Notes that are dull and subdued

Edited: February 27, 2018, 11:26 AM · On my E string low F and both C are dull and subdued. The other notes ring out well. Is this normal? Have you noticed anything like it? Tonica is the brand if that makes a difference.

Truth be told, I've never really liked either the F or the C notes. I think that Eb is the prettiest sounding note.

Replies (22)

February 26, 2018, 7:34 AM · If you don't put in a title for your post, then there is nothing for anyone to click on.
February 26, 2018, 10:29 AM · Agree. In addition, I recommend asking a tech/luthier to evaluate your violin.
Edited: February 26, 2018, 5:49 PM · True, Paul. Out of curiosity I found it by the simple expedient of clicking on a recent high-number thread, starting on 1220, which at time of writing hasn't started yet, and working downwards until I reached 1218 - this one.

Title-less posts here aren't common, and usually happen accidentally (as I'm sure the omission of the title here by Bob Cochrane is), so I wonder if the system could be programmed to catch such threads and take them no further until a title has been inserted. Shouldn't be difficult to implement.

February 26, 2018, 1:39 PM · Agreed. I found it listed on the main discussion board page. It would be nice to have a requirement by the system for a thread title.
February 26, 2018, 1:47 PM · Trevor I agree with you. Error-trapping could be better.
February 27, 2018, 4:29 PM · On virtually every violin there are a few notes that don't resonate as well as the rest. In an individual case a luthier may be able to make adjustments to the sound post and bridge to alleviate the problem, and perhaps advise on choice of strings if necessary.

And Bob, thank you for inserting the missing title for this thread; I believe you may be the first OP of a thread without a title to have done this!

February 27, 2018, 5:15 PM · Not to sound off-putting but are you sure you're playing those notes in tune?
Edited: February 27, 2018, 9:01 PM · I actually never played an instrument that equally rings on all notes (and never one that really « rings «  on F). I don’t know if that is even possible... but again I never played a ‘fine’ instrument. I suspect if there is such instrument, that you’d have to spend a lot of money for it.

Addendum: if I understand the theory, GDAEs should always be the most ringing notes as they will « excite » the corresponding open strings. For BCFs it would have to be their 3rds and/or 5ths open strings harmonics, hence exiting the open strings to a lesser degree. Then there is the natural vibration off the body itself, and strings after length, both of which can either increase/decrease ringing for certain frequencies.

Edited: February 27, 2018, 8:05 PM · It's normal, even on fairly high-end violins, for one or two notes to be less ringing than others. Learned this in my recent search for a violin - spoke to quite a few luthiers - but on the other hand they might have just been trying to sell me an instrument!

Depending on what it's worth you could take it to be adjusted - sometimes the sound post can be out of place and cause this kind of thing - but it might just be the violin.

February 27, 2018, 8:31 PM · One or two notes, sure, but typically in high positions, usually on the G string. Not common lower-position pitches on the E string. That suggests either a flawed instrument or a set-up problem.
February 28, 2018, 1:53 AM · Yes, violins that ring equally on all notes are very, very expensive.
February 28, 2018, 4:04 AM · Something I really like about the violin is that every note does not ring out the same. As a musician, I feel that this gives me an extra challenge, and an extra opportunity to add musicality to what I produce. The same is true for the baroque flute, which I also play, and which has much more substantial variation in tone between notes than the modern flute. Skilful players of baroque flute work with that variation to produce their sound.

That said, if particular notes are annoying you because of their dullness, then this is not likely to promote your enjoyment of playing, so it sounds like some setup work might be worth investing in. Its astonishing what a skilled luthier can do to improve tone, often for not much money. Thinning the bridge, or changing its height, adjusting the soundpost, adjusting the position of the bridge - all will have an impact, and a skilled luthier will know what to try.

Some strangeness in tone is just innate to particular instruments though. My violin, which I love the tone of, had a painfully bad wolf note on the C# on the D string which has been minimised by skilful adjustment, but which the luthier believes is due to a knot in the wood of the back of the violin. He also believes that this knot gives the violin its distinctive tone. I'm now happy to live with it, but it did frustrate me for a while.

February 28, 2018, 4:41 AM · Thank you all for the replies. They help.

For what it's worth, I did have a title when I posted. It did not show. I have done nothing, but the title appeared today.

Edited: February 28, 2018, 5:13 AM · I personally find that if the C on the G string has somewhat a strong wolf tone, the rest of the Cs in other registers will not ring that much.

And it is normal for the F not to ring as much, because it is a note that occurs later in the overtone series. In fact, I don't know of any C or sharp-key transposed instrument that would have a beautifully ringing F, but I suppose a flat-Key instrument would?

