Help! Lifeless – sounding G string.
July 13, 2014 at 1:11 AM #7180
Hi fellow fiddlers! – I am hoping some of you can chime in here and offer some suggestions. I have tuned my violin using my new SNARK chromatic tuner (see my review, if you haven’t already!) 🙂 I have new Helicore medium G, D, and A strings (steel) with a Jargar E on my new fiddle. After tuning it with the SNARK, I then bowed the open strings while listening to John’s video tutorial ‘Tune With Me’, and my violin sounded spot-on with John’s – his G string sounding a tad brighter than mine. However, when I tried to play any notes on the G string, the G sounded dull and lifeless – almost agonizing! I would describe the sound like a dull moaning – as if something is about to die.
I had a set of D’Addario Pro-Arte’ strings (synthetic) on it before the Helicores, and the Pro-Arte’ G sounded the same (lifeless)…Although, Pro-Arte’s ARE meant to sound warm and mellow, and not bright. I also tried a D’Addario ‘Prelude’ G (steel), and I get the same lifeless moaning sound! The other three strings sound okay. It could just be the way my fiddle was made. I don’t know? I just find the sound of the played G string a little irritating, and feel it should sound brighter. Has anyone else experienced something similar? And how did you overcome the problem? Is there such a thing as a ‘bright’ G string for purchase. I am happy to download an MP3 of the sound if someone is interested in hearing it for comment. Note: My fiddle is fairly new. Set up, sound post etc., all appear good. Also, I am holding the fiddle at waist height for now because of a bad shoulder, but even when held out away from my body, it still sounds bad! Your thoughts and suggestions will be greatly appreciated! Thank you for reading. Scott
“We are here to teach, to learn from, to nurture and support, and to share our wisdom with others, so that we may grow as individuals and achieve great things.”July 13, 2014 at 4:27 PM #7181
Scott, it would be helpful if you could post a video, with you bowing each string so we can see and hear the difference between the strings. Does the volume drop out on the “G” string, or just the tone?July 13, 2014 at 8:25 PM #7182
Hi Harlen – Thank you for your reply!
I dropped my video camera a few weeks ago while it was in its case. I tried to make a video two days ago, but when I press the record button, nothing happens. It goes in for repair tomorrow. Maybe get it back next week! I can however have a go at doing an MP3 of the strings, and post it here for you and others to hear in lieu of a video, for the time being. The volume appears okay and does not to drop out. It seems more like the actual tone of the ‘G’. It sounds really low and moaning with a muffled ‘woody’ sound, and more like a viola, if that makes sense. The ‘open G’ sounds good.(???)
I have heard a few of the Chinese fiddles, as well as a few Old German circa 1900 fiddles where the ‘G’ string sounds a bit like mine — some probably better. Like I said, it could just be the way my fiddle was made. I will get that MP3 done A.S.A.P. so you can hear it.
Thank you for your assistance.
Cheers, ScottJuly 14, 2014 at 9:20 AM #7194
Hi Harlen — I am still working at getting the MP3 uploaded. I have recorded the MP3 already and I am trying to swap it from my Apple computer to my PC … with a bit of difficulty. (I can not record to my PC). I am on a different time zone to you, so I will have another go at it and attempt to upload it this evening — your time (fingers crossed!). I am not sure if I should post the MP3 here as a reply, or begin a new thread? I am new to forums. This is my first!
Enjoy your day! 🙂
ScottJuly 14, 2014 at 11:43 AM #7197
Hi Scott, it would be great if we could hear it. I have not yet tried attaching an MP3 to this forum, but it should work! I will give it a go later today. When you get the MP3 working, just attach it to the bottom of this thread.
A few days ago, my A string came apart. All I had to put replace it with was a D’Addario Pro Arte, which is not as good as the D’Addario Helicore. And you know, I can really tell the difference. When I get behind a microphone again, I will try uploading an MP3 of the four strings just so you can hear the comparison between the Pro Arte A and the Helicor G, D and E.July 14, 2014 at 10:56 PM #7221
Hey John! Thank you also for your response. It is really great having you and the members chime in here to help each other with your/their experience and expertise! It is a nice feeling knowing someone is always here to help!
I have had quite a bit to do today and I am way behind time. I promise I will have a go at up-loading the MP3 later on today, however, when I do up-load it, you and most others will be wishing I hadn’t!
