Are Wolf Tones Always a Bad Thing?

November 11, 2011 at 06:15 PM · I've found a guy who purchased some violins from an estate sale and has some consigned with a local violin shop. Those are in the $3,000 dollar range. All are mid-1800s to early 1900s German trade violins. He also has some less pricey instruments at this house.

I called the violin shop where he has several consigned and told the owner I was looking for a violin with good playability and no hint of wolf tones. The owner told me that some of the best violins play on the edge of a wolf tone.

Is this correct? He was kind of short on the phone as I find many violin shop owners to be, but I'm hoping someone can clarify his statement, if possible, or provide other information in this matter regarding violins and wolf tones.

I received my handmade instrument back from the maker last week and while the glaring dead wolf note B on the A string in first position is corrected for the most part, it still doesn't sound like the C# on the A string in 1st position, or the E on the D string in 1st, or even the F# on the E string in 1st as far as musical quality. The bow also tends to skate or skip across the string at times when I play that B. I've reduced the bow tension which seems to help somewhat but only as far as the skipping or skating across the string in concerned.

The maker said I have a very nice violin and I want to believe that and put the issue to rest. My current violin is certainly more focused now. Doesn't sound reedy as it did before sending it off.

The maker took the fingerboard off, sanded and refined it, cut a new nut, new bridge, new sound post, and put a set of Evah Pirazzis strings on the G,D,A and left my Vision Titanium Solo on the E string.

Could it be that I'm too obsessed with it and just need to focus on practice. I don't remember any wolf tones with my previous new German shop instrument which was more easily playable than the violin I have now. It's a slight distraction although not what it was before I sending it out for repair. I don't have the buyer's remorse I had before with my current violin and am not as pained at having sold my new German shop instrument to buy it.

So to recap my question, are wolf tones on expensive hand made instruments something that any of you deal with? How do you overcome that (or those) particular note(s)?

Thanks in advance.

Replies (82)

November 11, 2011 at 08:59 PM · Hi Tony, I can't help you with the wolf note question, interesting though it is. But I can comment on the Evah Pirazzi strings. I have an 1864 German trade instrument, with the deep belly etc. I have read somewhere before that Evah's are recommended for this type of instrument to enhance projection. However, when I put Evah's on mine, the result was disastrous. The sound became a horrible reedy screech with little tonality about it. I let it settle for a few days without result. So I decided to swap them to my French violin, which sang like never before thereafter. And, it seems the German one much prefers the Peter Infeld Signatures, particularly with the platinum E. I think it goes to show that Evah's are a particular type of string, in a field of their own and not always suited to every instrument, with a somewhat higher tension which might be the cause of your bow skipping about a bit. Perhaps try something else now that your violin is freshly set up. You never know what new sounds you might discover!

November 11, 2011 at 09:24 PM · "The bow also tends to skate or skip across the string at times when I play that B. I've reduced the bow tension which seems to help somewhat but only as far as the skipping or skating across the string in concerned."

This is nothing to do with wolf notes or strings bad a very bad bowing technique. You should get your bowing sorted out before you blame the instrument or the strings.

One does however have to live with wolf notes on some very good fiddles.

November 11, 2011 at 10:01 PM · Wolves in violins are more commom on the G string, 7th position (C and around it). Most players will discover that only when they are well advanced and start to play some virtuoso pieces that use the 7th position on the G string.

Yes, some fine instruments have wolf notes but, as a maker and player, I don't feel confortable with wolves in the first position of the A and E string. Check for more wolves on the high positions of the D and G strings (7th position), I think you will find more of them there.

One of the features of a good instrument is that it will allow you to play concentrated in the music and the interpreatation. You will certainly loose energy and concentration if you have to play being worried all the time about the flaws of the instrument and having to compensante the instrument's problems in a vital area as the first position of the E and A string.

But I may be wrong.

November 11, 2011 at 10:57 PM · My instrument is around $10,000, by a modern maker (Valeri Parfenov), and it also has wolf problems, mostly on the G and D in higher positions, but still definitely lurking on the B in first position on the A string. The wolf was dramatically reduced after Carl Becker, Jr. set the violin up for me about 8 years ago (including, interestingly, fitting it out with Evahs); but the first position wolf is back strongly this winter and I don't know why.

Other than that, the violin has golden tone and is very even across the strings, responsive, and has great carrying power while still being quieter than many violins under the ear. I really love the instrument, except for the wolf.

Like you, I have been told that better violins (I'm thinking probably in the $10,000 and above range?) often have wolves and other playability issues specific to the instrument; but that once you learn how to handle that particular instrument, it will be well worth it. I still have to admit I find it annoying to have no B next above A 440 I can play on this instrument with ease of mind. I'm glad you posted the question!

