PLEASE HELP: Chin rest causes wolf

August 10, 2011 at 04:34 AM ·

Hello from a new poster to this great communitie - I took so much from listening to your great discussions.

I´m now playing an italian violin from 1919 (Michelangelo Puglisi) which got some work including a new bass bar. Now after breaking in it sounds geourgeous - very resonant, very sweet especialy in the upper registers... BUT now it appeared a strong wolf note - I think a typical one: the C natural high on the G string; but it also apears lesser on the D string and as a pronounced note even on 2nd finger on the A string :-(   The miracle: it nearly disappears, when I take off the chinrest....

i used center mounted, side mounted, only mounted on the edge... heavier ones, lighter ones - the wolf comes up more or less. But playing without a chinrest isn´t a solution, isn´t it?!

Any suggestions or ideas? please heeeelp...

Replies (25)

August 10, 2011 at 01:50 PM ·

 I'd take it back to the person who did the work.  If you have tried all the different tensions at which you can mount the rest and it's still howling, then maybe something has come slightly open, not necessarily at that end of the top, but which becomes unbalanced when you put the cr. on.  

Playing without a rest is certainly possible (people did it for generations--and you can see the damage on unrestored old violins, too!).  You'd use a soft cloth to absorb perspiration and minimize wear.  But it is certainly not a great solution and should not be necessary. 

August 10, 2011 at 03:00 PM ·

Try varying the length of the tailgut.  Most people think the string afterlength is the important issue, but IMHO the tailgut free length and the vibration of the lower end of the tailpiece has the most impact.  Somewhere around the 4 - 7 mm free tailgut length range seems to be where the resonance of the tailpiece falls around the C frequency you're concerned with.

Getting it tuned as a wolf eliminator is tedious and tricky; it needs to be exactly right, and then it will reduce the peak of the wolf.  If the tuning is slightly high or low, it can actually make the wolf worse. 

Hopefully your problem is due to the tailgut being a "worst case" length.  You could try wedging a thin piece of stiff foam, soft wood, or bluetack between the end of the tailpiece and the top plate, and see if it makes a significant difference.

August 10, 2011 at 06:08 PM ·

Marjory - good idea.. I will check this with the shop. Hopefully a closed open seam will not make the wolf permanent  ;-)

Don - I will try, but if the afterlenghts is right when the chinrest is detached - can the chinrest when it puts pressure to the top have an influence on afterlenghts?

How can a chinrest, that puts only pressure on the edge of the violin change the resonance?

August 10, 2011 at 09:59 PM ·

The chinrest can change the frequency of the body resonance, changing its relationship to the tailpiece resonance.  This may be a longshot, but it's possible.

August 10, 2011 at 11:53 PM ·

Don's ideas are good, but it sounds possible that when you play without a rest your chin is muting the unwanted resonance. You might try stuffing something like Don suggested under the chin rest, if the tailpiece test doesn't help.

August 11, 2011 at 01:08 AM ·

Depending on the violin, the chinrest can have a noticable impact on the sound.  My violin absolutely hates center-mounted chinrests.

What about a sound post adjustment?  I have that same wolf note, and a good sound post adjustment takes care of it. 

August 11, 2011 at 08:11 PM ·

Many good advices here - thanks very much. I tried damping the tailpiece, but the sound was only ..dampened..  but the wolf was unchanged. Dampening under the chinrest had no impact - So I went to my luthier today. Well he was was a bit clueless but supposed, that the top plate in that region is on the thin side and that changes on the soundpost will not do the trick...  :-( and that he can´t do anything but mute overall sound by shortening the afterlenghts.

But Emily´s advice gave me a good solution - that the violin is picky by centermounted rests - so I tried to clamp a side mounted one far far to the left side and ...  the wolf tone dissappeared nealy completly. So know I´m hunting for a chinrest with a short base and a long overhang to the right side...  which I think is the best solution for the moment.

August 11, 2011 at 09:41 PM ·

Sounds like you've got it figured out, but you will probably have little luck finding a chin rest like you described. One possibility would be making or having made a custom rest. Another way, if there is room, might be a dummy rest in addition to the real one. You could try that by getting the cheapest rest you can find and cutting off parts until it fits and still works. Guaranteed to attract a lot of questions, too. Good luck.

