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Possible Causes for Doublestops to play easier on one violin than another?
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (1 votes) 

August 17, 2013 - 11:22 pm
Member Since: May 4, 2012
Forum Posts: 2379
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My electric is a lot touchier about your basic one finger 5th interval doublestops than my acoustic.  For the electric, I have to get the finger at a certain angle/spot on the two strings to get that 5th to come out right, while my acoustic is more of a sweetheart where you just pretend there's an invisible string between the two strings and it will sound in tune real easy.

They've always been that way, regardless of what they are strung with, so I am guessing there must be something in the setup that affects how easily one can do the simple doublestops. 

There are some obvious differences in setup between the two instruments.  For one thing, the string height at the nut is considerably higher on the electric.  String spacing at the bridge is slightly wider on the electric, but I rather want to keep that, since it makes it easier to play clean when you go way up the neck, which I do more on electric than acoustic.  The wider spacing down at the bridge would logically make doublestops way up in "hamster heaven" harder, but I'm seeing the difference I'm talking about even down in "first position" doublestops.

The fingerboards are at least very close to the same degree of "scoop", and string height at the bridge end of the fingerboard.  Bridges are parallel to the nuts, and strings are equal distances from the edge of the fingerboard on both G and E sides.

So I am *guessing* that it is probably the nut on the electric giving a string height near 2mm that is the likely cause of the problem.  I've been looking at cutting out the molded fiberglass/carbon-epoxy/plastic/whatever nut anyway, and replacing it with one made of either ebony, bone or hard antler (tip), since the A string has developed a buzz issue that I've tracked to the nut.

So what I'm asking is if that will likely also make doublestopping a bit easier on the electric, of if there is some other point of setup that could be the problem that I should attend to when I do the work on the nut.  Good to kill multiple birds with one rock, when you can, y'know?


"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

King for a Day, Peasant for many

August 18, 2013 - 12:52 am
Member Since: February 13, 2012
Forum Posts: 1815
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changing the bridge radius (make it flatter) makes it easier or (more standard like the 42mm R) harder to do DS's. look at a bluegrass fiddle and compare it to a more classical version. I would think even though the classical violin is used for DS's on occassion, the BG fiddle would do DS's more often.

Just a thought Mr. D.

"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


August 18, 2013 - 3:17 am
Member Since: May 4, 2012
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@cdennyb: It is a good thought, but I *think* more related to bowing the doublestops, than the fingering of them.   Right now, my electric isn't either the flatter BG type or the standard 42mm curve.  It is a bit towards the "avant garde" type of curve, where the E, A and D strings are a little closer to flat than the G string.

That actually works pretty well for me.  It was done by pure dumb luck when I first got the violin and the bridge was just an uncut and ungrooved blank.  I trimmed it just by looking at a pic I found on google search, and got at least lucky enough to get something quite playable.  Def beginner's luck.


I am also debating just making a big job of this repair and replacing the fingerboard.  The one it came with is sort of a hollow honeycomb fibreglass/carbon material.  I have an ebony one that is fairly nice.  I think it is possible that if the synthetic stuff has already worn more than I see by casual inspection, that could be throwing off the intonation on the doublestops.  The synthetic material fingerboard is glued on, so it wouldn't be as difficult as if the fingerboard was a single molded piece with the neck.. But the thickness of the synthetic and the ebony are different enough that I think I'd have to calculate the right projection and shave the plastic neck down a bit on the fingerboard side to get the right thickness from back of neck to top of fingerboard.  The ebony fingerboard is about 6.5 mm and the synthetic one is about 4.5 and I assume the extra thickness on the ebony over standard (5mm according to my books) is probably to allow for shaping and fitting it.

The upside to that would be replacing some of the plastic with ebony might actually sound better and could definitely be more durable.  I could also adjust the projection to get the right "break" angle where the strings cross the bridge.  The downside, of course, is that it would be considerably more work. LOL

My inexpensive electric just wasn't designed to hold up as long as a trad violin.  After over a year, I can tell there's at least some wear to the fingerboard and I'm guessing the buzz issue that has started with the A string is probably due to the string having cut into the synthetic material of the nut.  The nut on the electric wasn't ever a good job, anyway.   It was molded a bit rounded on the string side instead of a good clean "cliff", and is higher than it really should be. 

Still, for the approx $80 I paid for it, a year and some months before the materials start to let me down is a very good value.  It is just going to need some upgrades if I am to be able to have it play well for more years than it was obviously designed for.

"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

Honorary tenured advisor

August 18, 2013 - 10:37 am
Member Since: September 7, 2012
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If I read your OP correctly, the problem is that the two notes don't differ (as they should) by a fifth.

I know the weights of the two instruments are quite different, and I believe you hold the two differently.  One thing I would consider is whether your finger is coming in at the same angle on both instruments, and that on your electric you would because of that not be fretting the two strings the same distance from the bridge. 


August 27, 2013 - 11:49 am
Member Since: May 4, 2012
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Ok, got it figured out. 

The A string buzzing was getting annoying.  At first, I only heard the buzz when plucking the string.  But it got to where I could hear it when bowing the open A.

So I took a file to the nut and reshaped it a bit. I filed off the sort of curve it had on the fingerboard side, so the strings have a nice clean drop-off where they leave the nut to go out over the fingerboard.

I also noticed when I took the strings off that the A in particular seemed to have cut into the nut a bit.  I decided I may as well try a re-do of the nut on the instrument before resorting to replacing it.  Nothing to lose.  So I cleaned out all the string grooves and filled them in with superglue gel and left it for a couple hours to set up hard..  Then got out my trusty file and spent a leisurely hour or so reshaping the nut to more standard shape and dimensions. 

Recut the grooves, strung it back up, and lo and behold.. Not only was the buzz fixed, but the doublestops work on the electric now about the same as on the acoustic.  Yay!

As long as I had the strings off, and since I have a spare fingerboard waiting for this violin, I also decided to scrape and sand the original (synthetic material) fingerboard to see if I could get rid of some minor wear that was just starting to be noticeable.  Not only did I manage that, but the fingerboard is smoother, more like on my acoustic now.  For some reason they apparently thought it would be better with a little texture to it.  I don't agree, it's nicer to have it silky smooth.

I've played it enough since I knocked the gloss off the neck that it was pretty glossy again, so I taped it up and used a bit of 600 grit sandpaper on it to take the gloss off again. 

She plays fine now.  I'd say "good as new", except I *think* she plays a little better than even when she was brand new. 

I'm rather glad that it all worked out.  I like playing electric a good bit of the time, and it was being a little sad that the electric wasn't being in as good a voice as the acoustic.  But a couple of hours of fairly standard maintenance work and she's back.


So.. Apparently if the nut isn't shaped right to begin with and/or the strings dig in, it can make it more difficult to get doublestops to play "in tune".


(Note:  If you don't just happen to have a spare fingerboard and nut handy, you might want to be very cautious about messing with the fingerboard and nut.  You could render your instrument unplayable if you take a bit too much off, until you can get a replacement part and fit it.)

"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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