Seams opening...

September 10, 2007 at 05:21 AM · I noticed a really dead sound when practising today and I think one of the seams is opening. It is not as bad as some I have seen where there is daylight going through the crack, but when I tap around the edge there is a very different sound on one side. Is this the correct diagnosis? And its the worst timing because I have a major audition tomorrow morning! Any advice on how to try and get a good sound in the mean time?

Replies (76)

September 10, 2007 at 07:50 AM · I take no responsibility should you be crazy enough to take my advice, but:

Maybe you could chew some buble-gum, then wad it into the seems? Chances are good it would come of later without any ill effects to the finish. -Maybe lightly coat the finish first with oil, but don't get any INTO the seem or your repaiman will have a problem.


Anyway, that's what i would do. Well, no, actually it isn't, but you're the one with the audition in the morning!

Mebbe just explain it to the evaluators, then bravely play on with a big smile on your face. They'll be so impressed, you'll get higher marks than if your fiddle was 100%.

September 10, 2007 at 08:10 AM · Taken in combination with your intonation-related philosophies, Allan, I really shouldn't be surprised by this post. Were it anyone else, I'd suspect sarcasm or just a troll. But seeing as it's you...

Er. Do NOT put gum into the seam. Do not put oil into the seam. Do not explain things at the audition unless asked, as extenuating circumstances - regardless of how valid - always come across as excuses or a lack of professionalism. DO (if the audition is late enough in the day) go to a luthier post-haste and have them close the open seam. For what it's worth, tapping is a fairly good way to determine whether a seam is open. After the seam is closed (by use of a palette knife, specialized clamps and a special glue - not Elmer's, Allan) you will need three to four hours for the glue to set and the violin to start returning to normal. You may also need a post-repair soundpost adjustment which a pro can usually do in ten minutes.

If this four hour chunk of time brings you too close to the audition, try to borrow an instrument to which you can become accustomed quickly, perhaps from your teacher or a friend or the shop which would do the repairs. Do try to avoid rushing into an audition breathless with a newly recovered violin and near-terminal doses of adrenaline coursing through you, the result of audition nerves plus dashing all over town.

September 10, 2007 at 08:18 AM · Thanks for the advice. For the moment I have decided against the gum idea, but as it doesn't look as though I can get it to the luthier for the next couple of weeks, it may be a last resort!

September 10, 2007 at 09:22 AM · Please tell me you're joking? Or at least put a smiley face at the end of your post? It's so difficult to get a sense of tone of voice, after all. And Allan, I think, was offering the idea seriously. In the same vein in which he asserted that string players backing up pop singers need greater intonation accuracy than classical artists.

September 10, 2007 at 11:10 AM · And I was right about that, Emil, no matter how much it offends your snootiosoty.

But Hanna, I was mostly joking about the gum! Unless, I suppose, you literally have no other recourse, the sound is that bad, and the audition is that critical.

September 10, 2007 at 11:17 AM · No, you were hilariously and staggeringly and jaw-droppingly wrong. No matter how much it offends your amateurism. As for the gum, are you seriously of the opinion that putting GUM in the crack of an open seam will RESONATE?

Save me from mule-headed amateurs.

September 10, 2007 at 01:03 PM · Gum?? Oil?? Geeze thats the worst bit of advice I've ever heard. How is it that people feel confident enought to offer suggestions like this.

Emil your intervention may have saved that violin.

In a jamb, get a chinrest, (cheap one will do) pull off the clamp part put a bit of cork, rubber or cloth tape around the upper part, gently tighten until you feel that your seam closing, don't overtighten. Take off the chinrest clamp right after yor done and get to the shop.


September 10, 2007 at 01:53 PM · You could always get a tube of bathtub caulk and a good all purpose caulking gun. Run a good thick bead around the perimeter of the instrument. Then, use a fair amount of duct tape, usually 3 to 4 feet. Wrap tightly as you do not want the seam to open while playing. To minimise the appearance of the duct tape, (I prefer silver), I recommend brown krylon spray paint. Try not to get any on your strings or fingerboard, as it doesn't appear to look right.

