Brighten/open the instrument

June 12, 2019, 6:48 AM · Hi there,

I had a great opportunity to try different instruments and bows next lesson. It starts me to think more deeply about my sound. I was thinking a little bit about it before.

I think that the sound of my violin is something I can call closed a little bit. Especially in deeper tones (G, D) strings. I had a tendency to use warmer strings. Now I have Warchal Amethyst with Goldbrokat (mid) E.

My A string was broken so I changed it for what I had during the weekend, the Corelli Crystal A. It sounds amazing, looking forward to trying the whole set.

My violin is 1800$ instrument made in 1915 in my country (now Czech Republic). Sound is pretty decent for that price. I am focusing more on dynamics now and I am looking for more projection, mid-powered sound and little bit more reaction to dynamics.

Do you have any tips for other strings to try?

Do you think that it can be possible to tweak by a luthier? I am going to visit him next month for periodic instrument check/cleaning. So I can debate about it.


Replies (19)

June 12, 2019, 7:35 AM · Find the best luthier you can afford and get them to adjust the tone. An excellent luthier will most likely know better then most people on the site excluding luthiers. If you haven’t had good tone adjustments done than having them done will certainly improve the sound of your instrument. A small trick that may work for your violin ( it works on the ones I use it on) is playing false harmonics in the first position. For example the e,d,c# on a string and this has a tendency to open the sound up.
Edited: June 12, 2019, 8:52 AM · Can easily achieve a more open sound by moving the soundpost closer to the bridge. If that doesn't do it for you, you can shave some material off the face of the bridge or shorten your tailgut.

If that doesn't work, just play closer to the bridge.

June 12, 2019, 10:01 AM · In my experience with many violins new and old, I think that a violin sounds like it sounds. If you want something different, you have to get something else.

All of these changes--strings, moving the soundest--are marginal ones with other implications. Moving the soundest, for example, may fix one problem but introduce another. New strings always make a violin sound bright, responsive, and lively---for a few days until they're not new anymore. Whatever minuscule improvement is made will fade from memory and you will still want something else after having spent a lot of $$.

June 12, 2019, 11:12 AM · In my opinion, "brighter" sound may stand for a more "focused" sound, more present, more harmonics.

I hate to repeat myself, but investigating into a way for tailoring the afterlenght of the dead part of the strings may be the key ..........

Just this morning, after about a week i didn't touch anything, i re-tuned lightly the afterlenght of my G string (as Cotton knows, i have a tunable tailpiece :) ). Weather is getting hotter and humid in my area, so these tweaking are obvious and desiderable.

I remember very well when i used "normal" tailpieces: sound production, regarding harmonics and focus, was variable in periods and quite temperamental. And maybe this is the case of the OP too......

June 13, 2019, 1:24 AM · Thanks to all, you are right everyone :)

@Mark Kliesen:
I have a great luthier. He checked my violin before and he told me hints for improvement but he is preferring not solve problem that does not exist. He told me the "a lot of damage is made by proactive luthier". So he will be doing things as soon as I have some problem or wish. Of course he is fixing real problems with instrument. So I think he has a lots of hints to do, it is special guy, great enthusiastic visited by great violinists with great instruments. That sounds great, I will ask him for small adjustments and consult with him. I will try the trick at home today. Thanks!

@Cotton Mather:
I will ask my luthier, I am not so skilled like you :) I am really not so handy doing things. So I don't dare to do maintenance on violin. I am using wide range playing distances from the bridge, for the color of the tone and for the volume. Thanks!

@Scott Cole:
I am not expecting a 180 degree change. Just a little bit improvement, maybe not improvement but to reach the maximum of my violin. I had tried 5 or 6 brands of the strings on this particular violin. And there is really difference for me. Some are better some are worst. Even little adjustments can use whole potential of the violin. I know and understand that the temperament and soul of the instrument is unchangeable, but I know I really love the sense of the sound. Hard to tell but I harmonize with most character of sound of my violin, this closed thing is something "on the top" just a little bit something like you forgot to release hand brake in the car just for a little tiny bit. So I think and hope it can be improved. I really don't want alter sound to the something different. Thanks!

@Marco Brancalion:
Yes, for me too, I would like to have more harmonic and dynamic space, better reaction to the string vibration maybe. This is interresting topic, I did not elaborate with it. Now it is humidity decreasing in my country, we have a dry summers. My violin usually sounds better in dry environment (around 50%, during winter time we have around 80% home). During winter it sounds duller and more closed, but I know the reason. I have a normal ebony hill style tailpiece with fine tuners on A and E. I will do my research (I love to know about the things). Thanks!

Thanks all for hints and points

June 13, 2019, 3:37 AM · Regarding the isolated argument of "dynamic space", as you put it:
an investigation on a better position of the soundpost (how it's set, more or less "firm") could change your perceptions.
Tell your luthier about it.
June 13, 2019, 3:40 AM · @Cotton Mather: usually is a trustworthy forum and gives lots of good advice, but such kind of suggestions make it less valuable for unexperienced members.
If a student of mine would follow this kind of advice and damage the instrument, I would ask you to take responsibility for the damage.
Please think before typing.

