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Squeaks and scratches

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Sep 25, 2020 - 9:43:12 PM
59 posts since 2/10/2020

I've been playing for less than a year and the amount of squeaking and scratching I make while playing is unacceptable to me. I was working on Whiskey Before Breakfast (there's a place there in the A part where my squeaks are especially bad) when my daughter came into the room with her fiddle (she is also learning to play and she has a loaner, school fiddle) and we both started messing around with the section I was having difficulty with. Almost immediately she was able to play in clearly and beautifully. I then tried her fiddle and...wham...I was able to play it clearly and beautifully! I then tried a few more of my songs on her violin and...no squeaks at all. She then played my violin and she was squeaking and scratching too.

So what do you think is going on here? We first thought that perhaps I didn't have a full size violin and my strings were closer together, but that doesn't appear to be the case, our fiddles are the same length. We factored out the bow too.

Sep 25, 2020 - 9:52:37 PM
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Old Scratch

Canada

633 posts since 6/22/2016

I have no idea what's going on - but I think I'd better get a new fiddle!

Sep 26, 2020 - 4:46:57 AM

160 posts since 11/28/2018

I would look for obvious set-up differences. E.g., is the fingerboaard on your fiddle properly planed or could you be getting strings buzzing on certain notes? Is the distance between the strings and the fingerboard within the recommended range? Are any of the fine-tuners touching the belly of the instrument? Also check for any cracks on the plates. And for any open seams. It's certainly worth having a qualified luthier give it quick inspection before investing in a new instrument.

Sep 26, 2020 - 4:53:12 AM

487 posts since 9/1/2010

Are you both using the same bow when you play both fiddles? A lot of the time your bow/bowing is the culprit. It could also be the strings or possibly string spacing. Rosin build-up on the strings and/or bow is also a factor. There are a lot of variables so it is hard to say exactly what is going on.

Sep 26, 2020 - 5:41:54 AM
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4861 posts since 9/26/2008

quote:
Originally posted by rosinhead

Are you both using the same bow when you play both fiddles? A lot of the time your bow/bowing is the culprit. It could also be the strings or possibly string spacing. Rosin build-up on the strings and/or bow is also a factor. There are a lot of variables so it is hard to say exactly what is going on.


Last sentence of OP says "we factored out the bow too." 

I'd say it was about the set up since I've had fiddles go from needing to be wrestled to get the tune out to nearly playing themselves after my luthier set it up. 

Sep 26, 2020 - 6:29:44 AM

571 posts since 8/10/2017

Maybe you don't have the right amount of rosin on the bow. In general your bow should not look shiny when light shines on it. That means too little. And after about 4 hours of playing it will need more rosin. Too much rosin can be a problem, too, so if the strings are sticky, wipe the rosin off the strings with a bandana.

Sep 26, 2020 - 6:31:14 AM
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DougD

USA

9798 posts since 12/2/2007

Strings? (Brand, age, condition, especially rosin buildup).
I'd say its time to go fiddle shopping, and take both violins with you and see if a luthier can figure it out. Some possible causes have been suggested here, but its hard to diagnose something like this at a distance.

Sep 26, 2020 - 10:10:06 AM

218 posts since 3/1/2020

Sounds to me like a setup issue. A luthier should look at it.

Sep 26, 2020 - 12:46:43 PM
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52 posts since 1/21/2017

Like Doug said, I think the first thing I'd think about are the strings. Do you know what's on there? Black diamonds maybe? Or maybe some sort of perlon that's difficult for a beginner to play. Do you know what strings are on your daughters fiddle? I'm a big proponent of ruling out the simple things first then progressing from there.

Sep 26, 2020 - 4:40:46 PM
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3556 posts since 12/8/2007

Doug D mentioned strings. I was squeaking all over the place initially, so my teacher said to throw Helicore mediums on, and my squeaks were cut by 2/3.

Sep 26, 2020 - 7:02:49 PM

2643 posts since 9/13/2009

I agree with DougD about type of strings and tension... but especially rosin build up can be notorious source of squeaks. Those would perhaps be the easiest to address.

Of course no two violins, or set-ups; bridges, posts are exactly  the same... and slight difference can make a big difference in sound.

