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This has been on my mind for quite a while... figured I'll post it here to see if anyone else experienced anything similar.
Basically I noticed it both on my old VSO and the new bench-made violin that whenever I play the D note on the A string it appears to be way weaker sounding than all the others in the area (regardless of technique).
It pretty much sounds like having a mute on. I'm guessing it's either the frequencies cancelling out each-other somehow (sounds kind of like that).. or some weird acoustic effect that makes me experience this with the violin under my ear.. and who knows.. it could be just fine for the rest of the room...
Usually it's not such a big deal, but for example when I want to do some increasing dynamics ending on that note.. it can be pretty frustrating.. you get the feeling of 'someone walking up and turning down the volume knob' just at the wrong moment.. lol and often times when I play a song like that.. I find myself literally crawling on to the bridge with huge pressure for that one single note to try to get it sounding at least at an equal volume than the rest.. (which somewhat works.. but shouldn't be required..)...
Now if it's not the frequencies cancelling out... and I'm not going deaf for that one pitch... :)) I have one more theory... since the only thing those two violins have in common is that both have Dominant strings on them... so could it be that the Dominant A string has an issue with the 3rd finger D on it?....
Any input appreciated,
Edit: oh and one more thing... just to emphasize that we're pretty much talking about one note here... if I do vibrato on that D it sounds way louder, since the repeated downwards pitch-bends off that note boosts the volume up to the 'proper' level I was expecting..
It may be a coincidence that both violins seem dead there. I used Dominants on my violin from 2000 to 2007, and a full set of Dominants on my violas from when I started until 2012 (when I switched to a Larsen A string), and never experienced this problem. Normally, that D should be one of the loudest notes on the violin because it is a natural harmonic of both the D string and the G string and should set off sympathetic vibrations. It's definitely one of the loudest notes on both my violin and my viola.
The other possibility: perhaps it's the room you're playing in?
Thanks Andrew! I think you're on to something here 🙂 The acoustic treatment on the room could very well be muting that specific frequency more than the others and to be honest I haven't really played much outside of this room (especially not at full volume, since it's quite loud and even the neighbors can hear it when I play in the other rooms haha). I'll do some experimenting!
As for the violins both being dead there.. that would have to be a major coincidence.. especially since the VSO is more like a random chaotic resonating chamber, rather than something designed to project properly so I'd expect that to actually go crazy on that D and deafen me under my ears, while still having less projection, based on what you said regarding sympathetic vibrations :)))
Also, quick question. You used both Dominant and Larsen.. which one is warmer? I'm thinking about trying Larsens next time around as I've read that they're particularly good to compensate bright instruments, but then again Dominants tend to have a warm tone as well so I'm wondering if there's a lot of difference.
I've never used Larsen violin strings, so I can't say for sure with violin. On my violin, I switched from Dominant to Vision, and Vision is definitely brighter.
On both my student-level viola and my current viola, I used all Dominant strings until 2012, then switched to Dominant C-G-D and Larsen A from 2012 until last month, when I switched to Vision C-G-D and Larsen A. The Dominant strings were warmer than the Larsen, and at least on my viola I feel the somewhat brighter Vision strings match the Larsen better. I switched to Vision strings on my viola because my viola is rather dark-sounding to begin with.
From what I've read, Larsen A and Dominant C-G-D is the single most common string set among professional violists; the match probably depends on the individual instrument. Very few violists use Larsen strings other than the A string. Although Larsen isn't quite as popular among violinists, some violinists only use a Larsen E string with G-D-A strings of some other brand.
The thing about the Larsen is that it's moderately warm but very direct, so for violists the A string is popular because it gives more projection in the upper register to go with the warmth. I wonder if the people who say it's good for compensating for bright instruments are comparing it to something like Evah Pirazzi, which is at the super-bright end of the spectrum but extremely popular for some reason.
Oh.. right 🙂 so you only tried the A, I was mainly wondering about the rest of them as the viola A and violin E are always kind of the 'black sheep' when it comes to sets haha 🙂
Anyway I read that over on a site called violin string reviews.. was the first to come up when I googled Larsen strings compared to dominants, even though there wasn't an actual comparison, just a description of the Larsens.
