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From the Heart

Mendy Smith

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Published: November 2, 2013 at 4:12 AM [UTC]

A few weeks ago during lessons, my teacher admonished me to play more into the string to get a "pure tone", not the fuzzy one I kept on producing. Try as I might, it never happened. After a few minutes, she finally took my viola and bow to play it herself. With her playing, I heard that fuzziness she spoke of. We performed a simple experiment and tried my other bows and hers with the same results.

We both agreed that it was time for a viola doctor.

A few days later, I took Hilda (my viola) to the local luthier. He pulled and prodded on all the seams. No open seams. We ruled out the strings as the source of the fuzziness with a new set, and ruled out the bow with his top-of-the-line Hills & Sons. It wasn't the bow or strings.

He then starting moving the sound-post around and noticed that it was a bit tight. The discussion turned into one where a new sound post may or may not make a significant difference in my instrument's tonal quality. In the end, I decided to give it a try.

I went home without Hilda and had to practice that evening on my old 15" student viola. The sound from the Cing was muffled, but the upper register was clear. I missed Hilda, scratchy throat and all.

The next day I went back to the luthier to pick up Hilda from the viola doctor. After the first bowoke I was floored. Most if not all of her scratchy voice disappeared, and she resonated like she used to on a very humid day. Hilda and I went home and spent a lovely reunion that evening.

But I'm pessimistic sort of person and waited for the verdict from my teacher.

The following week at lessons confirmed the results. There was "light years" of improvement. Whether it was technique or instrument is still to be determined. However, I can't believe that my playing improved that much over 7 days to get the response that I got from my teacher.

I think was that little itty bitty piece of wood that you never see that made the difference. Time will tell.

From Randy Walton
Posted on November 2, 2013 at 3:26 PM
Something else that can cause 'fuzziness' in the sound; the fingerboard needs to be planed.

My luthier noticed deep grooves under all four strings. He jokingly said that he could probably roll a marble down all four tracks. After planing, all the fuzziness that I thought indicated I needed to practice a lot more(which I do, btw), was gone and it was like I had a new fiddle!

From Christina C.
Posted on November 5, 2013 at 5:31 PM
yup, it's great when it turns out that your problems are actually equipment problems. On the other hand, there is so much that can go wrong or be slightly off about the equipment that it can sometimes be completely impossible to get it sorted out, especially if you're going by trial & error & mess with things that were actually ok. Glad you got yours sorted out & it's great that it made such a tremendous difference.

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