August 11, 2011 at 09:44 PM ·

 Now it really sounds like something may be open...

August 12, 2011 at 06:06 PM ·

That wouldn't explain why taking the rest off fixes it. And any half-way competent luthier would have easily found an open seam.

August 12, 2011 at 07:15 PM ·

 @ Lyle, as I understand, OP has not been to a shop since the problem began; additionally, yes, removing the chin rest could definitely change the patterns of vibration through all  the wood, and any opening would react differently with that change in pressure.  Of course a competent luthier would catch an open seam, or any other under-glued area--which is why I suggested OP visit one.

August 12, 2011 at 08:06 PM ·

 Lyle is right about chin contact damping out a wolf when no chinrest is used. Wolf notes are less of a problem if the instrument if held as it was back in Strad's time! I doubt an open seam is an issue here. A side mounted chin rest can help to damp wolf notes as the OP has found to his credit. All instruments that resonate well have a wolf to some degree including Strads

August 12, 2011 at 10:02 PM ·


I was assuming that the OP was being truthful when he wrote:

"So I went to my luthier today. Well he was was a bit clueless but supposed, that the top plate in that region is on the thin side and that changes on the soundpost will not do the trick... "

August 12, 2011 at 11:00 PM ·

Yes, some luthiers are clueless. What's even more frightening is that some medical practitioners can be the same way!

You've gotten some good advice here. Not that I'm an advocate of dinking with it yourself. Perhaps you can develop a relationship with a different luthier who is "cluesome"?  :-)

August 12, 2011 at 11:36 PM ·

David: Yes, I think its a good moment to visit another shop  ;-) but do You think there is something "wrong" with the violin or the setup? Or maybe its "only" a picky violin? Maybe I should ask my lttle princess, what she likes?  :-)

Suprisingly - now I tried even more chinrests and - the SAS seems to have a less negative effect ... and I can mount it on any place with no change!? Maybe this is because it clamps a nearer region of the plate? Nevertheless I dont like the mechanics of this rest.

August 13, 2011 at 12:10 AM ·

What about something like this? (From Joseph Curtin's website)

You just lost the game!

August 13, 2011 at 01:06 AM ·

Brian - what an interesting idea - the tail piece gut is holding the chinrest in place.  I can't wait to hear a luthier's call on this but mechanically is there a danger that pressure on the chinrest would cause the strings to streatch - hey, wait a mo, maybe they just invented the violin tremolo (like on a guitarr... ) :D  Might make vibrato obsolete...

August 13, 2011 at 02:20 AM ·

From what I can see, it's glued on along with the saddle.

August 13, 2011 at 05:24 AM ·

Ah.  But still feel as if thats rather precarious.  Even if it worked as a chin rest it still seems mechanically suspect...  Neat idea to avoid clamping the sides though...

August 13, 2011 at 08:00 AM ·

I would love to try one of those out, Brian.

August 13, 2011 at 03:01 PM ·

Only thing is.. I think the only way you can get one is if you buy one of Joseph Curtin's violins and it comes with it.. or if you can get another luthier to agree to make one for you..

August 5, 2013 at 03:20 PM · You might check out - this has been known to eliminate or greatly reduce wolf tones, in addition to allowing the instrument to vibrate with more resonance. And it costs less than a new set of strings.

August 5, 2013 at 05:07 PM · How about use different type of tail piece, such as

'harp shape' one? I heard it often does a charm on cellos.

August 5, 2013 at 05:16 PM · I recently got a pernambuco harp-shaped tailpiece with carbon-fiber tuner from and I really like it (I'm not affiliated with them). But I didn't have a wolf previously, so I don't know how that would affect a wolf tone.


August 5, 2013 at 07:21 PM · I have never tried "harp shaped" tailpiece, but by its design it appears to provide longer string after-length for each string, with e being the shortest.

Some luthiers pay attention to a proper string after-length and I can confirm that there is a noticeable improvement in volume and resonance if this is properly set.

So, if this tail-piece can eliminate wolf, it will do it by dampening the whole sound, including the problematic one. It is a know fact that taming a wolf often means a loss in other goodies, so some people would rather live with a wolf than lose the overall sound.

By the way, there has already been a lengthy discussion about "Fritz" tail-piece.

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