November 11, 2011 at 11:08 PM · As others have said, explore any instrument and you'll find a wolf somewhere. It's pretty much guaranteed - after all, the wolf is when you're hitting a particular resonance within the structure of the instrument, and any hollow box has particular resonances! Mine is on D, when high on the G string, but isn't too bad and can be countered by a particular vibrato.

I encountered one violin in the four-figure price bracket with a ghastly wolf, which only appeared when double-stopping a B-G sixth in first position on the A & E strings. However, not being able to play that chord was guaranteed to be a problem for the pupil who was looking for a new instrument, despite this one being our first choice in every other way.

That said, the idea that the best violins are on the edge of being unplayable strikes me more as myth than fact. As somebody else already pointed out, the best instruments are likely to be explored by players who can find flaws that would remain unnoticed in less experienced hands.

November 12, 2011 at 12:11 AM · All violins I've come across have a typical body resonance somewhere around C. If the structure is stiffer, it may be up to C#, or even D for an extremely stiff instrument. Softer structure will give a resonance down to B. The strength of the wolf will depend on how strong the resonace is, and often the lower pitch is more of a problem.

One way to tame a wolf is by tuning a tailpiece resonance to the same frequency as the body resonance. A problem with that method is that if the weather changes or you use different strings, the tuning can get mismatched and actually make the wolf worse.

November 12, 2011 at 12:24 AM · Thanks for your post, Ms. Muller. Glad I'm not alone, but wish it were otherwise. I would describe the B as growl. Before it was a howl and sounded dead. It's much less noticeable now since being in the shop, but still present. A distraction for sure.

The maker did put on a new tailpiece. In addition to the work already described above, he repositioned the new bridge altering the distance of the strings between the peg box and bridge and the bridge and tailpiece.

I truly want to enjoy and like this violin. Will continue to practice and work on my technique. Maybe it will improve my ability to tame it.

November 12, 2011 at 12:37 AM · I was listening on TV to Pinchas Zukerman and Itzak Perlman on an old film of them playing duos here in London, probably from the 1980's.

I forget which note, but at one point Perlman definitely had a wolf. Serves him right for playing on one of them there Strads!

November 12, 2011 at 02:47 AM ·

November 12, 2011 at 02:59 AM · Speaking of Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman, I found this video especially enjoyable. And amazing.

I think I hear something off at exactly 5:30 min\sec. The performance though is magic.

November 12, 2011 at 09:21 AM · "Speaking of Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman, I found this video especially enjoyable. And amazing.

I think I hear something off at exactly 5:30 min\sec. The performance though is magic"

I think that was just a harmonic.

November 12, 2011 at 01:25 PM · It's almost a universal saying in the lutherie craft that the instruments that sound the best are also the ones most likely to have a wolf. About a year ago I heard a concert by two young virtuosi who had been loaned a Strad and a del Gesu by a philanthropic organization. I slightly preferred the sound of the del Gesu, but my ear told me that the player was skillfully working around a number of wolf notes. I spoke with her after the concert, and she confirmed that most of the others who were loaned these great instruments rejected the del Gesu because the wolf notes were too hard to control. She said she used a bow made for her by her father, and that it was the only bow with which she could control most of the wolf notes. Taking this for what it might be worth, I always suggest to those hunting for a different instrument not to accept or reject an instrument solely because it has a wolf.

November 12, 2011 at 02:24 PM · Would Strads and other violins of that era necessarily have suffered from wolves in their original baroque set-up, even though in those violins' modern set-up the wolves occasionally make an appearance? Furthermore, do modern replica baroque violins have wolves?

November 12, 2011 at 06:20 PM · You definitely don't want to be dealing with a wolf in the first position of one of your strings. My old instrument had one on the C# on the D (extended 4 in 3rd position or high 3 or low 4 in 4th position)

November 12, 2011 at 07:29 PM · well, I certainly don't have a concert violin, but I don't have any wolves either. The knowledge of a Wolf lurking in wait at that certain note(s) drives me batty. If I had the money, the means and the time, I'd search out a "better" violin with no wolves. and if it had them, I'd pass it by and keep on looking, no matter how "good" the fiddle was. That's the way I'm seeing it at the moment anyways.

November 12, 2011 at 11:04 PM · I think you should only have a noticeable wolf between c and c# on the 2nd octave on the G-string. In that high position the vibrating string length is insufficient to control that strong resonance in the violin body. On the other hand, really good violins (especially old ones) tend to have strong resonances, which means that some notes will stand out above the others, and you'll get a slightly different voice and volume on every different note. Now, if you play a Strad you're confident that this is the way it should be, and you learn to live with it.

