strange metallic sound

June 7, 2021, 3:09 PM · I have had fine tuners on my A and E string for some years now. Recently, the open A developed a loud metallic overtone. I thought maybe the fine tuner loosened up with age so I removed it and put the string back on. What this did was move the sound to the open E and made it louder. I replaced the E tuner with a new one but the sound is still there. Changing the two strings made no difference.

I had the violin checked up a month ago and had a small open seam repaired. The sound started about four days ago.

Has anyone experienced this before?

Replies (24)

June 7, 2021, 7:22 PM · Well, it's about that time of year. In all likelihood your soundpost needs a knock or two.

Why was your first guess the fine tuner? (Honest question)

June 7, 2021, 9:41 PM · Hi Cotton. I thought with the fine tuner having been on for so long, that it might have loosened up and I was hearing some vibration. I've had this violin for 12 years and this is the first time hearing something like this.
June 7, 2021, 9:48 PM · Is the fine tuner adjusted so far it is touching the top?
June 7, 2021, 11:10 PM · Hi Lyndon. No. I checked every possibility. On the E string, I tried long and short tuners. that sound is still there.
June 8, 2021, 7:35 AM · Sometimes this can be caused by excessive vibration of the string afterlength: the string between the bridge and tailpiece.

Try draping a mute on the E string afterlength, or fold a small cloth and tuck it under the tailpiece to restrict its vibration. If this stops the excessive overtone ring, then you have identified the problem.

A sound post adjustment, perhaps a tad closer to bridge foot, can sometimes calm down this effect. Also, lengthening the tailpiece gut string to shorten the violin string afterlengths can also help, but this can affect the response of all the strings, so consider it a last resort option.

June 8, 2021, 7:41 AM · Thank you all for your replies. I'm also trying to understand how this happened all of a sudden. The fiddle stays in my music room so there has been no change in humidity or temperature.
June 8, 2021, 8:03 AM · Try putting some thick grease on the internal threads of your fine tuner... the part you tune with, not the part that attaches it to the tailpiece.
June 8, 2021, 8:50 AM · Not sure if you're hearing a buzz or some quality of the tone, but make sure to cut off that stupid little rubber tube on the E string. Also check for any open seams.
Edited: June 8, 2021, 2:37 PM · Thank you for your replies everybody. What I'm hearing is a ringing sound on the open E and A strings when I lift the bow. I tried damping the tailpiece like Carmen suggested and the sound got louder! I was trying to avoid the long drive to Chicago to have it looked at but it looks like I have no choice.
June 8, 2021, 7:45 PM · Hey David, I greased my whole violin like you said, but it still sounds a bit weird. What next?
June 8, 2021, 9:10 PM · It’s interesting that your problem only occurs with the open E and A strings. That allows more energy to get to the pegbox. Can you control the ring by gripping the pegbox? Sometimes the very end of a string that extends through the peg winds up positioned just right (or should I say wrong) so that it can vibrate against the inside of the pegbox, or against another peg, and it wouldn’t have to be the E or A strings. It could be the D or G.
June 8, 2021, 10:02 PM · Hi Mark. Some years back, I had a buzz that turned out to be a long string end contacting the peg box. I'm real careful that the string ends don't touch anything. I don't know what's more annoying, the noise, or not knowing what's causing it.
Edited: June 9, 2021, 5:58 AM · Two other possible sources of a metallic buzz:

Ornaments on the pegs (if your pegs have them).

Wear on the grooves of the upper nut. With use, they can become rounded over on the fingerboard side, no longer providing a clean termination when playing open strings.

Erik, have you tried filling the inside of your violin with whipped cream? (Be careful if you play outside, because this will attract ants and bees.) ;-)

(Attention, kids: Do not fill your violin with whipped cream. I was only kidding.)

June 9, 2021, 8:59 AM · David. Thank You. I looked at the nut and it looks real worn. That has to be the problem.

Miracle whip works better. I'm not kidding.

Edited: June 9, 2021, 2:56 PM · Leon, a quick diagnostic check for that is to place a toothpick under the offending string, shove it up as close to the upper nut as you can, and see if the open-string buzz goes away.
June 9, 2021, 3:20 PM · I realize that OP has already found the likely problem, but I wanted to mention one more potential cause of a buzz. Recently I had an annoying metallic overtone that I heard only on my viola A and D strings for about two days. I eventually discovered that a screw on my shoulder rest, on that side of the instrument, had come loose.
June 9, 2021, 6:47 PM · Thank you again David. That did it. I slid the tip of the toothpick towards the nut as far as it would go and the ringing sound went away. I guess next week I'll have to drive to Chicago.
June 10, 2021, 5:12 AM · A quick fix is to put a small piece of thin leather in the groove(s) of the nut. This also cures the whistling-open-E-when-slurring-from-the-A syndrome, as the open string then behaves more like a fingered note.
June 10, 2021, 5:28 AM · it may well require a new nut, you might have trouble finding a violin shop that will fit a new nut while you wait, so call ahead to try and save yourself a second trip.
June 10, 2021, 9:13 AM · Thank you for the tip Lyndon. It didn't occur to me that they could do it while I'm there.
Edited: June 10, 2021, 9:22 AM · It would be roughly an hours work and two hours for the glue to dry unless they used some kind of modern fast drying glue. I've heard some people use a drop of super glue, I only use hide glue. There is also the possibility if the strings are high enough above the fingerboard, that simple filing of the grooves could correct the problem with out fitting a new nut, in which case of course no glue would be required.
June 10, 2021, 12:29 PM · I read somewhere that a shim could be used to raise the nut. Or is that considered shoddy workmanship?
June 10, 2021, 1:01 PM · Yes, that would be cheaper, but you still have to wait for the glue to dry.
Edited: June 10, 2021, 1:28 PM · There's a story about Segovia making a recording of solo guitar pieces in the Alhambra palace in Spain. Because of two important factors - tourists wandering around in the building, and the heat - it was decided to do the recording session in the cooler, tourist-free early hours of the morning. Halfway through the session, several takes had to be scrapped because of a faint random buzz that was ruining the sound. After a thorough investigation, the source of the buzz was found to be a button on the great man's cardigan rattling against the back of the guitar.

I have in the past experienced an odd rattle coming from my old violin. It was due to a rubber Tourte mute on the string after-length manifesting itself noisily only when I played on the G. My setup is plain gut strings on that 14-1/4” violin which has deeper ribs pro rata and a larger interior that is presumably more resonant. The permanent cure I have adopted is an old-fashioned three-pronged wooden clip-on mute on the bridge. And anyway, a Tourte mute causes unnecessary wear and tear on plain gut strings on the after-length.

I never had that problem with my modern 14” violin, no matter what strings I used.

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