V.com weekend vote: Do you have a wolf tone on your violin, viola or cello? And which note is it?

October 24, 2021, 5:57 PM · Unless you have one, you might be asking, "What is a wolf tone?"

wolf toneSpooky image ©Violinist.com.

A wolf tone or wolf note is a note that sounds fuzzy and unclear, no matter what you do, and it usually occurs on the G string, when it comes to violins. It's always on the same note, but the note varies from instrument to instrument. Wikipedia does a good job of describing what it is and what causes it: "a wolf tone is a sustaining sympathetic artificial overtone that amplifies and expands the frequencies of a played musical note. It is produced when the pitch of the played note is close to a natural resonant frequency of the body of the musical instrument." Also, Corilon has a good description on their website, as well as ideas for "taming" the wolf.

Why is it called a "wolf tone"? One explanation is that the resulting note sounds like a wolf howling. (But does it really?) I welcome any better explanations, if they exist!

The phenomenon is more common on cellos and basses, but certainly it happens on violins. Some lucky folks have no wolf tone at all on their fiddle (I really don't have one) but even people with very fancy instruments (like Stradivari) report persistent wolf notes.

Do you have such a note on you instrument, and what note is it, what string? Have you tried any remedies, like changing strings or tensions or attaching a gadget to your instrument?


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Replies

October 25, 2021 at 02:55 AM · My wolf is on C5 on the G string. It’s been worse lately although sometimes I can control it by touching the string a little differently with my bow. But I think it’s the E string that’s on there right now. I’m using the goldbrokat 26 right now and my wolf was much easier to control when I had a jargar forte on there. I’ll probably back to it next time I change strings. Or this week. Depends on if I get annoyed enough since I’m probably another 2-3 months out before needed to change my strings.

October 25, 2021 at 03:46 AM · The middle of the D string is slightly wolfy for me but it doesn't seem to be a single note. So maybe the answer was "no". My daughter definitely has one on her cello.

October 25, 2021 at 08:58 AM · None on my viola, which is my main instrument.

My violin has a wolf on C5, and it can be heard on the G, D, and A strings. Putting a mute on the afterlength reduces but does not eliminate it on the D and A strings. The best solution I've found so far is to play the C5 slightly sharp or flat, within the bounds of expressive intonation. I should probably bring the violin to a luthier to see if anything can be done about the wolf, but I don't have a lot of incentive to do so because I tend to play the violin only when my viola is in the shop or when recovering from injury.

October 25, 2021 at 11:56 AM · My violin has a "D" wolf tone 3rd finger (1st position) on the A string. Mine's not fuzzy though. It has a beautiful sound to it.

October 25, 2021 at 05:56 PM · My violin has a fairly noticeable wolf on C5, is is most audible when played on the D string. I was advised to try lower tensions strings, which helped a great deal. I have Warchal Brilliant Vintage strings on this violin, with (I think) a Westminster E (or possibly Evah Gold E), and it is playing well. My viola has a mild Wolf on F#4, most noticeable if played on the G string. It doesn't bother me much so I've not looked for a remedy.

October 25, 2021 at 10:19 PM · I have had (G-string) F# wolf notes on all 3 Strad-model cellos I have owned. They also "wolfed" at the same pitch on the C string (but not 0on the D string). My Ruggeri-model cello has no wolf. For more than 50 years I tried every wolf eliminator known to humanity (at least known to me) and the only one that really eliminated the wolf was the relatively recent Krentz and it worked on the 2 susceptible cellos I still owned when it became available.

October 27, 2021 at 02:53 PM · When my violin was at its best, it had a wolf tone around F on the D-string. After the repair it's had, anything above E on the G-string sounds to me like it's a wolf.

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