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Jan 31, 2022 - 4:02:40 PM

RDP

USA

15 posts since 1/31/2022

I've only been playing for a few months but I've got a problem I can't fix and no one seems to know what to do about it.

I have a new violin. (Fiddlerman Artist) If I bow anywhere from halfway between the fingerboard and the bridge on open strings I get a whistle. It gets louder and more defined the closer I get to the bridge. Basically, I can only play at the end of the fingerboard.

It shows up without warning when fingering, most often with the first or second finger on A. It doesn't seem to matter where I bow or the speed of the bow on the strings.

Heavy pressure when bowing hides it but that adds sound volume which is unacceptable when the music requires softness.

I don't believe it's my bowing technique or fingering because my intonation seems to be okay in the recordings I've made. My tuner also says I'm right on the money for the notes being played when the whistle shows up. Using more rosin doesn't seem to change anything. Using a different bow doesn't seem to change anything either.

I've tried wolf tone eliminators but they aren't helping. What did help was forming a paperclip and clipping it over both the A and D strings on the afterlength. With it in place, and it adding tension between the 2 strings, I can get within 1/8th inch of the bridge on open strings before the whistle shows up again. When playing the whistle is nearly gone both on open strings as well as when fingering.

Strings currently are Larsen Tzgane but the whistle was present with the Tomastik Dominants which came on the instrument.

It really sounds like I'm not fully stopping the strings when fingering, but the fact that it shows up with open strings tells me that's not the root cause of the problem.

Any thoughts on what is going on and how to fix it?

Jan 31, 2022 - 4:23:40 PM

Snafu

USA

139 posts since 2/2/2014

Do you have fine tuners on the G and D strings? Are they tight? Maybe they are causing a sympathetic resonance. I removed mine right away when I got my fiddle.

Jan 31, 2022 - 4:36:19 PM

RDP

USA

15 posts since 1/31/2022

I have 4 fine tuners in the tailpiece.

And perhaps "wolf tone" isn't the proper description. It's a whistle more than the wah, wah, wah you get with a cello.

Jan 31, 2022 - 5:25:47 PM

Snafu

USA

139 posts since 2/2/2014

Yea I figured it was a resonance issue. I would try to remove the G and D fine tuners (you don’t really need them anyway) and install the strings directly in the tailpiece. Tune up and see what happens, my bet is problem is solved - if it is the strings, the bow could be a source too…

Feb 1, 2022 - 5:30:29 AM
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1512 posts since 5/13/2008

Keep playing.

Feb 1, 2022 - 10:36:35 AM

RDP

USA

15 posts since 1/31/2022

quote:
Originally posted by fiddlerjoebob

Keep playing.


What is this supposed to mean?

Feb 1, 2022 - 10:38:47 AM

RDP

USA

15 posts since 1/31/2022

quote:
Originally posted by Snafu

Yea I figured it was a resonance issue. I would try to remove the G and D fine tuners (you don’t really need them anyway) and install the strings directly in the tailpiece. Tune up and see what happens, my bet is problem is solved - if it is the strings, the bow could be a source too…


I will take a look and see if I can remove the 2 of them (plus the A string fine tuner too) and still use the tailpiece.  If so, I'll report back on the result.

Feb 1, 2022 - 12:32:30 PM
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Snafu

USA

139 posts since 2/2/2014

quote:
Originally posted by RDP
quote:
Originally posted by fiddlerjoebob

Keep playing.


What is this supposed to mean?


If I may...  you open by saying that you have only been playing for a few months so the assumption is that you are a beginner and you are doing what beginners do - making awful sounds!  This is because you have not mastered the bow and fingering.  That takes years for most of us.  So the lighthearted, well intended comment is that further practicing will result in making the "wolf" magically go away.  You should hear some of the awful sounds I can make on the devil's box- I wish I could ascribe them to a fiddle defect but they are mine alone.  

This is a great bunch of players here who will help you out and kid you at the same time, enjoy your new friends.  

Feb 1, 2022 - 1:06:24 PM
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RDP

USA

15 posts since 1/31/2022

quote:
Originally posted by Snafu
quote:
Originally posted by RDP
quote:
Originally posted by fiddlerjoebob

Keep playing.


What is this supposed to mean?


If I may...  you open by saying that you have only been playing for a few months so the assumption is that you are a beginner and you are doing what beginners do - making awful sounds!  This is because you have not mastered the bow and fingering.  That takes years for most of us.  So the lighthearted, well intended comment is that further practicing will result in making the "wolf" magically go away.  You should hear some of the awful sounds I can make on the devil's box- I wish I could ascribe them to a fiddle defect but they are mine alone.  

