Notes with resonance?

January 28, 2019, 1:09 PM · Hi,

We all note G D A E notes on the violin will create sympathetic resonance. However, I noticed B also creates a resonance on my violins as well.

Two questions:
1. Why does B resonate?
2. Any other notes that resonate?

Replies (19)

January 28, 2019, 1:34 PM · All notes resonate - the violin is a resonator. Without the violin acting as a resonating chamber, the sound of the string on its own would be rather weak. I think you're thinking of sympathetic vibration, when a note is played and there is an open string ringing that is tuned to the same pitch.
(I just reread the post notes. Oops, sorry. But I am fairly sure it is sympathetic vibration, not sympathetic resonance. Oh well, it doesn't matter either way, does it?)
Anyways, the B might resonate because it is the third above G, which I can't really explain in detail. From what I understand, any note in the major/minor triad of any of the keys of the string (so the A string's corresponding notes would be a, c, c#, and e) will work with sympathetic vibration, but to a lesser extent than to the tonic note. So I hope that explains it somewhat - I'm not really good at explaining over the internet, sorry. I really tried.
January 28, 2019, 1:44 PM · The notes that "ring" are the ones that have corresponding overtones elsewhere on the violin. On the E string it is possible to play "B" as a harmonic by putting your fourth finger (first position) on the "B" note lightly and drawing your bow. There may be "B" overtones on the G string too. The way to tell is to play the note that's "ringing" and use one of your other fingers to arrest the vibration of the other strings one at a time. If the ringing goes away, then the overtone that you're "resonating" is on that string, or at least mostly there.

Some notes do not seem to ring, or if they do, they do not do so very much. These are the kinds of notes where, to find a corresponding harmonic somewhere, you'd have to divide the string by 19/31 or some crazy fraction instead of in halves or thirds or quarters like you do for harmonics that we associate with notes that ring.

Edited: January 28, 2019, 5:38 PM · Open strings and perfect fifths of open strings are the most resonate. These are frequently called ring tones.

The ring tone scale is used in the music of some cultures. It also is a good scale to use to learn some basic finger placement because it is so obvious when one has placed the fingers correctly.

The Scale in First position:

G String

D String

A String

E String

I can post a some songs in the Ring Tone Scale if you want. They usually have a simple yet lovely sound.

[edit: forgot a couple of notes in scale]

January 28, 2019, 2:04 PM · One of the luthiers can probably correct me if I'm incorrect in this, but I think the table in this Wikipedia entry can be helpful.

Table of string harmonic nodes

It looks like that "B" on the "A string" corresponds with the third node in the overtones on the "E string", so playing the "B" couples strongly enough with the "E string's" natural tendency to vibrate on its own note "B" that it resonates.

This corresponds also to playing "E" on the "D string" resonating with the "E" on the "A string" and also directly with the open "E string" itself, and so on with the "A" on the "G string".

Edited: January 28, 2019, 3:31 PM · Carmen, I'm not the OP, but I would really appreciate it if you would post a couple songs in the Ring Tone Scale as you suggested. As a returning beginner I'm really starting to enjoy using the ringing notes to help with finger placement. The idea of songs that focus on those notes is interesting.
Edited: January 29, 2019, 7:42 AM · I think all the natural notes resonate on a violin. for example try to find the 100% in tune spot for C (on any string), it wil stick out. also on many violins F actually "screams" quite nastily.
Edited: January 29, 2019, 7:45 AM · Here is a Ring Tone Scale piece based on an old Chinese folk song called Madam Wang.

Sheet Music

Sound File

Edited: January 29, 2019, 8:06 AM · Very basically, the overtones go in octaves, fifths, major thirds and minor sevenths (OK, they don't stop there - if you go high enough every note is produced, but weakly). So a B will come from a fifth on the E string or a major third on the G string.

So each string basically gives a dom 7 series.

The G string gives G, B, D, F (not in order)
The D string gives D, F#, A, C
The A string gives A, C#, E, G
The E string gives E, G#, B, D

So Ab, Bb, Eb are missing. At least, if they are present they are probably high, weak and inaudible, as may be the minor 7s.

Edited: January 29, 2019, 8:12 AM · The "ring tone scale" is known by another name -- the pentatonic scale. So if you want to find tunes based on this scale, I suggest you use "pentatonic" in your search instead of "ring tone."

If you start improvising on this scale, pretty soon you will find that it's quite easy. That's because the scale is intrinsically consonant for all the reasons aforementioned. You will discover, in this way, why the pentatonic scale features so prominently in the music of ancient Earth cultures, and in modern jazz.

Next time you are at a jazz play-in, call "Take Five" in E minor. The guitarist in the rhythm section will nod his or her approval, because guitarists hate the original key (E-flat minor). Let them know you're only jamming on the A section, not the bridge. Then proceed to wail away on your "ring tone scale" and you'll bring the house down.