The D’Addario Pro Arte’ strings sure DO sound a lot different. The ‘G’ string is a real party-killer! I guess they are okay if someone is playing Chopin’s ‘Funeral March’, but for us people who still have a little life left in us, then give me Helicores ANY day! 🙂
I, for one, would love to hear your strings comparison, when you get the time. It would be nice for me to hear what the two sets of strings sound like – played by a PROFESSIONAL! … and on a DECENT fiddle!July 15, 2014 at 9:11 AM #7267
Hey John and Harlen — Here is what I promised you! It sounds like a Banshee having a bad hair day! After you hear this, I am sure you are going to suggest that I give up the violin and learn to play the spoons! I was very nervous!.. and I could not stop my left arm from shaking! Plus, this was the first time I have actually been able to get my arm up high enough to rest my violin on my collar bone … and only for a few minutes, before having to stop and put it down! (Note: For those who are curious as to why — rotator cuff tear and bursitis. I am in recovery)
I tuned the fiddle before making the MP3, and when I listened to it afterwards, I think it is hard to hear that sound that I spoke of. My bowing didn’t help it much either! I was using the wooden bow that came with my fiddle because my carbon fiber bow — which sounds much better, just didn’t seem to do any good. I think I might have over-rosined it! All I know is that I can not stand the sound of the G string. Maybe I can just use the E,A, and D strings on all my future tunes, and get rid of the G string, altogether!
I am sorry John, I guess I was not very good at playing the fiddle for you and Harlen to hear the muffled woody sound that concerns me. I hope I did not waste your time. Thank you for listening, anyhow.
Attachments:You must be logged in to view attached files.July 15, 2014 at 9:21 AM #7269
This is the message I got after I pressed the ‘Submit’ button. I got cut off and lost the connection. Fatal error: Call to undefined function wp_read_audio_metadata() in /home/content/p3pnexwpnas17_data01/08/2540108/html/wp-admin/includes/image.php on line 132
However, it appears the MP3 still got up-loaded and plays. I am not sure I want the world to hear this! Just ignore the mosquito at the beginning!July 15, 2014 at 2:12 PM #7271
Hi Scott, your MP3 opens fine here! I’ll try to figure out what the error message means. And you are right, there seems to be a bit of a dropoff in intensity when you hit the G-string. There are a couple of possibilities that may not be string-related. You may not be bowing the string with the same strength and steadiness due to the increased angle of the bow. Or, there could be a different level of rosin buildup on that string. It probably isn’t a “setup” issue if you didn’t experience this same problem with your previous set of strings. However, if this is your first time fiddling and your first pack of strings, it may be that the string itself is not at fault. You may rather need a sound post adjustment. It is hard to know without holding the instrument myself!July 15, 2014 at 2:58 PM #7281
Scott,sounds to me that you got a decent recording. Since you had the same “problem” with your last set of strings, I think John is barking up the right tree. Honestly, based on the recording, I’m not hearing anything that sounds bad at all. I’ve noticed on my own fiddle that the G string responds a little differently than the others probably due to the lower vibrations per second. For me it was a matter of bowing with a little more confidence. Remember too, that the tone you hear with the fiddle up to your ear, is not necessarily the same tone others hear from further away. So just continuing to practice and and attacking the strings with more confidence paying attention to how different bow speeds and pressureseffect ttone mightjust resolve the problem. That being said, if it still bugs you, you might be able to tweek your bridge on the g-string side to change the tone a bit on the low end. I’d probably work on bowing technique first, though, and see if you can get the sound you want thru technique. Good luck, buddy!July 17, 2014 at 6:38 AM #7287
Hi John! Thank you for your feed-back!
I am glad you were able to hear that bit of drop-off in intensity when I hit the G-string. The G-string has sounded bad on three sets of strings – the Pro-Artes, the Preludes, and the Helicores. The open G-string sounds kinda normal. However, as soon as I hit the G-string to play any note, it just doesn’t sound right. I realize I am new to fiddle playing, but I have a very good ear for music and for when something does not sound right. I also wipe the rosin off the strings with a soft cloth after I have played for a few minutes, to avoid any build-up of rosin.
For some reason, I have always thought that it just may be the sound post that is causing the issue with the G-string (per your suggestion) – even though my fiddle was freshly set up by a luthier who is contracted by the store to set up their new fiddles. (He gets around $15 a pop!) It just seems strange that the G-string sounds bad on the Pro-Artes , the Preludes, and the Helicores. The G-string that came with the fiddle was very ‘sloppy’, and I feel that this is something the luthier should have picked up on right away, and corrected it or changed it. The sloppy G-string, was pointed out to me by one of the sales people the week after I bought my fiddle. I intended swapping the strings anyway, so I was not really concerned. Where I live, luthiers are few and far between, and finding a GOOD one, well ….? I would probably have more of a chance finding a Sasquatch! I mentioned a violin student’s observation regarding my fiddle, in my reply to Harlen.