Your choice of E and A strings seem to invite trouble though. I'd suggest you change to a Hill or Kaplan plain E and maybe Infeld A. No big investment, and it could make your life easier.

November 13, 2011 at 12:03 AM · I tried one of those Kaplan non wistling E's but the sound was so dreadful I preferred the wolf.

November 13, 2011 at 03:09 AM · Peter, I agree. Wound E-strings are good for eliminating the dreaded E-string whistle, but they ain't good for nothing else, in my opinion. I like the plain Kaplan E-strings though. Hill, Jargar and Pirastro Gold (not gold plated) have been reliable E-strings through the years too.

November 13, 2011 at 03:23 AM · My violin has wolf on high C on the G string, a little bow-resisting feeling when bowing on it, but that's only when I bow it very lightly, and other notes around it responded just fine.

The rest of the C notes on all other low register on the lower 3 strings (below the 1st C on the E string) too stand out more than the rest, and has a slight hint of bow-resisting feeling when bowing on all those C, but all are well under control, not noticeable during performance but it's there.

I consider myself lucky to have a wonderful sounding violin with minimum wolf note, but I bet that you probably not going to find a violin completely wolf-free.

November 13, 2011 at 03:36 AM · "well, I certainly don't have a concert violin, but I don't have any wolves either. "

I'll bet I could find one. Sometimes they're prominent, sometimes subtle, but rare not to have one at all.

I wouldn't necessarily eliminate an instrument because of a wolf. There are too many other factors involved.

November 13, 2011 at 04:11 AM · The luthier put the Evahs on it when it was in his shop, but left the Vision Titanium Solo E in place. No problems with any of the strings. They all ring, are focused, no whistling E.

It's just that B in first position on the A string that sounds different than all other first position notes. It's louder to me under the ear, somewhat growl-like, but nothing like the wolf it was when I sent it out a couple of weeks ago. In fact, the C# and D were also wolf-like but they now are very musical sounding. Ringing even.

I'd be willing to trade the new VTS G,D, & A strings that the maker had me try before sending the instrument off for repair. I may have played them for 10 minutes before concluding it wasn't a string issue. Would be nice to have a couple different A strings to try to see if I can eliminate that noticeable B growl if someone is interested in my VTS strings.

Will read through the threads and pick four different A strings and try them for effect and sound. Thanks to all for your comments. They've been most helpful.

November 13, 2011 at 04:40 AM · I haven't picked up the violin in about a day and a half. Made a day trip up and back to Atlanta and literally just sat down to relax for a few upon my arrival home.

Picked up the violin and it seems that the Evahs have settled in, especially the A string. That growling B is almost non-existent now at least in the last few minutes in which I played. Will see how it sounds tomorrow after I've had a good night sleep and am well rested. Woot!

November 13, 2011 at 03:15 PM · But, back to the original question, wolf notes are BAD things, we want to make instruments without them. If the plates are thicker the possibility of wolf notes in high positions of the G string are reduced.

November 13, 2011 at 04:02 PM · Luis, my old (late 18th c) German violin has a wolf at the second B/C on the G-string, which has been a nuisance, but I recently inadvertently minimized it when I replaced my modern Wittner tailpiece with an old ebony tailpiece, to the extent that it is no longer a playing problem.

On the other hand, my 2002 Jay Haide, which I use mostly for folk music, is a heavier violin with thicker plates and has no detectable wolf notes anywhere – but then I'm not likely to be playing Saint-Saens #3 on it!

November 13, 2011 at 04:41 PM · Yes, but good sounding instruments with thick plates can be made, they are more difficult to make, but they can be made.

The most coveted violin in the world today, Del Gesù's "Cannone", that belonged to Paganini, has quite thick plates.

November 13, 2011 at 05:44 PM · Il Cannone violin wolf note youtube link

And a great violin with thick plate can have wolf notes! Watch the above youtube link, skip to 1:58 if you want to listen what's going on on the high register on G string. A fine violinist seems to know what is the first thing to check for...

The problem solved before the concert, though. But I don't understand some of the languages spoken beside the english ones, so I'm not sure if the problem and the solution was elaborated.

November 13, 2011 at 05:49 PM · Yes Casey, soloists start test driving violins in the 7th position of the G string...

November 13, 2011 at 08:47 PM · Trevor Jennings asked a very good question...

'Would Strads and other violins of that era necessarily have suffered from wolves in their original baroque set-up, even though in those violins' modern set-up the wolves occasionally make an appearance? Furthermore, do modern replica baroque violins have wolves?'

AS originally designed these instruments had a lot more body contact and that actually can do a lot to suppress the wolf. Most problem wolfs will go away if we play without shoulder rest and chin rest! or if we hold the cello by our knees with no end pin.

