Wolf tone and string tension
I am trying to find the optimal strings for my viola. I bought it a couple of years ago and it came with Evah Pirazzi strings. I never liked those strings on my violin so I have been trying different strings. I tried Evah Pirazzi Gold, which was better than the regular Evah. And more recently I tried Warchal Amber, but they brought out a wolf on F# on the D string. I tested different D strings and it seemed like the instrument preferred the D to be silver wound – the wolf was much more prominent with aluminium wound D regardless of the brand.
On the violin I have always preferred wound gut strings, so I wanted to try gut on this new viola as well. I bought a set of medium Tricolore. The C and G strings sound wonderful, but the pure gut D really brings out the F# wolf. I changed the D to a silver wound Oliv and that makes the wolf much less prominent. It is still there but it can be handled – it only makes the F# sound a bit more nasal than the surrounding notes.
Today I tried tuning the lower strings (tricolore) down about a whole tone and that makes the wolf go away completely! Also with the whole instrument tuned down a whole tone or a semitone the wolf is gone. This would indicate that the pressure on the bridge is causing the wolf. But I had the impression that Tricolore strings were lower tension than any of the strings mentioned above. Judging from the published tension charts Amber is lower tension than Evah Pirazzi. So I am a puzzled – It looks like either higher or lower tension could be the way out of the wolf zone?
In my experience across many violins, violas, and cellos, lower string tension generally eases wolf tones, but that rule only seems to apply when comparing different gauges of the same brand.
Sounds to me like your soundpost is too tight or your tailpiece is too far back.
Wolf tones occur when the frequency of the note is close to the natural frequency of a body mode, and the shape of the body mode causes it to be loosely coupled to the bridge/strings.
Since 1950, a few months after my cello "career" began I fought cello wolf notes on 1, then 2, and finally 3 cellos using every method and device I could find. It wasn't until I came across the KRENTZ modulator (or "wolf eliminator") that I felt fully successful ( http://krentzstringworks.com/ )
Mr. Three posts above,
A professional CM/soloist/conductor has told me that one trick that works for him if a wolf appears out of the blue in the 2nd octave of the G-string during a performance is to hold the violin tightly for that little period of time. This seems to tie in with Carmen's explanation, but may not work for everybody.
Thank you for the answers. I do have a wolf tone eliminator, but even when tuning it to F# it does not eliminate the wolf.
I have further reduced the G-string wolf on my old violin by replacing the medium tension Chorda D with a spare Savarez light gauge gut D I found in a drawer. The D string is a tricky one to get right tonally on most violins, and I think by making this substitution with a lower tension string I'm moving in the right direction.