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Noisy tailpiece
Unwanted sound coming from vibrating tailpiece
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bobreardon
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May 10, 2014 - 2:16 pm
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My violin has recently developed a humming/whistling sound. It seems to be coming from the tailpiece, as touching the tailpiece is the only way I have found to reliably silence the sound. Any ideas what's gone wrong? The tailpiece is about 35 years old and probably has the original gut.

Thanks

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pky
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May 10, 2014 - 3:11 pm
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Check if your tail piece is touching your chinrest. Since your tailpiece is 35 years old, the tailpiece gut might have been stretched and elongated; you may need a new tailpiece gut and reset your tailpiece so it is not touching the chinrest.
Also, check if your fine tuner is on tight and the screw is not loose, if it's loose, it could make buzzing noise, too.

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bobreardon
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May 10, 2014 - 7:17 pm
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pky said

Check if your tail piece is touching your chinrest. Since your tailpiece is 35 years old, the tailpiece gut might have been stretched and elongated; you may need a new tailpiece gut and reset your tailpiece so it is not touching the chinrest.
Also, check if your fine tuner is on tight and the screw is not loose, if it's loose, it could make buzzing noise, too.

Thanks for the suggestions. No contact with chinrest and it's not the fine tuner screws. So I guess the next step is replacing the tailpiece gut. A question about this: how would an elongated gut change its function? Wouldn't any increased length be taken up when tuning the strings?

Thanks,

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Hman
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May 10, 2014 - 8:21 pm
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Either way that is bad. Tailpiece should be 5.6cm away from bridge and bridge to nut is 33cm I think.

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OldOgre
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May 10, 2014 - 8:45 pm
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bridge to tail nut on a 4/4 violin is 54mm +/- 1mm

With violins there is no fretting over the music.

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Hman
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May 10, 2014 - 11:35 pm
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Yea, I was hanging out with my luthier today and he does all 4/4 violins to 5.5cm. I knew it was around there. :D

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DanielB
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May 11, 2014 - 4:18 am
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@bobreardon: Does the problem occur on all strings and notes, or only some of them? Does it occur regardless of how strongly you play the notes?

Does the buzzing/whistling seem to always be at the same pitch, or does it change along with the notes as you play?

The problem sound stopping when you touch the tailpiece does help in isolating the problem, but it isn't 100%. Touching the tailpiece damps the instrument's sound slightly and may take it just below a threshold where the problem is noticeable. It does make it the most obvious place to start looking, though. Good thinking.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Fiddlerman
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May 12, 2014 - 7:33 am
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Now a days very few violins actually have the real gut tailpiece adjusters. Most common are the nylon ones. The good news about that is that they are easily adjustable unless you burn the end like many people do to avoid slippage. Super easy solution to try in any case.
Good luck!

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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bobreardon
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May 12, 2014 - 12:44 pm
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DanielB said

@bobreardon: Does the problem occur on all strings and notes, or only some of them? Does it occur regardless of how strongly you play the notes?

Does the buzzing/whistling seem to always be at the same pitch, or does it change along with the notes as you play?

The problem sound stopping when you touch the tailpiece does help in isolating the problem, but it isn't 100%. Touching the tailpiece damps the instrument's sound slightly and may take it just below a threshold where the problem is noticeable. It does make it the most obvious place to start looking, though. Good thinking.

When bowing E and less so with A - not with the others. Buzz is always the same pitch. Moving the bridge further away from the tailpiece seems to make buzz go away, though that's not a preferred solution for me.

Thanks,

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DanielB
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May 12, 2014 - 2:18 pm
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Well, if it is all the notes on the E an A (or even most of them) that pretty much rules out the length of the tailgut adjustment (the afterlength). Sounds like it pretty much has to be mechanical. I'd try checking for small crack/separation between the top plate and the ribs, since I assume you've already looked carefully to make sure the tailpiece and etc isn't touching the top of the violin or the chinrest.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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bobreardon
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May 13, 2014 - 8:39 pm
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DanielB said

Well, if it is all the notes on the E an A (or even most of them) that pretty much rules out the length of the tailgut adjustment (the afterlength). Sounds like it pretty much has to be mechanical. I'd try checking for small crack/separation between the top plate and the ribs, since I assume you've already looked carefully to make sure the tailpiece and etc isn't touching the top of the violin or the chinrest.

