Climbing up the G string

March 28, 2016 at 02:59 AM · Hello,

I've read a little bit about on this topic, and came to a conclusion from my experience.

Often at 5th position and up on the G string on violin seem to be filled with wolfnotes and scratchy sounds.

Some people suggested and believe in that the high G can be "played in". I am going to have to start disagreeing with that, because even with my one string melody and scales that I've been working on, my G string and somewhat D string sounds inferior to A and E string at higher positions.

Now, something that people have suggested and worked for me is trying different brand of the strings. Also, soundpost adjustment.

I have noticed on my primary violin, Obligato seemed to make the lower strings full and round, even at higher positions. I've used the set to the point where the strings were staring to fray, and I ended up putting the set on my secondary violin, Eastman VL80, not the top of the line violin.

On VL80, I can go up on G, with consistent sound quality as the lower positions,

On my good violin, with Warchal Karnoel(my violin HATES this set). G string and even D string sounds terrible after 4th and 5th positions respectively.

I swapped the set to Warchal Brilliant Vintage, now, this feels comparable with Obligatos.

Now, to summarize, I found that the G string at higher position is improved by using specific kind of string and also even heavier bow and small bit of soundpost adjustment?

What do others do to improve your tone quality for higher positions on G string? How do you deal with your scratchy, unpleasant high positions in G string? I'm also curious about the harp shaped tailpieces.

Replies

March 28, 2016 at 03:54 AM · It might be that either your violin or your set-up simply doesn't allow for good sound in the upper positions of the G string. But it wouldn't be shocking if your core problem is technique, not the instrument. The scratchiness strongly suggests technique. (If the note pulses in pitch, that's a wolf.)

Make sure that you're getting a clean stop with your left-hand fingers, that your arm height is correct (and therefore your angle to the string and arm weight are correct), and that your bow is at the correct sounding point (closer to the bridge) and being pulled straight.

March 28, 2016 at 04:07 AM · I get wolf here and there, just below C#, above C.

I think you are making a good point regarding left hand angle. It is a very awkward stretch for me especially with my crooked modified hold.

I'm a little puzzled however by the fact that I am actually slowly scaling on the G string. I am bowing slowly and straight, and making each full note count and in tune.

March 28, 2016 at 12:36 PM · The upper reaches of the G string can be broken in, but it takes place over years, not weeks or months. And the violin does matter-- when people claim that expensive old instruments aren't worth their price, it's because they haven't played them high on the G. Cheap instruments usually sound terrible up there. This should be one of the main tests of an instrument before purchase.

Technique is very important. It involves subtlety in bow pressure and contact point, and vibrato. One simply has to keep at it, and figure out how to make whatever violin you have sound its best.

Occasionally on this site I've mentioned the use of a weich (light) G string. I've found it to be the best way to get clarity and playability in the upper positions. I've used a weich Dominant G since The Bush I years. Dealers everywhere are using Eva as their default strings, and I find the G to be particularly bad for clarity. I don't use a weich set, which would be far too weak a sound. Just the G.

March 28, 2016 at 12:38 PM · Upper register of the G string is a common problem for lower-quality violins. I don't have any idea what you spent on your violin, but I personally struggle with the logic of trying so many sets of strings that you've spent more on strings in a year's time than you did on your whole violin. My luthier charges like $15 for a soundpost adjustment, which is often quite helpful, so I find that to be a good value. Bowing those notes with good tone is also just more difficult than other registers. You have to experiment methodically with speed, pressure, and sound point. And inch your way up, i.e., be sure you can get a good sound in fifth position before going higher. Do the same exercises once in a while on the D and A strings too so that you can make a comparison in their response.

March 28, 2016 at 12:39 PM ·

March 28, 2016 at 03:52 PM · I suggest giving a gut-cored G a try, starting with Pirastro's relatively inexpensive Chorda, or their rather more expensive Eudoxa. I've tried both, and the Chorda (medium gauge) is, if anything, the more successful of the two at getting rid of the resident wolf in the second octave on my 18th century violin.