Back on topic though... I went ahead and played the song I'm working on in the kitchen.. (pretty big kitchen, hard surfaces.. good acoustics). The song is Sinatra's version of My way from the key of D.. so that D is a pretty big culmination point in the song when it comes to dynamics, that's why it's so much more noticeable here 🙂
It IS somewhat better.. meaning that I don't have to force any of the notes to get a nice loud sound out of them.. but that D note still sounded weaker compared to for example the C# just under it.
However, because of this it IS doable to get nice dynamics outside of this room, since my baseline volume is not as forced as in here so I have more room to work with.
@Fiddlerman Oh.. what I meant by 'regardless of technique' is that when the same technique is used for other notes, (like trying to get it louder, by increasing the speed / pressure etc.) they still sound more powerful in a relative way.
And it's not a pressure thing, if anything I'm generally pressing too hard on every note with every finger when I don't pay attention.
As an extreme example.. I can even get the 4th finger E right above it to sound louder, which is really awkward, since my pinky certainly doesn't have nearly as much force as my 3rd finger.
It's not that big of an issue, I just noticed it and thought others might have had similar experiences, but apparently it's not the case.. You might be right about the string, even though they're like barely more than a month old, I've played quite a lot. For now I'll leave it be and when I put on a new set of strings I'll come back with an update
@Fiddlerman Oh btw.. slightly off-topic.. but now that we mentioned changing strings.. I've kind of been wondering what strings would suit my violin more..
Even though it's a really wonderful violin.. there are some parts of its sound I do not particularly like.. Now this could be due to the fact that it's still pretty new and needs more breaking in.. or it could be some hidden problem I am not aware of. It could also be that I'm a beginner and don't know the 'secret' to bringing out a different sound, but my best guess would be that it simply doesn't like Dominant strings all that much (currently it has a full set of regular Dominants, with the silver G, but aluminum D).
If you check my progress thread, I uploaded a new video there last night, which uses more of the deeper notes. You can probably hear what I'm referring to if you watch that, but basically the deeper sounds have a bit of a 'muffled harshness' to it.. almost reminds me of what a violin would sound like if it was cracked.. or a tin can lol. Also the A string sometimes feels too 'bagpipe'-like.. which is probably awesome for fiddle music, but not really my taste 🙂
Would be nice if you could recommend a set or even a combination for me to look into 🙂
Two quick things to check. Is the bass foot of the violin bridge centered over the bass bar (easy to confirm with an index card with a scissor cut in it)? It is not unknown that the bass bar can be installed slightly off, which is no big deal but the bridge should be adjusted from center to adjust for it. This would also affect the position of the sound post.
If you have the type of fine tuner that projects from the end of the tail piece, you might try to remove it to determine if increasing the after length eliminates the problem or causes it to shift to another note. If it eliminates the problem, I would change out the tail piece to one where the fine tuners are integral to the tail piece, or install a new fine tuner that installs in the string ball hole (although they have less adjustment range).
Not all strings work with all violins.
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Experience is a difficult teacher, it gives the test first and the lesson after.
Is this something you noticed right away, or after the strings were broke in? (the lack of power, not the quacking sound)
When my A string broke in the first time, it sounded so weird to me, kind of dull, but I've gotten used to that initial sound change, especially since my A and D usually break in first (my E string usually gets changed at different times than all my other strings, it just goes from happy and ringing to shrill and annoying, lol).
It could just be your violin doesn't like Dominants. I personally haven't tried them yet. On my Ming I went from Larsen Virtuoso (loved them) to Helicore (which I like) on my Concert I can't remember what it started with but moved it over to Fiddlerman brand (which worked really well for that fiddle) and my German fiddle I keep an old set of Helicore on it (which are well over a year old now and the E string just gave out, haha, gotta find an old one to slap on there). So I still need to experiment with different strings more, so can't really weigh in too much. But all of these have been on the warm side (to me, and my fiddles).
World's Okayest Fiddler
I noticed this straight away.. and actually not on this violin, but my VSO, which also has Dominants... (noticed it pretty much right after I made the instrument playable, which involved putting on these strings - since prior to that it was just horrible and this would've been the least of my problems lol)
When preparing for the Christmas project, I didn't have this violin yet and one of my main problems was that you had to hold that D for quite a long time.. and it just sounded so weak.. so I tried making it louder, which made me run out of bow ahead of time..
At the time I figured it was due to the cheap VSO not resonating well with that frequency.. but after I got my bench-made violin.. it still acted in a similar fashion, but the violin has a much better resonance and projection so it was still a major improvement, which made me be able to do the project fairly well.