Most objects have one or more inherant resonant frequencies. An opera singer can smash a glass by singing at the resonant frequency of the glass. It is actually impossible to stop something like a violin from having inherent resonant frequencies even if we can move them around a bit...with a violin we want it to be as resonant as possible yet to be made of wood...the frequencies wood resonates at depends on relative is hard to control.. Generally some of the finest instruments of the planet present this kind of problems,...Electric violins might not

November 13, 2011 at 11:22 PM · ...and Jesus was walking on the water.

(remember: the scripture didn't mention any use of a shoulder rest or a lifejacket.)

November 14, 2011 at 12:25 AM · Yes, Melving is correct... I've heard many cellist can control wolves by "squezzing" the instrument betwen their legs. It is not folklore...

November 14, 2011 at 12:34 AM · I have a Wolf on the C on the G-string aswell. I Played ADG Evah and E Infeld Blue. I changed the G string to larsen tzigane and the wolf got a lot better, now it is playable before it wasn't! The sound of the Evah G was more focussed and powerful, but beeing without a wolf is something I prefer to the little-little extra of the Evah sound. Furthermore the larsen G string is much more flexible in tone colour and my violin is quite loud anyways. So if you have a wolf, try that string. I think its because of its low tension that it changes quite something in the violin.

November 14, 2011 at 03:17 AM · It's unlikely someone buying a Strad in the 18th century would have been bothered by a wolf unless it were very low (like C on the A string). They would not likely have been playing above 3rd position.

November 14, 2011 at 04:03 PM · Ok, hugging, pressing or releasing the body of an instrument surely changes the resonance.

But that's not the way it was meant to be played, thats why I made my ironic comment.

(I get a little bit angry each time a non-shoulder-rest-evangelist starts preaching. No wonder. Btw, in the case of wolf tones adding a SR could improve the setup as well as taking it away.)

And I would like to know if the story about singers smashing glass is true. I think it's a legend.

November 14, 2011 at 04:19 PM · "It's unlikely someone buying a Strad in the 18th century would have been bothered by a wolf unless it were very low (like C on the A string). They would not likely have been playing above 3rd position. "

No problems with wolf notes on a viola even these days then, Scott !! (wink)

November 14, 2011 at 04:21 PM · Tobias

"(I get a little bit angry each time a non-shoulder-rest-evangelist starts preaching. No wonder. Btw, in the case of wolf tones adding a SR could improve the setup as well as taking it away.)"

Yes, I think you have a valid point there!!

November 14, 2011 at 06:04 PM · Scott wrote - It's unlikely someone buying a Strad in the 18th century would have been bothered by a wolf unless it were very low (like C on the A string). They would not likely have been playing above 3rd position.

I keep reading this - and then I keep coming across early music thats up there - in particular italian music. Maybe not way up there but certainly beyond 3rd for example Vivaldi Winter or locatelli. Were these out of fashion at that time?

November 14, 2011 at 08:47 PM · Elise,

There was certainly some difficult music about in the early 18th century (and virtuosi here and there to play it), but if you look through the zillions of trio sonatas and concerto grossi, it's mostly pretty easy stuff. The average player looking for a fiddle wouldn't be testing a violin from the start by pounding out Tzigane they way they would today. Also remember that Strads, when they were made, were not favored by those professionals, but by well-heeled amateurs. The pros would be playing Stainers until Viotti convinced the world the future lay with a Strad (by then over 50 years old).

November 14, 2011 at 11:16 PM · Most good sounding stringed instruments will have some tendency to wolf in high positions on the lowest string. A maker can design it out, but there's a sacrifice in sound.

One of my pet peeves is a beginner cellist who checks, first thing, for a wolf high on the C string. Maybe they read something off the internet or something, that this isn't a good cello? :-)

November 15, 2011 at 01:30 AM · Can a violin be taken apart and something done to correct a wolf at around the first position A string? Other than a wolf eliminator that is.

November 15, 2011 at 01:47 AM · Yes, but it will change the sound and playing characteristics.

November 15, 2011 at 01:21 PM · The only way to influence the wolf in high positions on the G-string seem to be by changing the bassbar to a radically different dimension (which will influence response and sound a lot, and is expensive) and to a much lesser extent by changing the string to a more flexible one.

But in my experience it's much easier to manipulate a wolf on the higher strings, by changing the length of the tailpiece gut, the weight of the tailpiece (for instance adding a tuner or removing wood), the weight of the chinrest, and changing strings. As David Burgess said, all these will influence the sound a bit, negative or positive. It's a give and take...And with yearly changes in humidity you might need to do it once in a while. The principle is to push the resonance off a specific note, for instance get it in between b and c instead of right on the b. I still maintain that you should try an Infeld A instead of Evah. Evahs seem to make these problems worse, and it's the easiest fix to try.