After I posted my MP3, I read somewhere that if the sound post is moved a little toward the G-String, that it will make the G sound brighter. Closer to the E-string, and it makes the G a little duller. However, I am not going to touch the sound post myself. I will try to locate a good luthier somewhere, and have him/her have a look at it. Although this may require me and my team of Huskies traveling across the ice fields to get this done! (After-thought … I knew I should have bought that kelutviaq at that igloo sale! 🙂
Thank you again John, for all your input.July 17, 2014 at 6:41 AM #7288
Hi Harlen – Thank you for your reply. I decided to post a slow recording because I thought it may give you a better idea of the sound, rather than posting an aggressively played one. To me, it sounds even worse when I really attack the G-string by using all equal pressured bow strokes. The sound of the G-string can be very loud under ear but doesn’t seem to carry far; It just drops away. I actually had a young violin student (seven years playing) play my fiddle a little while ago, and the G-string sounded just as bad being played by this student, and from the distance I was listening. And he even commented that there does not seem to be enough vibration or resonance going through the body of the fiddle when the G-string is played. However, the D, A, and E strings have lots of resonance and vibration within the body — the A and E more so! Mine is a decent quality student fiddle made by a reputable company, so I doubt if there was any shonky workmanship involved (2 year warranty!). I am glad you mentioned tweaking the bridge. That was something I never considered! Yes, I certainly do need to work on my bowing technique, LOL! Thank you again for your help!
ScottJuly 17, 2014 at 12:35 PM #7292
Harlan’s idea of moving the bridge a bit is a good one. It is much safer, and more easily done than bumping the sound post around, and can give you good results. If nothing seems to work, we may resort to blaming the instrument… Certainly NOT the musician! 🙂July 17, 2014 at 8:36 PM #7294
Hahaha! Love it! Thanks John! As the old saying goes “A bad tradesman always blames his tools!” I guess that is going to be my excuse for the next ten years, or at least until I can actually play a tune!
Lloniannau!July 17, 2014 at 9:30 PM #7296
Scott, I hope I don’t come across as though I think I’m some kind of expert, because I’m certainly not. I’m just intrigued with how things work and can get easily obsessed with analyzing and troubleshooting just about anything that isn’t working the way it should -Hence my career as a Facilities Maintenance Director!
But now this G string problem is stuck in my head and I’m not going to be able to stop thinking about it until you figure out what is going on! Since you had another student play your fiddle and they had the same problem with the G string as you did, I would have to agree that while it could still be a technique problem, its more likely something else. I think you said in an earlier post that you have been regularly cleaning the rosin off of your strings. I have no clue if this is a recommended practice or not, but it seems like I had almost the same problem you described (although I didn’t really hear it on your MP3 recording) a couple of times right after I changed strings. I also think the G string was the main culprit in my case. Once I had played the stings for a while and got a bit of rosin build up on them the problem went away and I forgot about it. So while I do try to clean the excess rosin off of the surface of my fiddle, I really have avoided trying to clean the rosin off of the strings because they just seem to respond better with some rosin buildup on them.
John, would you weigh in on this? Do most players clean the rosin off of their strings on a regular basis? Or maybe more to the point, should I be cleaning the rosin off of my strings? Or is it possible that Scott isn’t getting good consistent response out of his G string because he’s not getting a good rosin “bite” on that G string due to the meticulous regular cleaning of his strings?
Scott, please keep posting what you are trying and any good or bad results. Consider it a humanitarian effort in that once you get it figured out, I will finally be able to stop thinking about it, or at least find something else to obsess about! But this is fun, because I’m learning as much as you are….. 🙂July 17, 2014 at 11:51 PM #7300
Hi Harlen! Thanks again for your reply. I really do want to find a solution to my G-string problem, and have now become equally as obsessed as you in discovering one! Ah! So many sleepless nights! LOL
Okay, let’s go! When I had the D’Addario Pro – Arte’ string set on the fiddle, I really didn’t think too much about rosin build up on the strings, and so I never wiped them with a soft cloth after playing. I just put the fiddle back in its case to sleep after I played with it for a few minutes. Note: I only now wipe the fiddle strings over with a soft cloth — no metal scrapers or acids used! Over about three or four days of playing the fiddle on my lap for a few minutes at a time (couldn’t get it higher), I noticed there was a build up of rosin on the strings. I had just then learned that you can wipe excess rosin off the strings with a surgical wipe, but I never bothered doing this because I thought the overall sound of the Pro-Artes were too dark in tone, and I was planning on swapping them for a string that would produce a brighter tone. The Pro Arte strings are synthetic core, except for the E-string which is metal, and the rosin build up seemed to be more so because of the spiral winding on the G, D, and A-string.
