Blue tak (A sort of plasticine thingy)

October 2, 2010 at 05:09 PM ·

I'm sticking this stuff everywhere on the belly, bridge, strings, tailpiece (anywhere) to try and stop wolf whsitles on open E and even other notes on my damned fiddle. But it changes from day to day.

Any comments from lutheirs?

Its driving me mad!!!!!!! Should I burn the damned fiddle?



Replies (33)

October 2, 2010 at 05:17 PM ·

 I've been told it's inadvisable to put that stuff on a bridge (perhaps as a substitute for a practice mute) because the chemicals in it can soak into the wood and ruin it.  Presumably if it's placed on the varnish of the table it won't be doing any harm to the wood underneath, although it might mark the varnish.

A wolf on an open E seems a little strange - it's usually something that occurs high on the G string. Perhaps the E string is rattling in the nut or the groove in the bridge; or there's a problem with the microtuner; or it's a bad string anyway; or a seam somewhere has opened.  The options are complex. I'd get thee to a luthier PDQ. Tracking down and killing wolves isn't for the faint-hearted!

October 2, 2010 at 06:23 PM ·

 Hello Peter, 

Your problem with the E string doesn't seem to be a wolf. Have you tried with any other E string?. They are quite cheap and you'll be surprised how a different E can change the overall sound of an intrument.

And for the tackish stuff, you won't get anything but a tacky violin, maybe your violin is possessed.

October 2, 2010 at 07:45 PM ·

It's definitely possessed of an evil spirit, ME.

I've tried other E strings, well one or two. I changed from a gold Obligato E to a steel Obligato E amd now to a Gold label E.

It tends to change from day to day. Some days I get so many whistles that the young ladies passing the house complain that I'm wolf whistling them! Mind you some are quite ... well you know what I mean.

I'm playing in a concert soon, a Mozart piano trio and I don't want it to be a case of  "a whistle a day keeps the doctor away ..."

I don't think anything has opened up but the instrument has got very resonant in the last few weeks. Maybe its too much testosterone or is it eostogen?

But if it goes on like this I will have to use it for firewood. I'm going to give it a written warning and advise it that its days may be numbered ...

October 2, 2010 at 08:18 PM ·

Ah, the dreaded whistling E!  May I suggest that it may very well be a bowing problem (including the bow itself).  Or perhaps something as simple as the side of the index finger lightly touching the open string in the first position - that's not difficult to do inadvertently.

October 3, 2010 at 12:00 AM · Almost certainly a bowing problem or touching the string. I went through this several years ago and never knew exactly what was happening. I eventually got over it. The quick and almost sure temporary cure is a wound e string. I don't think Pirastro makes any but Thomastik has a few, as does D'Addario and Supersensitive.

October 3, 2010 at 03:01 AM ·

No, its none of those things like touching the E string or using a particular bow. I think its because the instrument is very resonant and has opened up a lot. Not a problem one year ago when I bought the instrument, but started getting noticeable a few months ago when I first swapped the strings for new ones.

I replaced each string one at a time and with the same Obligatos. Have since tried one or two different E's but not a wound one yet.

Never had this problem before. I thought it only cellos that had the problem. I never had this trouble with the viola, but they are much more muted instruments anyway.

I find the problem goes when I put on a mute.

Maybe I should take the belly off and have a good look, and then stick it on again with superglue ... (Only joking!!)

October 3, 2010 at 07:03 AM ·

 Hi Peter,

I have found that this problem somtimes occurs with certain violins when the weather becomes more humid. The sound post then seems to be a little more lose as the instruments 'breathes' a bit as the humidity makes it relax a bit. I like to fit sound posts at medium humidity in ideal circumstances so that the violin is well adjusted for dry and humid weather. You might want to find a luthier and discuss this with them.

Otherwise whistling E strings can happen, as others have said, if your fingers even ever so slightly touch the E string before crossing, or the bow contact is not good. Some E strings are also more prone to whistling than others. In any case it is also a matter of technique. If your violin has this problem sometimes, you can teach yourself to avoid it. In this case you must make sure you have a good bow contact when crossing. Just try and stay calm  and work it out methodically. 

Hope this helps, best regards, Hans

October 3, 2010 at 11:08 AM ·

I had a William Beard violin, which had a reasonable tone, but also a loud, harsh wolfy B note on the A string (1st finger, 1st position). A luthier used a blob of Blu-tack on various points on the belly, and eventually found one near the bridge, which eliminated the offending note. That's as far as I went with it. I have now sold it.