If this doesn't take care of the problem. You could always use sheet rock screws!

I AM KIDDING OF COURSE! Take it to a Luthier post haste!

September 10, 2007 at 02:04 PM · Emil -- you know the saying, repeat after me... never enter into a battle of wits with an unarmed person....

So far, Annabel's suggestion is the closest to reality. I keep a couple of old, modified sets of chinrest hardware around in the shop for just this reason. If someone comes in and has no time to let the glue dry overnight, in a pinch you can glue the seam, put on the hardware and let them take it home and remove the "clamp" several hours later on their own.

It's not the ideal solution, but it works, assuming that the open seam is not much larger than the clamp, of course.

There are several stopgap, "kitchen table" instrument repairs that players can do on their own to keep the violin playable until they can get to a luthier, but as far as I know, chewing gum is not one of them. But for the record, closing seams is something that, with some training from a luthier and the right tools (which are not horribly expensive), players could do on their own if they were so inclined. I stress the training part, though. It might seem simple (insert glue, close clamp), but gluing seams is one of those simple operations that can destroy a violin if it's done by an inept repairer.

September 10, 2007 at 03:09 PM · Tapping around the plates (as you have) is the best way to hear a separation.

If you have time, and any experience setting up and breaking down your instrument, you can remove the tail piece and end pin, and shine a light around the front and back plates at the seams (key chain flashlight works great great). Peaking through the end pin hole may allow you to see light leaking into the instrument, and help you determine where it would be best to temporarily clamp your instrument. Since your separation seems so minor, you may not want to bother with this approach, and just use tapping and listening as a best guess of where to clamp.

The chinrest idea is legit, and the best temporary fast-fix that I can think of. Granted, your violin won't sound its best, but at least the plates won't rattle (in a bad way).

If you have extra chinrests (2 of the same), it might be possible to take two of the non-rest ends and thread them together like a small clamp? This wouldn't deaden the sound (or look quite as strange) as having an entire rest clamped onto your violin.

Like Michael said, this kind of separation repair is something that most people can learn to do on their own. Do the world a favor and DO NOT use gum or wood glue on your violin!

September 10, 2007 at 05:59 PM · What you describe -- taking two "bottoms" of the chinrest hardware and threading them together -- is exactly what I use, Ian.

September 10, 2007 at 06:22 PM · Right, blame it on the mule-headed amateurs. Can't you luthiers, whatever you call each other, can't you make a seam that holds? God forbid you ever become welders.

September 10, 2007 at 06:54 PM · They don't blame normal wear and tear on amateurs. They blame silly advice on people who have no notion of what silly looks like.

September 10, 2007 at 07:01 PM · We have a mission-critical adhesion failure on our hands right now. Let's bicker when it's over.

September 10, 2007 at 07:04 PM · From Jim W. Miller;

"Can't you luthiers, whatever you call each other, can't you make a seam that holds? God forbid you ever become welders."


Good one, Jim. ;-)

September 10, 2007 at 07:14 PM · What did they do to us, Burgess? Glue too thin? Temperature too low? Did it cool too fast?

September 10, 2007 at 07:32 PM · They used the wrong kind of welding rod. Joining the top to the ribs on a fiddle with willow linings requires a tri-wood welding rod used with inert gas.

Or were you looking for a serious answer? I just never know with you, Jim!

September 10, 2007 at 07:32 PM · I'm serious.

September 10, 2007 at 07:38 PM · We use a weak glue on purpose. If the wood changes dimensionally, it's better to have a seam come open than to have something crack. It's like a safety valve.

September 10, 2007 at 07:40 PM · I still liked my caulk and duct tape solution better.

September 10, 2007 at 08:14 PM · Get us some coffee.

September 10, 2007 at 07:59 PM · Duct tape on ducts.

Fiddle tape on fiddles.

You can find it at the same place that sells the wooden welding rods. ;-)

September 10, 2007 at 08:07 PM · How do you wood weld a nice strong, even bead? How do you get it to look like it was done by Americans.

September 10, 2007 at 10:06 PM · Practice and experience. I used to be a certified pipeline welder back when pipelines were made from hollow logs.