This is a great bunch of players here who will help you out and kid you at the same time, enjoy your new friends.  


Thank you for the explanation.  I guess I'm a humorless kind of guy.  Although I think all of you who believe the words to the "Hostess Twinkie song" are supposed to be about one of the enormous burning gas balls in the universe emitting light that's doing doppler shifts are the crazy ones...  wink

I checked the tailpiece/fine tuners and they're integral so I can't remove them.  Even if I could the slots are rectangles and there would be no place to hook the strings with the fine tuners not in place.  I'll probably order a new tailpiece and tailgut because that's integral with the existing tailpiece as well (plus it's plastic).  Until then I'll keep using the paperclip.

 

I might order a Tourte mute at the same time and see what effect it has before changing the tailpiece.

Edited by - RDP on 02/01/2022 13:12:51

Feb 1, 2022 - 1:15:35 PM
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Snafu

USA

139 posts since 2/2/2014

But your fiddle is new right? I would call Fiddlerman if you bought it from them. They have had good reviews and I expect would try very hard to resolve your issue. Fiddles are temperamental and you might make it worse, or bring on a new issue, if you get involved in changing the tailpiece yourself.

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Feb 1, 2022 - 1:25:21 PM

RDP

USA

15 posts since 1/31/2022

quote:
Originally posted by Snafu

But your fiddle is new right? I would call Fiddlerman if you bought it from them. They have had good reviews and I expect would try very hard to resolve your issue. Fiddles are temperamental and you might make it worse, or bring on a new issue, if you get involved in changing the tailpiece yourself.


I already had to get a replacement bow, the one they sent with the violin warped and twisted.  Great customer service but having 2 problems in only a few months could be looked at as it being me being too picky.

The violin is wonderful sounding (except for the whistle) and plays well.  Were I younger than my 63 years I'd have gotten something further up the quality/price scale but at my age I don't need something like that.  I can afford to change the tailpiece and if I screw it up, find a luthier to help make it right again.

 

Speaking of which, anyone know a good luthier between LA and Santa Barbara in California?  If I can't fix this, I'll have to have a pro look at it.

Feb 1, 2022 - 1:36:32 PM
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DougD

USA

10589 posts since 12/2/2007

I wouldn't bother replacing the tailpiece. If the fine tuners are built in they're probably not the problem.
If you know someone who plays the violin very well, ask them to play your instrument and see if they have the same problem.

Feb 1, 2022 - 2:08:23 PM
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1512 posts since 5/13/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Snafu
quote:
Originally posted by RDP
quote:
Originally posted by fiddlerjoebob

Keep playing.


What is this supposed to mean?


If I may...  you open by saying that you have only been playing for a few months so the assumption is that you are a beginner and you are doing what beginners do - making awful sounds!  This is because you have not mastered the bow and fingering.  That takes years for most of us.  So the lighthearted, well intended comment is that further practicing will result in making the "wolf" magically go away.  You should hear some of the awful sounds I can make on the devil's box- I wish I could ascribe them to a fiddle defect but they are mine alone.  

This is a great bunch of players here who will help you out and kid you at the same time, enjoy your new friends.  


Yes indeed, this is right.  I hope only to say positive things to new fiddlers...and long time fiddlers for that matter.  Good wishes, and keep playing. 

Feb 1, 2022 - 2:21:42 PM
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RDP

USA

15 posts since 1/31/2022

quote:
Originally posted by DougD

I wouldn't bother replacing the tailpiece. If the fine tuners are built in they're probably not the problem.
If you know someone who plays the violin very well, ask them to play your instrument and see if they have the same problem.


The current one is "composite" (read PLASTIC).  If I replace it with one made of real ebony, it might change the harmonics enough to get rid of the problem.  From what I understand, you can adjust the tone and personality of a violin by changing the fittings (say from ebony to boxwood) so changing from plastic to ebony might do the same thing.

 

And, like I said, I can afford to experiment and I'm not afraid to make changes.

 

I did check the bridge while looking at the tailpiece and it was leaning backward slightly.  I straightened it until it was leaning forward just a tiny little bit and the whistle got worse.  The bridge is sitting forward of the soundpost about the thickness (or slightly less) of the top plate and is centered.

Feb 1, 2022 - 3:09:15 PM
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DougD

USA

10589 posts since 12/2/2007

The Wittner tailpiece is composite, and is very popular with lots of violinists. Here's a photo of the one on my main working violin. Fine tuners can rattle if there is little tension on the adjusting screw, but with add on fine tuners the mounting screw can also get loose, which is not a problem with the Wittner.
The side of the bridge towards the tailpiece should be perpendicular to the top of the ribs, and often looks like its leaning "back" when its really correct. Usually its close enough to set that side perpendicular to the top, using a rule, or even a business card.
If you do change the tailpiece make sure the afterlength is correct when you're done.
Good luck.


