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Fiddle Lovers Online


Nov 30, 2022 - 5:38:55 AM
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35 posts since 6/20/2022

Is there a way to make a fiddle sound more 'mellow' and less 'shrill'?
I got this fiddle from a vendor at a festival, its sound was 'shrill' and lively. ("Friz Otto Kaiser, 1966"). That's great for an outdoor jam situation where there's loads of players & you want to hear yourself. But I was playing last nite with a small folk jam group...so I didn't want to drown out the singers. I wanted my playing to be more 'sweet' and mellow. I put a little concert mute on the bridge, but that kind of choked down the whole frequency spectrum.
I know that banjo players sometimes put a wad of cloth inside their banjo to quiet it down. Is there something fiddlers can do, a question of setup, or should I just bring my 'student' fiddle (which is a lot quieter)?

Nov 30, 2022 - 6:12:05 AM
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2496 posts since 10/1/2008

The two main effectors on a fiddles volume are strings and bow attack, for lack of a better word. You do not mention your choice of string in your question. Fiber core strings are generally mellower in tone than steel core strings and softer in volume. Much of a violin's volume is related to technique and downward pressure on your bow. Try out some different strings and work out some favored songs or tunes with thoughts on lightening your bow arm. One additional factor is an instruments setup can as it may effect how bright a fiddle sounds. Have you taken it to a violin luthier for adjustment? I understand that it can get exciting when things are going well in a jam. And whoosh . . . . But of course, we all want to play with not over. Lastly your fiddle is right under your ear so it is not as loud to others as it is to you. I don't like mutes either. They are tone destroyers on my fiddles. But then that's my experience. Play on! R/

Nov 30, 2022 - 6:39:22 AM
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Swing

USA

2242 posts since 6/26/2007

It actually is a pretty simple adjustment from shrill to more mellow... a sound post adjustment will give you want you are looking for and a trip to your local luthier is in order.... FYI... the sound post may be too tight and that has other potential issues, but the sound post may be too close to the bridge... a small adjustment even half a millimeter will have an effect on the tone... it may take a couple of adjustments before you are happy with the tone....talk with the luthier about the bridge tilt and other issues..

Play Happy

Swing

Nov 30, 2022 - 6:45:13 AM

359 posts since 6/3/2016

An easy, inexpensive thing to do is use a wire mute. They're so small they don't do much more than take a little bit of the edge off.

You are probably looking for a bigger difference.

Nov 30, 2022 - 9:03:45 AM
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972 posts since 3/1/2020

An easy mute can be made by folding a dollar bill and sliding it between the strings behind the bridge. Use it like a sliding mute. If you place it so it just touches the back of the bridge, it will dampen the sound without muting as much as when it’s more firmly fixed.

This an old orchestra trick. The joke is that the better the group in which you're playing, the larger the bill should be.

If you want a mellower sound overall, you can get that with a string change. Dominants are very warm and rich. If you want to go as mellow as you can get, try gut or Obligato. Also, a luthier can adjust the sound post on your violin to make the sound more mellow. 

Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 11/30/2022 09:11:01

Nov 30, 2022 - 10:01:11 AM

2875 posts since 10/22/2007

To me, a freshly rosined bow seems to sound harsh, awful and edgy too. I try to never rosin my bow right before a gig, or jam. If and when I rosin, I play or practice solo for an hour or so. Best of Luck

Nov 30, 2022 - 2:42:29 PM

693 posts since 7/30/2021

I think my violin has a bright clear sound too - works ok for classical, but I dislike it for my fiddling!

I have mellowed the sound down a bit with...
- gut / Dominant / Obligato strings (the Obligatos are actually really LOUD, & the gut strings went out of tune a lot)
- looser bow (not tightened as much as usual, hairs are kind of loose)
- lighter bow arm with less pressure

( But still, I'm searching for a fiddle that would have the sound I'm craving...)

Edited by - NCnotes on 11/30/2022 14:42:47

Nov 30, 2022 - 3:26:04 PM

35 posts since 6/20/2022

quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones

To me, a freshly rosined bow seems to sound harsh, awful and edgy too. I try to never rosin my bow right before a gig, or jam. If and when I rosin, I play or practice solo for an hour or so. Best of Luck


Hmm...interesting. I did rosin the bow just before I started playing. Didn't know about this.