Interesting - can you explain more why having the same buzz on multiple notes means that it's not the the afterlength?

I will carefully inspect the junction between the top plate and ribs...

Thanks!

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RosinedUp
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I've had buzzing a few times from a loose nut and screw on my shoulder rest.

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Fiddlerman
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May 14, 2014 - 11:26 am
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I assume that you've checked this but it's very common that the fine-tuners loosen and buzz. Even if it's just one, check that the bottom nut is tight. We had a fiddle that was buzzing and couldn't figure it out until I finally noticed that the end-button was sticking out. We couldn't just push it in either because the hole was made too large.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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pky
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May 17, 2014 - 9:37 am
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one other thing you could do is check the grove on the nut and see if there's
any wood chipped away -- take the buzzing string off, use a magnifying glass to look at the nut.

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Tyberius
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May 17, 2014 - 11:45 am
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I have repaired a old violin with multiple seam splits and 2 small cracks early last fall. I did end up replacing the strings, bridge, pegs (3 different kinds were on it), the tail gut and chin rest. The tail piece was fluted on the end-pin end side with both the End Pin and tail piece have mother of pearl inlay (which I also had to repair), so I kept both of them. The brass lifter that holds the strings off the tail piece was removed, buff polished, then reinserted.

I replaced the strings and tuned it up. I had a "wolf-tone" ringing. It most assuredly was coming from the tailpiece. It had an E tuner so I checked the under side and top side nut and there was no difference. I removed the tailpiece and retightened the tailgut nut in the recessed underside, and still no difference. There were no cracks in the tail piece and it was not touching the violin surface. As I am using ball end strings, I verified they were seated properly in the tailpiece slots. I inspected the ball end on the E string to insure it was not making contact with the tailpiece on the back side of the fine tuner. The only other thing I could think of was the inserted brass lifter.

I removed the strings again, removed the brass insert and cleaned out the slot it fits into. I then pressed it carefully back in making sure it was seated fully and firmly. Then replaced the strings and retuned. The ringing noise was gone. I don't know what is the root cause of your problem, but there are several small things that can drive you crazy if you are learning as you go, as I did.

To answer a question about afterlength :
As for the afterlength, the 55mm its really only a starting guidelines for a 330mm string length. The actual string length from bridge to nut is what determines the afterlength. It should be 1/6 the "vibrating"string length (bridge to nut). But even then only on gut strings. What I found in my research and in experimentation, is that the wrapping on modern type strings also tends to dampen the vibrations. So, you may even further have to adjust it to be at the sweet spot. Don't adjust your bridge other then to straighten it to get the afterlength "adjustment", as you then start moving its position in reference to the bass bar and sound post.

"I find your lack of Fiddle, disturbing" - Darth Vader

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DanielB
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May 18, 2014 - 4:54 am
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@bobreardon: Ok the "afterlength" is the section of string between the bridge and the tailpiece, as you probably already know. If you have a length of string suspended between two supporting parts, it can vibrate. When things vibrate on a violin, it makes sound.

The length of string between the bridge and the nut, the part we bow and finger on, it vibrates a lot. That generates most of the sound of the instrument.

But the afterlength is the same kind of system, a length of string under tension between two more solid supports. Obviously, it is going to vibrate as well, even though we don't normally bow it in playing. The part of the string that we bow makes the bridge vibrate and the bridge makes the afterlength vibrate a bit. Since the bits of the string that are in the afterlength have a definite length and tension, they will each vibrate at a specific frequency, just like the open strings of the violin do.

So if a violin is making a funny/unpleasant sound, and the problem is something in the afterlength, it will only affect certain notes.

It was a possible cause to consider that came to mind when you mentioned that the problem stops if you touch the tailpiece, since touching the tailpiece would dampen any vibration in the afterlength a bit. But since it is not happening only on specific notes, that makes it unlikely.

A buzz that happens regardless of what notes are played is more likely to be a mechanical thing, a result of two pieces touching that shouldn't be, or two pieces that are supposed to be glued together starting to come apart. Possibly a small crack starting to open up somewhere. That sort of thing.

Hopefully that explains the line of logic I was following, bobreardon.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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