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Trouble making clear notes on "A" string
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MrBison
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April 9, 2012 - 12:17 am
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I put new strings on about 1 month ago. They are great except that for some reason the A string is especially scratchy. It gets scratchier the further up the string I go too (so D on the A string is really whispery/ scratchy while B on the A string is not too bad). It has done this ever since I put the new set of strings on. I don't have this problem on any of the other strings. No amount of experimentation with rosin, pressure, bow stroke, distance between bridge and end of fingerboard, etc. seems to help much. Is it possible to just get "bad" strings out of the package sometimes? Are some strings just harder to play than others maybe? I've been playing for about 4 months now and can play lots of simple tunes and I know what a clear note sounds like. Why can't I get D or E on the A string to ring clear? It's incredibly frustrating.

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myguitarnow
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Maybe you should just get the strings you used previously or could be the way you changed the strings... as did your bridge get a little crooked or maybe your neck is getting a little warped...What type of strings? I know steel strings can get mighty rusty quick with acidy fingers and nylon can start stretching. Hows the action on your violin, that can tell you what's going on.

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Kevin M.
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MGM,

I hear a lot of musicians, mostly guitar players talk about the action of an instrument.  Can you explain what it is when you say the action.

 

Thanks,

Kevin

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MrBison
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Kevin,

The action of any stringed instrument is the distance between the strings and the fingerboard (or fretboard). Instruments with a "low" action have a very small distance to push the strings before they make contact with the fingerboard (again, or fretboard). A "high" action instrument would have a very large gap between the strings and the finger/fret board. These type of instruments can be very difficult to play. Action changes as the instrument becomes bowed (action increases as the neck bends towards the body) or if changes are made to the nut or the bridge. The nut on my violin appears to have been reduced to lower the action. The bridge has been heavily sanded down too, which also lowers the action. Hope this helps.

Myguitarnow,

 The strings are Perlon core Pro-Artes. I don't know what was used before this because I got the fiddle from someone else and it came with very worn-out mystery strings. I changed them out before I knew about how to ID strings. Unfortunately, I'll never know for sure what they were. The bridge sets flat on its feet and is straight upright. I keep it in place by gently pulling it back when it starts to lean forward. I have noticed that the strings are really digging into the bridge. I don't know if this could cause any problems or not.

  As I mentioned, the nut appears to have been lowered and the bridge (a 4/4) has been sanded down to about a 3/4 size. This being said, the action at the end of the fingerboard (near the bridge) looks pretty high to me. I don't have a lot of experience with violins though so maybe its normal. Could a bowed neck cause this problem maybe? Should I try fitting a new bridge? Something else maybe?

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cdennyb
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MrBison said
Kevin,

The action of any stringed instrument is the distance between the strings and the fingerboard (or fretboard)....

assuming your defination is accurate, the book that luthiers use to position the strings above the fingerboard is make all sizes of violins sound the best.

...These type of instruments can be very difficult to play. ...

A low or high action instrument as you call it, needs a certain distance between the strings and fingerboard to prevent 'buzzing' or strings hitting the board surface as you play into the higher positions.

...The nut on my violin appears to have been reduced to lower the action. The bridge has been heavily sanded down too, which also lowers the action. Hope this helps.

I wonder how the "nut" can be reduced, since it holds the strings only 1/2mm above the board anyway. The bridge being "heavily sanded  down" would indicate to me (sight unseen) that the strings were steel core installed which don't required a lot of clearance.

... The bridge sets flat on its feet and is straight upright. I keep it in place by gently pulling it back when it starts to lean forward. I have noticed that the strings are really digging into the bridge...

The strings 'diggin into' the bridge would indicate to me someone setup the string notches with a sharp razor blade or knife and cut a VEE shape into the wood, which allows the string under tension to cut it's way deeper. Grooves cut into a bridge should be done with a very tiny round file, of proper diameter to prevent this from happening and the E string most of the time has a sleeve that protects the wood further.

...As I mentioned, the nut appears to have been lowered and the bridge (a 4/4) has been sanded down to about a 3/4 size. This being said, the action at the end of the fingerboard (near the bridge) looks pretty high to me.