I'll probably experiment with the Chorda heavy gauge G at the next string change to see if that works as well at wolf removal, and to see if it improves things in the higher register of the instrument, as has been suggested elsewhere on this forum. If the heavy gauge doesn't do the job up to my expectations then it will find a welcoming home on my Jay Haide which is wolf-free and has a clean-sounding G up to the end of the fingerboard.

March 28, 2016 at 04:14 PM · My primary violin is a Contemporary Sig Hoibakke Violin, bought for $2800~ish.

I also noticed that I seem to have better G quality out of violins with the string height rather higher.

March 28, 2016 at 07:29 PM · Basically, if I play on A string up till the end of the fingerboard, I get the similar consistency as the 5th position on E string.

On D string, after 6th position, the notes are scratchy/broken in comparison to the A string low positions.

On G string, after 4th position, the notes are just scratchy/broken in comparison to D string 1st position. I can and do compare using double stops on the same note and 3rds and 5ths.

I think Lydia has a good point however, because I often have to fight to make stopped notes to not sound like harmonics on G string.

March 28, 2016 at 07:55 PM · Because I am not there yet, I'll play devils advocate...given the awkward position of the arm and hand and the quality of sound; how often is the G string used in the standard repertoire? Both solo and orchestral. Are the problems with getting a good sound really worth worrying about?

March 28, 2016 at 07:55 PM ·

March 28, 2016 at 08:38 PM · I don't think too too often, but I wish to one day attempt this:

overall, I want my violin to be balanced.

March 28, 2016 at 08:46 PM · Have you lent it to your violin teacher to try some passages? My guess is whatever the limitations of the violin are, you can still do quite a bit of work on the technical side to discover just how close to the bridge you need to be, and the right amount of pressure to use.

March 28, 2016 at 09:21 PM · I love that Paganini Moses, especially this version. I bought the music over a year ago to work on it but have yet to start it.

In this Antal Zalai version he has removed the D, A and E strings. I suppose this is to show that their is no trickery involved and it is truly played on only one string. But I thought the other strings all contribute to the total sound output of the violin even though they are not played. I suppose that thought is clumsily worded. But in other words it does seem to me that the E string does contribute to how the G and other strings sound and others have mentioned this factor here recently including the composition of the E string

March 28, 2016 at 11:21 PM · But, Paganini played with only the G left on (which would go up in pitch to B flat due to the redistributed tension of three broken strings). :)

Also, only one string left means that nothing damps the string at all, so it resonates more. :)

March 28, 2016 at 11:22 PM · If I ever got to the point where I could learn some all-G-string piece by Paganini in two weeks' time, I cannot imagine wanting to spend it that way. There is so much great music to play. Did Zalai really removed the other strings just to prove that he wasn't cheating as he performed his parlor trick? Has it really come to that? If it's all just about doing something hard, why not play "Meditation from Thais" while solving Rubik's Cube?

March 28, 2016 at 11:57 PM · My teacher has suggested that the fingerboard to be replaced in the near-ish future because the entire setup is rather low. Rather thin fingerboard, suitable bridge and nut height, relative to each other, but overall setup is is somewhat low.

Starting with my MSc program, I can cough up the cost to replace the fingerboard, along with other things. I just think it's a bit premature, considering that I am have no other issues, yet.

March 29, 2016 at 12:46 AM · "how often is the G string used in the standard repertoire? Both solo and orchestral. Are the problems with getting a good sound really worth worrying about?"

It's standard technique in most repertoire after about 1850. If you want to play the top of the repertoire, and don't want to just stick to Baroque and Classical styles, then it's a must, both in solo and orchestral playing. It's not THAT hard, certainly no harder than acquiring a nice vibrato or spicatto. If you just do a little every day you'll have a whole new tone color in your tool box.