Feb 1, 2022 - 4:02:02 PM
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Players Union Member

boxbow

USA

2720 posts since 2/3/2011

The first thing I've done to my 3 fiddles is to put on a Wittner composite tailpiece, which is most likely the tailpiece you have. Big fan. I'd be looking for other causes. Just learning to make predictable sounds on a fiddle takes time. I'd have to say I was working very hard for 3 years before I had any confidence. I still didn't sound very good, but I had confidence!

Edited by - boxbow on 02/01/2022 16:02:36

Feb 1, 2022 - 4:21:46 PM
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2188 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by DougD

The Wittner tailpiece is composite, and is very popular with lots of violinists. Here's a photo of the one on my main working violin. Fine tuners can rattle if there is little tension on the adjusting screw, but with add on fine tuners the mounting screw can also get loose, which is not a problem with the Wittner.
The side of the bridge towards the tailpiece should be perpendicular to the top of the ribs, and often looks like its leaning "back" when its really correct. Usually its close enough to set that side perpendicular to the top, using a rule, or even a business card.
If you do change the tailpiece make sure the afterlength is correct when you're done.
Good luck.


I like the Wittners and use them on my fiddles. Add-on fine tuners on a regular  tailpiece shorten the "after-length" of the strings between the bridge and tailpiece, which many luthiers think is important, and the Wittners avoid that. What Dougs says about making the bridge perpendicular is true. I like to think I have a good eye but I use a tiny square when I set a bridge because it does look like its leaning back when it is correct.

Edited by - Brian Wood on 02/01/2022 16:22:12

Feb 1, 2022 - 5:46:02 PM

RDP

USA

15 posts since 1/31/2022

quote:
Originally posted by DougD

The Wittner tailpiece is composite, and is very popular with lots of violinists. Here's a photo of the one on my main working violin. Fine tuners can rattle if there is little tension on the adjusting screw, but with add on fine tuners the mounting screw can also get loose, which is not a problem with the Wittner.
The side of the bridge towards the tailpiece should be perpendicular to the top of the ribs, and often looks like its leaning "back" when its really correct. Usually its close enough to set that side perpendicular to the top, using a rule, or even a business card.
If you do change the tailpiece make sure the afterlength is correct when you're done.
Good luck.


Yup, that's the same type as my tailpiece.  I have a tiny machinists square that I'll use to verify the bridge is square.  That's no big deal and I'll do it on the back side rather than the tapered front side.

 

Still can't figure out why people are talking about technique when a bent paper clip mostly solves the problem and that has nothing to do with technique.

Feb 1, 2022 - 9:06:17 PM
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742 posts since 3/1/2020

Whistles occur when the bow doesn’t engage with the string properly. There are some E strings designed specifically to reduce or eliminate whistling (e.g. Kaplan’s non-whistling E, Warchal’s Amber and Timbre Es, etc.). Gold-plated Es, while warm, are infamous for whistling.

The cause of the whistle is usually one of two things: improper bow technique or a problem in the setup. If it’s the former, it should be easy for an experienced player (perhaps your teacher, if you have one) to play the instrument without getting a whistle. There’s a chance that the whistle is happening because of improper finger contact at those notes. Given that the description of the problem mentions it occurring on fingered notes, not an open string, the likelihood of a technique issue is higher.

If it’s the latter, the curvature of the bridge may be wrong. Non-whistling Es are a way to counteract this but they don’t address the root of the problem. Any regular E should perform without whistling if the setup is good. When a straightedge is placed on the strings where the bow goes, you should be able to rock it between each string without a noticeable difference in motion. If the bridge is too flat, too highly curved, or irregularly curved, you’ll likely find that the straightedge will give it away.

One last thought: if you have a plastic string protector on the string at the bridge, it might be throwing the balance off. A properly cut bridge will have a parchment at the E, eliminating the need for the plastic tube. The other strings should not have a tube on them. Some cheaper steel strings come with them, but they should be discarded.

Feb 2, 2022 - 9:12:20 AM

RDP

USA

15 posts since 1/31/2022

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

Whistles occur when the bow doesn’t engage with the string properly. There are some E strings designed specifically to reduce or eliminate whistling (e.g. Kaplan’s non-whistling E, Warchal’s Amber and Timbre Es, etc.). Gold-plated Es, while warm, are infamous for whistling.