June 13, 2019, 3:56 AM · good point!
June 13, 2019, 5:31 AM · Vision Titanium Solo will surely brighten up your instrument. They will also sound louder, however...

If your instrument is really responsive these strings will sound shrill for the first week or 2.

They will - however - not change the general responsiveness and general tone feel of the instrument much. They will make it sound slightly more modern (focused).

Have a go at some other bows too. I have a bright and a dark bow that make just as much difference as the strings.

But ultimately - it's about the fiddle.

June 13, 2019, 7:22 AM · @Tobias Seyb:

the luthiery mafia is only good for making people spend money for little things they can learn to do themselves, with experience and time.

Being very very careful, and knowing how to do things (and lots of information are available everywhere), there's no reason for avoiding tweaking instruments, without damages.

I always feel sad for violinists that come out with the usual phrases "Me? are you mad? i'll never touch the soundpost" and similar things........ I know lots that won't even change the strings by themselves........
Come on........

June 13, 2019, 7:30 AM · And after these amateur idiots have really ruined something, they bring it to us luthiers and beg us to fix it.
June 13, 2019, 8:45 AM · Considering someone as an idiot automatically says something for me, regarding your way of thinking.
It doesn't make me happy.
June 13, 2019, 8:51 AM · If you think you can teach yourself to be a luthier in less than a year, or several years, you are an idiot.
June 13, 2019, 9:09 AM · Having served an 8 year apprenticeship in luthiery I remember full well how many years it took me to be able to confidently and professionally fit soundposts and Bridges, fitting soundposts is actually one of the more difficult things about violin repair, repairing cracks is in many ways easier.
June 13, 2019, 9:09 AM · Marco,

I'm a trained instrument maker myself (not violin maker) and have quite a lot of experience.
But I would not touch a sound post on a valuable instrument myself knowing there's a bit more to it than simply "move it towards the bridge".
Most players and especially students don't even have that level of experience or skills.

(Knowing how to tweak instruments is fine, and generally I recommend it.)

I don't agree with the choice of words in Lyndon's comment, but I know exactly what he's talking about.

June 13, 2019, 11:19 AM · Don't worry, Tobias. I believe i know the difference between a safe tweak or a non safe one.
The important thing is to talk about arguments with politeness and cleverness.
So, thank you for your observations, which are reasonable.

Note: i'll try, if i can, to mentally skip all the posts from mr Taylor, from now on.

June 14, 2019, 2:20 AM · @Tony Anzlovar:

Thanks for tips. Definitely, I will try Vision Titanium solo, now I put Corelli crystal because I had them at home. I will see the change. Surprisingly they are commented like warmer. Maybe I was misled by the name :). I will see, visions will be the next try.

I understand the overall sound. And I like my violin, this is just an enhancement, the heart of the sound is nice, and I am not a fan of tweaking it, on any instrument, it is not a good idea, cannot be successful.

Yes, I definitely need a better bow. I "stole" my wife's bow, for now, my sucks :) I am going to hunt bow to buy at the autumn.

@Marco Brancalion:

I can do a lot of things, changing chin rest, changing strings. I do all my maintenance on electric guitars of course. I am not so stupid :) I think I can handle the job replacing or moving soundpost. But just a job to place some matter in some place without effect, just mechanically place into. I think this delicate tuning requires years (tens of years) of skills knowledge and practise. Luthiers have my great respect. I know it was not on me :)

June 14, 2019, 8:45 AM · Anglosaxons say "each one his own"...... :)
Edited: June 14, 2019, 6:28 PM · Mixing string brands helps on some instruments.

Years ago the SHAR (paper) catalog highlighted some paragraphs about the strings their employees chose to use on their own instruments. Almost every one was a mixture of brands.

My last visit to Ifshin Violins shop to was to improve the sound and response of one of my violas. Fortunately the clerk who waited on me was a violist who after playing my viola made some string suggestions for my A and C strings. After putting the new strings on my viola he said "I could perform on this."

There may be more to it tha just changing one string. The strings interact though the bridge and the way it "rocks" due to the "balance" of forces on it caused by each string's tension.

In addition to soundpost adjustments or even replacement, bridge adjustment or replacement can make improvements in the response and sound of an instrument.

Another thing that can be done is regraduation of the spruce top - but it is expensive and risky and probably more costly than the price of the instrument. HOWEVER, a KRENTZ MODULATOR* ("wolf eliminator") may have the same effect on sound as a regraduation and since the Krentz company offers a money-back guarantee, it might be worth a try. I have Krentz modulators on one of my violas, two of my violins and one cello - just for "sound adjustment." I also have the Krentz devices on the other 2 cellos for wolf elimination (the first real wolf solution I found in 60 years of searching). Two of my violins are not helped by the Krentz device - and they don't need any help[, anyway.


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