March 29, 2016 at 01:07 AM · For color purposes, the high positions of the G string are probably used more than any others. Lots of sul G stuff, both solo and orchestral (and chamber) in order to get that thick, rich sound.

March 29, 2016 at 12:04 PM · @David: Play close to the bridge, bot not as close as you would on the E string (leave a bit of space before getting up to the bridge, as the thicker string has a larger "deadzone" near the bridge), and make sure to get the G to touch the fingerboard.

This is not required (actually bad for technique) on the E and A strings, but the lower strings need to touch the fingerboard for a clear sound in rather high positions.

Also, the G should not be played wispy! It needs some firm weight to sound rich, but do not overdo it and distort the pitch/crush the string. :)

March 29, 2016 at 12:06 PM · I think one of the reasons some people recommend a "weich" G is because otherwise they have a hard time pressing it down far enough in the upper registers. I've not tried anything but "mittel" strings, though, so I don't really know what one might be trading off.

March 29, 2016 at 01:28 PM · Hi,

Clarity on the G string can be affected by many things. Of the most common, soundpost adjustment is certainly one.

For strings, it's about a balance of tensions. Modern strings are rather limited in gauges compared to the gut strings of the past. Even Oliv used to be available in 7 gauges. So, the options are to play around with different sets, or achieve balance by finding an E string that works with the others, which may or may not be from the same set.

As far as playing is concerned, contact point is certainly one of the major ones, as is speed and pressure. Depending on the instrument, one may have to reduce the amount of weight as they go up, and most all instruments require that the contact point be closer to the bridge. Also, it is important to remember that the closer to the bridge, the slower the bow speed as there is more resistance. Like in many things, the instrument decides, so paying attention to how one's instrument responds is important.

Cheers!

March 29, 2016 at 01:28 PM · Oops! Double-post...

April 7, 2016 at 11:40 PM · Well, something I'd like to be working on is confidently shift and change positions for each string.

I'm doing this by the pieces that I know how to play, say in 1st position, only using 2nd, and 3rd position, then 4th and 5th position, and etc.

I actually tried today to clench down on G string while I play. I think it could be that I am not pressing down hard enough on a small enough spot. It seems that I need to learn to use my very finger tips at higher positions.

April 8, 2016 at 05:20 PM · A word of caution: make sure you warm up properly and also cool-down after reaching high positions on G string!

Also, avoid spending too much time in stressful position and remember to stretch properly after.

April 8, 2016 at 05:34 PM · This is my game plan:

1st position scales, detache

2nd position scales, staccato up, staccato down

3rd position scales, legato

4th position scales, tremolo

5th, 6th, 7th scales detache.

1 finger chromatic scales on each string

then start playing pieces in mixed positions.

April 8, 2016 at 05:36 PM · By the way, what would be a proper stretch technique?

April 9, 2016 at 09:26 AM · As an aside I prefer to think of "reaching" instead of "stretching", which to my mind has a hint of forcing the anatomy to extend to its limits (probably not a good thing), whereas "reaching" feels a more natural concept. So the idea is to get the left hand and arm into a comfortable "reaching" position. I got this concept many years ago as a cellist when learning to play octaves in the first position.

April 9, 2016 at 10:02 AM · Having 5-10 two octave relatively slow to moderate speed pieces is a good idea, i.e. Waltzing Matilda, Ashokan's Farewell, Ode to Joy....Scales only take you so far, variation is more important.

It is a good idea to 'practice' moving the arm first (swing the elbow forward), and then shift. The finger isn't the guide, it follows. If the fingers are first in the procedure, than the fingers pull the arm up, not good.

May 14, 2016 at 05:55 PM · Okay, I think I can confidently say that it's really not me at high G anymore, because I have played other violins at high G also, and they sounded acceptable.

In particular, C~C#-ish and around A. All only on G string however, D string is still acceptable.

I just visited a local violin store for a wolftone eliminator, the luthier there suggested to use a mute. I think I have seen Perlman using some of his violins.