Dec 2, 2022 - 11:05:28 AM

972 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by woodswalker
quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones

To me, a freshly rosined bow seems to sound harsh, awful and edgy too. I try to never rosin my bow right before a gig, or jam. If and when I rosin, I play or practice solo for an hour or so. Best of Luck


Hmm...interesting. I did rosin the bow just before I started playing. Didn't know about this.


Over-rosining a bow makes the sound harsh and crunchy. It doesn't take a lot to get the bow working, so use sparingly. If it takes an hour of playing to get the excess off the bow, that's a gigantic amount of extra rosin!

Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 12/02/2022 11:05:53

Dec 2, 2022 - 11:53:02 AM

2157 posts since 12/11/2008

The cheap & easy method...well sometimes not so easy. When you bow the string, position the bow a decent distance away from the violin's bridge. At the very least, place the bow midway between the bridge and the fingerboard. If you want truly mellow, go whole hog and bow the string with the bow placed over the fingerboard itself.

Dec 11, 2022 - 8:33:38 AM

mrneil2

USA

13 posts since 4/7/2018

quote:
Originally posted by mrneil2

I was in the same boat with a shrill violin. Tried Obligato strings but way to expensive for me. I settled on Larsen Tzigane strings. Pricey but not quite as expensive as the Obligatos. Also the e string does not whistle which is a plus YMMV. Hope this helps and doesn’t send you down the string hunting rabbit hole 


Dec 20, 2022 - 12:07:18 PM

83 posts since 12/26/2021

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful
quote:
Originally posted by woodswalker
quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones

To me, a freshly rosined bow seems to sound harsh, awful and edgy too. I try to never rosin my bow right before a gig, or jam. If and when I rosin, I play or practice solo for an hour or so. Best of Luck


Hmm...interesting. I did rosin the bow just before I started playing. Didn't know about this.


Over-rosining a bow makes the sound harsh and crunchy. It doesn't take a lot to get the bow working, so use sparingly. If it takes an hour of playing to get the excess off the bow, that's a gigantic amount of extra rosin!


I put a set of Prims on about three months ago. The last few weeks they started sounding really harsh, shrill, and scratchy. I hate changing strings. I decided to clean them with alcohol*, and I cleaned the bow hair with a dry rag and brush. What a difference! I just switched from using Hill's Dark to Pirastro Gold because where I live the temperature and the humidity rarely get below 70F, and that has made a big difference. I suspect that wiping down the strings pushes the excess rosin into the windings on the strings. I've gone from rosining up before every practice to just touching up as needed and my tone is much more pleasant.   

*Put a plastic bag under the strings and over the fiddle

Dec 21, 2022 - 8:59:08 AM
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972 posts since 3/1/2020

crunchie812 ,

I agree with you that cleaning strings makes a world of difference, but there’s good reason not to use alcohol, cork, or steel wool to do it. Bohdan Warchal has written a very good article about cleaning strings. Take a look at the picture of a string after just one cleaning with alcohol.

The key to keeping strings clean and long-lasting is to use a dry cloth EVERY TIME you play!

shop.warchal.com/blogs/what-s-...r-strings

Dec 21, 2022 - 9:15 AM

35 posts since 6/20/2022

Thanks so much for this great information!

Dec 21, 2022 - 9:53:35 AM

Swing

USA

2242 posts since 6/26/2007

Cleaning strings is one of those discussions that may involve a lot of controversy and swearing..... I have read all sorts of reviews and statements.... the list as I see it goes like this....

a dry rag i.e. a clean cloth...wipe strings daily after playing...shirt sleeves and pants work..some places say a microfiber rag works best...

A cork....(not in the bottle please) it does take off the excess rosin...but by the nature of the beast it also tends to smear the rosin a bit.

A credit card edge.. the plastic is soft and is scrapes the rosin off easily ... strings are wound and that may actually cause the string to unravel where you scrape.

Alcohol or other liquid string cleaner... big pros and cons on this topic...so, yes, but only after you remove most of the rosin some other way, (see above) Some high end string manufacturers actual say in the label that you should do this, but only once a week at most...do be careful to not use much and cover the instrument with something so that you don't dribble on the finish...(bad) alcohol cleaning wipes are convenient and cheap and don't have much alcohol... other alcohol products may be used in conjunction with cleaning strings but are better consumed in the company of others. YouTube has a handful of videos on this subject.

