Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

Fiddle Lovers Online

E String at 1st position not in sync with other strings

Want to hide these Google ads? Join the Players Union!
Jan 23, 2020 - 12:17:35 PM
5 posts since 1/23/2020

I have recently started to learn the violin. I have been trying to mark 1st, 2nd & 3rd positions on the fretboard to help me find the correct notes. The violin is perfectly tuned using a tuner. I have been using a tuner to get the B note on the A string at 1st position and marking a line across fretboard to mark 1st position.

When I test the G and D string at this line they both produce the expected notes, A and E. But the E string is not F#, it's closer to an F. As I said, the open E is tuned to an E according to the tuner.

I'm wondering if there is something wrong with the violin. The bridge looks ok, it's not twisted or lopsided.

Any help would be appreciated. I'm not sure if I should return the violin or if it's something I'm doing. I've looked online and can't find anything related to this issue. I'm not sure if it's a common occurrence

Jan 23, 2020 - 12:21:46 PM
likes this

210 posts since 6/21/2012

Maybe your marker isn’t straight? I can’t imagine what else might be causing this.

Edited by - snakefinger on 01/23/2020 12:22:35

Jan 23, 2020 - 12:26:41 PM

5 posts since 1/23/2020

The marker is straight across.

Jan 23, 2020 - 1:23:39 PM
likes this

1552 posts since 12/11/2008

Originally posted by Lonesome Fiddler

I've never put it to science but I've found that, when properly tuned, my E strings are always at a different tension than the others, which is why it rises to a different pitch when you stop it down. The trouble could also be caused by the particular shape of your bridge.  If the shape of your bridge causes the E string to sit higher or lower from the fingerboard than the others, the different distance to the fingerboard would also cause the string to go its own way.

Jan 23, 2020 - 2:13 PM

49 posts since 1/21/2017

Are all of the strings coming out of the nut slots at about the same height above the fingerboard? I would normally say that your E string slot is too high, but since the note is flat, maybe the other 3 are too high. Do you have decent strings on it, or cheapies? If things are fairly close, I don't think I'd worry about the marks, and just train your ears.

Jan 23, 2020 - 2:17:47 PM

49 posts since 1/21/2017

Also, most digital tuners tend to jump around a little, at least mine do. They rarely just lock solidly on to a note, especially on a fiddle.

Jan 23, 2020 - 3:07:01 PM

840 posts since 8/11/2009

yes, it just about has to be a difference in the height of the strings as the come off the nut. A trained Luthier with a set of slot files could fix that for you in seconds. And they may never be perfectly straight, but it should be really close

Jan 23, 2020 - 3:10:14 PM
likes this

955 posts since 6/26/2007

Examine the fingerboard carefully under the e string to see if there may be a high spot close to the nut. You can also finger the string very close to the nut and see if the pitch goes up as expected. I have actually found this "high spot" problem on at least one instrument.

Jan 23, 2020 - 3:44:44 PM

1240 posts since 10/13/2010

Originally posted by coryobert

Also, most digital tuners tend to jump around a little, at least mine do. They rarely just lock solidly on to a note, especially on a fiddle.

He should be able to check if it's really in tune and the tuner is off by playing a scale abc#de and hearing if the note he's playing on the open e fits. 

Also if the e is nearly a half step off, playing both the open a and open e at the same time should be quite harsh.

If the e is really in tune, then maybe his finger isn't pressing the fingerboard quite as close to the line as he thinks? It's easy to roll the finger a little one way or the other and get quite the variation in the pitch.

Jan 23, 2020 - 4:58:49 PM
like this

1932 posts since 10/22/2007

I'll probably catch h@ll for this but, tune your A string to 440. Then tune your E to the A by ear, and rock on. I'm not a fan of fingerboard marks, mainly because one probably can't see the marks, unless one is using them for a starting point (home).
Remember, i am not an instructor. I'm only a >20k hour player.

Jan 24, 2020 - 5:33:09 AM



709 posts since 6/8/2013

if all else is well, I think capt hook is on the right track, if its a cheap violin it probably is not scooped on the fingerboard and maybe a high spot . unless you bridge is cockeyed, measure the length between the bridge and the nut. see if its the same across the strings .

Jan 24, 2020 - 10:04:07 AM

5 posts since 1/23/2020

Thanks everyone for the responses.
I've added a picture of the nut. The E string might be slightly raised. You might find it hard to see.
Playing the A,B,C#,E,F# scale seems to "fit", the E string doesn't sound out of place. Maybe I can get away with it.

Jan 24, 2020 - 10:13:53 AM

5 posts since 1/23/2020

Sorry, photo didn't upload last time.

Jan 24, 2020 - 12:54:40 PM

840 posts since 8/11/2009

Of course its hard to tell for certain from the photo, but all the string look higher to me coming off the nut than they ought to, especially the E. You don't want big deep slots in the nut, so probably the whole thing should be filed down a bit and then reslotted.  That would let you get the spacing consistent too.  Lots and lots of little things to get right on a fiddle for best sound and playability.