October 3, 2010 at 11:57 AM ·

Hi Hans and Jim

Thanks for the information. We are having very wet, warm and humid weather now and I think that could be the reason why it has got worse.

Bow contact is OK and it does it sometimes on a very loud open E! Other bows make no difference. I'm getting the hang though now of swearing very loudly when I use an open E and people don't notice the wolf note then. Could be Mozart's fault of course as I'm playing him at present and he was called Wolfey ....

October 5, 2010 at 09:22 AM ·


I quite like the bright sound my fiddle makes and I don't want it to be more mellow, just get rid of the wolves. I even get them on stopped notes on the E string and occasionally on the A string.

Just have to live with it. I'm used to suffering, I'm a married man!!!

October 8, 2010 at 06:29 AM ·

 You can also sometimes tame a wolf by adjusting your after-length, though this can be a trade-off.

Vampire-notes are a bit tougher to deal with.

October 9, 2010 at 10:44 PM ·

 Back to the OP, sort of:

You know what Blue Tack is really good for?  Isolating your hi-fi speakers.  

Put 3 marble-sized blobs under each speaker. It isolates them from whatever they are sitting on very nicely, giving you a truer sound.  (low self-resonance & high damping.)

October 9, 2010 at 10:50 PM ·

@Allan : that makes sense, however, most hi-fi specialists would disagree strongly, and point to a setup more like the speakers sitting on metal spikes, which in turn sit on solid marble or some other high-density material, for almost total isolation. Is that true, or is it just purist overkill?  (Sorry, a wee bit off-topic....)

October 10, 2010 at 06:07 AM ·

 Most hi-fi specialist believe everything they read, 99.999% of which is total marketing BS!

-or they're trying to sell you something grossly overpriced. 

Yes, titanium spikes also work, just not any better, in fact probably not as well, since they don't also dampen the actual cabinet.

October 10, 2010 at 08:38 AM ·

"Yes, titanium spikes also work, just not any better, in fact probably not as well, since they don't also dampen the actual cabinet."

@Allan : I thought the idea was to isolate (not dampen) the speaker, cabinet and cones etc inside it, so in its entirety it could vibrate freely exactly as designed, without transferring vibes to anywhere else to muddy the sound? That's what I've read, but I'm not an audio engineer :) Back on topic, I'm just about to start a related one on wolf notes ... 


October 10, 2010 at 12:59 PM ·

 Jim, spending 5 figures on a top of the line audio setup is a complete waste of money unless it's in the right place in an acoustically designed room with exactly the right reverb and frequency absorbtion curves, acoustically isolated from all outside influences, and an acoustically designed chair in exactly the right position in the room, with a G&T on a little 18th c table beside it.  Think of all the money that would be saved by not needing to go any more to all those live concerts by the world's greatest, which would all now sound so dreadful!   I knew a guy like that many years ago.  He was quite mad and impossible to talk to rationally about music.  Needless to say, he didn't play any instrument.

October 10, 2010 at 09:54 PM ·

Trevor, thanks for the info, but there was no need. You are right of course, and I already knew all that. No, I was only trying to make a point in audio engineering, that the speaker mass of the cabinet, sound cones and electronics should be isolated so that they can vibrate freely, as designed, rather than damped in any way. That's the general spiel from the makers, alledgedly from the mouths of their engineers. Now, if blu-tack was used instead, and it turned out that the sound was better, then I would have learned something. I've never spent 1000's on any hi-fi, ever, so I wouldn't know from experience.

By the way, I've got 30 metres of Van Den Ripoff speaker cable, at £179 per metre, if your interested (but keep it quiet, OK?) :) :)

October 10, 2010 at 10:18 PM ·

No no no.   The cabinet should be inert.    Why would you want to introduce such an amplitude-dependent variable as cabinet resonance?  That's insane, unless your're talking about a guitar amplifier cabinet.  (BTW, I have a degree in acoustical physics, and I spent years designing & building recording studio control rooms.)

Once again, you can read all manner of complete BS in the ads for various high-end audio gear. It's beyond ridiculous.

My favorite has to be the syrup made form Ebony wood, which you are suppose to use to coat all you electronics (caps, resistors, etc) and even your speaker cones.  Because, you know, Ebony has magical acoustical properties.  Hey, they claim to have done "scientific" tests that prove it works!

Lets not even talk about wire.

Gimme a break.

October 10, 2010 at 10:43 PM ·

Thanks for the clarification. In the same vein, see this :



October 12, 2010 at 10:55 AM ·

Well, as far as I can tell it sounds like a G, but who knows, it just sounds like wind blowing across the f holes, if that's not a rude statement!