February 28, 2018, 6:40 AM · Actually on my violin, the F's are really loud. And no it is not an expensive Italian :-)
February 28, 2018, 11:01 AM · Try shifting the bridge a (very) little in various directions: if some settings sound better, ask for a soundpost re'adjustment.
Edited: February 28, 2018, 11:21 AM · The 5th harmonic (or partial) of F on the D string (counting the F as the 1st harmonic) is A1760, a major 3rd above the F's 4th harmonic which is F1396. I've taken the F on the D string as being 349Hz for the purposes of the calculations.

On a good violin with good strings and in tune, this A1760 should be picked up by the A-string. Whether this 5th harmonic is audible is quite another matter. However, the A-string can be seen to vibrate, the vibration being caused by the normal vibration of the bridge through the playing of the F, which bridge vibration of itself is enough to excite the 4th harmonic A1760 of the A-string.

The more resonant the violin and the better it is played in tune the better the effect will be.


Edited: February 28, 2018, 1:24 PM · @Y Cheng, concerning the wolves in the lower 2nd octave of the G string, a problem on many violins (and often the better the violin, the worse the wolf problem), on my best violin these wolves live at the A, B-flat, B and C, to the extent that if I have a score instruction in orchestra telling me to play any of those notes high on the G I'll play them on the D string (to date no-one has ever complained!). This is even with my usual gut-core G, and is worse with synthetic.

Some background: I had that old violin refurbished a few months ago following a broken bridge incident, and I instructed the luthier to return that violin towards its original baroque setup, including all-gut strings, but not to the extent of replacing the modern bass bar or re-angling the neck. This was done, and I was presented with a most resonant and lively instrument. After the refurbishment I played it happily without chinrest (I haven't used a shoulder rest for many years) but put the CR back on and changed the E and A from gut to steel to meet the requirements of the modern repertoire we play in my symphony orchestras.

It was after putting the CR back on that I re-discovered the wolves. I changed the CR from center-mounted to side mounted, even swapped over a CR from my Jay Haide – the problem was still there. Today, a few hours ago, in exasperation I took off the CR and the wolves vanished. This makes me think that modern add-ons such as CRs (and possibly SRs) may be contributory causal factors of the wolf problem – were wolf-notes all that common before the invention of the chinrest by Spohr in 1820? Fortunately, I play fluently without a CR – so g'bye chinrests!

[Edit added: my Jay Haide, a useful practice, folk and emergency orchestral violin, has never suffered from wolves, no matter what strings I use, probably because it has nowhere near the resonance of its centuries old brother. But I do not see that as an excuse for not removing its CR!]

February 28, 2018, 1:14 PM · Trevor, do you have any problems with down shifting?
February 28, 2018, 1:41 PM · Before my bridge shifting exercise, how about tuning a semitone lower to hear if the problem notes change.Or even a semitone higher, but I'm not paying for a new E string!
Edited: February 28, 2018, 2:08 PM · Bob, no problems whatsoever. There are four reasons -

1) My collar bone supports the violin at its lower end.

2) I hold the violin horizontally, which stops gravity from interfering, that is, the scroll is on a level with the center of my face.

3) During down shifts my lower jaw touches the top plate of the violin lightly to the bass side of the tailpiece, with just enough friction to overcome the lower level of friction of the left hand on the neck during the down shift. At no time do I press down or use head weight.

4) The most important - a very relaxed and tension-free left hand and arm right up to the shoulder. This seems to engender the same behaviour in the bowing arm.

Needless to say, all this wasn't achieved in five minutes, or even in a year or more! My teacher gave me a good grounding, some of which I realize now involved Alexander Technique, and in doing so it seems in retrospect that during those few years she was showing me by example how to analyze problems and work out solutions for myself. I started doing this a little while after I finished having lessons, in particular looking at the skill of playing without a CR, a skill that has not been available to many over the years.

I conclude this post with a heart-felt "thank you" to the many fellow members of this forum - too many to list - for the wisdom and teaching freely given in their many posts.


Edited: February 28, 2018, 8:19 PM · It's quite difficult to play very virtoustic repertoire without a CR. I do like the sound improvement though, especially on my somewhat "tight" violin. But it is just is too limiting for me to keep. Also, it has a muting effect.

With that said, wolf tones seem to originate from the disparity between he vibrations inside the violin vs the vibrations of the top plate. When these two vibrations are very close but not exactly the same, wolf tones begin. Thus, if we can dampen the top plate from vibrating, then the wolf tones disappear. If I was to take a guess, your wolf tones are going away without the CR because your face is resting somewhat on the top plate and dampening the vibrations, vs playing with a chinrest, where your chin is kept off.

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