Good luck!

November 15, 2011 at 01:37 PM · ulf,,,do you think the pathogenesis of a wolf high up on g string is the same as one on the first position sandwiched by perfectly fine notes above and below?

on high g, if the c is wolf, chances are anything higher are wolf too. the beginning of the never-ever land. for that matter, one can find those notes on high d, a, e strings as well. what do we call those?

but on first position, what explains that one note is sour while the rest, up or down, is perfectly fine?

i have no idea what i am saying, but i feel these 2 entities MAY not have the exactly same trigger, like general physical impossibility (high g) vs focal deficit (first position).

ok, ok, ok, not ok, not ok, not ok,,,


ok, ok, ok, not ok, ok, ok, ok...

November 15, 2011 at 02:19 PM · Thanks to John C. for the private message and suggestion. I'll give it a try.

Al pretty much has the problem identified. It's just the B on the A string in first position. At least as far as my ears are concerned.

November 15, 2011 at 03:05 PM · tony, it may just need some vitamin B complex. not sure ointment vs dropping a tablet inside the treble side F hole:)

seriously, how exactly does that note sound like? i wonder if you guys cry wolf over the same thing,,,

is it simply a weaker, thinner pitch or is it like a harmonic gone bad?

are you absolutely sure that the A string groove in the nut is not sinking too low--too close to the level of the fingerboard-- so that when you press the first finger on A string the string does not have enough space to vibrate freely?

November 15, 2011 at 03:41 PM · Before I sent it to the maker recently, a local guy (in hindsight I wouldn't call him a luthier) worked on the nut that came on the violin.

The maker cut a new nut altogether so I'm sure the nut isn't the problem at this point. He also took the fingerboard off did some work to it as well as cutting a new bridge, changing out the tailpiece, and putting the Evahs on it.

John Cadd suggested I try a piece of foam (.25" x 2") inserted into the violin which he said would change the volume of air within the violin and possibly resolve the wolf. I just tried it with good results.

The B sounds more musical now with almost no wolf to it. Going to experiment with the foam and see if this might actually resolve the issue once and for all.

November 15, 2011 at 07:43 PM · Al - I believe, as you suggest, that the G-string wolf and the troublesome notes on the higher strings are caused bu quite different phenomena. The G-string wolf is caused by a strong resonance in the violin, in which the bass-bar is very active, and which coincides with the first harmonic (octave) of the air resonance. In that high position the piece of the string that is vibrating has too little mass to control the strong resonance - the violin vibrates so strongly as to extinguish the vibrations in the string, causing the octave to sound...then the energy diminishes, which causes the fundamental to sound until the resonance is too strong again, and the octave takes over. This is repeated several times each second, and makes it impossible to get a decent sound without some kind of manipulation. On the cello this it's common to press the sides of the instrument with your knees, but that's kinda tricky on the violin.

The wolf should only do it's dirty work on one specific note, though. If you have a "slippery" response in high positions on the G-string, that's either a flaw in the instrument, in the string or in your playing technique, or a combination.

The "wolves" on the higher strings have a smaller spectrum and can usually be fixed quite easily. A good violin has to have strong resonances and sometimes they coincide exactly with a specific note. posts tend to be very long, but there are no simple answers to these questions.

November 15, 2011 at 09:04 PM · Tony, what are all three dimensions of the foam, and where exactly do you put it? I am very eager to find out, because the wolf B on my A string is really needing help badly, and it sounds like you and I have almost identical trouble spots and the same strings (Evahs), so if it works for yours, maybe it will also work for mine! I sure hope so, anyway!

November 15, 2011 at 10:00 PM · @Lynae: All I've done so far is cut a piece of foam 1/2 x 1" x 2" and place it into one of the f holes just as far as it would go without dropping into the violin. Since I'm essentially preventing one of the f holes to properly resonating as well as ventilating, this may not be an accurate reading of the final result.

I'm home now for the evening and will experiment and let you know what I find. One thing I wasn't sure about was how to attach the foam to the inside of the violin. I found some "Scotch reusable tabs for lightweight mounting" at the office supply store. They are clear, claim to be reusable, and will remove cleanly. They are 1"x1" and may act to dampen the sound of the violin to a small degree.

Will experiment and let you know what I find.

November 15, 2011 at 10:01 PM · thank you ulf for your good explanation and tony, what is exactly "foam" ?

if your foam will work, why does it have to be inside the belly and not outside the belly?

