Clean sound is elusive.

Edited: April 23, 2020, 8:39 AM · After I retired 2 years ago, I picked up my long ignored student violin which I received new as a gift in 1973, a Karl Meisel factory fiddle. Since resuming my practice, I have used Dominant, Vision and, presently, Eudoxa heavy gauge strings. I am working on more advanced pieces, some of which are traditionally played in upper positions, particularly on the G: Salut d’Amour, Air on the G, Wilhelmj arrangement. My intonation is not perfect, but improving, but I am having trouble getting a clean tone in the upper 5th position and above on the G, D and A.
I know to play with the bow closer to the bridge, but I am wondering if there is anything I can do to the setup to make the higher range ring clear. My bridge is not warped or leaning, the sound post has never fallen, the vibrating string length is 32.8cm and string heights are appropriate according to the posts of experts in this forum. Any advice would be appreciated.

Also, what features of a better violin lend to the clarity of the upper register? Is it the wood, the contours or thickness or a combination of these or something completely different?

Replies (12)

April 22, 2020, 6:18 PM · get a better violin
April 22, 2020, 6:24 PM · I agree with Lyndon about this. Most factory-produced student violins are not really capable of producing a clean tone in high positions. If you're playing in 5th position, that grade of violin is holding you back.
Edited: April 22, 2020, 6:46 PM · Until you're ready to upgrade your violin I would recommend lighter gauge strings, which in my experience help tone production in the higher reaches of the lower strings especially. Heavy gauge strings can sometimes adversely affect the resonance of the instrument (again, personal experience).
April 22, 2020, 7:14 PM · Thanks to all, I will try the lighter strings first.
April 22, 2020, 7:29 PM · The one thing you can try is to pull the post out a bit tighter. This works with good violins.
April 22, 2020, 8:06 PM · And don't press quite so hard on your bow. Seriously, even if you think you're not pressing very hard, try pressing less.
April 22, 2020, 9:48 PM · A lighter gauge or different brand of E string. The second half of the E string should not feel too stiff when you playing those high notes. And, you have probably already outgrown that student grade fiddle.
April 23, 2020, 8:41 AM · Thanks for the input. What is it about a better instrument that permits the clear tone up high?
Edited: April 23, 2020, 9:13 AM · After giving away my first violin (Chinese factory job), I went straight to a 100+ year old violin from my grandfather's attic. What a difference. Shopping for an older violin saves any fretting (excuse the pun) over how/when a new instrument will sound after it is played in for 2-3 years, and the sound is mellow rather than newly bright! One must test high on the G string to find the right instrument.
April 23, 2020, 10:47 AM · Dear Paul, I tried a lighter bow and what an improvement.

Dear Michael, I have never adjusted the sound post and am somewhat intimidated by it. Since I am otherwise pleased with the tone, I will probably not attempt your suggestion and risk other problems.

Edited: April 23, 2020, 1:14 PM · A lot of it has to do with good bowing technique IMO. Above 5th there is little to no tolerance for less than perfect technique or intonation. Sure a $30K+ instrument will make it easier, but good players will pull a good sound way up on the fingerboard with just about any instrument, therefore blaming the instrument isn't necessarily the only answer. What makes an instrument good high up? You name it, good wood, good craftmanship, good design, good setup, age (arguably), good well matched strings; then add good bow, good technique, good and right amount of rosin, the height of the tide and phase of the moon!
April 23, 2020, 5:37 PM · Roger, thanks for the reply. As I keep working at it, I am finding that what you say is true.

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