How would you know the difference between a 4/4 and 3/4 bridge? By the height? A 3/4 viloin using synthetic core strings still needs more clearance from the fingerboard than a 4/4 does using steel core strings...so that observation is flawed.

...Could a bowed neck cause this problem maybe? Should I try fitting a new bridge? Something else maybe?

You can sight down the neck from the nut towards the bridge and using a micrometer or precision scale measure the distance from the edges to the body and see if it in fact has a twist either way...keeping in mind some fingerboards have a twist built into them for reaching the E string easier...or the G string easier depending on which way the player wants it set up. Yours may fall under one of those situations.

Just some thoughts on your circumstances to help out. My synthetic strings take a distance of 3.5 mm for the E string and 5.5 for the G. Using steel core strings that distance decreases to 3 mm and 5 mm respectively.

"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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Sofia Leo
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April 9, 2012 - 1:54 pm
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You can get "bad" strings right out of the package, but your fiddle may just not like the A string you put on it. My cheap Chinese fiddle had the very same problem (not only scratchy, but dull and lifeless, too) with all the strings I tried except Helicore mediums - the change in sound quality was immediate and drastic.

If the neck is "falling" that's a much larger issue and will have to be attended to by a luthier.

Pictures?

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MrBison
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April 9, 2012 - 3:23 pm
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cdennyb,

Thanks for the detailed reply and your input. As for this question:

How would you know the difference between a 4/4 and 3/4 bridge? By the height? A 3/4 viloin using synthetic core strings still needs more clearance from the fingerboard than a 4/4 does using steel core strings…so that observation is flawed.


I know the difference between the 3/4 and the 4/4 because I compared my bridge to 3/4 and a 4/4 bridges in a music shop. 4/4 bridges have larger feet than do 3/4 bridges. Mine is a 4/4 that has been "fitted".


CatMcCall,

Thanks for your story. Maybe I just need to experiment a bit with string types. Sounds like you had the same problem I'm having. I'll see if I can get some pics up too.

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cdennyb
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so, assuming the bridge needs some attention first, perhaps fitting a new bridge is in order then perhaps the A string will come around. If not, then perhaps a single string change to confirm that, if that doesn't work then perhaps look at all the other stuff.

If you say your 4/4 bridge has been 'fitted', do you mean it was cut down to a 3/4 size? The height you end up with will be far different than that of an uncut bridge blank.

My reply to that would be, every bridge should be fitted to the instrument it's put on. The string height is adjusted at the bridge, the feet are adjusted to fit the body, the grooves in the top are properly spaced etc. A 4/4 would require a spacing of about 34 mm outside to outside and 11.18 mm between strings, and the 3/4 bridge would be hard pressed to achieve that if I'm thinking of the size difference correctly.

"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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Fiddlestix
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You may want to check your finger board. From the tailpiece end, sight down the fingerboard, it should be a slight bit concaved in the middle. Between the nut and the bridge end of the finger board should be a fraction lower. You can check this with a short straight edge, check the G string side and the E string side, then the center.

Your strings should be 1/3 the diameter of the string into the bridge, your E string should have a sleeve to slide up so the string will rest on the bridge passing through the sleeve. On my violin, the bridge has a clear plastic cap over the bridge that the E string lays in. A luthier put mine on when he reworked the fingerboard.

Also,,,,,, you may think I looney, but make sure that you don't have the A string where the D string goes and D where the A goes. I got mine mixed up and had to use a micrometer to see the difference, it's hard to feel the difference in thickness.

I hope you get this thing going soon.crossedfingers

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cdennyb
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cheersFiddlestix said
You may want to check your finger board. From the tailpiece end, sight down the fingerboard, it should be a slight bit concaved in the middle. Between the nut and the bridge end of the finger board should be a fraction lower. You can check this with a short straight edge, check the G string side and the E string side, then the center.

I hope you get this thing going soon.crossedfingers

I have to take issue with the center being concave in the lengthwise direction... If it were lower in the middle the string would buzz at the bridge end of the fingerboard when playing in the 2-4th finger position because it would be hitting the board, think about it... is that what you really meant? or did you mean the fingerboard is convex 'across' from one end to the other? The fingerboard should be level from nut to bridge without ripples, low spots or high spots and if it does have those, it can be shaved sanded or scraped to correct the surface irregularity while still maintaining the 42mm dimension.

