New violin sound

Edited: March 31, 2021, 4:25 PM · Hi everyone,

Just bought a (newly built) violin which I like in all respects except... that is sounds « new » and in particular on bad days it tends to sound bit « pinched ». I now call it Daffy Duck ^^

But what bothers me, it that its perceived sound (by me - it’s the only instrument this happens with) seems to change widely several times a day :// (from acceptable to very pinched on the A string in particular). Originally I thought this was nothing to worry about and that the sound would open up over a few months and I guess it already did since I got it a month ago, but it’s something beyond that.

To my question: have you ever seen a lot of variance in sound with new violins? What in your experience causes that sort of « pinched sounds »? (I switched the bridge once and the tailpiece three times with mixed results, but always that pinched sound every other time i pick it up) Would it be something obvious like temperature, humidity? None of my other violins are that temperamental though so I discarded rhat... thanks for your thoughts!

I will still keep on playing it and won’t return it because there is something about the core sound that I enjoy with this one.

Replies (19)

March 31, 2021, 4:48 PM · Can you be more specific with "newly built" violin?

Since you seem to be an experienced player/buyer, I would suggest going to the place you bought it from and having them look at the setup. Changing the bridge or tailpiece is NOT something I would expect to need to happen when buying a new instrument and should be really reserved for fine-tuning setups rather than something fundamentally wrong with the instrument.

March 31, 2021, 5:10 PM · I would have my violin person see if adjusting the soundpost, which I assume you already had your violin person do.
Edited: April 1, 2021, 6:50 AM · Newly built as in construction finished December 2020 and purchased March 2021.
I am asking as the one good luthier still working in my vicinity changed the bridge and soundpost to a slightly shorter one to broaden the sound somehow but I have to say there is so much variance on a daily basis that it’s hard to tell and although things, still 80% of the issue is there...

Part of the issue is I think that it’s hard to demonstrate fully because it’s changeable.

April 1, 2021, 3:24 AM · Which notes on the A string?
Edited: April 1, 2021, 5:02 AM · I have to wonder, what is it about a solid piece of carpentry presumably strung with new, high quality strings that can possibly change several times a day? Whenever I find I'm unsatisfied with the sound of a violin that I usually love, after eliminating temperature and atmospheric conditions my prime suspect is always the player. In my experience it can take quite a while to discover how to get the best out of an unfamiliar violin.
April 1, 2021, 5:42 AM · Yes, Steve, I ask which notes because I have to be very careful with my pinky on my D string not to get a bizarre sound (I also have to make sure I'm not bowing too far from the bridge). In the past I have found A strings to be temperamental, but I like my current Dominant Light A. I have also had odd C#'s possibly due to a couple of afterlengths resonant on C#.
April 1, 2021, 5:52 AM ·
1) Is it reproducible with different bows?

2) Can listeners hear the difference?

3) Is it reproducible by other players?

4) Does your point-of-contact "change wildly" several times a day?

Edited: April 1, 2021, 7:03 AM · Lots of interesting ideas, thanks!
- Strings are normal Dominants, I like them as they tend to be « honest ».
- mostly the first octave on the A string, very clear on the open A string, but it is also relatively clear on B, C, D and on other strings although less annoying there.
- I find the A strings sound to be always the toughest sound test for any violin. i had sometimes thought of getting stronger strings to sort the problem but it never occurred to me to try lighter A strings. good suggestion.
- I have tried with my three bows (one Arcus carbon and two varying quality pernambuccos) and same overall phenom with varying degrees of incisiveness.
- I have another violin which by contrast has none of these issues (the A sounded always shrill on the other, but never « pinched », works nicely with the new Dominant Pro A, may well try this with the new violin too)
- bowing: tough to be sure I am always consistent ?? but I try, will pay attention to that
- same issue when violon held at chest level
- due to covid I have not had it played by someone else but a bowmaker heard it and he thought it was also pinched. i purchased a bow which »covers » a little the pinched edge but it’s not a solution. - just a cover up

You guys have just decided me to rebook a meeting with my luthier to have him work on it further! Thanks for the thoughts!