November 15, 2011 at 11:02 PM · I was sent a message by another poster here who gave me information and instructions regarding his use of foam to eliminate wolf notes in his violins.

It was suggested that I use no more than a one cubic inch square of foam (seat cushion type foam) and place it carefully inside the violin via one of the f holes. As I understand it, the theory being that there is less air resonating inside the violin which might result in the abatement of the offending frequency in question.

I didn't really hear any significant difference with the foam inside the violin. But, I did notice a difference when the 1" foam cube was wedged between the opening of the treble side f hole. I suppose it was acting to dampen the vibration of the top which essentially eliminated the wolf. Of course, such a solution is unsightly and not an acceptable remedy.

As I'm not a violin maker I can't draw any conclusions as to what this means. Maybe the top or bottom plate is too thin?

Other than that one note it really is a fine sounding violin. It appears as though I'm going to have to live with it. I'm saving up for another violin and hope to make the purchase within the next month or two. I really liked my previous German shop violin and may purchase another one like it. However, I will thoroughly test drive a Hiroshi Kono, Ming Jiang Zhu, and a couple of other violins before making the final decision.

November 16, 2011 at 04:52 AM ·

November 16, 2011 at 05:37 AM · @Eric: And it did change it when I stuffed a small piece of foam in the treble side f hole. The wolf was gone. Foam wedged in an f hole is a bit unsightly though.

Otherwise foam inside the violin didn't make any significant difference as far as I could tell.

It's interesting to me that Lynae has the exact same wolf in the exact same place.

November 16, 2011 at 08:46 PM · I'm wondering if anyone would feel that a G# wolf, including a prominent one in 3rd position on the D string (one which would make it difficult to vibrate on the A without having the wolf sound), a serious flaw.

I'm especially interested to hear from luthiers on this.

November 16, 2011 at 10:09 PM · Only you can decide that. Go shopping, compare it to other violins, and see what the tradeoffs are.

In general though, one can find a really good violin which doesn't have major wolf problems except for the B-C# high on the G string.

November 16, 2011 at 10:13 PM · At G#, that would have to be the "B1-" resonance. It is usually not as strong (and therefore not as big a problem) as the B1+ resonance around C. I say "usually", but I did have one fiddle where that resonance was very strong. One good thing about the B1- resonance is that it is more sensitive to chinrest mass, and by experimentation you can probably find something that works.

November 16, 2011 at 10:57 PM · Interesting comment about the chin rest mass. When I sent my instrument off for its minor overhaul I sent it with a center chin rest that I had on it for just a few days. Upon its return I removed that one and put the original side chin rest back on that came with the instrument. I was contemplating the effect of the wolf tone relative to the two chin rests prior to taking an afternoon nap. Now I will actually experiment with them on and off and see what information I can glean from it.

One other thing that came to mind was the difference in the humidity with my being on the Gulf Coast and the maker being in the far North. Two entirely different extremes. He told me that several people played it and didn't hear the wolf. The weather at his place at the time was in the 30s to 40s with low humidity. It's in the 60s and 70s here with 80% humidity.

Will also experiment again with the foam as John had suggested and see if further progress can be made with that material.

I am becoming comfortable with this violin and really do like its sound. The E string is just beautiful and couldn't be any more perfect. And that's not just my opinion but others as well. The other strings including the A are rich and focused. It's just that B that's off.

As I practice and become more proficient with the violin generally, I'm sure I can figure out how to work around or manipulate that B in such a way that it's not an issue in the future. At least that's my hope. My teacher tells me it's not going to be a problem until I'm well beyond Suzuki book 8, and into other serious orchestral works, and that's a long way off for me.

Not going to stress over it, but rather enjoy the instrument and the process of learning which is why I started down this road in the first place. It is about joy, relaxation, and the ability to express myself through the music and violin.

November 16, 2011 at 11:04 PM · Just read a New Yorker article about Steve Jobs. What's unfortunate was his focus on consumer electronics. It's too bad he wasn't a violinist. I could just imagine him screaming at a luthier "it sucks! Why can't you make a non-wolfing violin with 4 perfect strings! Don't show me a violin until it's perfect!" Maybe if he'd played the violin we'd all be playing on perfect wolf-free violins...

I can only imagine what he'd say to sticking foam in an instrument to make up for a shortcoming....

November 16, 2011 at 11:21 PM · Tony, thanks for posting some feedback on John Cadd's advice. John is neither a pro, nor well educated in lutherie. His explanation of the causes of wolf tones is blatantly incorrect, although his solution may work in rare cases. Experiment with his recommendations at your own peril.

November 16, 2011 at 11:35 PM · Little to no wolf without a chin and shoulder rest attached. Wolf present and made worse with either chin rest attached.

