Viola Unresponsive G string HELP!!!

July 22, 2014 at 09:31 PM · Hello fellow string players, I recently bought a viola, 16.5 inches, and right out of the box everything is fine, except for the lousy G string. It's dull and if I need to do any sort of string crossing it simply won't even sound a fundamental. Now I know it's not my technique because I can cross fine on all of the other strings, just not this one. I tried changing strings and still no luck. I even tried using the little piece of black tubing that comes on the string and still no improvement.

Now what I'm suspecting is the string action, which is far too high, that is causing the unresponsiveness. I'm gonna guess this may be the problem because the string has to travel farther to the fingerboard in order to make contact, thus increasing the ammount of time spent being dampened by my finger.

Has anyone else experienced such a phenomenon, or has any insight? If so any help would be appreciated!!

Replies (29)

July 23, 2014 at 02:02 AM · Go to your luthier, tell him or her what the problem is, and let him or her fix it. While we may have some insight, your luthier is in a much better position to hear the problem and do what is necessary to remedy it.

July 23, 2014 at 05:35 AM · Did you buy a Chinese viola on ebay, if so that could be part of the problem!!

July 27, 2014 at 09:11 AM · The G String on my Viola is also unresponsive ! I have ordered a new one.

My past experience was the G String on my violin. I replaced it with a brand new one from a new spare set of strings, and it was still unresponsive. So, I decided to re-adjust the sound post with the S-shape SP Setter + the VS-PRO 2 +. Still no way ! Then, I rushed to the City to buy a new G String, a D'Addario that was the only one available. It was like magic ! It played well !

The fact is that the G String on my brand new violin was faulty and also the G string in the new set of spare strings, was faulty.

So, it appears that your G String is faulty. Just replace again it with a good brand and see what happen.

It is also possible that the Sound Post needs be re-adjusted. It appears to me that fine tuning the SP in a Viola is more delicate and difficult than on a violin !

Good Luck.

July 28, 2014 at 08:36 PM · A student recently brought a new violin to show me, and the G string REALLY sucked. Wouldnt speak at all. It looked just like a Dominant G, and I asked her to check with the shop whether it was a Chinese clone. It turns out that it was a very similar-looking clone. They have gotten pretty good at fooling us with cheap strings.

New genuine Dominant=much better G.

August 30, 2014 at 02:16 PM · Following my previous post, I have received my new G String for replacement of an unresponsive G String on my Viola.

The new G String plays better, but it has a slight delay in response to the Bow. I tried to re-set the Sound Post to 2.5 mm from the bridge and 1.5 mm from Bridge leg near A String towards the middle of the Viola. I tried other coordinates and still not satisfied with the G String. By the way, the C, D and A Strings played well at certain position of the Sound Post.

Is the new G String still faulty or how long does it need to set ?!!! Has Someone experienced similar problem with the G String on the Viola ?

Unfortunately there is no Luthier on my Island.

Thanks for your advice.

Cheers !

August 30, 2014 at 03:06 PM · Two experiments:

1) Try to play the G-string notes high on the C-string, with the bow nearer the bridge: if they sound OK, the problem is not in the viola.

2)Tune the viola down one whole tone: the lower string tension will let the wood vibrate more freely. This would be similiar to lowering the bridge.

Then come back for more advice!

September 4, 2014 at 05:15 AM · Hi Adrian ! Thank you for your post.

1. Experiment 1 is ok, but I have to dig too much in the G String !

2. Experiment 2. When I lower the string tension on the four strings, the sounds of C, D, A got worse.

3. Lowering string tension on the G only is still not nice.

One Question, please : Do the new Dominant G string being shipped unsealed in its envelop ?

I have also ordered a complete set of the D'Addario Zyex. Each string was sealed in its envelop. So, I am wondering if the Dominant G is faulty since it arrived unsealed in its envelop !

In the past I had bad experience of faulty G stings for my brand new violin and also in my set of spare strings. When I bought a violin G String locally, it played well.

I have not yet tried the Zyex because the C, D, A are good on my viola.

Thanks for your help.

Cheers !

September 4, 2014 at 02:51 PM · 1) My Dominant string envelopes are not sealed.

2) I believe Zyex medium are higher tension than Dominant medium.

September 5, 2014 at 11:21 AM · Hi Adrian !

Thank you. I have not yet tried the D'Addario Zyex.

This morning I have moved the Sound Post slightly towards the f-hole. This move helped the G String to vibrate better, but not 100% satisfactory. So, now the Sound Post is very nearly in a coordinate of 2.5 mm and 1.25 mm.