Lastly...scraping and wiping I have mentioned...I have found a relatively new product for cleaning strings and you can get it at your local hardware store... in the paint department they sell plastic scruffy pad material for sanding etc... different colors, but the Red, Green and Gray all have some abrasives in the material... you don't want those....get the WHITE ONE....it has no abrasives. I have a one inch square that I have been using for several years with no adverse issues to the strings...it is gentle and you can feel the rosin being removed.just a couple of quick swipes....a pad cost about $2.50 and you only need little square, so buy one, cut it up and give small pads away to your fiddle friends.

Play Happy

Swing

Dec 21, 2022 - 10:07:35 AM

972 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Swing


Alcohol or other liquid string cleaner... big pros and cons on this topic...so, yes, but only after you remove most of the rosin some other way, (see above) Some high end string manufacturers actual say in the label that you should do this, but only once a week at most...do be careful to not use much and cover the instrument with something so that you don't dribble on the finish...(bad) alcohol cleaning wipes are convenient and cheap and don't have much alcohol... other alcohol products may be used in conjunction with cleaning strings but are better consumed in the company of others. YouTube has a handful of videos on this subject.

Lastly...scraping and wiping I have mentioned...I have found a relatively new product for cleaning strings and you can get it at your local hardware store... in the paint department they sell plastic scruffy pad material for sanding etc... different colors, but the Red, Green and Gray all have some abrasives in the material... you don't want those....get the WHITE ONE....it has no abrasives. I have a one inch square that I have been using for several years with no adverse issues to the strings...it is gentle and you can feel the rosin being removed.just a couple of quick swipes....a pad cost about $2.50 and you only need little square, so buy one, cut it up and give small pads away to your fiddle friends.


You're talking about Scotch-Brite abrasive pads. The white ones  contain a  2500 grit aluminum silicate abrasive, also comparable to #0000 steel wool. 
 

Read the Warchal article and look at the picture of a string cleaned with steel wool to get an idea of what it would do. 
 

The problem with alcohol is that it sends dissolved rosin into the core and damages the fibers in addition to accelerating corrosion on the winding. 

Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 12/21/2022 10:14:37

Dec 21, 2022 - 10:33:14 AM

Swing

USA

2242 posts since 6/26/2007

The Beautiful Violin....from my experience of working with wood and other materials, the white pad is much fine than 0000 steel wool... and of course doesn't fall apart.... I have read the Warchal article on alcohols affect on strings... I can neither agree or disagree with what they say... they have studied the effect on their strings... Oblagato, Eva Gold, Eva all have a statement in the label to use alcohol... so, who's on first....I don't think that there is a final correct way or not... just information and what works for the individual...

FYI, I have used alcohol on Oblagato strings and they have lasted more than nine months with a lot of playing.

Play Happy

Swing

Dec 21, 2022 - 10:46:58 AM

83 posts since 12/26/2021

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

crunchie812 ,

I agree with you that cleaning strings makes a world of difference, but there’s good reason not to use alcohol, cork, or steel wool to do it. Bohdan Warchal has written a very good article about cleaning strings. Take a look at the picture of a string after just one cleaning with alcohol.

The key to keeping strings clean and long-lasting is to use a dry cloth EVERY TIME you play!

shop.warchal.com/blogs/what-s-...r-strings


Thank you for the link. Going forward, my strings will abstain from alcohol. I should probably order new strings. :-( I wipe my strings thoroughly every day with a bandana. It does make a horrific screech. I'll switch to the microfiber cloth. I suspect the main culprit was the rosin buildup on the bow hairs. I could actually hear faint clicking sounds when I played long light bow strokes from the excess embedded in the hair.  Hopefully the climate appropriate rosin and not over applying it will avoid this in the future. 

Dec 21, 2022 - 11:35:08 AM
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5758 posts since 7/1/2007

I lean strongly toward the microfiber cloth. The combination of gentleness and thoroughness is hard to beat. I also recommend wiping bow hair with a terry cloth washcloth when you get it loaded up with too much rosin. You can indeed get a bow so loaded up with rosin that it just doesn't sound good.

