A single note fails to vibrate correctly- violin broke ?

Edited: February 3, 2019, 11:02 PM · Hi. I bought a used Chinese made scherle roth violin. The original price was 300 USD so it's a low end instrument. The notes all sound fine except the A string's c sharp note. When I play it it vibrates abnormally with cross tonality. In other words imagine hitting c and csharp on a piano at the same time - that's how it sounds.

This isnt a case of me putting any vibrato on the string through my bow or finger pressure. This isnt a case of accidentally hitting the E string at the same time. It doesnt occur on other notes. It does occur on the lower d string at the 11th "fret" which is the c sharp there.

Naturally I replaced the string and examined the head and bridge and soundboard for imperfections but cannot locate the source of the jittering sound.

Any thoughts? Playing D or C sounds fine but the Csharp whirls like a helicopter sound when it takes off.


Replies (16)

February 3, 2019, 11:35 PM · That's called a "wolf tone", and it's awful for it to occur where you have it.

Search that phrase for more.

February 4, 2019, 4:36 AM · A luthier may charge more than the price of the instrument to cure this.

You could experiment (without risk!) by putting a large blob of Blue-tack on the belly in the middle of the left half of the lower bout (i.e. somewhere over the lower end of the bass-bar); then move it here & there, and/or reduce its size. This may kill the wolf, or move it to a different note. Or not!

Edited: February 4, 2019, 10:32 AM · Adrian -- that's the usual "easy fix" (if there is one), but I've always wondered why that particular spot.

By the way, a single note may fail to vibrate, but a single bamboo can still easily bend...


Edited: February 4, 2019, 3:03 PM · I found this zone by trial & error. With the violin on my lap and a small clamp to on the A-string to try different notes, I could bow while pressing gently on different parts of the violin. The notes around A,B,& C seem to come from large areas of the top plate, but particularly the part I described.

Pinchas Zukerman once described calming a warbling wolf note on his Guarnarius on a damp day by pushing a wine cork betwween the chinrest and the top plate.

BTW, I think C# is rather high for a wolf-tone: a rather stiff violin, perhaps?

February 4, 2019, 3:58 PM · Many thanks for all the comments. I will do some research on the wolf tones and try some of these recommendations! Very fascinating effect physics wise - if only I could turn it off and on at will. Will try to remove


Edited: February 4, 2019, 4:06 PM · http://krentzstringworks.com/innovations/modulator/

After fighting cello wolf tones for 60 years I found this KRENTZ device to be the device that really (REALLY) works. It can also be used to improve the tone of some instruments - even those without wolf tones. There are violin (and viola) versions as well as the cello version - the smaller ones are less expensive. I actually use them on all 3 types of instruments, some for wolf elimination and some for tone improvement (and some for both).

This device acts in principle as Adrian discussed (about his "blob") but with an added resonation - AND it is made to be moved about very, very easily. In a way it is as if the maker were able to get back inside the instrument and re-graduate the top plate.

Edited: February 4, 2019, 7:11 PM · A few random thoughts (late at night - yawn!) . . .
It might be worth having the bridge and sound post checked out. The bridge is an important vibrating part of the whole setup, so should not be ignored when investigating wolf notes. I've found that a mute on the bridge can have an effect, so try that.

The A-string should be looked at, there could be a fault that manifests as a wolf. If it does, then changing the string might help. In this connection, try playing the same C# on the D-string, and also the C# an octave below on the G, to see what happens.

On the violin, the wolf (or a small pack of them) is usually found on the G-string at the start of the 2nd octave, so there you can have a wolf on a G#, A, A#, or B. I've long found that using a gut G-string (a low tension string) greatly reduces the incidence of these wolves, so the phenomenon may be related to string tension as well.

February 4, 2019, 10:03 PM · $300 for a violin is so cheap you should be glad you only have one bad note.
So by being cheap about it, now you have to spend time and energy figuring out how to fix it.
Edited: February 4, 2019, 10:27 PM ·

Some time ago, I had a similar problem, but not as severe as yours. I was able to control it by trying a different E-string. A luthier told me once, that he saw the problem go away when he had his client try another bow.

Edited: March 4, 2019, 11:39 AM · Spending time and energy in this case is actually a useful learning experience, not least from the comments.
March 4, 2019, 1:31 PM · Hi,

It has happened to me suddenly on my concert instrument where there was a bizarre buzz on F# and C# that I just couldn't figure out. Turns out that it was caused by the chinrest being loose a tiny, almost imperceptible minuscule amount. Once it was tightened ever so slightly, it solved the issue. So, I don't know if you checked for that, but maybe that could be one cause (aside from a wolf).


March 4, 2019, 2:14 PM · In addition to the chinrest, check the fine tuners. I'd also recommend carefully going all the way around the perimeter of the instrument, top and back, pulling the plates away from the sides to see if you can find any open seams, however small those openings might be. And if you find any openings, don't let your local handyperson glue it, because they'll almost certainly use the wrong glue. Take it to the violin shop.

Having said that, that c-c# area tends to be problematic for wolf tones.

March 6, 2019, 10:07 AM · "$300 for a violin is so cheap you should be glad you only have one bad note.
So by being cheap about it, now you have to spend time and energy figuring out how to fix it. "

Needlessly rude.

March 6, 2019, 10:45 AM · Demian, I don't see this as being rude, as much as educational.

While I might be one of those weird people who is often tempted to drive 30 miles to save five bucks on a purchase, I also realize that I will suffer a loss by doing so. And that's not even considering any loss of work time, only estimates of vehicle cost per mile.

March 6, 2019, 11:07 AM · Hi Sine,

Please check, if there is a small fault on the back of the violin, that could cause the problem.

Sometimes this fault appears on the back of the violin, and sometimes on the front. The subject is the wolf note. So, accordingly, there must be some sort of metaphysical correlation between the wood itself, and the sound derived from that wood.

The wolf note, is, normally caused by a lot of reasons, and one of them might be a fault in the wood structure. The cellular structure of the wood.

hope you don't take it seriously what I'm writing here......

March 6, 2019, 11:22 AM · There are plenty of people who might like to try their hand at the violin for whom $300 is a lot of money. Let them eat cake I guess.

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