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Stable intonation on the lower strings?
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PopFiddle
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August 21, 2014 - 12:37 pm
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I had a bad experience recently purchasing a violin off of eBay.

I have only been playing about 6 months and so my intonation is still a little rough and by intonation, I don't just mean pitch control, I mean quality of sound from the bow.  My first impressions of the violin were very good, it certainly sounded better that my trusty little Cecilio CVN-200 which sounds pretty bad I must admit.

However, I was experiencing extreme instability from the G and D string to the point where I was identifying "wolf tones", where the sound breaks up into foul sounding harmonics.  I fooled around a bit, I swapped bridges with my CVN-200 and strings too.  The strings made the most difference, to the point where I thought that maybe it was bad strings and the steel wrapped strings from my Cecilio had solved the problem.  But no, the instability remained, it sounded as though the G string around C wants to break up into wolf tones and sounds raspy at best, even when you bow and finger very carefully.  The problem is erratic, it comes and goes.

It is most significant to me that my little $110 CVN-200 has no problems spitting out notes all the way up to the octave on the G string, every day no matter what the weather, the phase the moon is in or whatever.

This was a Fiddlerman Concert violin and the whole experience really spooked me on the Fiddlerman violins, although I still haven't a clue as to what causes these problems.  Even more intimidating was going down to the local music store and trying out a few of their violins and finding the same problem.  Some of the violins had the problem worse than others.

Does anyone have a clue as to what causes this?  Does the sound post play a role?  I have heard that this sort of thing gets even worse in the base instruments.

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Ferret
Byron Bay Australia
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August 21, 2014 - 10:32 pm
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Have you considered the bow?

I have recently 'recommissioned' my viola after some time of disuse and am noticing that the bow that I'm using can effect it in the ways that you mention.

Just something to think about maybe dunno

Seen it all. Done it all. Can't remember most of dunno ..... What was I saying???? facepalm

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PopFiddle
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August 21, 2014 - 10:49 pm
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Ferret said
Have you considered the bow?

I have recently 'recommissioned' my viola after some time of disuse and am noticing that the bow that I'm using can effect it in the ways that you mention.

Just something to think about maybe dunno

Good point.

Sure.  I tried the bow that came with my CVN-200 and that didn't make any difference.  The carbon fiber bow that came with the violin was more stable on the G string than the rather uneven horsehair on the bow that came with the Cecilio.

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Fiddlerman
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August 22, 2014 - 10:59 am
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PopFiddle said
I had a bad experience recently purchasing a violin off of eBay.
...............I was experiencing extreme instability from the G and D string to the point where I was identifying "wolf tones", where the sound breaks up into foul sounding harmonics..................

This was a Fiddlerman Concert violin and the whole experience really spooked me on the Fiddlerman violins, although I still haven't a clue as to what causes these problems.  Even more intimidating was going down to the local music store and trying out a few of their violins and finding the same problem.  Some of the violins had the problem worse than others.

Does anyone have a clue as to what causes this?  Does the sound post play a role?  I have heard that this sort of thing gets even worse in the base instruments

If I understand correctly, you are experiencing wolf tones on the G and D string?
First of all, yes, the soundpost adjustment makes a HUGE difference. Plus the length and quality of the post. Since it is a Fiddlerman Concert violin, we would be glad to have a look at it. Give is a call at Fiddlershop 954 530 5999. We can't pay for shipping in this case since you bought it on Ebay and we have no idea how the instrument was handled and or even adjusted but we can pull out the post and possibly even change it for free. I'll test it, play it, and even record it for you. Please understand that there are so many things that can be done that will affect the sound negatively. We are experts at optimizing the violin whereas most shops have no idea what they are doing. If you have a luthier in the area, they would probably be able to help you.

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

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PopFiddle
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August 22, 2014 - 11:57 am
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The violin has been sent back, but you have restored my confidence in Fiddlerman violins, especially if you will cover return shipping for violins you sell yourself.

I should say that I was very excited about the Concert violin, the sound was otherwise very sweet throughout.  The pegs were so well finished, at first I thought they were plastic -- smooth turning too.  The bridge was set up for a perfect string height, many things that I was having a difficult time with on my Cecilio were easy on the Concert.  The double stops on Raglan Road, for example, suddenly fell right into place.  I have since copied the bridge for my Cecilio and my playing has improved.  The finish was elegant, pretty clearly at least a partial spirit finish.

It would really wrap things up for me to have some technical insight into the source of the problem.  I don't want to try wrestling with the sound post myself just yet, but it would help to know what is going on.  I am worried that it might be structural, perhaps a faulty glue seam somewhere, or a hidden crack.  I notice that there are a lot of wolf tone "cures", which suggests to me that sound post adjustments are not always a solution.

