Buzzing G & Strings

Edited: July 1, 2019, 8:59 PM · So about a month after my violin returned from being serviced, the G string is buzzing again. My teacher doesn't know if it's the strings or the violin, he's good at figuring oddities out but he's unsure on this one. A month ago they dressed the keyboard, adjusted the notches on the nut, as well as the bridge and sound-post. Thankfully, my teacher tells me that it isn't as noticeable a few feet away as it is under my ear

I guess this is a two-fold question:

1. Are some strings more prone to buzzing than others? I only hear this on the G and in 3rd position, my teacher hears it in all positions (guess I'm just used to hearing it in 1st).

2. If 1 = true, then are some strings less prone, or is this totally dependent on the specific violin?

3. How sensitive are gut strings to changes in weather/humidity?

Based on a previous thread where many of you commented (thanks), and input from my teacher, I think I will try the EP Gold or the PI Reds. Hoping new strings will calm the buzzing/whatever that sound is. I'm am a bit leery of the EP as I keep reading how short lived they are, even though my luthier recommended them and have read the PI Reds may well work for me.

AND Shar has a sale...

Replies (28)

July 1, 2019, 8:25 PM · Catherine - I have never had a buzzing string, so your post puzzles me. However, you have my sympathy.

I guess my first question would be: have you had this discussion with your luthier? I would take your violin to him/her, play it, and let him/her hear the buzzing. Then ask how to fix it. Given the strings you use, Dominants, which millions of violinists have used in the past, it seems unlikely that they are the culprit. It may be something with the violin (open seam?) or even something as simple as where your mute sits if you keep it on the violin (if mine moves up the strings a bit towards the bridge, I can get a kind of buzzing). However, your luthier is in the best position to advise after hearing the buzzing and watching the instrument as you play. Good luck!

On the question of particular strings, gut tends to be more sensitive to humidity changes, although these days, it is more stable than it was, particularly if you use wound gut, e.g., Pirastro Passiones. EPs also tend to be brighter, and certainly brighter than Dominants, although how this would play out on your violin is unknown. Again, your luthier may be able to tell you whether EPs are likely to be a good choice.

Edited: July 1, 2019, 9:00 PM · They just had it a couple weeks ago for well over a week. I don't use a mute. To me it sounds more like growling than buzzing, that's what my teacher calls it. I don't know what wolf tones sounds like but if it IS a wolf, it's the entire blasted pack of them...

I still need a new set of strings so will take advantage of Shar's sale and call my music store tomorrow to see if I can set an appointment to meet with one of their two main luthiers so they can hear this in person. Normally they have other staff who receive the instruments and take information, the luthiers remain behind the scene, as it were.

July 1, 2019, 9:07 PM · The string might be to low and hitting the fingerboard, if so find a better luthier!!
July 1, 2019, 9:18 PM · The tailpiece is also a prime spot for buzzing.

I had a mysterious buzz on my D string a while back. Turned out to be the ball end on my E string rattling around.

Edited: July 1, 2019, 9:22 PM · Lyndon, starting to wonder the same thing - but there aren't too many options here and, of course. I've a maintenance agreement. They DID take care of the problem for a few weeks at least, perhaps this is another issue. It IS interesting that new Dominants seemed to take 3 weeks to settle in, and whatever it was didn't return until after my strings settled in (tuning became stable). I don't think Dominants are supposed to take that long to settle in?

They did dress the fingerboard down last month and adjusted other things.

July 1, 2019, 9:21 PM · Cotton - did it actually sound like buzzing or like growling?
July 1, 2019, 9:28 PM · I know you just got your violin back from the luthier and not eager to go back there. But things can change especially in the summer with the humidity. Your best bet is to go back and get a proper diagnosis.

On your own, however, one thing you can do is play your violin with the buzzing and have someone else press on various spots on your violin. For example grip the violin by the rib systematically all the way around the violin, pressing gently on the tail piece, fingerboard, etc. It's possible your luthier cut your nut notches too low and your string is buzzing against your fingerboard as you play. New strings will not solve that. Fix this issue before you invest in strings.

Edited: July 1, 2019, 9:33 PM · Loose purfling, peg ornaments, or open seams can cause buzzing. Also if your bridge is not straight, that could be a reason it buzzes. Take it to your luthier and have him/her check for those things.
July 1, 2019, 9:36 PM · To test Lyndon's hypothesis-- slide a business card under the string and move it towards the nut. Typically you should be able to slide it all the way to the nut without it binding.
July 1, 2019, 9:49 PM · Thanks for the tips, I will hold off on ordering new strings until this is figured out. Earlier this evening I looked at the distance between the G and fingerboard - it looked clear to me but I'm no expert. Obviously I can't both look at it and play at the same time - but it was fine for 3 weeks...

I won't drop it off without speaking specifically to one of their two main lutheirs so I can demonstrate the problem.

July 1, 2019, 10:05 PM · Measure how many mm the G string is above the fingerboard at the bridge end of the fingerboard, should not be less than 4.7mm from the fingerboard to the bottom of the string.
July 2, 2019, 3:33 AM · Do you have tailpiece fine tuners for all the strings, or just the e-string? In any case, check to be sure that all the tuner parts are screwed down snug. You or your teacher probably already thought of this, so forgive me if I'm just pointing out the obvious.
July 2, 2019, 5:46 AM · Thanks Lyndon and Mark - will do. More news as there is some - thanks to all!
July 2, 2019, 6:58 AM · Play scales up the G string to see exactly where the buzz starts and where it stops. I think it is possible that if the luthier did not scoop the fingerboard correctly when "dressing" it there might be a local irregularity interfering with your string. At least that is the first thing I would suspect.
Edited: July 2, 2019, 7:25 AM · Thanks Andrew - according to my teacher it happens at every note on the string. Apparently I've become so accustomed to it in 1st position that I don't "hear" it - until C# (G3). As I heard no difference in 1st position when I brought it home (though G3 and higher was fine for 3 weeks), and he hears it at all notes, that makes me suspect both Lyndon and you have hit on it.

