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Mushy sound

Edited: July 22, 2022, 4:11 PM · I have been playing fiddle tune with drone notes for a while now. Recently, I started to try playing tunes with just single notes. Somehing sounded off and I realized the notes aren't "popping" off the string and this is giving me a mushy type sound that I don't like. I tried different string brands but that didn't help.

Can this be adjusted, or is it time for a new fiddle? The violin was made by Robert E. Weber in 1943, so it's not a cheap beginners violin. More of an intermediate instrument.

Replies (14)

July 22, 2022, 4:50 PM · There are so many factors to consider here that the mind boggles. If you want a stronger, more focused tone, my suggestion is to focus on the "me" factors (your technique) first. If you are playing fiddle tunes, then likely your bow mainly stays "on the string" and you are doing ordinary back-and-forth bow strokes. The three main parameters are (1) Your sound point -- where your bow meets the string in relation to the bridge or the end of the fingerboard. You want to start roughly in the middle and I would suggest that you try to move closer to the bridge over time, by a few millimeters will make a huge difference. (2) Your bow speed. (3) Downward pressure ("weight") on the bow.

If you've been playing drone notes, then you've been playing two strings at once. If so then you've probably been really sawing away with abandon because you can. When you just play on one string, the tendency is to be more "careful" not to bump into the adjacent strings, so your approach might be a lot less aggressive.

Those are my thoughts.

July 22, 2022, 7:05 PM · Thank you very much for he advice Paul. I'm not home now but I'll try your suggestions tomorrow. Your right about sawing away. I'll have to concentrate on bow pressure. Instead of the notes popping out, the sound builds up and I'm not getting a clean note. If that makes sense.
July 22, 2022, 8:19 PM · One more bow variable - Watch yourself in a mirror - you may not be bowing perfectly straight (parallel to the bridge), which might affect the focus of your sound. Try slow open string bows and see if you can make the sound you want.

July 23, 2022, 12:34 PM · Get your violin adjusted by your local violin repair person. This normally can solve many problems.
July 23, 2022, 2:12 PM · Bruce, this may or may not produce the desired result. Skillsets of violin repair persons are all over the map.
July 23, 2022, 3:20 PM · David, hopefully the odds of having a trained luthier examine one's violin are better than DIY. Skill of surgeons varies too, but I'm not transplanting my own liver.
July 23, 2022, 6:33 PM · Could it be an open seam?
Edited: July 23, 2022, 6:51 PM · Parallel bowing caveat...while we always speak about this as a principle, it is extraordinary how many violinists, and including some of the greats, diverge from the parallel as they approach the point: this, without loss of sound quality, volume, etc.
Edited: July 24, 2022, 11:16 AM · Thank you for your replies everybody. I discovered the problem is not getting perfectly in tune. I have severe high frequency loss and can't get the d and g strings right. I tuned up to a tuning app and the problem went away. Getting old sucks. I don't recommend it.

David, it's not just skill sets. I have encountered a number of repair persons who, after seeing that I'm not an advanced player, tap the sound post a little and say that's the best it will get. I often wonder where people who play celtic, bluegrass or other styles go for repairs and adjustments without getting this condescension. Maybe that's why a lot of fiddlers don't have a great sound, they just give up trying to find the right person.

Edited: July 25, 2022, 8:27 PM ·
I have some loss of high frequency in my left ear, and while it interferes not at all with playing and listening to music, it does interfere with tuning my violin.

So, I have an app, Sound Corset on both my phone and my tablet. It's really excellent software, and it doesn't cost, if you're willing to put up with a few ads.

I also purchased the following:

What an excellent device, it installs to the left of the neck, and it operates strictly off of the vibrations in the wood. One can specify which "A", whether 440, 441, 442 etc., and the next twists to bring the small color screen on it within view.

Edited: July 26, 2022, 7:02 AM · Nell - I use both tuners you name and they are great!

The d'Addario tuner allows me to actually tune in an ensemble, if my strings have slipped, while all the other musicians are playing.

With the Sound Corset I can tune strings to the closest cent (1/100th of an half-step) - but only in a quiet environment.

July 25, 2022, 10:11 PM · I've been using the D'Addario tuner for some time now. The phone app I use is gStrings. I'll have to check out sound corset. I not only have profound high frequency loss in both ears, but also tinnitis. Some days are louder than others.
July 26, 2022, 4:05 PM · Thank you Neil and Andrew for recommendig Sound Corset. It works much better than gString which I find a little too sensitive. The needle wavers back and forh so much that it's sometimes difficult to determine where you are.
July 26, 2022, 4:27 PM · The sharp "ping" you get when you switch between notes is a result of very fast stop of the string and very fast lift of the finger. That's what creates the fantastic clarity you hear with the best players, but it's something anyone can achieve with practice.

Clarity is related to responsiveness and is partially a trait of the violin itself (modified by its tonal match to the bow), set-up, and strings. But the clarity ultimately comes from you -- the violin can just make this harder or easier.

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