Both chin rests have their legs\mounts such that one is on either side of the tailpiece button. Wondering if a chin rest with both legs\mounts that attach to the left of the tailpiece button would be helpful. Or maybe just use foam.

November 17, 2011 at 04:21 AM · John,

Actually, I just don't worry about wolf tones. Just about all string players learn to compensate somehow, so I don't fixate on mine. If a fiddle's is really that bad I'll move on to something else.

So no foam for me.

November 17, 2011 at 06:20 PM · John

I think all this fixation on shoulder rests and foam to cure wolf notes is uneccessary.

I have never had a viola problem with a wolf note and as a fiddle player I'm happy to have a good sounding fiddle and live with the wolf note(s).

If you have put up with conductors all your life then a wolf is a small problem.

November 17, 2011 at 08:34 PM · The minor wolf isn't a big deal at this point. The worst has been remedied by the maker for which I'm incredibly thankful.

November 20, 2011 at 02:46 PM · I agree with Peter. I don't hold with putting things inside the fiddle, I'm quite happy for nature to take its course and let fluff accumulate over the years.

Talking about things inside an instrument – a bee once got lost in my cello. It took me half an hour to persuade the frantic buzzing little creature to find an f-hole and escape.

November 20, 2011 at 02:56 PM · Can someone explain what 'working through' means with respect to wolf notes? Specifically, are there bowing/fingering techniques that will minimize them or must you find alternative fingering to avoid them.

Its hard when the passage when little red riding hood runs up the G or D strings and there, sitting in its cave, sits the wolf!

November 20, 2011 at 03:21 PM · I've got my wolf well trained, he sits, stays and comes to me on a mere command. Simon calls it command/response. I've also trained him to bite conductors ...

November 20, 2011 at 05:05 PM · [I'm having to post this message in two parts as the site software won't let me post it as is. Too long maybe? Is there a limit on post length? I get a "The connection to the server was reset while the page was loading" error message]

There's a local guy (older man) who does a lot of work on guitars and string instruments who came recommended and did some work on my violin. He's an authorized service tech for a well known guitar company specializing in acoustic guitars.

I wouldn't call him a violin luthier and won't take my violin to him for any further work. However, he did mention something early on and before I sent the instrument to the original maker about taking the top off and adding a piece of wood (increase mass of top, balsa wood I think, but can't remember at the moment) and sanding it down smooth so that it appears to be part of the original top when created a decade ago.

The old man told me this is likely going to be the only way to rid the violin of the wolf once and for all. Before I allowed such a major operation of the violin I sent it to the maker who, as I have stated before, cut a new nut, cut a new bridge, took the fingerboard off and refined its underside and the neck, replaced the tailpiece and adjusted the string length between nut and bridge and bridge to tailpiece, and finally put a set of Evahs on it.

November 20, 2011 at 05:05 PM · At this point the instrument is focused and to me sounds even across all strings. It no longer sounds "reedy" which some might call unfocused and which frustrated me to no end when playing it prior to the above adjustments. Still disheartening to play a B on the A string in first position. It's not musical and throws me off when attempting to play notes and passages beyond the offending B wolf.

That said, have any of you makers\luthiers ever heard of taking the top off of a violin and adding a piece of wood (mass) and sanding it to match the underside contour of the top in order to remove a wolf tone?

I'm about to send an e-mail to inquire as to whether I can make a lateral, or trade up, of this violin from the shop wherein it was made. Not sure if this is socially acceptable within violin circles as I'm the second owner, but the violin does have a transferable lifetime warranty on workmanship.

Thoughts please. Thanks in advance.

November 20, 2011 at 07:16 PM · i don't think reedy is used to mean unfocused. in fact, its probably closer to being focused than unfocused? reedy..quite pinched close to ear, high frequencies, projects, throaty...i guess the word is used to somehow reflect an aspect of semblance with reed instruments,the way they cut through... right?

November 20, 2011 at 07:17 PM · I have heard of using small spruce braces to reinforce areas that are too thin or flexible (and I have done that myself), but a lamination of balsa sounds like a way to cure problem while killing the patient.