I have before tried soundpost adjustments, whence the wolf was removed from soundpost adjustment, the rest of the violin didn't sound very good.

I can "smudge" out my wolf in general with vibrato, but it's starting to really bother me doing scales.

Any suggestions?

May 14, 2016 at 06:18 PM · Ditch your VSO and get a real violin!!! IMHO

May 14, 2016 at 07:46 PM · A $2800 violin is not VSO.

May 14, 2016 at 07:47 PM · with a help of local luthier, and a mute, we almost killed the C-C# wolf, and suppressed A wolf.

May 14, 2016 at 08:00 PM · A new violin with wolfs like you are describing doesn't sound well made at all, so the price at $2800 doesn't sound reasonable at all, because what you have is an unusable violin. I say get your money back and start over.

May 14, 2016 at 08:18 PM · But C to C sharp is a common note for a wolf, Lyndon!

Even the best instruments have a bit of a wolf tone, as it's an inherent property of a bowed string instrument.

Though, the krentz eliminator for violin might fix it without changing the sound, as reported by our own v.commer Andrew Victor, though he used it to fix cellos (which usually have more severe wolves than violin/viola!). :D

May 14, 2016 at 08:23 PM · I've picked this violin after trying many others. It's a keeper, no question about that. C to C# wolf exists in just about ALL of the violins I have played in my life, except for the electric ones.

It sounds great, and it has seen its better days considering its soundpost patch. The wolves are only present on G string, and they can be smuged out with vibrato, except, when I play scales. There's no other way.

May 14, 2016 at 08:25 PM · delete

May 15, 2016 at 12:03 AM · Sorry when I said VSO, Stephen I was thinking of someone else's violin.

May 15, 2016 at 03:06 AM · Socia accepts your apology. :)

May 15, 2016 at 10:10 PM · Only very good violins will sound well in the upper positions of the G string.... try the C on the 7th position.... Most players will notice that only when they start to study some advanced pieces.

May 15, 2016 at 10:24 PM · Yes, it's the C at 7th position that KILLS my scales. I realized that by putting the mute on as a wolfnote eliminator, it shifted the wolf to A.

C-C# is the wolf. Worst at upper position.

May 15, 2016 at 11:10 PM · Not only wolves in this region but also many rasped notes. When Zukerman tested my violas and violins he will start playing fortissimo in these region... an acid test...

May 15, 2016 at 11:41 PM · I wouldn't use that word, but, yes, but, apparently specific bowing seems to help, a lot.

I am also going to ask about raising the bridge.

May 16, 2016 at 12:37 AM · He meant rasped, silly typo became rather morbid on us all. :D

May 17, 2016 at 12:32 AM · My apologies for stepping in a conversation I didn't understand and putting my foot clearly in my mouth, I am not a player, and have never claimed to be, when Steven J spoke of wolf tones, I didn't realize just how high on the G string he was talking about. When a professional player comes over to demo my violins, very few have noticeable wolf tones, now I realize maybe the reason for this was because they were never playing 5th position or above on the G string. I was also confusing this thread with another one where I thought from the posters comments, the G string might be buzzing against the fingerboard, which it turned out it was not, that thread was about a VSO or cheaper violin, hence my confusion. Carry on.

May 29, 2016 at 02:16 AM · Okay.

Now, I'm discovering.

It seems at low G, I need to DIG my bow in, to get wide, good sound, but as I reach and go above 5th position, I get rasped note if I dig in with my bow.

If I am bowing as if I were playing harmonics, I get good sound at higher position. Is this how it's supposed to be?

Also, with my new bow, the wolf isn't as pronounced. It's still there, but I can get away with it with the right bow angle.

May 31, 2016 at 10:58 AM · hi Steven, yes, the higher up the string, the less pressure, it is a general principle. the contact points also get closer to the bridge. for example you generally don't bow close to the fingerboard in seventh position, even if you want to play pianissimo. so playing pianissimo in seventh position you will bow more or less between fingerboard and bridge, or even a bit closer to bridge, but applying as little pressure as you would in first position bowing close to the fingerboard. you can read all about it in Simon Fischer Basics.

