Harsh sounding B note on A string.

July 4, 2016 at 06:08 AM · Hello everyone. I appreciate the help yet again. I have been playing violin for almost 4 months. I am having a very hard time playing B notes on the A string. They sound very harsh when using fast long bows. I do not have this issue with my first finger down on any other string just with the A string. I have tried more pressure which causes a crunchy sound. I have tried less pressure which causes squeaking or high pitched shrills. Even when I play the note slowly is just doesn't sound right. The violin is in tune. I just don't understand why I can't get anything close to an appeasing sound from the B on the a string. I am not sure how to explain the tone but it just seems off like something is wrong. My tuner will say it is in key while I am bowing but it still feels wrong. Do you guys have any advice of what I can do to try improve the sound of this note?

Replies (32)

July 4, 2016 at 07:41 AM · Some violins have this problem - even pretty good ones. You may need to have the violin set up changed, or try other A strings, or just live with it. (It could be of course the way you are bowing on the A string, but we can't tell on a forum).

July 4, 2016 at 07:53 AM · Yeah a video would help to diagnose the problem.

July 4, 2016 at 08:06 AM · It's a problem with B. In my firm opinion, B does not really exist as a distinct entity, it is merely there to maintain consistency in interval naming, to fill in a space between A and C.

Some violins resent this more than others.

July 4, 2016 at 09:06 AM · B on A string can be a problem with some fiddles. A friend of mine found a violin for sale (about 90 years old - the fiddle, not the friend) and had it on trial. He found the same problem, a great Italian fiddle but the B was bad. After re-set up it was no different, and although he would have liked to buy the instrument he didn't. He suggested that I got it out and tried it but when I got there it was out on trial with someone else, so I never got to try it.

I suppose if it's just one note one can live with it, but that's just a personal opinion. But not all fiddles have this problem, or a similar problem can lie elsewhere.

July 4, 2016 at 09:26 AM · What actually causes this problem with some violins ? It seems very weird to me.

July 4, 2016 at 11:00 AM · What kind of violin do you have?

Btw, I watched your "first 3 months video and you are doing really good!


July 4, 2016 at 01:14 PM · If this is a "wolf note" it's possible that a wolf eliminator could help some. Ask your luthier also to check and make sure the distance between the string and the fingerboard at the nut is correct for all four of your strings. The thickness of a standard business card is about the right distance. Luthier can also check to make sure the groove in the nut is not misshapen.

July 4, 2016 at 03:00 PM · It's a wolf note. I have a B-flat, and I've seen quite a few violins that have C. The OPs violin probably has a B wolf on the G as well. It's a fact of life for every violinist, although some wolf notes are worse than others.

July 4, 2016 at 03:01 PM · Sharelle, the B on the A-string exists in different forms, so no wonder it sometimes seems indeterminate!

First, there is B-489 which you use in the key of G. It gives a warm glow to the chord of G-D-B.

Secondly, there is the much sharper B-495 which is the second note of the key of A and is a perfect 4th below the open E, whereas B-489 certainly isn't. B-495 is too harsh for use as the major third in the chord of G major.

The third common variant of B is B-494, which is the B you find in the equal temperament of the piano. You tend to use it automatically when playing in tune with a piano. B-494 is close enough to B-495 for most practical purposes.

July 4, 2016 at 10:19 PM · Trevor - aha! I can hear it, even if I can't play it.

July 5, 2016 at 12:11 AM · Thanks for that insight Trevor.

July 5, 2016 at 02:57 AM ·

July 5, 2016 at 03:03 AM · I say get rid of the wolf or get rid of the fiddle. I will not tolerate bad wolf notes. I would state that both my fiddles don't have any wolves, but (I believe it would be Scott Cole) would say "I bet I could find some"

July 5, 2016 at 08:26 PM · Yes, in my experience there are ALWAYS wolf tones. However, that doesn't mean they are always intrusive. Sometimes they're in the cracks enough not to affect a note, or just not very prominent. And things do change with the weather--my violin's wolf tracks the rest of the sound in that it sounds better in cool damp weather and worse in hot and dry.

July 5, 2016 at 11:25 PM · It is my experience that a lower tension G string (preferably gut cored) is effective in taming the wolves on my older violin. There have never been (noticeable) wolf problems with my modern violin, the Jay Haide.

July 6, 2016 at 01:06 AM · I think it follows from my post about the different pitches of B on the A-string that a composer or arranger of a piece for violin and piano should be aware of possible clashes between the violinist's major third (eg B-489) with the piano's (B-494), and take steps as necessary.

July 6, 2016 at 02:21 AM · One of my violin has it, in fact, the one that I play most of the time albeit not my best one. It sound like a case of wolf note to me, and mine definitely is. You will feel that the note "reject" your bow or it will get crushed if you start to bow too hard. Fortunately mine was just very mild. It squeak if I bow it too light while other notes give me nice airy sound. But high up on the G string, the very same note will behave slightly worse.