The cause of the whistle is usually one of two things: improper bow technique or a problem in the setup. If it’s the former, it should be easy for an experienced player (perhaps your teacher, if you have one) to play the instrument without getting a whistle. There’s a chance that the whistle is happening because of improper finger contact at those notes. Given that the description of the problem mentions it occurring on fingered notes, not an open string, the likelihood of a technique issue is higher.

If it’s the latter, the curvature of the bridge may be wrong. Non-whistling Es are a way to counteract this but they don’t address the root of the problem. Any regular E should perform without whistling if the setup is good. When a straightedge is placed on the strings where the bow goes, you should be able to rock it between each string without a noticeable difference in motion. If the bridge is too flat, too highly curved, or irregularly curved, you’ll likely find that the straightedge will give it away.

One last thought: if you have a plastic string protector on the string at the bridge, it might be throwing the balance off. A properly cut bridge will have a parchment at the E, eliminating the need for the plastic tube. The other strings should not have a tube on them. Some cheaper steel strings come with them, but they should be discarded.


In the OP I clearly stated that I cannot play closer than halfway to the bridge on OPEN STRINGS without getting the whistle.  I also CLEARLY said that a paper clip stuck on the afterlengths of the D and A strings eliminates most of the whistle.

 

How this translates to "your technique is deficient" is beyond me.  It's very frustrating.

Feb 2, 2022 - 9:44:20 AM
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Snafu

USA

139 posts since 2/2/2014

RDP. This is a well intentioned comment. This is what you asked in the OP:  Any thoughts on what is going on and how to fix it?   We don’t know you, nor have we seen your fiddle or have heard you play.  So the nice, kind folks here are giving you exactly what you are paying for - free advice (thoughts) based on our experience.  It's ok to just ignore it but please don't disparage the persons offering free help.  Relax and take it in.  

You have in three months or so tossed a lot of new things at your brand new fiddle - strings, replacement bow, wolf eliminators, paper clips and now are considering a new tail piece.  My guess is new pegs are on the horizon, may I preemptively suggest Wittner gear pegs.  You will probably like them and have fun installing them.  

The best advice given, and you never commented on it, was: can an experienced fiddler duplicate what you hear?

Every thread eventually evolves into a generalized discussion of the issue without exacting regard to the actual OP's need.  Kind of a potpourri of advice - sometimes it stinks but what can you do...    This one is following that path.    

Feb 2, 2022 - 10:31:30 AM

742 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by RDP
quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

Whistles occur when the bow doesn’t engage with the string properly. There are some E strings designed specifically to reduce or eliminate whistling (e.g. Kaplan’s non-whistling E, Warchal’s Amber and Timbre Es, etc.). Gold-plated Es, while warm, are infamous for whistling.

The cause of the whistle is usually one of two things: improper bow technique or a problem in the setup. If it’s the former, it should be easy for an experienced player (perhaps your teacher, if you have one) to play the instrument without getting a whistle. There’s a chance that the whistle is happening because of improper finger contact at those notes. Given that the description of the problem mentions it occurring on fingered notes, not an open string, the likelihood of a technique issue is higher.

If it’s the latter, the curvature of the bridge may be wrong. Non-whistling Es are a way to counteract this but they don’t address the root of the problem. Any regular E should perform without whistling if the setup is good. When a straightedge is placed on the strings where the bow goes, you should be able to rock it between each string without a noticeable difference in motion. If the bridge is too flat, too highly curved, or irregularly curved, you’ll likely find that the straightedge will give it away.

One last thought: if you have a plastic string protector on the string at the bridge, it might be throwing the balance off. A properly cut bridge will have a parchment at the E, eliminating the need for the plastic tube. The other strings should not have a tube on them. Some cheaper steel strings come with them, but they should be discarded.


In the OP I clearly stated that I cannot play closer than halfway to the bridge on OPEN STRINGS without getting the whistle.  I also CLEARLY said that a paper clip stuck on the afterlengths of the D and A strings eliminates most of the whistle.

 

How this translates to "your technique is deficient" is beyond me.  It's very frustrating.


Sorry, I missed the comment about open strings. That does not change any of the information, though; it just makes it harder to discern whether ours you or the violin. Adding the paper clip is probably damping the string and preventing some of the torsion that occurs when the string is hit improperly. That doesn't solve the problem. Don't waste your time with the paper clip.

To find the answer you need a skilled luthier to look at it. It's frustrating to struggle with playing, but keep in mind that it takes decades to learn to play well, and learning to control the bow is the heart of playing. 

Feb 2, 2022 - 11:54:26 AM
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408 posts since 7/30/2021

Wanna second or third the comments -
just get a good player to have a go at your instrument. If they are getting the wolf whistles too, then to the Luthier you must go!
(to check your bridge/setup/strings, etc.)