Edited by - bandsmcnamar on 01/24/2020 12:59:38

Jan 24, 2020 - 1:05:24 PM

11 posts since 11/7/2019

I'm a pretty rank beginner but that nut doesn't look right to me either. That could definitely be the angle of the photo though

Jan 24, 2020 - 1:45:31 PM
like this

271 posts since 1/5/2009

You all have good reasoning abilities, and most of you have recommended the correct answers. The Photo of the string nut tells a lot. First the strings are all to high. You would need a fret file the correct size for each string. The string should be about 1/3rd the diameter of the string into the nut. The "a" and "e" should be slightly closer to the finger board than the "G" and "D" strings.

As for the original post. The scoop on the fingerboard is not correct. This combined with the improperly fitted string nut is causing the problem.

Second; To correct this take it to a Luther in your area and have him correct the string clearances at both string nut and end of the fingerboard.
Once this is corrected then you can check the scoop of the fingerboard. The scoop is what allows the first, second, third and forth potions to align them selves. If the are not in alignment, you have a choice of having that adjusted also or just living with the minor deflections.

Third; If you decide to do this setup yourself, that is great. There need to be more Luther's out there. First obtain a violin building book that is a good reference. Strobal and Johnson and Cortnall are well published with the basics and procedures.
Next is getting the proper tools. Fret files that match the diameter of the strings you use. These tools are available from various different violin suppliers and from Amazon.

Once you have the fret files you should start at the nut. Use a standard business card as a protector over the fingerboard. under the strings flush against the string nut. This will allow the string nut slots to be lowered to the business card with out damage to your fingerboard. Stop cutting the depth when the fret file reaches and just barley touches the card. Do this while insuring the string slots are aligned with the direction that takes them to the peg mounting point. Once the correct depth is obtained, place the string into the slot. Checking the how far the string goes into the nut. If it goes to deep, it will cause buzzing when played.
Correcting the depth of the strings in the nut is fairly easy. Use a file t lower the top of the string nut until the 1/3rd diameter is obtained. Remember to maintain the shape of the string nut with the radius of the fingerboard.

Now that you have obtained the correct string height over the finger board. First file a bevel at the front of the string nut toward the bridge ( the active part of the nut is closest to the bridge and extending to the pegs for about 1/16th inch.) This is just breaking the Sharpe edge created when filing to the correct string height. Next, relieve the back of the string slots ( towards the pegs) to allow the strings a slight angle down to the pegs. Each string will require a different angle. This reduces the the chance of the string wearing to much and breaking between the pegs and the string nut.

Finishing; With a flat micro fine file, remove all the sharp edges from the string nut slots then polish with some 600 grit paper. Remove the dust from the string nut and use a number 2 led pencil tracing the string slots in the string nut. The graphite in the pencil lead will act as a lubricant to allow the string to slide easily through the slot.

Sorry to have been long winded, but this is what a luthier needs to do every day with many instruments. Beginners can take as many as 2 days learning the proper adjustment. Most luthiers can preform this same tasks in about thirty min.

Hope this helped many of you to understand the importance of a proper setup for play-ability.

Jan 24, 2020 - 1:54:11 PM



9594 posts since 12/2/2007
Online Now

As Brian pointed out, the string spacing is off too.

Jan 24, 2020 - 1:57:45 PM

271 posts since 1/5/2009

I agree Doug, but I do not know if the OP is willing to start with a new string nut.

Jan 24, 2020 - 3:35:33 PM



9594 posts since 12/2/2007
Online Now

I don't know either, but all the work you outlined seems a little pointless if the string spacing is so far off.

Jan 24, 2020 - 4:25:47 PM

8223 posts since 3/19/2009

I'm with Doug.. Just looking at that photo makes me think that spacing is off..Plus, if the strings crossing the nut are not accurate...that makes a difference.. the nut slots are critical to sound..and usually it is not possible to see that in a photo..

Jan 25, 2020 - 6:09:23 AM
Players Union Member



2527 posts since 2/3/2011

Originally posted by Fiddlemaker5224


....Sorry to have been long winded, but this is what a luthier needs to do every day with many instruments. Beginners can take as many as 2 days learning the proper adjustment. Most luthiers can preform this same tasks in about thirty min.

You're just telling it like it is.  I had some pretty under-informed notions of how much luthiery I'd be performing on my own fiddles.  I got over it before I screwed up anything important.  Some operations are not like putting Humpty-Dumpty back together again.  Far too many are.  It's not so much whether I can repair a fiddle as it is whether I can afford to replace the fiddle I just "fixed."

Jan 25, 2020 - 6:43:07 AM

5 posts since 1/23/2020

Thanks for all the help lads. I didn't have the knowledge to decide whether there was a problem or not and, thanks to your replies, I think there is.

I'm going to return it. It's a cheap ammoon Full Size 4/4 Acoustic Electric Violin that I got on Amazon.

I think the best thing to do is to go to a music shop and try some out before buying.
I've been recommended a Stentor Student 2 Violin to start off with. Would you have any other recommendations?

I don't want to go nuts and spend a lot of money - but I want to make the learning experience as pleasant on the ears as possible for the poor people who have to live with me.

Jan 25, 2020 - 7:34:53 AM

840 posts since 8/11/2009

I'm the guy who goes to estate sales and garage sales, and walks away with a fiddle in pieces for, $20. So my experience with entry level instruments is limited, but Shar music, is a very well thought of company with a big on line presence. The entry level line they push is Carlo Robelli, and I have only seen one or two, but they seemed fine, well set up, played well, etc, just another option.

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories