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The Black Prince

Violin too loud - advice please

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Hello

I am new to violin playing, though a very experienced musician with classical piano (diploma) and rock guitar (don't ask!). I have a Cremonese violin made in 2005 that I have owned since new but have just recently begun playing - which is a fascinating and rewarding experience.

It is fitted with Dominant strings and though it is opening up quickly, it is very loud in my practice room (indeed everywhere!). I am using an Arcam Veloce CF bow, which possibly does not match the instrument very well, but is what I have for now.

Obviously I could use a mute but a) I don't want to compromise tone whilst I am learning how to make this instrument "sing" and :) a simple bridge mute on the D & A strings does not cut the volume enough - it cuts it a bit but mainly "deadens" the violin, to my ear.

I have discussed this with my teacher and she will consult her orchestral friends for advice on a string change. However, I would value input here before I see her next week.

I am looking for a warm and controllable tone if that makes sense. As I am a Violin novice, strings that will take a lot of playing in are probably not ideal.

Many thanks.

James

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If you can stand them (though they require more tuning than modern strings, for about the first 400 years no one thought that was a problem) gut strings (wound gut, not plain) might be a nice solution. They'll take some of that extra energy, calm it down, and also give you a more complex tone quality that you might like.

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Until you hear back from your teacher you can roll an old dollar bill tightly down the width until you have a tight two and a half inch tube and then weave that behind the bridge so that the center two strings are on top of the dollar and the two outside strings are underneath. Push the dollar up to about 3/8 inch of the bridge and see if that doesn't quieten it down without killing the tone. Move it back and forth until you find the right softer sound. A hundred dollar bill works better only if it's someone else's.

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Prince,

I got to tell you that for many, probably most, violin players, having a violin that's too loud would be like having a wife that's too pretty or a car that's too fast. Unless the tone is ugly, the attribute of being loud, by itself, is not a drawback. You can always play a loud violin softly, but you can't make a really soft sounding violin sound loud, if it's not built into the instrument.

If you're just starting out on the violin, give yourself some time to get used to the tone. If it literally hurts your ears, try a bit of cotton in the ears, especially the left one.

A mute is not a good idea, since it distorts the sound considerably, and doesn't allow you to understand the spectrum of sound your fiddle can produce or what you have to do to produce certain sound qualiities. I also believe, with no justification whatsoever, that playing constantly with a mute does not allow a violin's tone to mature, because (well, here's my justification) it doesn't allow the violin to ring freely.

Good luck, and be patient. In a short while, "too loud" might become "just right."

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Hello

I am new to violin playing, though a very experienced musician with classical piano (diploma) and rock guitar (don't ask!). I have a Cremonese violin made in 2005 that I have owned since new but have just recently begun playing - which is a fascinating and rewarding experience.

It is fitted with Dominant strings and though it is opening up quickly, it is very loud in my practice room (indeed everywhere!). I am using an Arcam Veloce CF bow, which possibly does not match the instrument very well, but is what I have for now.

Obviously I could use a mute but a) I don't want to compromise tone whilst I am learning how to make this instrument "sing" and :) a simple bridge mute on the D & A strings does not cut the volume enough - it cuts it a bit but mainly "deadens" the violin, to my ear.

I have discussed this with my teacher and she will consult her orchestral friends for advice on a string change. However, I would value input here before I see her next week.

I am looking for a warm and controllable tone if that makes sense. As I am a Violin novice, strings that will take a lot of playing in are probably not ideal.

Many thanks.

James

++++++++++++

It is time to shop around.

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Although I am in the UK (where dollars are not yet the currency) I do have a dollar bill and will try it. However, I did try a strip of piano felt interwoven between the strings behind the bridge, and all that did was knock the top off the frequency response (though it did reduce the volume too).

I did wonder about gut core strings, but for some reason thought they would be unsuitable for a novice. Though I suppose that in times gone by it was the only choice. I don't care about frequent re-tuning.

I suppose what I need is your thoughts on brand names. I have looked at a few web sites and the choice is so immense it is hard to know where to start. I am not sure if price is at all a good guide.

A further issue - perhaps as important as the volume problem, is the E string, which unless I bow it quite firmly, tends to sound like a harmonica to me as the player (with my ear close to the violin obviously) - though not to listeners in the same room. It does not really match the other strings when played p or pp in my opinion.

Incidentally, on mentioning the volume problem to violinists, the usual response is that they wish they could get more projection and volume from their violins. I do realise that in an orchestral or other performance setting it would not be a problem at all - it is just at home that I want to tame the beast.

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This may sound facetious, but it's not. I started playing very late as an adult, and my memorey is still pretty fresh:

Consider learning how to play softly. It's harder than playing loud, but producing a good tone a low volumes is a key to good dynamics and expression. Most beginners seem to only be able to play at full volume, and this would seem to hinder development of tone, dynamics, and expression. Learning to control your volume early would be a distinct advantage, IMHO. I have played some real "screamers", but they can all be played at low volume as well.