So I just figured that it's supposed to be like that for every violin for that specific note... that's why I didn't bother with it too much. But you know.. when you notice something over and over again, you start to get more and more sure that something's not right 🙂 hence why I started this thread...
Anyway.. if we go about it in a logical way.. the only common thing between the 2 violins is the strings.. (since both have Dominants).. and me.. 😛 (as in it could be something I do or the way I hear that frequency).
I tried dismissing the 'me' part by playing it in front of others.. and they agreed that it does sound weaker than the notes near it, though it could still be related to how I'm pressing with that specific amount of stretch on my 3rd finger (doesn't happen on other strings, but still.. hand positions vary between strings). Also like I said if anything.. I'm generally pressing too hard anyway and if the pressure required for that note alone would be that much precise and specific.. I'm pretty sure others would have noticed it as well and the internet would be full of it..
This kind of makes me believe that for some reason the Dominant A string doesn't like that note, which may have to do with its winding / weight / whatever interfering with that specific frequency or interfering with the rest of the set (sympathetic vibrations from G and D we talked about with Andrew). We'll probably find out once my new Infeld Red set arrives.
Now keep in mind we're not talking about something really extreme.. the note is still playable and sounds really nice and people listening to me playing probably wouldn't even notice... or think that I'm trying to mess around with dynamics on purpose or something.. So it's more of a.. 'while playing the instrument.. I constantly get the feeling that based on what I'm doing that note should be way louder'.. if that makes sense to you 🙂
Anyway @Irv , I did check pretty much everything on the instrument. The bass bar is in the correct place, soundpost as well..
I mean, I didn't really expect anything less, given it's a bench-made instrument of a master maker and the overall craftsmanship on it is literally 'unreal'... I get amazed every time I look at it more closely.. for example the angle of the purfling is cut so precisely that the two outside ebony lines meet perfectly in the corner.. and I mean 'perfect' as in at first I thought he skipped that part and decided to draw it on instead hahaha.. till I saw the separate grains of the purfling. So if someone has the patience to do that and spend 2 months building a violin, I assumed that he would probably make sure the bass bar is in the correct spot. Nevertheless I verified it, since accidents or afterwards damage can always happen, but everything seems fine.
Also there is only one fine-tuner for the E and the string length and afterlength measurements are fine.
My best guess atm is that Dominant strings are simply not so great on this violin, or at least not for my taste of sound.. since the 'annoying' part in the lower register kind of fits the description of the 'quacking' sound people claim Dominants have and who knows.. maybe that weaker D note on the A string will get better as well if I change the strings. They'll arrive tomorrow so we'll see 🙂
Anyway, here's a small picture of what I was referring to when talking about the purfling.. I mean sure.. it's probably not a big deal and it's not like it's a who knows what kind of expensive instrument.. but it does seem like he paid attention to what he was doing when making it 🙂
Sorry for the super long post
Hope you get some stings to fit your needs soon 😀 On mine, the quietest notes are always 4th finger, and that just makes sense, my 4th finger is still trying to get strong enough to play notes like my others 🙂
World's Okayest Fiddler
Wohooo 🙂 I may have struck gold!
(If not much else, at least a golden E string, that's for certain haha.. since the set has one of those)
Anyway, I changed the strings to the Infeld Red set.. I don't know what they feed these strings, but I was shocked at the power they have compared to Dominants.. Literally everything is louder, even that slightly silent D note.
I also bought a Kun solo shoulder rest, since it has a wider pad and is way more comfortable than the one I had. Sadly thou the shop sent me one that was a bit messed up as one of the inside threads in the plastic where the legs screw in was a bit torn up (Given that they have a physical shop and they send the stuff from there, I'm assuming a customer 'tried' it and screwed the legs back at a different angle, not catching the thread and forcing it in so it kinda cut its own secondary thread.. ) Nevertheless I screwed it in and out a bunch of times and it kind of went back to its original thread so it's usable and I choose not to send it back 🙂
And last but not least, I also bought a cake of the Andrea Solo rosin.. I'm not sure about that one yet, though it seems decent and it does 'mellow' out the sound a bit and makes the transitions between notes more seamless, but after I switched strings it acts as though it doesn't like the new ones that well.. I'm just assuming that they need to break in a bit and regardless of the rosin I use the bow would have a slight difficulty gripping brand new strings.
So to sum it up... I really like all the changes, I think the sound improved in a major way.