Don't you just hate those sloppy welds on commercial Chinese fiddles?

September 10, 2007 at 11:18 PM · I reminisce about prehistory too.

September 10, 2007 at 09:46 PM · Open seams indicate shrinking ribs. The obvious solution is to expand the ribs. Miracle-gro seems to work well on the various lignal-type lifeforms around here, but of course it takes time, so you mighr want to put the fiddle under multipe sunlamps after watering. This will both speed photosynthetic activity and dry the water.

Good luck, and be careful you don't get the miracle-gro solutionnear your bow, lest it sprout.

September 10, 2007 at 10:04 PM · Finally a good idea, but isn't it like giving a corpse a bucket of chicken?

September 10, 2007 at 10:55 PM · Me thinks the rudder has fallen off the ship!

September 10, 2007 at 10:58 PM · who are all these peverts taping up ducks?

September 10, 2007 at 11:10 PM · Bob--zOMG. Now I'm picturing the last scene in "Tannhauser", when the pope's staff suddenly sprouts for no apparent reason. Thanks a lot. :P

September 10, 2007 at 11:13 PM · So how did Hannah make out?

Is she out there chewin up a wad of gum or looking for a qualified wood welder or what?

All kidding aside, hope things were successful let us know.

All the best


September 11, 2007 at 02:31 AM · I still liked my caulk and duct tape solution better.

You're laughing, but one reason you want to establish a relationship with a good luthier in advance is so the one you go to doesn't NAIL THE SEAM SHUT LIKE WAS DONE TO MY BASS!

September 11, 2007 at 03:18 AM · Jeez, I hope most of you realized I was semi-joking, and only suggesting a last-ditch solution when there is absolutely no other recourse. (Which Hanna inferred was the case) If there is no luthier available in time, & no violin to borrow, what is your sage advice? Cancel the audition?

Did anyone else here actually offer advice that might have helped her through her emergency? If (and it's an IMPORTANT "if") the gum would come off without hurting the finish, it would in fact help. Probably a lot. Again, not something you want to try unless there is no other recourse, but a professional does what is required to get through the day.

BTW, Emil, it is not crtitcal that the vibrations get from the top to the ribs in that one area, they will transfer to the back plate just fine via the rest of the seams. What is important is that the open are be sealed, so the internal Helmholtz frequency remains correct. (I know it's a big word, but you can look it up.) A secondary benefit of something like gum (again, assuming it wouldn't harm the finish) is that it would stop any buzzing that might be caused by the edges of the open seem.

Of course, a person of your stature likely has teams of luthiers waiting at his feet for ny little adjustment. Some folks aren't that fortunate.

September 11, 2007 at 03:27 AM · Sorry, but was that last sentence really necessary? Seems a bit needlessly snide to me...

I'm very skeptical that gum would be of much use simply because a violin is such a finely-tuned piece of balanced harmonics and acoustics that even something like a wad of gum stuck to the side could potentially throw everything off. (When I was in Salt Lake City a few months ago I heard violins awaken from total comas after getting their soundposts moved a tenth of a millimeter in just the right direction, for example.)

September 11, 2007 at 01:43 PM · Alan,

If you were semi joking why try to defend or justify your idea.

Yes good advice was offered by the use of a chin rest clamp, it works and is reversable.

If you think your idea was valid ask any good luthier if gum and oil is an acceptable practice.(or was it just the oil part you were kidding about)

I find it amazing that people offer advice that could potentially ruin or damage an instrument.

You can't teach others something you obviously know very little about.

Your idea was crackpot, seriously.

Harsh words, but all truth, now suck it up and take your spanks, learn and move on.


September 11, 2007 at 10:32 PM · Actually, my dear, I know a lot about this.

1: I hold a masters degree in physical acoustics. You?

2: As a professional studio engineer & producer, I have used gum and various other "gummy" substances several times over the last 25 years, as an emergency fix for guitars with open seems ot loose/rattling parts. It always worked and never caused a problem, but of course that's on nitrocellulose, not oil varnish. It's much safer than duct tape and similar alternatives.