June 10, 2016 at 03:22 PM · Okay, today, my luthier put on Boxwood tailpiece for a change, and I also bought a wolftone eliminator and have it installed on G string.

The boxwood tailpiece seemed to have made the instrument to sound brighter overall, which was not the goal, but a welcomed change. I decided to keep the new tailpiece, but the wolf hasn't changed, which is now better suppressed with the wolftone eliminator(than a single string mute on D string).

I like how my violin sounds at upper registers on G now. Out of curiosity, I've decided to go past the fingerboard. It seems that I can still play notes past the fingerboard. I mean, pretty much anywhere, as far as there is room for bow in between the bridge and the finger.

Has anyone experimented with this?

June 10, 2016 at 05:36 PM · You can. You can even play behind the bridge. The concertmaster's solo that starts the "On The Trail" movement of Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite uses this technique.

June 10, 2016 at 08:14 PM · That actually sounds pretty awesome, I'm going to see how many octaves I can pull out of each string now.

I'm also learning that "hard pressing" isn't necessary even for high G on my violin.

August 6, 2016 at 12:16 AM · 3 Octaves on each string! Also, I should mention that I went back with the original ebony tailpiece, because the boxwood made my violin even louder, to the extent I stopped bowing properly then got a pair of earplugs to wear.

August 6, 2016 at 12:17 PM · Locatelli in his Caprices sometimes sends the player beyond the end of the fingerboard, not only the short Baroque fingerboard of his time but the modern one.

In music of the post-classical and later eras notes at or possibly beyond the end of the fingerboard on the E-string include G, A and B (which is usefully available as a harmonic). I've seen Nigel Kennedy live on TV playing Monti's Czardas with what might have been his own little cadenza, and here he was clearly placing his fingers halfway between the fingerboard and bridge, producing notes as high as the top of the piano range or even beyond. On my television speakers it sounded more like the twittering of sparrows!

Getting back to playing high up the G-string, some violins may benefit from a light gauge G, possibly a Baroque covered gut string. I have found that a gut G on my 18-c violin noticeably reduces the wolf in the second octave.

As for removing one or more of the upper strings if you want to play Paganini's "Moses" on the G, I most strongly recommend not attempting this on your own but first get good advice from a luthier who would be prepared to make any necessary modifications (e.g. to the bridge and soundpost).

August 6, 2016 at 12:29 PM · I have had a couple of violins that did not play well on the G string above the lowest octave. Two different string changes I made that eliminated this problem were:

1. Put on a set of Larsen Tzigane strings.

or

2. Replace the E string with the Thomastik Platinum-plated E string, but leaving the lower strings on.

August 6, 2016 at 02:20 PM · I remember seeing one YouTube video of Moses being played with only a G string on the violin. I thought this might have been only to prove that it was truly played on one string and no tricks. Is there another reason to remove the other three strings?

August 6, 2016 at 06:24 PM · It would make the bowing much easier.

August 6, 2016 at 08:11 PM · Hard to keep the bridge from shifting if only the G string is present.

August 6, 2016 at 08:14 PM · Unless tuned to the B flat tuning needed for an authentic peeformance of the Moses.

The G string only video is on yt, played by antal zalai.

August 6, 2016 at 10:20 PM · Thank you A.O. I have had the music for this piece for over a year now and and never really looked at it yet. So you would tune the G string up to B flat then play the score as if the string was still tuned to G? So the first note of the piece is written as low G so that would be played as an open string tuned to B flat?

August 6, 2016 at 10:40 PM · In the cellist's repertoire there is a version of "Moses" in A. It is of course played solely on the A-string, virtually in the same range as the original violin version in "G" but with a rather different sound.

August 6, 2016 at 11:15 PM · @Jeff. Yes, Moses is traditionally supposed to retune the G to Si?. Meaning B?of course.

