Sound Of Violin Seems To Change

Edited: October 6, 2017, 7:47 AM · I usually only play one violin and most of the time the sound is very consistent, yet sometimes the sound quality seems to change.

I've noticed over the last several days the sound seems thinner with less body. I have tried all of my bows to see if possibly it could be a bow problem. The bow doesn't seem to matter.I made sure I rosined the bows well. I've tried using different pressure/weight on the bow. This made it louder but it still had a more hollow sound.

I recently changed strings. I'm not blaming the strings yet. The sound post seems ok. I don't hear it inside the body moving around.

I hate to admit that maybe it's me and not the violin, or do violins have different characters at different times?

The only time there was a change in humidity was when I had it in my car about a week ago. The temperatures were mild then, so I didn't suspect extreme heat was an issue.

Just odd. I've has a similar thing happen awhile back that seemed to last for a few weeks and then I didn't notice it using the same violin.

It was so bad last night I cut my practice short.

Replies (21)

October 6, 2017, 7:56 AM · Did you change string brands, if so from what to what???
October 6, 2017, 8:01 AM · I only changed the E back from Platinum to the standard vision solo E.

Come to think of it, the strings sounded good initially after the set in period. I wonder if I bought a bad set of strings or if the heat in the car changed the strings somehow.

October 6, 2017, 8:53 AM · In my experience, climatic changes (also small ones) can modify the way a violin (or a guitar) resonates.

But i also saw that some instruments do more, o much more than others. Some seem almost inert to changes.......

October 6, 2017, 8:57 AM · Have you had it in to a luthier for a checkup lately? If seems to be happening at random, and doesn't necessarily coincide with a string change, then it probably needs to be looked at by someone who has experience with repairs. It's normal to have replace a sound post every once in while, even on an older violin. It could be that yours isn't quite doing the job it used to.
October 6, 2017, 9:09 AM · Thank you for those suggestions and ideas.

Jennifer, I think I'm going to look it over for problems. Maybe change the strings again. If none of those things help, I'll probably be taking it to a luthier.

I've never had it looked at by a luthier. I liked the sound and was concerned changing things too much might loose the magic. Looks as if the magic is gone just the same.

I had it to the local diocese and the demon specialist there checked to see if there were demons in it, they didn't find any. Those can be very tough to get rid of * just kidding * :0)

It seems almost a silly thing to ask, but I am noticing a difference for no apparent reasons.

October 6, 2017, 9:14 AM · I doubt this had anything to do with perceived sound changes, but please don't leave your violin unattended in the car. Cars can heat up very quickly even in mild weather, and should your violin be stolen (and this does happen), your insurance will likely refuse to pay on the grounds that you were negligent.
October 6, 2017, 9:27 AM · I am wondering if it was because the violin had been in the car. Temps probably went to to 90s F with windows up.

Usually I take it into my workplace to keep it there in better surroundings, but I get those odd looks. Guess I shouldn't really care.

Having my violin stolen would be bitter sweet. I could then tell my wife I need another violin and it would be justified. Good points all round' as usual Mary and thanks!

October 6, 2017, 12:21 PM · If you find a good luthier, they can go a long way toward preserving the magic, or even bring it back if it's lost. I'm lucky in that we have a skilled luthier within a 30 minute drive from my house, as well as a reputable full service violin shop just 90 minutes down the interstate. My main violin goes to the luthier about twice per year for cleaning and checkup. It'll probably end up being three times this year because the old tailpiece got a hairline crack in it somehow and had to be replaced. I've also had seams reglued, a new bridge cut, and a new soundpost within the last several years. I'm probably due to have the fingerboard planed before too long.

FWIW, my coworkers are pretty used to seeing me tote a violin into the building. Students sometimes give me funny looks, but they do that anyway.

October 6, 2017, 12:38 PM · Thanks Jennifer. Yes I don't doubt it's time for a violin checkup. Probably something I should have already done. Though I'm not familiar with who a good luthier in my area would be.I'll need to look into that.

Seems you are in a similar plight at the university. I don't get out into the campus community quite as often as I once did. I think I'm just too self conscious TBH.

Edited: October 6, 2017, 12:48 PM · Changes in humidity in the wood of the violin do change the sound of the instrument. Temperature and humidity stability will keep the tone from varying daily. Always keeping the violin in a good case when not playing helps too. Car storage for violins is an absolute boon for repairers!