Apart from that, a $2 wire mute that attaches to the strings behind the bridge will subdue your volume a bit, and is adjustable. I see a lot of students who use them, and I use one sometimes when jamming.

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Incidentally, on mentioning the volume problem to violinists, the usual response is that they wish they could get more projection and volume from their violins. I do realise that in an orchestral or other performance setting it would not be a problem at all - it is just at home that I want to tame the beast.

It will be part of the learning process, although probably not immediately, to learn how to get the full dynamic range from your violin, and that includes very soft. In other words, the biggest factor in how loud the violin sounds, at any given moment at any given place, is you and how you use the bow. It takes time to learn that.

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Well indeed it's not common for someone to look for lowering that much the sound of their violin, especially if you think that a tourte mute is not enough (I use it from time to time and I can play at midnight without bothering the neighbours!)

But if you're ready to spend £3 or £4, buy a Kaplan non whistling E string and fit it on your violin. It will kill the sound better than a mute. I bought one few month ago and I took it off after 10min. The decibels went so low I thought I was getting deaf.

But as it was said earlier in the post, you'd better leave it as it is and learn how to play softly.

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I did wonder about gut core strings, but for some reason thought they would be unsuitable for a novice. Though I suppose that in times gone by it was the only choice. I don't care about frequent re-tuning.

if you're absolutely determined to quiet your fiddle down in a way that's easily reversible and interferes with your technical development the least, then getting gut core strings might be the best way to do that.

The disadvantages of gut core strings are:

-- Good ones are expensive, about as much as top of the line German or Austrian synthetic strings.

-- Gut core strings won't last as long as synthetic core. The gut core over time (and that will be just a matter of months) will separate from its metal windings. So, you will be replacing those expensive gut cores more often, probably 2 to 3 times more often.

-- Gut core do need to be tuned more often, probably about every half hour in serious playing.

-- Gut core, in my experience, is less responsive than the best of synthetic cores. It's easier to play a 3 octave scale in a single bow stroke on synthetic core strings.

But the most important factor is that you're happy playing on your fiddle. So, if gut core sounds better to you under your ear and you consequently practice more with more pleasure, then go with gut core. You can always change strings later.

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Maybe try to practice on a different room? I dont like the gut strings idea, you would get a lot of trouble tunning it. Besides, are domminants really that louder? How about fitting a new bridge? a thicker one. (keep the old one thought)

Maybe some of the luthiers can give you better advices.

Congrats on learning by the way! Its fun and its worth all the trouble!

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I'm surprised no one has suggested a sound post adjustment. a1s2 has mentioned visiting a luthier... that's the ticket. Take your instrument to an expert who can tell you whether your violin really is "too loud." As previously mentioned, that's not really a problem usually... too strident, perhaps, but that's a timbrel issue.

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In addition to other suggestions made here, if by chance it's still not enough, some thin slivers of foam rubber plugged into the f-holes might work wonders.

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Dominants are quite similar to gut strings. I doubt that you would find much difference in volume between Dominant and gut.

It is possible for a violin to be too loud and brash. Some can be glass-shattering and threatening to your hearing. If you find that the vermin are leaving the premises, that's a clue. I think that's usually a sign that the darned thing is just way to heavy on the treble side.

It's probably not a normal, well-adjusted sound, and it may interfere with you learning how to produce a big, beautiful tone. I suppose it could be that you're just not used to it or the room really is too small, but I suspect that you're right. It really is a banshee.

Sorry, I don't know what can be done about it. Maybe an adjustment. Use rubber bands for strings, or the lightest gauge of strings. Mute it partially. Maybe burn it. You can use a light gauge, aluminum-wound E, and use the tone filter (that little tube or piece of leather that's on the string-place it under the string on the bridge).

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Thanks for all the advice everyone.

I had not realised that the sound post would make a difference. I have looked inside the violin and based on the Italian lutherie book I have, the sound post is indeed in the wrong place. It is set several millimetres behind the bridge (towards the tailpiece) and as far as I can see is roughly in a line with the E string side of the bridge. When I brought the violin home from Italy, the sound post was separate and was fitted by a local violin shop. I will have to find a local luthier.

The e-string already has a small piece of white material sandwiched between it and the bridge. I originally thought this was part of the bridge but it looks like a tiny piece of leather or suchlike under a magnifying glass.

Playing in another room is not an option, as the house is largely open plan apart from my office / studio. I am banished there by the family! (Quite reasonably).

I do fully accept that learning to play softly is key. Indeed this is the way I started and my teacher has pushed for more bow pressure - largely after I made remarks about what I perceive as my poor tone, especially on A and E.

I must say, it is a fascinating instrument. When I first bought it, in Cremona in 2005, I quickly gave up as it sounded dreadful and I could not find a teacher. (Plus I was doing 5 hours a day piano practice already). I thought it was incredibly difficult. This time I immediately got lucky with a good teacher who is a performing violinist who had just moved to my area. Well worth the investment in her time.