One other possibility to consider... besides differences in overall tonality (brightness)...  responsiveness and loudness are factors. A bright, loud, responsive fiddle is not necessarily anything wrong with instrument or setup... it might actually be overall better... but can be difficult for beginners to tame... it takes more bow control.

I recall decades ago, playing my classical friends really expensive ($50K) loud violin, with very tight responsive strings... holy cow it was harsh. My cheap fiddle sounded way less harsh, or easier not to sound harsh. But of course it was because it's limited filtered sound. As he demonstrated... good technique and control and his violin was vastly superior.

Wondering if student loaners, setup and string choices are typically with that trade off in mind, limited but less harsh? 

FWIW, you can filter the high end harshness with small mute or magnets.

Sep 26, 2020 - 8:15:23 PM

218 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by alaskafiddler

Wondering if student loaners, setup and string choices are typically with that trade off in mind, limited but less harsh? 


Student instrument setup and string choices are mainly dictated by price. If you have hundreds (or thousands) of instruments to maintain, the cost of strings and labor for setup is considerable, so putting cheap strings on is an easy way to cut costs. Rental instruments take a real beating and strings have to be replaced constantly. So a business owner has to set a budget for each instrument based on the cost to maintain it and to replace it if it's damaged. Within that budget, a knowledgeable shop will seek out the best strings for sound and durability. Most small shops are unable to afford luthiers on staff or to invest the money and time in having a professional setup done on each student instrument. Music stores tend to focus even more on keeping costs as low as possible, which is why the quality is generally much lower than what you can expect from a violin shop.

 Chinese factory violins come with a rough setup, and they are usually sent out that way. Ease of playing doesn't really enter the equation most of the time. 

Sep 26, 2020 - 8:51:43 PM

doryman

USA

59 posts since 2/10/2020

Hey, thanks everyone. I've tried a lot of different strings on my fiddle and currently have Helicore mediums, which have been the best so far. I do note that the action is higher on my violin than my daughter's and I wonder if that has something to do with it. Maybe it's the rosin, but over the past year I've tried everything with the rosin, different rosins, lots of rosin, not so much rosin, etc... I'm not shy about experimenting with the easy stuff (strings and rosin), in fact, I kind of enjoy it.  I think I can rule out rosin and I think I've done enough with changing strings that I'm about limited out on how much more improvement I can get with strings. 

The "school instrument,"  my daughter's fiddle, is actually rented through a violin shop here in town via an arrangement with the school. We rent for a year and after a year have the option to buy with all of the rental fees applied to the price of the violin. To buy the instrument outright from the store, off the shelf, it's $700, which is probably a bit overpriced since almost every kid who buys one of those rents if for a year first and I'm guessing that the shop owner pays for the instrument within the first year of rental, which would be closer to $360 ($30 x 12 months). In any event, it's a nice fiddle, easy to play, stays in tune and it sounds pretty to my ears. It's not a demanding fiddle.

Edited by - doryman on 09/26/2020 20:55:08

Sep 27, 2020 - 12:08:44 PM
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14 posts since 7/18/2020

quote:
Originally posted by doryman

Hey, thanks everyone. I've tried a lot of different strings on my fiddle and currently have Helicore mediums, which have been the best so far. I do note that the action is higher on my violin than my daughter's and I wonder if that has something to do with it.


I think you may have found the source of your squeaks, verified by the fact both you and your daughter can play her fiddle cleanly, and neither can play yours cleanly. I'd have the setup checked by a luthier.  A judicious lowering of the bridge can work wonders. If the strings are too high at the bridge end of the fingerboard (i.e, too high a bridge) it creates a kind of a "deep valley" on the fingerboard in the first position, causing your finger to push the string down too far, allowing the fleshly part of the finger to go beyond the finger tip, hence inadvertently touching an adjacent string and squeaking.

I like my strings to be no more than an eighth of an inch above the fingerboard at the bridge end - classical instrument setups I know are often considerably higher than that, mainly for volume and power, but many instruments in stores haven't any setups at all and leave the strings so high it is virtually impossible to play.

My advice would be to have a luthier (or an accomplished fiddler) take a look. You may not need a new fiddle, just a better setup.

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