G string not (always) sounding properly
I have a longstanding issue with the sound of my G-string that I am trying to investigate systematically.I am conservatory-trained and have also studied AT; I don't have this problem on other violins.
Basically, there are times when it is difficult to "catch" the beginning of the note changing strings at medium to low volume and using longer bow strokes. When it's like this, it hardly sounds at first, unless I really dig in at the beginning of the stroke.
Changing the string solves the problem - for a very short time, a few days.
I've noticed that the problem comes and goes, so I have been wondering whether the weather is an issue, and I'm starting to track this as a variable. Today I had the interesting experience of it changing *during* the practice session - after an hour it was sounding correctly, and with minimum pressure.
I've read similar threads and know there are many potential factors. My luthier has suggested a new bridge, but given the above I'm wondering whether it's worth the risk (money, and changing the sound). I'm very happy with the other strings.
My question is really this: can weather be the decisive factor with some violins? Even small changes in temperature or humidity, such as must have been the case today? I live in Barcelona now, but it was the same in the UK. Do I just have a temperamental violin? It's French, early 20th c., 7/8ths. Or can changes to a violin set-up make it more stable?
Any ideas / thoughts would be much appreciated. Thanks!
I have found the "brand" of string can make a difference as can the rosin I use. And I have different bows for different strokes (and other situations) on different violins
Thanks Andrew. Yes, I've tried one different brand the luthier recommended. It worked for a few days, and then the same problem. Since then I've had the same effect simply replacing old for new strings. I use Dominants usually.
Over the years I have found that the best G-string on my violin (18th c) is gut core, medium or light gauge. This gives the best response and a reliable attack. Similarly with the D - what works best is light gauge plain gut. With the G and D strings I've long come to the conclusion that heavy gauge, whether gut-core or synthetic, is not the way to go.
Are you sure the string is not buzzing against the fingerboard?
Weather (mostly humidity) is something that affects wood acoustics, so if you have a violin sensitive to small changes, it could be a factor.
Thanks for all the comments - that gives me plenty to mull over and investigate. Trevor - strings are something that I do need to experiment with more systematically. I'll bear your suggestions in mind.
I will also recommend trying a gut-core G-string, medium or light gauge, even if the others are synthetic. Sometimes I read in ads for strings that they are "just as good as gut", or that gut strings are slow in response. My experience is the opposite; they respond quickly because they are more flexible than other materials. The Heifetz recordings should be enough evidence of that. As for rosin, ideally we would have a different rosin for the different strings, which is impossible. For a cheap rosin, try a cello grade version.
To add to Mr. Quivey comment, most gut core Gs are very responsive unless they are the highest gauges of some brand lines. Indeed, the least responsive wound gut string I have tried was not a G, but a high tension variant of an Oliv Gold/Aluminum wound D. It may still work for some, of course.
It would be helpful to know what G-String that you're currently using? Maybe someone has experience with that particular string? The fact that changing the string helps for only a limited time, points the finger at the particular brand of string?
Your soundpost is in just a bit too tight. Go to a shop that you trust and have them push the post inward 1/2 mm or so. It won't take much. If it is really TIGHT! try a half mm more.
continued, - I just re-read your original post and noticed something that I missed, and no one else has mentioned; You have a 7/8 Violin.
Apologies for a slow response on my part - all the replies are very much appreciated.
michael gave the best advice, loosening the soundpost won't ruin the tone, it will just augment your bass response a bit, that's the only thing I think would solve this problem, it doesn't appear to be a string problem.
An update, and basically the plot thickens. Luthiers, I need your advice more than ever!
I'd suggest doing it in steps. Get a bridge that is correct for the current position of the fingerboard. That may help your playing anyway, particularly if the action of the G-string is currently too high and the strings are not spaced properly.
The fact that it changes with the humidity makes it even more likely that the soundpost is the problem, all these other things he's talking about changing would not be affected by humidity.
That's the thing, George. He didn't mention the soundpost, and frankly I was too startled by the range of things he was bringing up to go back to it. I don't doubt his integrity but I wonder whether he was looking more with an instrument maker's eye to what normally would optimise the sound of a violin to what might actually fix the more limited problem I raised.
If my luthier suggested all that, I'd go ahead and get it all done. Of course, I trust him implicitly! In fact, my luthier has suggested all that with some instruments, and I have got it all done. Good luthiers today know how everything should be on a good violin in terms of ratios and lengths, etc. There is lots of info out there for them, great workshops they go to, shows, etc. and a lot of talent in that field now.
Let me say first that the soundpost change I mentioned on Sept. 28 in the first reply to OP's quest made an incredible improvement to my violin - solved ALL the problems.
David, what I meant is those other things the luthier talked about would not be effected by humidity in such a way to cause the G string problem, unless the G string was just too low to the fingerboard
All these varied insights are much appreciated.
Maybe. If you tune the violin a quarter-step, half-step or whole step sharp, does it get better or worse? (This is a diagnostic which can give some indication of what raising the fingerboard and bridge would do)
Just a note to add that there are many perfectly-playable good violins that do not have dead-perfect fingerboard and neck geometry, and so the decision to get the fingerboard and/or neck adjusted can be dependent on how far off from ideal they are.
4/4 strings on a 7/8 will already have lower tension than on a 4/4, so the recommendation to try a lower tension G string doesn't seem right to me. David's suggestion to retune seems best. But if you have verified that it's a humidity issue, I guess the different woods will all swell or shrink by different amounts, so it's complicated. The problem seems to be when the weather is dry and the soundpost is too tight because it shrinks less than any of the other woods?
Nicholas, there are several reasons why an instrument might be temperamental but by far the most common one will be a poorly fitted post. Humidity is certainly a factor but a post that is either too loose or too tight will amplify climactic variations. You've also mentioned other possible adjustments, essentially these seem to be associated with a checklist if standard modern measurements that many luthiers firmly believe are correct, essential or imperative for every instrument. I'd exercise caution here, especially if you have a fine instrument that suffers from the odd setback concerning one string. An 'overhaul' might leave you with a very different instrument.