Fingerboard care

December 24, 2021, 1:32 AM · How often should a fingerboard be overhauled? I noticed some wear lines under my strings at last change. I can't feel a noticeable groove, but have noticed a lot of whistling on my e string lately. I haven't done anything with my fingerboard in the 4 years I've had the violin.

Replies (8)

December 24, 2021, 1:40 AM · I guess the period between interventions depends on how much you play and the quality of the material your fingerboard is made from.

If you have some wear lines then it probably is worth considering having it replaned - in your shoes, I'd take it to my luthier for their opinion. I had it done on a violin a few months ago and it wasn't very expensive

December 24, 2021, 4:44 AM · at any rate, that whistling e-string has nothing to do with the wear grooves on your fingerboard? moreover, if it's only 4 years old, chances are that these are not really "wear grooves" at all, but just "aluminum dust" that got there from the pressing of the strings on the board. if you're worried, let it check in a violin shop.
December 24, 2021, 5:32 AM · correct, it seems you have nothing to worry about
December 24, 2021, 10:00 AM · I don't mess with fingerboards; I get them planed.

At least have it checked by a qualified luthier.

Edited: December 24, 2021, 1:51 PM · Agree with the others-I would get my violin checked by a luthier. They will know immediately if/when the fingerboard needs to be planed. As far as maintenance, I use tiny alcohol prep pads every week or so to clean my fingerboard & remove sticky rosin dust. They are for medical use, but they work perfectly for fingerboard cleaning too (they are 70% isopropyl alcohol and you can get a box of 200 for $3 at Target). Just put a soft cloth down first to protect the varnish on your instrument. Cleaning may help get rid of the whistling...or changing string/brand of E string may help. Also, careful your left hand isn't accidentally touching your E string when you play-that would definitely cause whistling.
Edited: December 25, 2021, 9:03 AM · I found that the E string that came with the set (Vision Solo) whistled, so I exchanged that string for a Goldbrokat steel E, which whistles much less. Everyone has their own preferences and experiences in this regard. I was working on Mozart 5 and there's that one jangly chord in the middle of the piece that has an open E and it was driving me insane. I also discovered that if I concluded the chord with my bow at an angle that was NOT perpendicular to the strings, the chord did not whistle any more. That's not an option in every context, but my point is that there are aspects of your technique that you can explore to control the whistling too.
As Jean says, metal will rub off of certain wound strings and leave a shiny track on the fingerboard underneath the strings. As far as I know it is not harmful if left there. If you want to see transverse fingerboard grooves, watch videos of Leonid Kogan on YouTube, such as his Paganini Cantabile. When the light catches the fingerboard at just the right angle you can see the grooves for a moment. But even that didn't bother him. Fingerboard planing is an intrinsically invasive procedure and should be afforded the respect it is due and undertaken only by someone with the skill and experience to do it properly. It's not trivial.
December 25, 2021, 9:12 AM · Paul, have you tried twisting your E string a couple of turns to see if that cures the whistling?

I think I have usually twisted mine clockwise (i.e., from the perspective of the tailpiece). If that doesn't help, try the alternative direction. Warchal Amber and Timbre E strings already have this built-in to their construction.

December 26, 2021, 1:33 AM · I was using a peter infeld platinum e but it never stopped whistling. I think it was bad, looking at it after I changed it I noticed obvious signs of the playing wearing off after just a few months of use. I swapped it out with a pirastro gold and it is much improved.

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