I'm trying to make, as a hobby, a few instruments, and watching videos on string instruments, specially compact ones, I noticed that outside of the sounds being pleasant or not, the volume was mediocre at best.

So, without actually studying music with luthier theory as a career, what should I consider to make the sound as loud and pleasant as I can, regarding shape, matterials and such?

I would like it to be as small as possible without being unconfortable. Something between the size of a mandolin, an ukelele and a violin (Lenght of the neck is not that important but I will probably make it longer than ukelele). If possible, not as big as a lute.

  • How are you intending it to be played? Violins are bowed, lutes and mandolins are not. – marcellothearcane Aug 5 '19 at 18:35
  • Also have you heard a solo violinist playing in with an orchestra in a concert hall? Small instruments aren't all quiet. – marcellothearcane Aug 5 '19 at 18:37
  • A resonator banjo is pretty loud. banjo.com/differences-between-open-back-closed-back-banjo – Your Uncle Bob Aug 5 '19 at 18:59
  • The instruments you mention, such as violin and mandolin, have been refined over decades or centuries to be as loud and pleasant sounding as possible. It’s not likely you’ll be able to do better than those, even if you embark on a career in lutherie. For such instruments, size, choice of woods, and construction all have the largest influence on volume. Size is one of your constraints, wood for mandolin and violin are already chosen to be near optimal for volume (only spruce might be “louder” than maple), so you would have to innovate on construction to do better. – Todd Wilcox Aug 5 '19 at 19:55
  • @ToddWilcox loudness is not generally in the "top five" parameters of design interest. – Carl Witthoft Aug 6 '19 at 13:29

Had you considered this - a violin with a trumpet bell:

enter image description here

Also have a look at the hurdy gurdy - another string instrument designed to be loud.


Short answer is: you can't get more energy out than you put in.

Medium answer is: OK, so first we figure out how to get the string vibrating with as large an amplitude as possible, and then we figure out how to get the best transference of that vibrating energy into the air. (If you're familiar with electronics or optics, there's an analogous impedance-matching analysis for acoustic systems). Objects which resonate well (like a high-quality violin body) do so because of high-quality coupling between the string and the body. Then the "trick" is to couple all that energy into the air. That 'trumpet bell' in Brian's answer looks wild; dunno how well it worked. Pro cellists often sit on a resonant box to couple energy via the endpin.

Long answer: really big ugly nonlinear differential equations and 3-D models of reflection&absorption of odd-shaped hollowbodies.

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