Edited: January 29, 2019, 9:21 AM · I can give an example of sympathetic resonance, as distinct from sympathetic vibration. On my #1 violin, a 18th-c 14-1/4” long-back, its internal resonance is C (blow across the f-holes to hear it). When I play the C on the G string I get a powerful note resonating with the internal C resonance. This doesn't cause sympathetic vibrations from the open strings above it – the D, A and E strings don't have a useful audible C overtone. The notes below that C on the G string are also powerful, reminiscent perhaps of a viola in that register.

In contrast, my #2 violin is the standard 14” length and has its internal resonance as D. Play that D on the G string and there are sympathetic vibrations coming from the open D and A strings.

Edited: January 29, 2019, 3:46 PM · Carmen - that is just lovely - simple and a bit haunting. Thank you!
Edited: February 15, 2019, 12:22 PM · Carmen - if you see this (or anyone else familiar with this traditionalVhines melody posted earlierin this thread - I'm quite taken by this song. Thank you for the music and the midi file. I would love to find out more of the history of this song if you have anything. Google isn't my friend on this one.

My teacher also likes it so I'm learning this before a my first 1-page Bach piece (Marche).

February 16, 2019, 3:08 PM · The theme is from a British publication called "Chinese Music". It was printed in 1884. The author of the publication is J.A. Van Aalst.

Edited: February 16, 2019, 7:21 PM · Thanks for the information Carmen, I was curious about where it may have originated. It's an interesting piece for this returning beginner, thank you! There is also an interesting Wikipedia article on Jules A. van Aalst that links back to IMSLP.
February 17, 2019, 9:23 AM · I think there are two different issue here--maybe a luthier can chime in.

One type of resonance has to do with open strings, but I think another has to do with how the plates were tuned. For example, my violin has a strong resonance on B-flat, which happens to be where its wolf tone is.

February 17, 2019, 9:26 AM · Thanks for the IMSLP reference.

The publication is on that site, although I think I first encountered it on Google Books.

You can find the theme on page 38 and a translation of a few verses of the song sung to the tune. I started with that theme and expanded it into a ring tone etude a few years ago so I could play something interesting while learning intonation by ear.

I wish I could find some exercise to help get cleaner bowing. I struggle to get a clean articulation on a bow change. I get an annoying glissando-like sound at the start.

February 17, 2019, 9:56 AM · Scott, your observation about the resonances of open strings and the violin body are well taken.

Although they both affect the sound in similar ways, there is an important difference.

One can compose or select music that takes advantage of the "known" resonances of the open strings.

With the resonances of the body, you are pretty much stuck with whatever they are and may have to compensate or play around them.

A quick physics lessons: Play any note you choose. All the natural resonances of the open strings and body will vibrate at the frequency of that note. The amplitude (power) a resonance adds to the note decreases rapidly the larger the difference between the frequency of the note and the natural frequency of the resonance.

Here is an example of how this affects an actual violin.

A violin I have has a strong easy-to-play tone at the lower part of the G string and A string. The response of the D string and E string is much weaker and requires more effort to draw out a tone.

If one measures the major air and body modes of the violin, it has strong natural resonances at 242Hz (about B3), 425Hz and 490Hz (about A4 and B4), 743Hz (about G5).

The body modes have major natural frequencies on the G and A strings, and thus add power to notes played along those strings in first position.

Without major modes located along the D or E strings in first position, notes other than ring tones sound weak and require more work to get them to sound.

Edited: February 17, 2019, 10:44 AM · I’ve noticed certain instrument makers have sweet notes (and wolf notes) unique to their own instruments. I’m not enough of an expert to know why this is the case, but I definitely notice these characteristics. For instance on a good del Gesu, the D naturals tend to stick out a little more than the other tones. On Guadagninis, A naturals to my ear resonate more. With Stradivaris - everything resonates with tons of overtones.
Edited: February 17, 2019, 12:37 PM · Nate,
I wonder if it's simply because once a maker has a way of making, they tend to stick to it if it's reasonably successful. Just think how time-consuming and risky it could be to start experimenting with fine old wood acquired at great expense.

I think it also depends on the culture of one's training: It's my observation that certain traditions, such as the Germanic (many violin makers here such as Tschu Ho Lee, did their training in Germany) may have a more rigid indoctrination of what is "correct" and pass that on to their students? Perhaps the Italians were so successful because they had a more fluid sense of design and were less rigid in their approach? The same with the English. Maybe that's why better 19th c. English makers tend to be in higher demand than most German instruments? More experimentation and individualism vs. a strict "you must do it this way!" Teutonic model.

The maker of my violin sent me many different models: Strad, guarneri, Guadagnini. But they all had the same wolf tone frequency. Cleary, the maker was following some basic principle.
Luckily, mine has calmed down a little over the 6 years I've had it, but it was pretty disconcerting in the beginning.

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