Have you some more ideas how best to set the SP on my Student 15" viola ?

Thank you and Cheers !

September 5, 2014 at 11:38 AM · In many posts, I find a confusion between:

a) moving the existing post left or right, which radically decreases or increases its stiffning effect;

b) trying posts of different lengths (and therefore positions), which changes the tonal balance of the viola.

a) moving to the left will allow the wood to vibrate more freely, with more lower tones, but less definition;

b) a shorter post more to the right will have a similar effect, but with more "tonus".

My two violas are so different that I had to adopt conrasting strategies to calm excessive resonance on the open A.

I haven't had problems with the G-string, though, sorry!

September 6, 2014 at 07:57 AM · Hi Adrian !

Indeed it is so confusing ! In my 4 Violins, I have moved the Sound Posts many, many times. Now in my only Viola, I found it more difficult to set the SP properly than in the violins. I think it is because of the loud sounds.

Last night, Using my S shaped SP Setter, I tapped the SP a little so as to align its striped lines in the cross section precisely towards the f-hole. The sound of the G string is now much, much better. I am now more satisfied. I will try to tamper with it again to look for still better sound.

It is possible that the 2 angled ends of the SP were not properly touching the top and the back of my viola.

Unfortunately I do not have different lengths of Sound posts to try !

Thanks again, nice weekend and Cheers !

September 6, 2014 at 08:54 AM · Yes, the ends of the soundpost must be a perfect fit, for tone, but also to avoid over-localised pressure and a risk of cracking the belly.

I check for this with a dentist-style mirror, shining a torch into the opposite f-hole: a bad fit will show up as shadows under the ends of the post.

Also, since I never move the soundpost with the strings under tension, I remove the endpin to see the post through the hole.

September 7, 2014 at 06:43 AM · Thank you, Adrian.

You have been very helpful.

Have a very good week ahead and Cheers !

September 10, 2014 at 07:14 AM · Hi Adrian !

Your latest post was very helpful. I checked the Sound Post of my Viola with a Dentist Mirror. I adjusted the SP, and now my Viola is so loud and the ringing tone is also so good.

I fear that the changing humidity and temperature on my island may cause repeated problems. To get the SP back to this perfect spot will certainly be hard work. So far, I have tampered with the SP more than 20 times. Despite the right coordinate of the SP from the Bridge, it appears to me that the two angled ends of the SP are the most difficult to fit perfectly.

Again, thank you very much, Adrian.

Cheers !

September 10, 2014 at 10:15 AM · Once I have found a "sweet spot", I take a Criterium pencil lead (gently!) and draw round the bottom of the post inside the back.

September 12, 2014 at 12:30 AM · Ugh I have suffered these problems on my 1902 Italian viola. It's just a plague for all violas to have a c or g (or both) be debilitatingly unresponsive.

I wouldn't mess with the sound post though...trusted luthiers should only do such things.

September 12, 2014 at 01:40 AM · Awhile back I was reading some posts about chin rests and how experiments with various types dramatically changed the playability of the G string on a violin.

Personally, I was skeptical and thought it was probably some sort of installation issue. But I did happen to have a violin about with a very balky G string.

When I examined the chin rest, I noticed the cork cushions under both the belly and back brackets extended beyond the purfling. Why someone would install it with such wide cork was beyond be, especially on the belly bracket. This bracket was designed to clamp onto the outer edges of the tailstring saddle and should not need much cork cushion beyond that.

I removed the chin rest and trimmed back the cork so it was just under those parts of the brackets that would engage the saddle, and the edge/purfling of the back plate.

Viola! G-string cured. Essentially, the chin rest was no longer interacting with the belly or back plate since the clamp pressure was now totally taken up by the bottom block.

Might be worth taking a look at your chin rest install to see if it is pressing on the viola plates rather than just the edge/linings/bottom block.

September 12, 2014 at 10:49 AM · Oops!

September 12, 2014 at 10:52 AM · Yes, it's even worth trying the viola with no chinrest at all, just to see, er, I mean hear. Apart from the clamping effect, the added mass can slow down certain vibrations.

And yes, tinkering with the soundpost is dangerous, but I understand that Judex has no luthier on his island.

I have learned to tinker on violins (Lark etc) that luthiers refuse to touch, and they are rarely have time to experiment.

September 12, 2014 at 12:17 PM · "...the added mass can slow down certain vibrations..."

I am curious if you experimented with this yourself in an actual playing position rather than just a test setup where the violin is suspended by the neck.