OC0811004_Convex-Concave.jpg

The crossways radius you want to confirm on there is 42 mm. You can use a compass to circumscribe an arc onto a index card and then carefully cut along that line. The template you just made will work for the fingerboard as well as the bridge top. That radius should be the same at both ends of the fingerboard and the bridge top where the strings go.

 

But honestly, that probably isnt an issue... work on strings, bowhair, rosin application and your technique first... then the rest will fall into place.

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"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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springer
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I have a question. What is the best way to check out a fingerboard? A metal strightedge? Also Dennis where do you get you information from?

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Sofia Leo
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cdennyb said

I have to take issue with the center being concave in the lengthwise direction... 

 

Actually, on the very finest violins the fingerboard really is concave along it's length - 0.5mm under the E string to 0.7mm under the G string. This is to provide clearance for the vibrating string, according to Strobel.

The dimensions can be found in many books about violin building and many, many sources on the 'net.

Personally, I think you can make yourself crazy trying to build to such tight tolerances, but I've always been a little fast and loose with rules wink

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springer
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THANKS for the info Cat!!!!  How high should the fingerboard be on the bridge end in the worst case.duncecap

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cdennyb
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I just went and looked at a source of info here...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fingerboard

and if you go down a ways and read the chart and formulas, you'll find a 4/4 violin fingerboard has a 42mm radius from one end to the eother and a nut width of 24 mm and a bridge width of 40 mm in most common instruments (read that student and affordable violins)

Apparently I stand corrected...duncecap

 

 COPIED FROM THE SITE:

Scoop of fretless bowed-string fingerboards

Fretless bowed-string fingerboards are usually scooped lengthwise in a smooth curve, so that if a straight edge is held next to the board parallel to a string, some daylight will show between them, towards the centre of the board. Usually the scoop is slightly greater on the bass side, less on the treble side of the fingerboard. Different string materials or different styles of playing may call for differing amounts of scoop; with gut strings requiring the most, and solid steel-core strings the least. A typical full-size (4/4) violin with synthetic-core G, D, and A strings will show 0.75 mm of scoop under the G string, and between 0.5 mm and zero scoop under the E, which generally has a solid steel core on instruments with modern set-up.

"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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Fiddlestix
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I have nothing more to add. It amusee's me.

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Sofia Leo
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springer said
THANKS for the info Cat!!!!  How high should the fingerboard be on the bridge end in the worst case.duncecap

Not quite sure what you're asking, Springer...If you lay a straight edge on the fingerboard, it should measure 27mm from the belly of the fiddle at the bridge position. Southwest Strings has some info that you may find useful here. Many fiddles vary from this measurement with no ill effects. Pictures?

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Fiddlestix
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I thought I already made it clear re: the concave fingerboard, but I was corrected. Lay a straight edge from the nut to the bridge end of the fingerboard, you should see daylight in the middle between the fingerboard and the straight edge. The fingerboard is lower in the center to allow for the vibration of the strings. I will not produce any buzzing due to contact with the fingerboard, because there is too much space between the end of the fingerboard and the string at that point.

If the board were convex, then you would possibly get a buzzing sound. Especially while playing notes from the center of the fingerboard back to the nut, due to the curveture of the fingerboard.

Also, MrBison.... are you sure you are pressing the strinig down firmly to the fingerboard, if the string is not in complete contact with the board, you will get a buzzing / unclear note. Happens to me alot.

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springer
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Thanks all, that info gives me several things to check.dazed

 

My cvn-500 makes this other thing (VSO) seem like kindling with strings.roflroflrofl

 

Just checked the fingerboard -- it is bowed upward (convex) in the middle.b-slap

 

Now I know what people mean by violin shaped object.

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Sofia Leo
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Here's a site that has a good tutorial about turning a VSO into something better.

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Fiddlestix
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@springer...... you probably want to take it in to a luthier and have the fingerboard properly shaped. It's not a job for an amature. I know this for a fact, there is less of a gap under the E string than under the A string, because of the different thickness's of the strings and how they vibrate

 

My luthier charged me 45 or 50 dollars to shape mine. Three months ago.

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