choosing an instrument, wolf tones

January 8, 2005 at 05:49 AM · I'm a college student looking to upgrade my instrument to one in the 12-15k range. I've looked at a bunch of shops in NYC and LI, and still have a ways to look.

One of the instruments that i've come across sounds lovely, but has tremendous problems on the third space C (on the staff)...on both the G and D strings.

How do i incorporate the knowledge of this wolf tone on an instrument when searching/choosing a violin that i'll want to live with for a long time?

My current instrument has a wolf in the same area and i use a wolf eliminator...although i adjust it and my bridge regularly to silence the wolf, it still gets muddy around the c. Are there any further adjustments other than experimenting with different strings, checking the environment/humidity, etc.?

Along the same lines...In your opinion would you personally look for an instrument which is more playable over tone/projection?

Replies (7)

January 8, 2005 at 08:45 AM · "Along the same lines...In your opinion would you personally look for an instrument which is more playable over tone/projection?"

At that price range you are best to look for something that is easy to play; something that projects well but does not require you fighting it (ie: wolfs, uneven projection, loud under the ear but no distance projection etc.)

I think that you should steer away from any instrument in that price range that has bad wolf problems. Wolfs can be moved and lessened, but they don't seem to disappear. If you intend to resell your instrument at some point, it's playability is going to factor in greatly within that price range even if it (hopefully) increases in value some.

I'm no expert, but that would be what I would look for in a violin of that price range. Something that plays easy, has investment potential, and has good resale potential.


P.S. Also make sure you make an effort to check out violins outside of NYC and the east coast. Prices in NYC especially seem to be somewhat higher than, say, New Mexico.

January 8, 2005 at 09:25 AM · You might even want to look into comissioning an instrument. For the price range you've given, it would work wonders.

January 8, 2005 at 10:10 AM · I wouldn't touch an instrument with wolf tones. That would be seriously irritating!


January 8, 2005 at 01:48 PM · You might look at the archive articles at

Good behavior is what I don't see people looking for.

I like Kelvin Scott's work. He's in Knoxville near me. I like my work, too, but that's probably a given! Certainly there are lots of modern makers in your price range who make rather effective instruments.

January 8, 2005 at 03:18 PM · Most good violins have some sort of wolf, which may or may be bad enough to be irritating. For it to show up in an interfering way on the D string, it has to be pretty bad, and I'd call that a problem. The usual violin wolf only shows up at the C or C# an octave and a 4th up the G string, and almost every violin has this one.

In the price range you're looking, you will have to make at least a couple sacrifices and compromises--that's the difference between $15K and $3 million--the whole project is one of balancing advantages and disadvantages against price. Some makers in this price range are better than others, however.

Many players in this price range opt for a tame violin with no character because they aren't skilled enough to "drive" a rowdier one to gain the more lively tonal advantages it has, and as they become more skilled, they tire of a violin that is too restrained. Others will work harder to tame any problem if the violin otherwise suits them, but for someone who's in the student stage, that's often an impediment to learning because it takes away too much energy from other things, so it's not uncommon for a player to get a tame violin first, and then move to a more interesting one as his/her skill level goes up.

You shouldn't have to make a choice between playable and tone projection, but please don't mistake irritating volume levels under the ear with carrying power.

One of the most graphic demos I had of this was a player I know who is a concertmaster in a big orchestra. He was lent a Guarneri del Gesu for a couple of weeks, and he later complained that he couldn't hear himself, but everyone around him was complaining that he played too loudly. The ONLY way to just carrying power is at a distance IN COMPETITION with other instruments! Alone doesn't count at all, because the specific harmonics that allow a violin to carry don't work because they're loud--they work because other instruments don't have them in their tonal makeup at all, or in much smaller amounts. The violin tone of a carrying violin fits in a tonal hole of the other instruments, and, in fact, of the overall averaged orchestra tone, as well, so to see if a violin works, you really need other instruments present. Unless you only intend to play unaccompanied suites. :-)

January 12, 2005 at 05:02 AM · Along the lines of what Michael said, another highly trained luthier once said to me that a wolf note is a sign of a *good* instrument.

However, wolf notes are a matter of degree to say the least. I had a violin which developed bad wolfs (wolves?) on G# and D# on the E string. It really made it intolerable so I got rid of it. They may not carry, but you will hear it and probably your teacher. My wolfs were hard to play quietly, wouldn't respond to vibrato normally, and had a different color. My teacher claimed they didn't carry, but he would still complain about them. Whenever I played those notes I had to suddenly modify bow speed tremendously. There are better things to do with your time. I would have loved that fiddle except for that problem. Find a lady with spunk but with some self-control :-)

"Prices in NYC especially seem to be somewhat higher than, say, New Mexico. "

By a few thousand dollars.

January 12, 2005 at 05:28 AM · Yup.


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