Dec 22, 2022 - 7:56:37 AM

2 posts since 12/22/2022

quote:
Originally posted by woodswalker

Is there a way to make a fiddle sound more 'mellow' and less 'shrill'?
I got this fiddle from a vendor at a festival, its sound was 'shrill' and lively. ("Friz Otto Kaiser, 1966"). That's great for an outdoor jam situation where there's loads of players & you want to hear yourself. But I was playing last nite with a small folk jam group...so I didn't want to drown out the singers. I wanted my playing to be more 'sweet' and mellow. I put a little concert mute on the bridge, but that kind of choked down the whole frequency spectrum.
I know that banjo players sometimes put a wad of cloth inside their banjo to quiet it down. Is there something fiddlers can do, a question of setup, or should I just bring my 'student' fiddle (which is a lot quieter)?


I had this same complaint and concern. The luthier at the violin shop where I bought my violin "mellowed-out" my violin by nudging the soundpost ever so slightly away from the bridge. It took some trial and error, but it sounds much better now.

I've also found putting one of those single-string viol mutes over the E-string helps too without choking down all the strings.

Dec 22, 2022 - 10:30:56 AM

972 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Swing

The Beautiful Violin....from my experience of working with wood and other materials, the white pad is much fine than 0000 steel wool... and of course doesn't fall apart....


StewMac lists the grit and steel-wool equivalence of Scotch-Brite abrasive pads, which I expect they're getting from 3M:

https://www.stewmac.com/luthier-tools-and-supplies/supplies/sanding-and-polishing/3m-scotch-brite-pads/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=shopping&utm_campaign=2022-12-gp&gclid=CjwKCAiAnZCdBhBmEiwA8nDQxYs-xpCGP3fv6ZswCf4C9cfRS_2Uh0sJf--Wh6s50wixbX_FBPm8zhoC4dEQAvD_BwE

Dec 22, 2022 - 10:39:49 AM

Swing

USA

2242 posts since 6/26/2007

There are several companies that make steel wool...one from Germany makes very fine 0000 oil free...great for finishing...the white pads that I get are more like than then the general hardware store 0000.....

Play Happy

Swing

Dec 22, 2022 - 1:36:38 PM
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370 posts since 4/15/2019

From my little experience I think this is mainly a string issue. I tried the prim strings and they were so loud and harsh I took them off. Each fiddle reacts different to different types of strings. You need to find out what suits your particular fiddle.

Dec 23, 2022 - 11:04 AM

5758 posts since 7/1/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Swing

There are several companies that make steel wool...one from Germany makes very fine 0000 oil free...great for finishing...the white pads that I get are more like than then the general hardware store 0000.....

Play Happy

Swing


I haven't had steel wool OR scotch-brite in my shop for at least the last 15 years. I use wet or dry paper, micro-mesh, traditional abrasives like Tripoli, and rubbing/ polishing compounds formulated with them.  While I used to use various grades of steel wool in furniture rub-out, I just haven't ever found an application where it made sense for violins/ fiddles.

Edited by - KCFiddles on 12/23/2022 11:04:34

Dec 24, 2022 - 9:33:16 AM
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83 posts since 12/26/2021

quote:
Originally posted by RinconMtnErnie

An easy, inexpensive thing to do is use a wire mute. They're so small they don't do much more than take a little bit of the edge off.

You are probably looking for a bigger difference.


Wire mute, man, I forgot there even was such a thing. I remember those from when I was a kid in the '60s. Didn't see them when I was originally shopping for mutes, didn't even think of them. After seeing your post I ordered one, just got it, and I love it. I mostly play with a rubber practice mute so when I play without it its kind of like a slap upside the head at first. This thing is great, like you said it just takes a bit of the edge off. It stays on the fiddle, just slide it out of the way to let 'er rip or to put on the rubber mute.  

Dec 24, 2022 - 10:48:57 AM

35 posts since 6/20/2022

quote:
Originally posted by crunchie812
quote:
Originally posted by RinconMtnErnie

An easy, inexpensive thing to do is use a wire mute. They're so small they don't do much more than take a little bit of the edge off.

I never heard of a wire mute, but I have this circular rubber thing that slides off the strings & clips onto the bridge. 
The giant rubber mute? can't use that, as it blocks the fiddle from my vision.


Wire mute, man, I forgot there even was such a thing. I remember those from when I was a kid in the '60s. Didn't see them when I was originally shopping for mutes, didn't even think of them. After seeing your post I ordered one, just got it, and I love it. I mostly play with a rubber practice mute so when I play without it its kind of like a slap upside the head at first. This thing is great, like you said it just takes a bit of the edge off. It stays on the fiddle, just slide it out of the way to let 'er rip or to put on the rubber mute.  


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