Edited: April 1, 2021, 7:28 AM · "it never occurred to me to try lighter A strings. good suggestion."

Well, the violin came supplied with Dominant Medium G and D, Dominant Light A and Hill E. That was just happenstance.

I get some squealing from the E string and will replace them with standard Dominant Mediums soon - they've been on for 6 months now.

It may just be that I'm now finally getting used to the A string.

Edited: April 1, 2021, 7:29 AM · Change the strings : try another brand. I would be doing that before swapping bridges and tailpieces. Dominants are not the best choice for every violin.
Edited: April 1, 2021, 7:47 AM · Before you spend more time/money with a luthier, I think you should work with a teacher and/or other players to see if it is reproducible due to the player. An experienced teacher could be able to watch you play to hear the phenomena to see if it correlates with something you are doing unconsciously.

But if I had a new violin that I had nick-named "Daffy Duck" because of this problem, I'd return it right away. Life is too short.

Edited: April 1, 2021, 8:02 AM · In October I bought an instrument built in August 2020. The sound was fine when I bought it but it changed dramatically over three or four months, what they call "opening up" I suppose and now sounds much "larger." At four months it stabilized. It is strung with Dominants and sounds very nice. Its sound changes slightly according to temperature and humidity. It's at its best above 50% humidity which is what it is here in the summer.
April 1, 2021, 8:24 AM · Is there still a lot of pectin in the pores, causing the sound to deteriorate at higher humidities?
April 1, 2021, 9:03 AM · Solution: wash your hands after you've been eating jam!
Edited: April 1, 2021, 9:33 AM · In 1970, when they first were marketed, I tried Dominants on the violin I have had since 1952. To me the violin sounded pitiful with the Dominants compared to the way they had sounded for nearly 20 years with Eudoxa gut-core strings. So I have never since tried Dominants on that violin. When Tonicas were introduced, I tried them and that is the way I went. But I have spent lots of money since then as different strings came out, always with some improvement, and have finally ended up, these past several years, with Evah Pirazzi Gold and a Warchal Amber E string (although it was also good (maybe better) with a Peter Infeld Platinum-plated E string).

In addition to that bad experience with the Dominants this violin was also underpowered with the Godbrokat/Tricolore-gut combo and Warchal Amber or Timbre strings. However, two of my other violins are the best they have ever been with Warchal Timbre strings. (By the way, Jay Ifshin (of Ifshin Violins) told me this is the best of my 4 violins and he and I have played it in the same room at the same time we also played on a 1698 Stradivarius and an Andrea Guarnerius - and I went home without jealousy! That may have been in the time frame I was trying out Oblgato strings on it - or maybe Infeld Blue/Red.)

I have found that with some violins (and the accelerating introduction of new strings to market) finding the best strings for a particular fiddle can be a never ending and very costly endeavor.

I have also had long, long searches for optimal viola and cello strings.

50 years and (possibly still) counting!

April 1, 2021, 3:05 PM · In addition to the above comments; with a new instrument the first year is a break-in period, the wood flexes, resonates, adapts to your playing. After that first year take it back to the maker or shop for a complete check-up and don't be surprised if it gets a new bridge or sound-post.
April 1, 2021, 6:03 PM · All super helpful and thoughtful! Thanks everyone - will mull over and implement suggestions!
Edited: April 1, 2021, 7:31 PM · The only other suggestion I can make that hasn’t already been mentioned is perhaps trying a steel A string. That might give the more resonate sound your seeking with this fiddle.
April 6, 2021, 2:19 PM · My currently favorite luthier (I have access to and have pplayed his instuments) is very clear on the violin sound: sucking ages with the instrument.

If the violin does not speak today it will not speak tomorrow. Strings will not radically change the sound of the violin. Keep the dominants, have soundpost and bridge adjusted and observe the changes. If you do not like it now, you never will. Take the violin back or sell it.

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