There's quite a few who play it without the other strings. Makes it much freer with bowing and fingering. It isn't difficult for the bridge to stay in place with the heaviest string. Granted, you can't do it all the time but for performances isn't too uncommon.

? = flat since it cannot be inserted here.

August 7, 2016 at 12:46 AM · I love the scene in the movie about Paganini, and Daivd Garrett "plays" part of the Moses with one string left, and the bridge and G string moves several times, once even falls off(2:05) the violin entirely, and scene reset brings the string back it its spot, while music keeps on going.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0G2joT2kEzU

August 7, 2016 at 02:27 AM · I saw the scene, but thought he was actually playing there and didnt notice the goofs.

Although, in the beginning of the movie, when Garrett walks off stage after the barnyard caprice, you catch a glimpse of SR, which they (wisely) never put on again during the rest of the movie.

August 7, 2016 at 01:11 PM · Perhaps someone would like to design a violin bridge specifically for one string (the G in this case), a bridge that would be stable and do its vibration transmission job efficiently.

Speaking as a retired patent professional I wouldn't be surprised if such a bridge would have a inventive element or two in its construction, so its inventor would be best advised to keep the design well under wraps until he has spoken to a patent attorney and a patent application has been filed.

August 8, 2016 at 09:01 AM · Scientific developments to the violin design have not worked for centuries. All the violin patents were not usefull.

August 8, 2016 at 01:07 PM · Luis, I agree with you, but I think most of the respectable research was abandoned by the scientists due to how little outcome we get from a lot of research. I mean, I frequently read about chemist "finding the secrets" of a Strad and etc. I personally view violin as physics, in String and Sonic physics realm, except physicists dedicate themselves to other research.

August 8, 2016 at 06:59 PM · In my time in a firm of patent attorneys my brief sometimes included dealing with inventors who literally came in off the street asking for advice on their inventions. Sadly, the reality was that less than 1 in 12 of these inventions were both patentable and commercially useful.

The greater part of my patents career was in large corporations (metallurgical, engineering) with substantial R&D departments. The majority of inventions coming out of these R&Ds are both patentable and commercially important.

I take on board Luis' comment that not all violin patents are useful. However, I suspect there is more patent mileage in inventions relating to improvements in the violin's add-ons such as shoulder rests, chin rests, micrometer tailpieces, geared pegs, and even strings; for these are things that sell well.

February 4, 2017 at 08:35 PM · I've actually finally Eliminated Wolf entirely. I am no longer using the wolf note eliminator. The cause weirdly has been my custom chinrest. I took it out because and did some scales and the wolf at high G isn't there anymore.

February 5, 2017 at 08:45 PM · So you play without a CR now, or did you replace it by another model?

February 5, 2017 at 09:06 PM · I have it off for the time being. New one is on its way.

February 6, 2017 at 01:43 AM · I hope the new one keeps the wolves away (although 1 wolf is there pretty much 100% of the time-no big deal)... :)

February 8, 2017 at 05:54 AM · After doing some careful measuring and listening, I am noticing 3 things:

1. Wolf hasn't really gone away.

2. Wolf suppressed the closer I put the wolf-be-gone eliminator to the bridge.

3. Wolf suppressed the closer I put pressure to the treble side(including moving soundpost over there, or just holding the bout[as if I put a left handed chinrest on] on the treble side).

The incoming chinrest is center mount, so I expect it to a little better than(my previous) bass mount chinrest.

February 17, 2017 at 08:28 AM · After playing with wolf-be-gone eliminator I've finally found a working full wolf-suppression.

Instead of installing the eliminator on G string afterlength as instructions say, I instead put it on D string afterlength.

This actually successfully completely eliminated the wolf finally and now I can put a mute on without adjusting anything.

February 17, 2017 at 07:08 PM · Steven, I just read another thread where you were describing a wolf between low C and C# on the G string. If you still have that one, the other one in seventh position on the G string may not have to do with the way you're playing.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

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