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Unknown Cello Rattle

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I'm having trouble with a rattling/buzzing sound coming from the cello when being played (bowed). My cello teacher (relatively well known in my area and played for 40+ years, ties to the BSO) and I cannot figure out why it is making this noise. Here is my setup:


2009 Stringworks Soloist III Cello with nice warm Larson Soloist (A&D) and Magnacore (G&C) strings, carbon fiber endpin, wolftone eliminator on the G string, bridge carved by yours truly to a nice height, curve, spacing, dampit cello humidifier.


We've thus far eliminated the following possible causes:


- wolftone eliminator: it was once loose and makes a very distinguishable sound, that is not this sound

- end pin, unlikely

- bridge: happened with old bridge as well, good string heights, fingerboard is carved nicely to accommodate C string,

- dampit cello humidifier (happens with or without it inside)

- bow hair, screw/eyelet loosening, angle: happens with all bows tried on it (about 4 tested), all angles played.

- tailgut: adjusted and still occurs


I've listed what I remember us trying. We've likely tried more troubleshooting than what I've listed. 


Thanks in advance for any help/suggestions/advice would be greatly appreciated!


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You didn't mention checking for open seams, and they are pretty good at creating a buzz. Quite often it is the top or the back that has opened up from the ribs, but any glue joint could open up and cause a buzz. Work your way around the instrument lightly pressing at regular intervals around all of the glue joints looking for movement. Often the ones that buzz really well are the ones that are very close together that you can't see very easily. If you do find a spot that you suspect is the problem, have someone put some pressure on it to hold it closed while you play and see if the buzz has disappeared. This could also be a previously repaired crack that has reopened as well.


It could also be up in the peg box. If you have too much string poking out the hole in the peg, it can rattle against the back/sides of the peg box. It's also pretty common for the string on the peg closest to the scroll to come in contact with the second peg from the nut. Usually this is the D string touching the A peg but some makers are reversing the peg orientation. In a lot of cases it is firmly touching the peg and not going to rattle, but sometimes it might. Depends on the geometry of your peg box. 


If you have a fine tuner(s), they can buzz/rattle as well, especially if you have it loosened all the way. If that doesn't locate it, then it's worth a trip to the shop/luthier as they find and fix these things pretty regularly, and depending on what the problem is you might need their help anyway. 

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It's winter, so I go for the open seam theory, especially if you are not running a humidifier. Hope it's not a loosening bass bar. I do not think a Dampit is the best idea for an instrument. Look at  room  humidifiers like Venta or Vornado and end open seams forever; just my personal opinion.


P.S. I forgot to mention:  Make sure the buzz is not from a button on your shirt vibrating against the back plate....

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Thank you for all the great suggestions! Good idea with the seams and having someone hold the plates together to see a difference.


I realized after reading these comments that I wasn't specific enough about where I'm hearing the buzzing noise or nature of that noise. First of all, the buzzing noise seems to be located somewhere around or very near the contact point of the bow to the string. The noise itself sounds a bit like the hair reverberating against the strings. I'm beginning to think it may be in the construction of the cello itself. Though it is a gorgeous cello, nicely played in, and from a well respected shop, I think it may be a product of the cello's construction and or/ the strings and cello combination. It had a pretty nasty wolf tone when I got it, and despite careful placing of an eliminator, it is still not very forgiving at all when you miss the mark on some notes (esp. F's or F#'s) in terms of the howling.


C.M. Sunday, it sounds like you did something similar to me in terms of going down a list of factors. 


I'll go down this list, as it seems more comprehensive than mine.


  1. loose fine tuner (loose metal doughnut) - Ruled Out
  2. lowest point of fine tuner pivot, barely touching top plate - R/O
  3. string slot on the nut too deep, causing open string(s) to buzz against the fingerboard (... POSSIBLY)
  4. seam that has come unglued - R/O
  5. crack in the instrument somewhere - (... POSSIBLY)
  6. chin rest rubbing against the tailpiece or saddle (N/A)
  7. loose chin rest hardware - (N/A)
  8. a high spot on the fingerboard - R/O
  9. unglued fingerboard - (...POSSIBLY)
  10. loose purfling - R/O - ALL INTACT
  11. loose lining - (R/O - WRONG LOCATION FOR BUZZING)
  12. top and/or bottom block poorly glued R/O
  13. dirt in the f holes R/O
  14. loose sound post R/O
  15. loose collar or pin on decorated pegs N/A
  16. misplaced tailpiece R/O
  17. gap between bassbar and plate (one has opened up due improper or "sprung" fitting) (POSSIBLY)
  18. the bridge protectors are floating on the strings in the afterlength area (N/A - DON'T CURRENTLY HAVE A PROTECTOR ON MY 'A' STRING)
  19. problem with endpin cork, ring, tip or screw (R/O - WRONG LOCATION, AND CARBON FIBER ENDPIN SECURED IN PLACE)
  20. a label on the inside of the instrument can come loose, and buzz at a certain frequency (R/O)
  21. dead string falling apart; loose winding (R/O - NEWER STRINGS, HAPPENED WITH OLD STRINGS)
  22. loose string end in the pegbox R/O - WRONG LOCATION, NO LOOSE STRINGS
  23. shoulder rest buzzing back of fiddle - N/A
  24. loose sliding mute N/A 
  25. loose wolf eliminator R/O
  26. buzz caused by an object in the room buzzing in sympathy with a certain note; sometimes can be mistaken for a buzz in the instrument R/O
  27. buzz caused by player's personal effects, jewelry or a button, etc. - R/O
  28. check the bow; a screw loose on the threaded post can buzz - R/O


This leaves me with the following possibilities. I've unfortunately come down with a cold and a fever, but I'll get back on and report my findings when I can get out of bed to examine the cello. I can probably figure out whether 1, 2, or 3 is the issue, but I won't know how to check to see about the bassbar.


  1. string slot on the nut too deep, causing open string(s) to buzz against the fingerboard (... POSSIBLY)
  2. crack in the instrument somewhere - (... POSSIBLY)
  3. unglued fingerboard - (...POSSIBLY)
  4. gap between bassbar and plate (one has opened up due improper or "sprung" fitting) (POSSIBLY)


I suppose my last resort is to go see my local luthier and see what he can make of this issue. I don't really have a lack of local resources in the Boston area, but I'd rather not be without my cello for a week while they figure this out.

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