When I was shopping with a friend's daughter who was starting violin, I came across some pretty scary instruments...there were some where I couldn't get a good tone for the full length of the bow, or I couldn't play the D without hitting the A (and I know it's not me, after private lessons and played many years). They probably were not set up properly or just weren't made that well...
So yes, I believe it could be your instrument but not being a luthier, I wouldn't know how to fix it! 

The fact that a paperclip can fix it, is interesting...string tension? strings unravelling a bit? bridge? tuners? I dunno...somebody knowledgeable has to get their hands on it and take a look at it...

( for example, I had a mysterious issue where my bridge would fall over a few times a month, and the luthier fixed it by repositioning the bridge (apparently I put it back in the wrong place) and putting some graphite on my strings between the strings/bridge. It hasn't fallen over for a year now...)

Feb 2, 2022 - 2:42:39 PM
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1512 posts since 5/13/2008

Could be the rosin.

Feb 2, 2022 - 9:14:10 PM
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742 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by fiddlerjoebob

Could be the rosin.


I think this is highly unlikely. If the rosin were the issue, there would be issues elsewhere. Over-rosining can definitely lead to problems in tone production, but that's not the same thing as what the OP is describing.

 

A string whistles when the bow doesn't engage the string properly. In normal bowing, the friction of the bow across the string produces enough heat to melt the rosin and illicit a slip stick motion, wherein the string is continuously pulled until it snaps back. When the bow doesn't engage as it should, it causes the string to twist rather than snap back and forth. That twisting is what produces the whistle.

The main cause of whistling is a miscalculation of the speed/pressure needed to play the string. That being said, there are cases where the setup is the culprit. Just yesterday I adjusted a violin for a player. Among other things she was finding it difficult to play some passages cleanly where she needed to do quick string crossings while playing spiccato. She was such a strong player that she could play through the problem without it being obvious, but it was making her feel that she was having to put way too much effort into something that should have come much more easily. Upon inspection of her bridge, I found that the strings had worn into the grooves just enough to affect the curvature. Fixing that solved her problem instantly. The  difference was less than .5 mm but it was undeniable. 

Feb 3, 2022 - 11:40:36 AM

RDP

USA

15 posts since 1/31/2022

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful
quote:
Originally posted by RDP
quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

Whistles occur when the bow doesn’t engage with the string properly. There are some E strings designed specifically to reduce or eliminate whistling (e.g. Kaplan’s non-whistling E, Warchal’s Amber and Timbre Es, etc.). Gold-plated Es, while warm, are infamous for whistling.

The cause of the whistle is usually one of two things: improper bow technique or a problem in the setup. If it’s the former, it should be easy for an experienced player (perhaps your teacher, if you have one) to play the instrument without getting a whistle. There’s a chance that the whistle is happening because of improper finger contact at those notes. Given that the description of the problem mentions it occurring on fingered notes, not an open string, the likelihood of a technique issue is higher.

If it’s the latter, the curvature of the bridge may be wrong. Non-whistling Es are a way to counteract this but they don’t address the root of the problem. Any regular E should perform without whistling if the setup is good. When a straightedge is placed on the strings where the bow goes, you should be able to rock it between each string without a noticeable difference in motion. If the bridge is too flat, too highly curved, or irregularly curved, you’ll likely find that the straightedge will give it away.

One last thought: if you have a plastic string protector on the string at the bridge, it might be throwing the balance off. A properly cut bridge will have a parchment at the E, eliminating the need for the plastic tube. The other strings should not have a tube on them. Some cheaper steel strings come with them, but they should be discarded.


In the OP I clearly stated that I cannot play closer than halfway to the bridge on OPEN STRINGS without getting the whistle.  I also CLEARLY said that a paper clip stuck on the afterlengths of the D and A strings eliminates most of the whistle.

 

How this translates to "your technique is deficient" is beyond me.  It's very frustrating.


Sorry, I missed the comment about open strings. That does not change any of the information, though; it just makes it harder to discern whether ours you or the violin. Adding the paper clip is probably damping the string and preventing some of the torsion that occurs when the string is hit improperly. That doesn't solve the problem. Don't waste your time with the paper clip.

To find the answer you need a skilled luthier to look at it. It's frustrating to struggle with playing, but keep in mind that it takes decades to learn to play well, and learning to control the bow is the heart of playing. 


Thank you for this.  At this point I'm looking for a luthier who I can have take a look at what I've got.

 

Otherwise, the only explanation is that I've rediscovered Paganini's paper clip secret.

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