Like I said earlier, a professional gets the job done.

3: I recommended possibly lightly coating the finish with oil, to keep the gum from damaging the finish, and specifically mentioned avoiding getting any inside the seem. You got a problem with that? Then I'm sorry, your opinion means nothing to me. Have a nice day.

The chinrest idea seems excellent. Sadly, that's the only other serious response to Hanna's very real plea for help with what she described as a very real and serious problem. I find the rest of the posts rather offensive in their lack of help for her plight.


September 12, 2007 at 12:48 AM · "I hold a masters degree in physical acoustics from U. Mass"

What's non-physical acoustics?

Anyway...the dumbest guy I know has a Ph.D. Really. He said "Having a Ph.D. doesn't mean someone's smart." I was thinking yeah you prove that hourly. But oil migrating into the seam would be fatal, and it would. Plus gum doesn't have any solvents that would harm varnish. Plus I don't think gum would hold it. Ok, maybe not literally fatal, since I've been told one can fix anything on a violin but...

September 11, 2007 at 11:11 PM · Jim,

if you put gum in every orrifice does that influence the Bumholtz frequency?

Thirsty for knowledge,


September 11, 2007 at 11:25 PM · If it's tight enough it changes the frequency to zero. You knew that.

September 11, 2007 at 11:24 PM · butt (no pun intended) for how long? Sounds kind of dodgy to me.

September 11, 2007 at 11:40 PM · Until the bubble breaks?

September 12, 2007 at 12:29 AM · as in Japan....

September 12, 2007 at 12:38 AM · Jim, that's ASSuming the use of bubble gum. You guys crack me up!

High bumholtz frequency is considered an indication of virginity in some circles.

Allan, I hope you'll forgive us. We didn't really take off on a tangent until some good answers had been given, and the time window to correct the problem had probably elapsed.

September 12, 2007 at 01:18 AM · Allan

Masters in acoustics does not automatically make one a masters in repair of stringed instruments.

Me...32 years in the biz. I'm no master in acoustics so I wouldn't be in the position to try to tell someone how to get the beer smell out of a microphone.

Using the words helmhotz and bubble gum in the same paragraph shakes my confidence right there.

Some oils can possibly ruin the varnish, Did you think of that? now how would you go on to expalin just what kind of oil one should use to lube up the fiddle before chewin up a wad o gum? 5w30,15w40,

So do you suggest one should wedge the gum in with a knife or just caulk around the edge?

I can see it now, lady walks into the shop with a seam separation, Hang on lady, I fix you up in a jiffy, Do you prefer double bubble or juicy fruit?

I can use extra cause the flavour lasts longer but that costs more.

Here's an idea, slip over to Maestronet and pose your question about the oil and gum in the crack trick.

Lets face it Allan, it was a pretty silly idea,and whats even more hilarious is watching you continue to try to defend it.


September 12, 2007 at 02:58 AM · Women should just quietly marvel at a man's ability to fix things. If it didn't work, just pretend it did. The world will be a happier place.

September 12, 2007 at 02:57 AM · To the lady that started this thread: Please do not put gum on your instrument. That is horrible advice. I'm not going to get into a debate (cause there is nothing to debate). Take your instrument to a luthier.

September 12, 2007 at 04:37 AM · Greetings,

so how did the bloody audition go anyway?



September 12, 2007 at 09:57 PM · 'Women should quietly marvel at men's abilities . . ."

No doubt the most clever will easily incorporate this technique into the control sequences. As for the vast majority, the world will only become a happier place when the male inserts a "yes dear" into the conversation whenever she pauses for breath.

I assume you're no longer married, Jim?

September 13, 2007 at 02:48 AM · If she doesn't like the way I fixed the sink, I'll just move her sister in instead.

September 12, 2007 at 11:01 PM · thank heaven`s for sextuplets.

September 13, 2007 at 02:52 AM · Their mama ain't bad either.

September 13, 2007 at 03:07 AM · breeding counts.

September 13, 2007 at 03:29 AM · Cool. You must be married to a duchess.

September 13, 2007 at 04:27 AM · Yes. Sadly, Alice was shacked up in the tea pot.