What causes this particular sound problem? 

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PopFiddle
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August 22, 2014 - 2:40 pm
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Fiddlerman
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August 22, 2014 - 3:22 pm
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This text was pretty complete:
What is a wolf tone?

Wolf tones occur when strong sympathetic vibrations from the
instrument itself interfere with string vibration. The sensation may manifest itself in pulsation, throbbing, roughness, jump in
frequency, or difficulty in drawing the tone from the instrument.

To a greater or lesser degree, wolf tones are present on all instruments, even the finest Stradivari, caused by excess tension, or an anomaly in design or graduation. Typically, wolf tones can be heard (and felt) when playing B or B flat on the violin, B flat or C on the viola, and E to F sharp on the cello (especially in fourth position on the G-string.)

Most good players learn to compensate for the wolf tone; proper Vibrato can often make the wolf disappear; cellists often simply squeeze the lower bout with a knee when playing in areas where the wolf lurks.

What can I do if my instrument has a bad wolf tone?

Adjusting or refitting the soundpost or bridge, installing a thicker soundpost, or fitting an internal wolf resonator can help tame the wolf, but, before taking drastic steps, try the following options:

First, make sure that the instrument has no open seams or areas that have come unglued. A loose soundpost can often be the culprit, and may be caused by a loose bottom seam on the treble side, or even too much humidity, which causes the instrument to swell.

If the instrument is sound, try:

1. Changing the offending string to a thinner gauge string.

2. Using a Si-Hon style mute, which dampens the area around the tailpiece, or twisting a Tourte-style so it wedges between the strings.

3. Fitting a wolf-tone eliminator on the string behind the bridge. Moving the eliminator closer or further from the bridge can alter the pitch, and by placing it on a quarter tone or less vital note, reduce the frequency of the wolf to some degree. Once the optimum location is identified, the eliminator can then be locked in position by tightening the adjustment screw.

4. Altering the sympathetic vibration of the strings. One way is to fractionally lengthen the tailpiece loop (which will slightly shorten the overall string length).

5. Using a heavier tailpiece. Often, switching from a synthetic tailpiece to an ebony or metal tailpiece will noticeably reduce a wolf tone.

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

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Barry
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August 22, 2014 - 3:41 pm
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As I read through this I noticed you said you noticed it also on a lot of other violins you tried. If that happened to me, the first thing I would blame was my technique and see if I could figure out if I was doing something wrong

There is no shame in playing twinkle, youre playing Mozart

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PopFiddle
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August 22, 2014 - 4:59 pm
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Barry said
As I read through this I noticed you said you noticed it also on a lot of other violins you tried. If that happened to me, the first thing I would blame was my technique and see if I could figure out if I was doing something wrong

Not this time.  Like I said, my Cecilio doesn't do it.  Not at all.  And the rest of the violins I tried did it to varying degrees.  Clearly the instrument is involved.

This is not the first time I've seen a sales counter full of bad instruments, I have some experience with wind instruments.

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uncledave
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August 22, 2014 - 8:45 pm
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@Fiddlerman 

THANK YOU! The tip about vibrato sometimes eliminating the wolf tone works like a charm on my Gliga. Even a moderate vibrato stops the lousy sound I was getting.

Dave

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Fiddlerman
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August 23, 2014 - 4:19 pm
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Wolf tones are dependent on an exact pitch which corresponds to the frequency in which the plates are tuned at. When playing fast the tone doesn't usually resonate long enough to notice a wolf and when sitting on the note, many vibrate so it's not always easy to notice a wolf without actually testing long notes, chromatically and perhaps even at smaller intervals played non-vibrato. I'm one of those guys that could miss it :(

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

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PopFiddle
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August 24, 2014 - 7:03 am
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Fiddlerman said
Wolf tones are dependent on an exact pitch which corresponds to the frequency in which the plates are tuned at. When playing fast the tone doesn't usually resonate long enough to notice a wolf and when sitting on the note, many vibrate so it's not always easy to notice a wolf without actually testing long notes, chromatically and perhaps even at smaller intervals played non-vibrato. I'm one of those guys that could miss it :(

That makes sense.  I'm at that point where I am just beginning to learn my way around the fingerboard, working my up towards the octave on all the strings.  I'm struggling for pitch and intonation, especially on the lower strings that don't perform as well at the higher frequencies.  I play slow because I can't play any faster and anything that gets in my way gets my attention fast.  Vibrato, especially way up there, isn't a practical addition to my playing yet.

For example, Kreutzer #2, measures 11 and 12.

This article characterizes my problem:

http://www.violinist.com/blog/.....112/12129/

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