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Maybe adding a little cotton in your ears would help? With a reasonable bit of it say, a half to a cm or so, you should get a 3dB level reduction or so. It may affect the frequency balance towards the bass, but it will expose your ears to less sound. It is a good idea to protect your hearing anyway during practicing. It is more important for your left ear.

If you are ready to spend some monay on an custom fitted plug of the type pros use, I am sure you can get some advice from users here on that.

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The e-string already has a small piece of white material sandwiched between it and the bridge. I originally thought this was part of the bridge but it looks like a tiny piece of leather or suchlike under a magnifying glass.

Luthiers sometimes put that on the bridge to protect it from the E string, dont worry about it.

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Cotton is pretty useless as an earplug, doesn't attenuate the noise much at all. If you like something fibrous, Swedish wool earplugs are the way to go. Otherwise you might take a look at the Etymologic Web site; they make earplugs for musicians, designed to attenuate the noise without altering the spectrum, the problem with conventional ear protection. My fiddle was always loud, now even stronger since I started using Warchal vintage strings, which it seems to like a lot. I've been using one of the sliding wire mutes, which is easy to adjust and does not seem to color the sound too much unless you push it right up to the bridge; but I'm also thinking about earplugs, though my hearing (age 66) is already a victim of too many loud machines plus years of violins. Maybe i should try real gut strings - if the Warchal work, the gut may also sound good with less volume. It's all hard to predict.

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Hello

I am new to violin playing, though a very experienced musician with classical piano (diploma) and rock guitar (don't ask!). I have a Cremonese violin made in 2005 that I have owned since new but have just recently begun playing - which is a fascinating and rewarding experience.

It is fitted with Dominant strings and though it is opening up quickly, it is very loud in my practice room (indeed everywhere!). I am using an Arcam Veloce CF bow, which possibly does not match the instrument very well, but is what I have for now.

Obviously I could use a mute but a) I don't want to compromise tone whilst I am learning how to make this instrument "sing" and :) a simple bridge mute on the D & A strings does not cut the volume enough - it cuts it a bit but mainly "deadens" the violin, to my ear.

I have discussed this with my teacher and she will consult her orchestral friends for advice on a string change. However, I would value input here before I see her next week.

I am looking for a warm and controllable tone if that makes sense. As I am a Violin novice, strings that will take a lot of playing in are probably not ideal.

Many thanks.

James

++++++++++++++

Loudiness has something to with bowing friction.

Among many suggestion given here, one has not mentioned about using a bow with less hair. Why not try it. It is less invasive.

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I agree with all the above posts about sound adjustment. But if you're trying for a quick strings-only fix, then you might want to give Violino a try. They have less projection than Dominants, and should warm it up a bit....or muddy it up, depending on who you talk to! The e-string you will have to experiment with - but stay away from gold plated, as they tend to be more brilliant... A thicker gauge may take off some edge, but crush the sound depending on set-up (or, conversely, improve the sound). In anycase, you may want to give a thick gauge Hill E a try...or Goldbrokat (excellent, and less expensive). Good luck!

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Thanks mmmm - very helpful.

Andrew - I did discuss it with my teacher. She has played it and although she agrees that it is loud and projects well, I suspect that she sees it as a benefit as she comes at things from an orchestral / chamber orchestra perspective. She likes the tonal range so far and feels it has a lot more to give. I have little to compare it with. It sounds quite a bit better in her hands than in mine!

She is unsure what to advise regarding a string choice as she has been using a loaned violin for some years and always uses the same strings that suit her instrument (they take nearly a month to play in properly and do not last long at their peak after that she says).

However, she is going to ask some orchestral colleagues for their thoughts and I will see her again late this week for feedback in my lesson.

I am aware of a local luthier, but unfortunately two people (one of whom is my teacher) have advised me to be cautious about using him for instrument adjustments. Despite this I did go and see him today as I also want a small cosmetic adjustment. He is a bit of an oddball but I suspect he is perfectly competent though not the kind of guy you could ask to quickly adjust the soundpost while you wait.

He recommends Helicores, possibly a replacement bridge and a sound post re-alignment. To do this as well as the varnish polishing on the back requires me to leave the instrument with him for a week. This is not good as it is my only violin and I do not want to take a week out of practice time at this early stage. So it will have to wait.

He said that bridges are normally tapered on one face only. Mine is tapered front and back and also has a clearly deliberate slight "twist" or curvature to create a string alignment similar to that found on guitars (which do not have the bridge parallel to the nut - this compensates for string thicknesses and on guitars can provide adjustable intonation between strings).

Having looked at the book by Marco Bissolotte on Cremonese violins, and the Assocaiate Liutai Professionisti book (by the Morassi family, also in Cremona) it is clear that this bridge design is not unusual in Cremona and indeed appears in other violins by the maker of mine as well as other Cremonese Luthiers.

Hence I am reluctant to change the bridge based on the thoughts of an English luthier until I am more educated myself.

It is a minefield for a novice. And the dratted violin sounds different every day!

James

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