In a typical playing position, the chin rest essentially "rests" at a vibration node (clamped between chin and collarbone), meaning its mass does no vibration at all and so should not affect the response of the instrument.

Oddly enough, most test rigs I have noticed have the violin dangling from the neck or simply supported at the neck and button areas.

The mass of the chin rest in these test setups most certainly can come into play in the vibration of the instrument. But it does not emulate the "boundary conditions" of the playing position at all.

September 12, 2014 at 03:41 PM · Carmen, it was more of an impression, while playing.

As in the case of shoulder-rests, the slight changes in contact and angle can alter our perception. I shall try to be more rigorous..

I usually try the viola cello-fashion, and also lying on my lap (with only the edges touching): my left thumb has to play th notes!

September 13, 2014 at 03:01 PM · That's correct : The Chin rest affects my/the Viola Sound ! I am positive about this.

Since there is no Luthier on my Island, and following the advice from Adrian, I have moved the Sound Post many times. I have finally managed to fit the 2 angled ends of the SP properly. Now I can say that my Viola is a real Baby Cello, the sound is very load and the ringing tone great.

As per Adrian suggestion, this morning I bought a graphite and marked the exact position of the SP at that sweet spot. Thank you Adrian for your help !

One Question : Is setting the SP of a Viola more difficult than setting the SP of a Violin ? I have acquired some experience in both, and found the Viola SP a real headache !

Thanks again and Cheers !

September 13, 2014 at 03:23 PM · Violas vary more than violins, but most violas have their resonant zones about 3 semitones lower than violins. What in a violin gives "projection" in the tone (above 2kHz), when transposed down, can become harsh or nasal (below 2kHz). So we may want to keep this particular resonance at the higher pitch; I find a wide bridge, not excessively cut away, can help.


I tried swapping the D and A strings: same total tension, but the A was no longer directly over the right foot of the bridge: it sang sweetly! The D acquired a more metallic ring than usual. So? Returning to normal, I shortened the soundpost just a little to move it the right: the A became less strident and the lower strings sounded deeper.

On my violins, I like the post to be behind the middle of the bridge foot; on my violas, the post is alligned with the outer edge of the bridge foot. But I do not maintain that all this is valid for all violins and violas..

Oh, and Carmen, I don't "clamp" my viola between jaw and collarbone: my head weighs down and balances the viola with the (shh!) Dreaded Shoulder Rest as a fulcrum. And I feel the vibrations in my jaw.

But that's just me..

September 15, 2014 at 12:59 AM · "Clamp" was a bad choice of words on my part. I don't use a shoulder rest but my chin makes a relaxed contact with the chin rest. But there is a definite, although light, "pinching" between the jaw bone and the collar bone.

You mentioned balancing the violin on the shoulder rest. Does this mean the bottom of the violin does not touch your collar bone at all?

If not, then I can see where the mass of the chin rest, and the pressure of your head on the rest, can affect the resonances of the violin as you would be operating it like a see-saw with the shoulder rest grips as the fulcrum.

September 16, 2014 at 02:41 AM · Take care and do not let your violin/viola hit something, example a furniture. The Scroll of my viola hit a chair and immediately the sound became terrible : Sound Post displaced !

I re-set the SP back to its sweet spot and everything was fine again. Like magic !

It was a very good idea of Adrian when he suggested to me to lightly mark the sweet spot in my viola. Great ! Thanks again Adrian for this simple but very good idea.

September 16, 2014 at 02:47 PM · Hi Adrian !

Is a shock on the viola or violin slightly displaces the Sound Post, does this mean that, though the sound is subjectively good, the SP is too loose between the top and the back ?

Thanks an cheers !

September 16, 2014 at 02:47 PM · Hi Adrian !

Is a shock on the viola or violin slightly displaces the Sound Post, does this mean that, though the sound is subjectively good, the SP is too loose between the top and the back ?

Thanks an cheers !

September 16, 2014 at 09:36 PM · 1)My soundpost only moves from a shock if the strings are wound down.

2)I find the contact with my collarbone very uncomfortable. But it has had decades of carefree missuse which are catching up with me!

September 17, 2014 at 09:31 AM · Thanks Adrian.

Following the post by Nick Allen about Unresponsive G String. I had the same problem and bought a new G String. Today I replaced my previous unresponsive G String, and it played well. So, now I know that a Sound Post displacement, no matter how slight it could be, can create that unresponsive G String on the viola. I hope Nick Allen has resolved the problem by now.

Thanks again Adrian for your help. Cheers !

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