Increasing fuzziness of G string (any G string) on a violin

October 12, 2009 at 03:15 AM ·

One of my adult students, an advanced beginner, bought a violin a few months ago.  He paid special attention to the sound of the G string since he did not like it on the violin he played previously.  At first, he and I agreed that it sounded quite good.  Then the G string slowly sounded more and more fuzzy.  He replaced his Heliocore strings with Infeld reds.  At first the G string sounded better, but then its sound got progressively fuzzier.  He brought it back to the luthier (a good one), who told him that it was a "wearing-in" effect, not a problem with the violin, and replaced the old Infeld strings with new ones.  Again, the sound of the G string got progressively fuzzier.   When I tried playing his violin, the G string sounded better but still fuzzy.  I watched the placement, movement, and pressure of the bow while he played, and they all looked fine.  I'm not a luthier, so I only checked the most obvious things:  the integrity of his G string, the lack of rubbing in the peg box, the action of the strings, the fingerboard, the tailpiece, and the bridge.  Neither of us could diagnose the problem.  My student and I would appreciate your suggestions.

Replies (18)

October 12, 2009 at 03:30 AM ·

If it's a new or recently overhauled violin, it's about time for a check-up and adjustments, including the post fit and position, and string (board) height. I don't think there's anything here to be done at home.

October 12, 2009 at 03:53 AM ·

The weather is changing now. Get a soundpost adjustment from your qualified violin repairperson.

October 12, 2009 at 05:39 AM ·

October 12, 2009 at 05:07 PM ·

Christopher, I use Infeld blue on my G string, and it sounds good in spite of the extreme weather changes we've had recently.

Michael and Bruce, I've been reading the thread on adjusting the sound post.  People's opinions vary.  Thanks for giving me advice on a specific violin with a specific problem.

October 12, 2009 at 05:50 PM ·

It sounds like it's the instrument problem.

I once owned a violin that I thought it'll only sound best with a fresh strings, and will become fuzzy (as in lost of focus and purity of tone) pretty quickly after the strings settled and stablized. Couldn't stand it anymore, end up buying a new and better violin. In your case, some fixing should be enough than buying a new one since it's only the G problem.

October 12, 2009 at 06:16 PM ·

I thank everyone for your help.

I just spoke to my student, and he reminded me that the fuzziness was less pronounced when he used a lot of finger pressure on the G string.  When I played it, I found that I could use light finger pressure on the G string, and it still sounded good.  I'm sure my student's fingers are stronger than mine.  This is another piece of the puzzle that doesn't fit.  Do you still recommend an overhaul of the violin?

October 12, 2009 at 06:40 PM ·

 Pauline,

In my opinion and experience, fuzziness can be equated with presence of certain overtones, caused by the relative stiffness of the wood. Some violins have a stiffness of wood or plates that makes a bright, focused sounds, and some can sound woolly, especially if the plates are thin.

New instruments, or those that have just had work on them like a new bass bar, will often sound bright and focused because they are not yet vibrating at their potential. But as the instrument is broken in and the top and bottom begin to vibrate more freely, sometimes it will sound warmer, softer, and yes, fuzzier. New strings almost always sound bright and focused for the first week and soften up.

I've had both types of instruments: overly bright and harsh, and woolly/fuzzy. Generally, after a breaking-in period, the instrument will retain its relative character, even in spite of strings. If the instrument sounds warm and fuzzy on the bottom, that is probably its dominant characteristic. Setup can change things a little one direction or another, but don't expect a zebra to turn into a lion.

I'm currently trying an Italian violin from 1934. It's changed drastically on the bottom because I put on new strings, but I know now after a few days what the basic character of the violin is.

This is the essential problem of buying a new violin (sorry, makers...). The safest thing is to find a model or maker with a track record of how the instruments break in.

Scott

October 12, 2009 at 08:00 PM ·

Scott, thanks for all the information and help you gave me.  It may be exactly what is happening.  It certainly explains why the fuzziness increases over time with any G string he's tried.  The fuzziness of the G string makes it sound really awful.  It's not a minor flaw that my student can live with.  He may need to take the extreme steps you and others have recommended.

October 12, 2009 at 09:15 PM ·

I wonder if that's the issue for one of my students too...she bought  anew instrument a couple years back, which I helped her pick out, and really liked it when we tried it, lots of tone, lots of color....but now it is very "fuzzy" and not very responsive.  some of it is the bridge grooves; they're too deep and we need to get that fixed; but it's been bothering me that it really doesn't sound good now, and is this really the violin I helped her pick out?!  Makes me feel a little better that it really might have changed as it settled, but doesn't fix the problem.  guess I should  just get her to a luthier to check it out...

October 13, 2009 at 12:54 AM ·

 Pauline and Kathryn,

Many violins made for students/amateur players are designed not for the long term but for the quick sale. People buy them because they sound well and play easily at first, but many don't stay that way. At the lower end of the market, there are no free lunches.......

Scott

October 13, 2009 at 12:57 AM ·

Hi Pauline

I think Michael Darnton's reply tells you all you need to know with this violin.

New violins and old violins that have had serious work done need their set up monitored for a year or so afterwards. As an instrument settles it it might need a longer sound post and sometimes the string heights become too high also. Both of these are suggested by the symptoms you describe. Once these set up issues are addressed the violin should almost certainly become familiarly pleasing again.

All the good luthiers making new instruments that I know, understand and address these issues by talking to the client re this and other instrument care issues and and offering a certain amount of no cost adjustments for the first year or so of an instruments life.

 

October 13, 2009 at 10:34 PM ·

 Pauline,

What type of instrument is this? What was the price? Old? New?

I've assumed it was a new and inexpensive student instrument, so maybe I was wrong. 

Scott

October 14, 2009 at 12:34 AM ·

Scott, I don't know the answers to your questions, but I sent them to my student and told him that they were important.  He'll probably answer soon, and I'll post his response.

October 14, 2009 at 02:57 AM ·

Scott (and others), the violin is a used Century 320 which cost $650.

October 14, 2009 at 10:32 AM ·

What it'll more than likely boil down to... is to take it to a Luthier.  Violins like the one that you mention, either you'll find a diamond in the rough, or one that you'll sell and use the money to get another one. IMHO.

October 14, 2009 at 02:10 PM ·

Royce wrote:
Violins like the one that you mention, either you'll find a diamond in the rough, or one that you'll sell and use the money to get another one. IMHO.

Sadly, it's often the case of the latter. It'll take you a great amount of time to fix this and that, try various strings, setups, before you realize in the end it's the limitation of the instrument...

October 20, 2009 at 02:42 AM ·

I thank you all for your helpful advice.  I discussed it with my student, and he decided to buy a new violin.  I went shopping with him and had a lot of fun.  The luthier took his old violin back in trade, and he had accumulated some more money, so he got a really nice new violin.  We both tried a few composite bows.  I loved the new Coda Diamond bows.  He chose one from Jean Paul which has a carbon fibre core and wood layered over it.  You all contributed substantially to making someone happy.  Thanks again.

October 23, 2009 at 01:06 AM ·

I'm having this same problem with my E string and it's driving me crazy. I broke the last E string a week ago because of this...it was rubbing the peg box and I loosened it, moved it, and over tightened it. I put an Infeld Red on and it sounded great...till today. It was again rubbing the peg box (my teacher tuned it yesterday and it sounded okay then). I moved it and tuned it and it still sounds like garbage. This is really getting old fast. This violin was made two years ago but it's only got a few months of playing on it.

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