I'll try and confirm it with my wife when she gets home this evening. (She's not tone deaf like me ...)

October 12, 2010 at 11:49 AM ·

Same with me.  It just sounds like wind blowing – no clearly defined note.  But then I've never played a wind instrument so I'm probably not doing something right.

October 13, 2010 at 12:08 AM ·

I've started a new discussion about whether changing a Baroque violin to a modern setup generates wolf notes. 

October 17, 2010 at 08:43 PM ·

From what I can gather from luthiers, some say there's nothing you can do to predict wolfers during build. When found, they could theoretically be eliminated by finding the over-resonating spot (either using Blu-tack, or the latest technology), then thickening or thinning that spot. Not always practical without taking the thing apart or changing the appearance.

Other luthiers say that if the plates are sounded properly before and during build, wolfers won't appear. One such luthier is the one who made my 5-string, and it has none ... go figure :) 

October 18, 2010 at 10:28 AM ·


I've never experienced (as far as I can remember) any wolf notes on violas. I wonder why this is?

October 18, 2010 at 12:08 PM ·

@Peter : interesting question, as my 5-string is approaching viola dimensions in the lower body half, both in width and depth. You might be on to something there ....

October 19, 2010 at 05:12 PM ·

Peter, in general, violas have more of a wolf problem than violins do. If we don't hear it much in viola performances, it's because one needs to play in at least third position to hit the bad spot. LOL

Jim, 5-strings are less susceptible, partly because the extra string helps to keep the top plate more rigid, and partly because the body size is typically smaller than most violas (which also makes it more rigid). The wolf tone has to do with mobility of the top. If the top moves enough, it shakes the bridge, which shakes the string excessively, destabilizing the vibration. The string is effectively being played by two different sources at two different frequencies at the same time... one source is the bow, and the other is the vibration of the bridge. The top of the violin has a natural resonant frequency, typically in the range of 493 to 544 hz (b natural to c sharp).

October 19, 2010 at 05:25 PM ·

"Peter, in general, violas have more of a wolf problem than violins do. If we don't hear it much in viola performances, it's because one needs to play in at least third position to hit the bad spot. LOL"


Hi David. I played viola for years and never knew you had even to use 3rd position! Where's that?

But I never played a viola that had wolves, maybe I was just lucky. Mind you I always used cotton wool as earplugs as I couldn't stand the sound, and the fact that whenever I saw the word solo I found it meant richochet bowing ...


October 19, 2010 at 05:46 PM ·

Nice to see that viola jokes are alive and well :-) 

October 19, 2010 at 06:29 PM ·

David, I believe your last post goes a good way to explaining why my modern fiddle (used for folk) has no wolf notes at all, whereas my 200+yrs fiddle has a family of the little devils set up house on the G-string between the high B-flat and the C#.  The front plate on the old violin is significantly thinner than that of the modern instrument.  The tone of the older is also correspondingly bigger, richer and deeper sounding than its modern counterpart.

October 19, 2010 at 09:46 PM ·

I remember reading somewhere (probably The Strad) that the more symmetrical an instrument is, the more likely it will be to have wolf notes.  Because of this, F-holes are often cut with a slightly different placement.  David, this would probably be a question for you- any truth to this?

October 19, 2010 at 10:01 PM ·

I don't think so. Even if the violin was perfectly symmetrical on the outside, normal construction makes it asymmetric on the inside, and the treble and bass sides (left and right) will move differently and serve different functions.

Asymmetry in the outline is probably an artifact of the way the necks were attached. They were originally set against the outside of the ribs (rather than being recessed), and attached with nails driven from the inside before the instrument was closed (it's tough to work a hammer through the ff holes). LOL  Final adjustments to get the neck straight were made by pushing the neck, already attached to the ribs, to one side or the other, distorting the ribs a bit. Then the outline of the violin was traced from the ribs.


October 22, 2010 at 01:51 PM ·

My Jay Haide, not an "ancienne" but one of the better student models from 8 years ago, has no identifiable wolf notes. I've checked.  It's probably not really suitable for the chamber orchestral playing I do, but it's ideal for English and Irish folk music and as a practice fiddle.  Which is why I got it.

October 22, 2010 at 03:00 PM ·

I think it will depend on how hard you try, and the threshold where you define it as a wolf. I can probably make any decent-or-better sounding instrument wolf, just like I can make any E sting whistle.

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