September 13, 2007 at 04:37 AM · Good idea to have a code word. Probably time to let her loose.

September 13, 2007 at 05:00 AM · Gosh yes. Aside from all the trouble with MaCarthy the red queen was always way to `60s for me.

September 13, 2007 at 06:07 AM · Forget the red queens. Unless you get a good price on mail order. When she arrives make sure she isn't going to knock you over the head and steal your car. Then make it clear no rest of the family coming over until that floor is spotless.

September 13, 2007 at 06:19 AM · no discarded gum, right?

September 13, 2007 at 06:28 AM · Tell her in whatever language she's crying in that if she wants to chew gum she can chew it outside.

September 13, 2007 at 06:31 AM · that`s good advice. I was afraid she would try to fix my plumbing with the gum.

September 13, 2007 at 09:19 AM · That's the whole idea, to lead her not into temptation of communistically impurifying the free flow of your precious bodily fluids.

September 13, 2007 at 01:53 PM · Oh, what sad times are these when passing ruffians can say Ni at will to old ladies. There is a pestilence upon this land, nothing is sacred. Even those who arrange and design shrubberies are under considerable economic stress in this period in history.

September 13, 2007 at 04:01 PM · I fart in your general direction.

September 13, 2007 at 03:56 PM · Ima take over dis thread. Geddoudahere right now an nobody gets hurt. Hey you b**** shuddup you mouf wid dat cryin. Gimme you watches, an da wallets. (Sound of squealing tires and rapid acceleration).

September 13, 2007 at 08:37 PM · >Using the words helmhotz and bubble gum in the same paragraph shakes my confidence right there.

Annabel is very funny. And wise.

September 13, 2007 at 09:10 PM · The airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow is roughly 11 meters per second, or 24 miles per hour, beating its wings 7-9 times per second rather than 43. And a 5 ounce bird cannot carry a one pound coconut.

September 13, 2007 at 09:37 PM · I don't see the problem with Helmholtz and bubble gum together. Good students don't chew gum, or what?

September 13, 2007 at 09:38 PM · John, the plumage don't enter into it.

September 13, 2007 at 11:07 PM · From Jim W. Miller;

"I don't see the problem with Helmholtz and bubble gum together."


Me either. Bubble gum over the ffs will assuredly alter Helmholtz.

It may also alter bumholtz, I haven't checked.

I'm waiting for a research grant. ;-)

September 13, 2007 at 11:57 PM · I took it upon myself to do an in-depth study concerning the impact of gums on the violin. The results - painfully obvious.

Steer clear of Bubble, Big League, Yum, Bazooka, or Blast type gum(s), as they are unstable when combined with human saliva (high sugar content).

Generic sugar free chewing gums weather the best, and impact the resonance of the instrument the least. They are much firmer (long lasting/archival) due to high wax content.

I found that pressing the chewing gum wrapper (rub with the back of your fingernail over the soft gum repair) provides a nice glossy finish once the gum has hardened, or at least cooled off from the chewing process.

In a year or so, the gum will become very dark and hard, almost invisible!

September 14, 2007 at 01:28 AM · Greetings,

I have wrapped a piece of gum around the top of my fingerboard for that blasted high note beginning the run down of the Til Eulenspegiel violin solo.

If have done this sdo that afterwards if people ask me how I do it I can in my Farmer Giles voice `By gum, it was easy laddy!`



September 14, 2007 at 03:02 AM · But which bubble gum did Stradivarius use for repairs?

September 16, 2007 at 02:05 AM · Well the update is that the violin is going to the luthier on Monday. Celebrations are coming when it arrives home!

And after all that....audition still managed to be successful. Can only say that I've had a permanent grin on my face since I read the letter!

September 16, 2007 at 12:06 PM · Uh oh!

It might be bad luck to "fix" the violin after it won the audition. ;-)

September 16, 2007 at 02:05 PM · Congrats!

Did you end up doing some kind of temporary fix, or just leave the violin alone?

September 16, 2007 at 02:36 PM · I hope I hope I hope she says she used bubble gum :D

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