Also given that I've heard no change in 1st position (outside of C#), I suspect that it came home with me with this problem, to some degree, already there. I didn't purchase it new, it was built in 2015. So those notes would just sound "normal" to me, and my teacher said they weren't bad, but still "buzzed".

July 2, 2019, 7:40 AM · If paying loudly makes the buzz worse and playing quietly makes the buzz go away, that would probably be your fingerboard too close.
July 2, 2019, 8:28 AM · A string height issue would only show up when playing loudly; a fingerboard dressing issue would only show up on a specific note, and both of these would be an unmistakable buzz and not a "growl". So I would look elsewhere for the source of this mystery.

A buzz, or atonal noise, would come from something loose or hitting, and that could be anywhere. Open seam, tailpiece, fine tuner, etc.

A "growl" could be a tonal feature of the string type, or even of the instrument itself. Fiddlers like instruments that growl.

It's really hard to pin down anything remotely with this wide range of possibilities and rather vague description.

Edited: July 2, 2019, 4:17 PM · It is consistent regardless of how loud, or softly I play. It did go away for a few weeks after my recent service - but they also did change my strings to a new set of Dominants at that time. To me it really does sound like a growl that almost echos. However, words on a forum post pale when attempting to describe it.

The "simple" solution would be that my violin hates the Dominant G, or something loose. If it turns out to be a tonal feature of my violin as Don indicates is possible...well...I will wait to cross that bridge only if I must. That would be sad.

July 2, 2019, 4:19 PM · I've an appointment with the luthier who did the last work on my violin tomorrow afternoon, so we will see how it goes. They are being quite responsive, and thanks for your comments on this.
July 3, 2019, 3:25 PM · The verdict is in - from the same lutheir who did the work last month. The fingerboard "scoop" is the culprit. Apparently it's impacting all of the strings, but the G is the one really noticeable. He said that he would make this a priority. There was nothing else wrong with it that he could find, just the fingerboard itself.

There actually is a point at which the sound goes away, but rather higher than 3rd position...

I do have a loaner with which to practice. Doesn't sound as nice as mine, but it's something with which to practice which is what matters. Hopefully it will stay in tune longer than the last loaner... Thanks again for the advice, new strings would certainly not have made the slightest difference!

July 3, 2019, 4:00 PM · I hope hes not charging you as you said he already planed the fingerboard once. Should have got it right the first time.
Edited: July 3, 2019, 4:27 PM · Agreed Lyndon - I was careful not to point the finger in our discussion as I didn't think that a productive approach but I also have a service agreement - so there was no charge last time or this time. I suspect over-work the culprit - he has a great reputation.
Edited: July 10, 2019, 5:30 PM · Reporting on the end of this story. My violin returned from the shop today, and it sounds much better than before (and it sounded pretty good before - outside of the buzzing G string). The Luthier told me that he hadn't addressed the scoop last month - he had done more general polishing and some light dressing at that time that he thought would be enough, but of course it wasn't. This was a full planing and scoop reconfiguration along with the other things associated with that work.

The violin has more resonance and a slightly more rich sound - at least under my ear. He said the fingerboard problem affected all strings, the G was just most obvious. He also gave me more string suggestions, I just need to make up my mind - I really want to experiment with non-Dominants to find out what both I, and my violin, likes.

Another difference is my Piastro Gold E now whistles - at least I think that's what it's doing - will ask my teacher when we restart Monday. There is an easy solution if that's what it is. I really hope that's what it is...

July 10, 2019, 6:16 PM · Are you sure your Pirastro Gold E string wasn't whistling before? Any plain steel string or coated steel string will whistle due to the density of only steel reducing the string diameter to the bare minimum, and the smaller the diameter, the more whistle prone. I don't know the exact science but I'm sure someone here can explain. Anyway, if the whistling is enough of a problem for you to want to sacrifice the brilliance and penetration of steel, then you will need to choose an aluminium wound, Warchal Amber, or gut E string in order to increase the diameter and thus eliminate whistling.
July 10, 2019, 6:17 PM · James I've had the least amount of whistling with the plain Goldbrokat E, and the most with the PI platinum. I think it's just violin-and-player-dependent.
Edited: July 10, 2019, 6:43 PM · I'm unsure if it's actually whistling or something else, hopefully the former. It's not very loud at all, and only in 3rd position. Perhaps I just didn't notice it before. I've not been in 3rd for very long and possibly I'm doing something odd with my bow. Surely after 2 luthier visits in 4 weeks it isn't anything else!
July 15, 2019, 8:17 PM · As it turns out, the problem was with my bow, not my violin. No whistling at all. The Luthier reconfigured the scoop of my fingerboard, and now I'm hearing some things that I wasn't able to hear before - such was the good news from my teacher this evening. It sounds much better now as can be imagined. Next step is to put my new set of Vision Solos on this violin and see what I, and the violin, think about them.
July 16, 2019, 8:44 PM · Glad it all worked out. Good luck with the new strings.

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