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Tips on Fixing Violin Sound

May 16, 2010 at 4:16 PM

 Some of us probably has been in a situation where you have to perform and suddenly your violin catches a cold. What I mean by catching a cold is it sounds like you when you have a cold. Too bad there is no cough drop for violin. Having been in this situation these are a few steps I did while trying to fix it:

Clean excess rosin from strings and bow. If it sounds too harsh most likely there is too much rosin on the bow and strings. A new bow hair without rosin wouldn't make any sound. After cleaning I did feel some improvement but it still doesn't solve the problem. 

Replace the strings, if you haven't replaced the strings for 2 years, that's about time to do it anyway. I heard some people even replace their strings every 6 months. I noticed quite a bit of improvement after doing this. However it still didn't bring back the sound that I wanted. 

So I was just 1 day away from having to perform, and finally I decided to go to a music store and tried different bows. Much to my surprise the different bows does make a lot of difference in the sound quality. When trying a few new bows I even noticed that some bows make a more mellow sound, and some make a louder and harsher sound. I'm not sure what are all the factors that affect the sound quality, my only guess is just the different bow hair or different amount and type of rosin applied on the bow. 

So just like troubleshooting any other problem, it's always best to isolate the cause before you can fix it. Here is a few easy steps I have developed when you have a violin sound problem:

1. Is there any cracks? If yes go to a violin shop to get it fix or buy a new violin :) If not go to step 2.

2. Ask your teacher (or someone else) to play your violin. Sounds good? if yes, go to step 7. if not continue to step 3.

3. Clean rosins from bow and strings (or add rosins depending on the case), still doesn't sound good? continue to step 4.

4. Try playing with different bow, try playing other violin with your bow and ask someone else to play your violin with different bow. The purpose is to isolate if the problem is with your bow. If so then either get a new bow or re-hair your bow. If it's not the bow continue to step 5. 

5. Replace the strings. sounds good? if not, repeat step 4. If after repeating step 4, still doesn't sound good, go to step 6.

6. Try new violins that have been configured to sound good. still doesn't sound good? go to step 7.

7. Take more violin lessons!

 

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on May 16, 2010 at 4:52 PM

How about just having the soundpost adjust??? This is so often the issue too ;)

You little game with the 7 sentences is cool!

Anne-Marie


From Reynard Hilman
Posted on May 17, 2010 at 1:36 AM

yeah I should have added "or take your violin to a luthier on step 6" :)

adjusting sound post sounds really involved, is it even worthed for violin under 2000? 


From Stephen Brivati
Posted on May 17, 2010 at 10:17 AM

 Greetings,

interesitng blog. Good points.  Only beg to differ on string changing. I ca assure you that for almost everyone strings don`t last six months and certianly not two years.  An average change perios for someone practicing three hours a day everyday using Dominant is under two months .   It is almost always the case that the loss of sound and tone is so incremental the player is never really aware of how things have droppe doff at the end. This is a very dangerous habit as the player will begin forcing things and aapting technique to get bette rresults when the problem merely lies with thestrings.

Cheers,

Buri


From Ildar Agluckow
Posted on May 17, 2010 at 8:29 PM

 Often, when a lot of play on the violin out of tune, the violin begins to lose overtones. On the violin you always need to play clean, then it starts getting better and better sound. Changes occur almost immediately. And the violin sounds better and better each day. You can play simple things. Best of all - scale. During the game you should hear the sound of an open, bright.Sounding boards should resonate strongly. Each sound is played slowly, full bow


From Ray Randall
Posted on May 17, 2010 at 8:53 PM

Good points here, especially playing in tune to ramp up the overtones. Weather also plays a major part in how a violin sounds.


From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on May 17, 2010 at 8:49 PM

Yes the soundpost optimum fit (that moves along with the seasonal changes) is a good thing even on a less expensive violin.  (I remember seeing my maker adjust the soundpost of a less expensive instrument and it made a difference!)

 

But I'm not a maker and the best would be to aks many makers!

Have a nice day!

Unfourtunately, we often go to point 7, no? ; )

Anne-Marie


From Julian Stokes
Posted on May 17, 2010 at 9:15 PM

I want to second what Buri says about strings.

I am a returning violin player with a 30 year gap. But I have played guitar for a large part of that gap. You can reach a stage on the guitar where everything sounds "sour". The strings are in tune - because the electronic tuner says they are - but chords sound yuk. And that's with frets so there's no finger placement issues. A change of strings and all is well with the world again. Strings wear out.


From Reynard Hilman
Posted on May 18, 2010 at 4:01 AM

Thanks for all the comments, wow I never knew that strings should be changed more often. So with my practice time probably I should change at least every year. 

Anne-Marie, even after doing all the steps I still have to take step 7, maybe for a long time :)


From Marsha Weaver
Posted on May 18, 2010 at 3:18 PM

Sound post adjustment isn't all that involved, if your luthier knows what he's doing.  The luthier who cares for my violins' health can make a world of difference in the sound of a violin in just a matter of seconds.  He's worked miracles in bringing out the best in my old German conservatory violin (which I've been told retailed for less than $5.00 back around 1900 -- give or take a few years), and a quick adjustment on my newer student violin also made a huge improvement.  So putting the cost of an adjustment into even a modestly-priced violin pays big dividends.  I'm not sure if I'm allowed to give my luthier's name in a post, but if anyone wants to contact me through V.com, I'll be glad to tell you how to contact him.  (He's in northern Indiana, USA.)


From Don Roth
Posted on May 18, 2010 at 8:57 PM

I took a violin for a sound post adjustment to two luthiers in two different states and they both decided that the violin needed some new items such as tailpiece, etc. to the tune of $200 each time.  Their work made almost no difference for a total of $400.  Perhaps the best feature of their business was a really impressive web site.

I swore this would never happen again so I bought an electric violin to solve my luthier problems.

The moral of the story is that it is probably best to only deal with a luthier who comes recommended by a trusted source ( Don't believe web sites.  Anyone can have one these days.)

I'm sure there are many honest and competent luthiers around, if you can find one.

Good luck and watch your wallet.

 

 

 

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