No idea how to get rid of it, some luthier will know how to take care of it effectively with minimum to no intrusion to the instrument.

July 6, 2016 at 02:58 AM · Kirk, there are several things you can try. If you have a side mounted chinrest, moving it a few millimeters to the right or to the left can have a major impact on sound and wolf tones. Also, try playing the note without any chinrest and see if the wolf is still there. If the wolf disappears without a chinrest, the problem is not the violin. You may need a different type of chinrest (better quality, or switch from center mounted to side mounted or vice versa). Also, make sure the chinrest is not over tightened. Lastly, lower tension strings such as Larsen Tzigane could solve the problem. Don't give up. You should hear a clean and focused B on the A string in first position

July 6, 2016 at 05:28 AM · Dexter:I absolutely agree with you about the side mount chinrest. I have an 1893 German trade fiddle, it came with a side mount. I found it could get uncomfortable after a couple of hours of busking. I prefer center mount with the wood on the bass side, and I tried several. They would all turn the fiddle harsh. My luthier even went to the extent of shaving off some wood on the underside of a center mount. It was not as harsh, but it made the treble side to open and unfocused. I went back to the original side mount. this violin is quieter than average, but with a nice sweet, focused sound...but only with that particular side mount chin rest. Fortunately, I later got a China fiddle with a center mount, and it is the most comfortable fiddle I've ever had. Can busk 3 or 4 hours, no problem.

July 6, 2016 at 12:02 PM · All very interesting comments. My 1926 Roth has an "overly edgy" B on the A string, first positon. In Summer I would have said it squawks. In Winter, it is quite playable.

Luthiers (two) haven't fixed it, despite hours of trying. One concedes the violin should be better than it is.

Apart from that, nice, mellow instrument. Plays well, good feel, even across strings ... squawks, though.

If you get satisfaction, somehow, please post again, OP.

July 6, 2016 at 12:11 PM · I had a wolf on the C on the A string. I'd be of the opinion that any first position wolf is quite disruptive to effective playing, and I really wanted it fixed. Luckily, a 1mm reduction in the height of the bridge and a longer sound post removed this one entirely.

July 7, 2016 at 01:33 PM · If it sounds a bit crap add a bit more vibrato.

July 7, 2016 at 03:03 PM · A calculation shows that the difference between B-489 (the major 3rd in the scale of G) and B-495 (the second note in the scale of A) is equivalent to about 1/8 of a whole tone - a small but significant difference.

July 25, 2016 at 04:15 PM · Thanks for all of the input. I apologize for the delay in replying I was out of town and did not have access to my computer. I will make a video playing the note tonight after work. To answer Jessy's question I am using a Carlo Lamberti master series guarneri violin from shar music with a carbon fiber bow. I am very interested in the chin rest option because I have already been thinking about finding something more comfortable. If it will kill two birds with one stone that would be awesome. I also understand I am still very new and my lack of ability could be the issue as well so hopefully the video can help identify my issue. Thanks again.

July 25, 2016 at 10:49 PM · Hello:

I have a German trade violin that plays the d on the a string low volume. It sound as a little dull but is in tune and I cannot get it to play loud. It plays o.k. but not loud when cold but when the violin warms up, it sounds a little dull. I guess this is the same problem. The rest of the notes are fine.

July 25, 2016 at 11:36 PM · T M, I seasonally have that issue, and I take my violin to the luthier to get soundpost adjusted. That's my "indicator" note for anything new or diagnostics, similarly to C on G string. At least to me,the third note on each string in first position are my 'go-to' diagnostics. Probably because I always tune by fifths then confirm with octaves.

As for funny B on A, I think the above posts covered most of it, I used to have that issue on previous violins but maybe it was the violin and setup, maybe it was my skill level.

My luthier keeps on telling me that she moves the soundpost by a fraction of mm. Someone who had my current violin put the marking of the best position for the soundpost. A circle on top and a circle at bottom pieces, and I can hear it whenever the soundpost has moved.

August 8, 2016 at 06:39 PM · So what would you do to avoid the crap?

August 8, 2016 at 06:47 PM · No, you need to roll the B down a bit to get an intune sound with the open E.

Unless you like crap that much... :D

August 8, 2016 at 06:50 PM · Try the same B pitch but on the D string. If it is a wolf, there will be some of it there as well. If it is not a wolf it could be the string or some interference on the fingerboard - may need minor regraduation.

August 9, 2016 at 09:45 AM · wanted to chime in on the comment made a month ago by Sharelle to the effect that "a B does not really exist". that is really not true on the violin. on a decent violin you will notice that the high B on the A-string (so an octave higher than the first B on A) typically rings very strongly. it is shouting "I exist!"

August 9, 2016 at 10:28 AM · Oh Jean, you pedant !

August 10, 2016 at 01:11 AM · Yes, but the first B flat alwaays seems lacking, even on the best violins (as does the a sharp in 3rd position on the D string). :(

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