Cheers Carlo

October 6, 2017, 1:23 PM · Keeping it in the car is a bad idea indeed.
My experience is also similar to Carlos, that a violin held long under stable condition is less responsive to changes, which of course is a good thing.
Not mentioned yet: The other e-string may also influence the sound of other strings heavily. Also you may have shifted your bridge, which has great sound influence.
A soundpoint should not only be standing, but standing upgright in the right position (somewhere in the area to the righ foot of the bridge, starting value is a bout 5mm or sth like that away when looking for a good position. So make sure its really upgright. If not, see a luthier. Positioning it yourself is possible but not recommended when not firm in it.
October 6, 2017, 2:22 PM · Open seams change the sound of my instruments and change the way they feel to play. Sometimes it takes me a bit to figure out why it feels different though. I also know if the A string on my violin starts sounding harsh it is time for a trip to the luthier and an adjustment.

I can also always tell when the humidity is higher by the way my instruments play and sound.

Edited: October 6, 2017, 4:51 PM · Hi Timothy,
Violins, like violas and cellos, are very delicate instruments. Changes in humidity in the wood of the violin are a real concern if it has some fissure, for instance. Althought it's simple to fix a fissure, the operation involves to remove the upper plate, glue the fissure and put one, or more, little piece of wood over the fissure and reglue the upper plate to violin body.
This is a relative common problem with older violins. A change in humidity alters the wood and this can make a fissure to open or close. This also alters the sound of the instrument.
Like someone told above, take your violin to a good luthier. He will help you to find what is happening.
Good luck !
October 6, 2017, 7:23 PM · Here it was really humid before the seasonal change. My violin sounded muted. Reaaly muted. But maybe it also had to do with my new E string...
October 6, 2017, 8:52 PM · I think that many times, perceived changes in the instrument's tone is more affected by one's own hearing than the instrument itself. I've seen times when I thought the instruments changed significantly, several time, in the same day while there was no significant change in temperature or humidity. This is I think especially evident if I don't wear an ear plug in my left ear. Without ear protection, high frequencies become muted the more I play. Your blood pressure can affect hearing, and many other physiological conditions as well. Not to say there's nothing changed with your instrument (are the strings fairly new?), but yes indeed, it could be you. I thought once that I should record the instrument whenever I think its tone has changed, and compare the wave patterns with previous recordings, bit I never did.
October 8, 2017, 5:44 AM · You should definitely do that Roger!

OP, I have also experienced the perception that my violin sounds differently at different times with no recent change in strings, setup, etc. I have always wondered if it's because of me or the environment - moat likely both.

Hence, my enthusiastic support of Roger's proposed experiment.

Incidentally, this idea might indirectly add to the huge controversy in the discussion board right now with modern vs. old violins.

October 8, 2017, 5:50 AM · Thank you everyone who chimed in on this. Many useful things to consider.

One thing I found was I have many guitars in my studio that all face the sound source. I would sometimes hear an after ring and realized the guitar bodies and strings were vibrating in response to the violin. This is probably reason to consider this as contributing to the sound in that room.It is adding harmonics but it could also be skewing the sound some.

Hmmmm. I wonder if I could use that to an advantage?

I know for a fact my hearing does change after some time I get the Fletcher Munson effect. Tired ears are not good ears to judge.

The sound seems to have returned to normal. Must have been a humidity destabilization. Once things "adjusted" back to normal the sound seems much better overall not withstanding those other consideration.

I'll never leave the violin in the car again.

Marc, my bridge was off some when I look at it from the side view. I corrected that. The seller told me she had a special bridge put on it so I'm afraid to tamper too much for fear it will loose the sound. I know it's inevitable at some point .

October 8, 2017, 6:35 AM · As other said: please don't let the violin in the car...... :)

Regarding the "days of muffled sound", i noticed that by playing, especially with a bit of effort in the high positions of low strings, the sound opens somewhat (in the time span of 10-15 minutes). Often it opens a lot.
It's almost the same things that happens when you play a violin that has not been played for some weeks.

October 8, 2017, 9:42 AM · Major sound changes can be caused by the bridge tilting slightly (often forwards away from the tailpiece), which can happen over time or with a string change. Have you tried checking its angle / shifting it back? Of course, this is also one of the things a luthier would look at routinely.
October 9, 2017, 11:04 AM · Yes the bridge was "bent" a little at the top when looking at it from the side. This was something I seen a few months ago after a string change.

Until I seen it I would not have believed it. The wood can really give at the top about halfway up a bridge while the bottom is stationary.I loosened the pegs and brought it straight again.

I think the tuning process brought it into the wrong angle. Though this time I believe it was a humidity because it was in the car. Thanks Marco and J Ray.

October 9, 2017, 1:04 PM · The tilt of the bridge is indeed very important, also for the relationship between the normal vibrating string and the part of the string behind the bridge.

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