to shed light on the art of violin making".

The researchers were able to design a violin table with only 35 parameters. By randomly varying these parameters, a dataset of violins was constructed that includes historical violin forms as well as forms never used in violin making.

Advanced vibratory modeling tools were then used to determine the acoustic behavior of each violin in the dataset. The next step was to understand if a simple neural network is able to predict acoustic behavior starting from the parameters of the table. The response was positive, well beyond expectations with an accuracy close to 98%.

The work, therefore, offers a promising instrument in the hands of the luthiers of Cremona and of the whole world. Using the neural network allows us to predict how a given piece of wood would "sound" if transformed into a board with a certain shape and could also be used to design two violins of different wood so that they sound the same. This will allow in the future to select the best wood for a particular model of violin, an operation which today is performed on the basis of purely aesthetic considerations.

The project was financed by the Cultural District of the Violin Making of Cremona.


Credits of the picture: Politecnico di Milano