Overtones vs whistling
I've hesitated bringing this up, but I am seeking a better understanding of what might be going on. My teacher can't hear it as we've been doing Zoom lessons for 2 months now, and it's anyone's guess how long that will be necessary.
My intermediate student violin just got a spring service. New bridge, significant work on the fingerboard, sound-post adjustment (of course), and I gave them my replacement set of Vision Solos to switch them out while they were at it. I am thankful for that annual maintenance fee I give them, it's far less than one average servicing.
My violin sounds much better, I had not realized just how far the sound had deteriorated. I still, however, have that airy/hissing sound on A and E in 3rd position and I hear more of it as I get further up the keyboard. (just experimenting, we are focusing on 2nd and 3rd right now, no higher)
Someone at the violin shop told me that I was hearing overtones, and frankly I am unsure if anyone else can hear it more than a couple feet away.
So my question is this - what is the difference between "overtones" and "hissing"? I thought them to be different things but are they? Would it help to try different strings for the A and E (full set of Vision Solos)? I do like the sound of these strings - though I could experiment with the E I suppose.
Thoughts? I'm likely overthinking as usual :-)
Overtones are the tones that are present when a note is played (the fundamental). Depending on the setup and the instrument itself, certain related tones will be audible in addition to the fundamental, and they add richness to the sound. However, when things are out of adjustment, certain tones that don’t mesh as well with the fundamental can come out and detract from the sound as they fight the fundamental for dominance.
It happens regardless of bow, (main bow is a JP Corona, backup - Codabow Prodigy), or really strings. Now that I think about this, it was one of the reasons I moved from Dominants with an EP Gold E to Vision Solo). I do hear it less with my Vision Solo and JP Corona combo. I did try out quite a few bows when I was bow shopping.
This isn't whistling, but an almost subliminal airy hiss on both A and E strings (it starts higher on the A than E). I've heard what a whistling string sounds like but this seems different. It has been duplicated by others at my violin shop which is when they told me it was overtones.
"It's overtones" is a fail-safe answer, because any hissing sound or distortion can be expressed as a linear combination of overtone frequencies. That's just Fourier analysis -- which sounds fancy but isn't very helpful to your question.
It sounds like string hiss, and I've never been able to eliminate it when it appears. I'd love to hear a *specific* way to make it go away. However, it doesn't travel but a couple of feet, and no one in an audience is going to hear it.
Be sure your strings are clean (wiped to be microfiber-clean at least), that your bow is not overloaded with rosin and that your bow is moving perpendicular to the strings. Overtone frequencies should be multiples of the frequency of the note's fundamental (fifths or octaves). There also can be high frequencies due to rotational vibrational frequencies (and God knows what else). If your violin is producing audible overtones at frequencies that are too high I would think your soundpost should be moved to reduce that - or use different strings - or "surgery."
Paul - I heard it before, and it never varies with the pitch I'm playing. New strings, new bows, newly adjusted everything...You are probably right in calling it bow noise, I had not heard that different sticks can make a difference. It IS decreased with my Jon Paul Corona over the Codabow Prodigy, but it's still there.
Michael, thanks for your input. If I could just ignore it - and I think I can these days, but it is an irritant.
If you’re confident that it’s NOT the bow, the rosin, the strings, or your technique, have it adjusted. Based on your description, it sounds as though the sound post could use adjustment or replacement.
It may just be something you are noticing that you hadn't before, as the player will hear a lot of things that the audience won't. I hear a little bit of hiss at certain bow pressures high up on the e string. Depending on how unpleasant you find it, you may want to record yourself and get a sense of whether this is something that is only apparent to you, the player, or whether an audience will hear it. If you don't hear it on the recording, then that is a good indication that there isn't a problem with your equipment. I would check that out before going down a setup rabbit hole.
I have a hunch that Michael and I are thinking of the same basic sound. The hissing noise only occurs when you play (!duh!) so it's an unproductive noise sound that's coming from the contact of the bow with the string (sorry for being "master of the obvious"). Whether the bow or the string is at fault I cannot say. The reason I said "bow noise" is because I've heard it discussed the most in the context of shopping for bows, and I've heard that term before. That seems to be where people start to notice it, but again that's just a lot of conjecture that I can't really defend or even rationalize. Michael is a luthier, so maybe he notices it more in the context of changing strings, since that's maybe something he would be doing a lot. Or maybe "string hiss" is something different. Michael will know better than I. All I can do is guess.
Good advice all, and I do live entirely alone so for now, I won't be able to get another's take on it. It isn't THAT bad, fortunately.
Overtones, Whistling, and Hiss;-- are three separate things. Overtones are of course the string vibrating at a half, third, fourth, etc, length, producing frequencies that are double, triple,etc. Overtones are good, we do not hear them separately, but hear them as part of the tone spectrum, the timbre, that makes a violin sound different from an oboe or clarinet. Whistling or squeaking can happen to any one when the base of the first finger accidently touches the open E, or the bow passes lightly on a down-bow slur from an A-string note to the open E. It is a longitudinal spinning, torsional vibration of the string, instead of the normal sideways vibration. It also has something to do with the construction of the E string. The Warchal Amber E is successful at suppressing it by putting a twist in the E string (in the opposite direction of the spin?). Hiss is unavoidable. It is the disorganized very high frequency "white noise" of the rosin rubbing on the string. Unresponsive cheap instruments or high tension steel strings will have more of it than high quality violins. It is not a big problem. Straight gut strings will hiss more; it's part of their charm. It bothers the player because our left ear is only a few inches away from it. The audience will just hear a clean attack. In a recording studio you get rid of it by moving the microphone farther out. Use a plug in the left ear. It cuts down on the hiss and preserves your hearing.
Joel - thank you for breaking down the difference between the three. That is the clearest description of the differences that I've yet read.
There is a big difference in tension between Dominants and Vision Solos. Dominants are on the lower end of the tension spectrum, whereas Vision Solo is one of the highest-tension string sets on the market.
Very interesting in the tension difference between Dominants and Vision Solos. The Solos sound so much better on my violin that it seems quite probable that the hiss is the same with the VS but it irritates me less because the overall tone is better. I am 99% certain that I'm the only person hearing the hiss and I can separate the hiss from the notes played - if that makes sense.
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