November 20, 2011 at 09:04 PM · I tend to agree with Tammuz's description. Take reeds on an organ, versus "flute" type stops. The reeds are about the ultimate in clarity and definition, and organists tend to bring them in heavily on the last verse of the hymn in church to send you back into the world with enough inspiration to make it through another week. :-)

Sermons can be inspirational too, but don't put me in as much of a spiritual mood as some kick-ass old fuddy-duddy music, played on a real pipe organ with all the stops pulled out, banging off the walls of big cathedral. ;-)

My Dad was a minister, and my mother was an organist, so I hope readers will take my opinions as having some balance, and not being terribly prejudiced. LOL

November 22, 2011 at 01:22 AM · Tony, I hafta per the statements in your last post, it really sounds to me that the wolf is winning this one. I think looking into the transferable lifetime warranty on workmanship for a lateral or trade up is a good idea. The knowledge of that flawed B note would haunt me day and night... but that's just me. I'm glad to hear you've got better focus now, so it's just a matter of if you can live with the B note...or not. Or if you want to drive yourself nuts trying to get it better. Will it always be "off"? Will it always bother you that it's "off"? I know what it's like to have fiddles that aren't quite right. I've had plenty of 'em, trust me.

November 22, 2011 at 06:28 PM · I don't see how this could possibly be an ethical issue unless the buyer purchases the instrument without trying it with the guarantee that there is no wolf.

As for cars, it is up to the buyer to have the car checked out. I see no reason to disclose anything.

November 22, 2011 at 06:35 PM · A "disclosure" about wolf notes is impossible because wolf notes will appear or not depending on the player's style.

November 22, 2011 at 08:23 PM · My Luthier/Dealer allows me 90% trade. I think the other 2 shops in town are 80% if purchased from them. If not, well that's where the dickering comes in for trades and rightly so. I'm on my 3rd Simon Jozsef. It took me a few months each to realize I'd misjudged the previous two. I think I'm getting better at picking the better ones out of the pile so to speak. So it cost me $600.00 for 2 trade backs, well worth it imo because I'm happy now.

My point being... sounds like Tony is not happy and he has a warranty. Whether the warranty applies to wolf notes that may or may not appear according to the players style is another matter I guess. But surely something fair and equitable can be worked out between the two parties?

November 22, 2011 at 08:34 PM · One thing I'd add is that wolfs CAN be played out. For the last 2 years, I've been playing a modern Italian (1950) that had really not been played much since 1975 when my father acquired it. When I started playing it, it had a bad C wolf, especially on the A string. However, after playing it for a couple of years, the wolf has softened to the point where it's no longer an issue.

November 22, 2011 at 08:46 PM · I hasten to add, since not one of our (male) wags has yet, that wolf whistles are not always a bad thing either... depends on the wolf of course...

November 22, 2011 at 11:23 PM · Only works with violins, not people.

November 22, 2011 at 11:27 PM · "One thing I'd add is that wolfs CAN be played out."


Perhaps. In the interest of fairness and balance, is it also possible that you learned how minimize them with your technique? People may learn faster than fiddles. I don't really have a lot of evidence for this, but it's just a thought.


"I hasten to add, since not one of our (male) wags has yet, that wolf whistles are not always a bad thing either..."


A wolf whistle for you Elise, and also for all the others who are in doubt.

Some women are just too hot for the normal retarded male reactions, so we get confused about how to respond, and default to what we do best, which is failing to communicate at all. ;-)

November 23, 2011 at 06:01 AM · Sorry, people who have reached the age of majority shouldn't be skateboarding in the first place.

There's nothing to teach about playing out a wolf. It's only one violin out of 6 or 7 in which the wolf minimized. On all the others, the wolfs persisted. In this case it had nothing to do with technique or my adjustment--the note simply doesn't wolf as badly.

November 23, 2011 at 11:23 AM · Of course, the secret is that all women love both a wolf whistle and a wolf - but we have a secret pact to not show it. Call us illogical perhaps... (oh, you have?).

November 23, 2011 at 07:01 PM · The wolf has nothing to do with my playing style. Although I'm a relative beginner I can still create a very musical sound when drawing the bow across the strings. My teacher also gets the same wolf with the instrument and she's got 50 years of violin study and teaching to her credit.

My first violin, a Jurgen Klier German shop\trade instrument, was even more musical sounding and more playable than the violin I have now without any known wolf tones. I'll be traveling to Gianna Violins next week to test drive another Jurgen Klier, a Hiroshi Kono, and two Ming Jiang Zhu violins Steve has at his shop.

I'm not terribly thrilled about anything from the communist Chinese especially knowing of their practice of eating human babies, so it will likely be another Klier or the Kono.

Several people here, including Ms. Niles, speak highly of the Kono so I'll be taking my time and evaluating it thoroughly. However, I've watched and listened to several videos of both the Klier and Kono and the Klier has a distinct sound to that I like. Steve calls it a characteristically German.

In any case, I'm not going to stress over one wolf tone. Have to keep the bigger picture in mind.

Thanks for all of your comments, suggestions, and replies!

November 23, 2011 at 07:20 PM · I'm going to steal the last post here - this topic went so well before decending into your last comment of neonatal-canabalism xenophobia... please....

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