…. So, I opted to put D’Addario Preluded strings on the fiddle, (with a Jargar E) because I had read that steel strings give a brighter sound. I thought this would make the G-string sound ‘normal’. I put the Jargar E -string on instead of the Prelude E-string because I didn’t want to be deafened by a cheap – sounding and screeching E-string! The Jargar E-string is an EXCELLENT string, by the way! The Preludes are all steel strings. I found that when I tried to bow this particular set of strings, the bow slid all over the place – the Jargar E-string being the only normal string that didn’t slip. ….. So I put more rosin on the bow, but it still kept sliding across the strings and seemed harder to get the bow hair to grip. I figured that it would take a few months or years to get a decent rosin build-up on all four strings at the rate and the way I was trying to play! The Prelude strings are good, cheap student strings, however, they still didn’t solve my G-string issue.
…. So I opted to put the D’Addario Helicore strings on as my last resort to find a quality steel string set, and hopefully resolve the issue with the G-string sound. At present, I have Helicore G,D, and A strings on my fiddle, with the Jargar E — these are what you heard on the MP3. As soon as I put the Helicores on, I noticed an immediate difference in the way the bow hair gripped the strings. I make sure never to touch the part of the string that is going to be under the bow, with my fingers, when I change strings. I now only wipe the strings over gently with a cloth to get any excess rosin off them and the fiddle body before putting it away, however, they are not squeaky-clean — there is still a little bit of ‘set’ rosin on them. The G-string problem remained!
The thing is, Harlen, that before I bought my fiddle, I saw a violin tutor on-line giving two reviews of my fiddle playing it, and it did sound a little on the ‘duller’ side, but seemed to play reasonably well for a student violin. I will include some youtube links at the end of this post for you to see. There is also another very brief video of another girl playing Bluegrass with the same fiddle as mine. Now, I know that no two fiddles are going to sound the same, so I am thinking that mine is probably just the way it is, and that I just have to live with it. (I am now reaching for the hammer! LOL)
I think John is probably tired of hearing about my G-string issue! 🙂
I hope you can understand the violinist in the first video. I had to hire a translator so I could understand what she was saying!
#2 Played as a fiddle: (slower English is good for me!) 🙂
Harlen, try not to worry yourself too much about my problem (the fiddle one, that is!) I think I will only resolve it by getting a much better fiddle. … (Voice-over) “Will Scott find a solution for his G-string problem? Or will he simply move to Bulgaria, and make his own perfect -sounding fiddle?… Stay tuned for the next … exciting episode!”
There! … Now I can type 351 W.P.M.!!!July 18, 2014 at 12:19 AM #7301
Whoops! I’m selling myself short, here! I meant to say three hundred and SIXTY one W.P.M. 🙂July 18, 2014 at 11:38 AM #7309
Hi Harlan and Scott! Scott you are hilarious – cheers to you as well. OK – brace yourself for a small amount of physics and chemistry here…
First, the physics. As you play, rosin will begin to build up on the string. This results in a couple of problems. First of all, the impacted rosin will become hard and glassy similar to the way it is in the cake. This limits the ability of the hairs to grip the bow, and then the fiddler will compensate by adding yet more rosin. Eventually, the buildup can significantly increase the linear density, or the mass/length, of the string. This has an effect on the velocity of the wave in the string, which is directly related to the pitch.
As the linear density of the string is increased due to a buildup of rosin, the velocity of the wave is slowed, resulting in a lower pitch. To compensate, the user must increase the tension. This means that you are now making the string tighter than it is designed to be. If you have ever tuned a fiddle up higher than it should (perhaps in order to play Eb out of the D position), you probably noticed that the tone suffered a bit. This is exactly what happens when you have to tighten your strings to compensate for the increased linear density due to rosin buildup.
Now for the promised chemistry… Most fiddlers consider it good practice to give the strings a brief cleaning after playing. Some use a dry, lint-free cloth, and this will remove some of the rosin, but it will also pack rosin deeper into the winding of the string. Others will use ethanol. However, while ethanol is a good solvent and will make your strings squeaky clean, it will also remove the stain from your fiddle top if it gets onto it. Because of that I would NOT recommend using ethanol. It just isn’t worth it! The best thing to use is cork. Just pop the cork off of a wine bottle. You will probably want to break in half and use the inner surface, just in case the bottling company has coated the cork with silicon. Cork from a coaster works as well. Cork gets into the winding and lifts the rosin right out, so it is better than most cloth (though a microfiber cloth seems to work well).
Whoops I guess that wasn’t much chemistry after all, so I will leave you with the chemist’s verse to “Old Joe Clark.”
Old Joe Clark he had a drink,
Now Old Joe is no more.
What he thought was H2O
Was H2SO4!July 18, 2014 at 10:26 PM #7371
John Cockman, that explanation alone was worth the price of my annual subscription to this website! I love it! 🙂
On a whole other subject, are you going to make it to Winfield this year?July 18, 2014 at 10:49 PM #7372
That is still my plan, Harlan! My brother won the banjo championship there last year, and so he has been invited to play, so I would be backing him up. I am currently registered in the competition, although I’m not really a competition-style fiddler.
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