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JGough

D and G string note positions veer off towards nut

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Hi i have a stentor student 2 from the 80's. im new to violin. My teacher has pointed out that the G string finger positions are a few millimeters towards the nut compared with the A and E strings. that explains why any fingered note on the G never sounded in tune. and the same goes for the D string but not by as much. she sugested asking the luther to maybe shave the nut or adjust the shape of the bridge.

Ive asked my luther and he said  that isnt the problem at all and that i should just change the D and G strings.

Now i see how the old strings could alter the sound quality. but i dont see how they would alter pitch that much. so could somebody please give me a second opinion because my teachers explanation seems to make more sence to me.

Thankyou

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2 hours ago, JGough said:

Hi i have a stentor student 2 from the 80's. im new to violin. My teacher has pointed out that the G string finger positions are a few millimeters towards the nut compared with the A and E strings. that explains why any fingered note on the G never sounded in tune. and the same goes for the D string but not by as much. she sugested asking the luther to maybe shave the nut or adjust the shape of the bridge.

Ive asked my luther and he said  that isnt the problem at all and that i should just change the D and G strings.

Now i see how the old strings could alter the sound quality. but i dont see how they would alter pitch that much. so could somebody please give me a second opinion because my teachers explanation seems to make more sence to me.

Thankyou

Hi JGough - interesting!

Assuming that the bridge and nut are parallel, I would agree with your luthier.

What strings does the violin have and what is their approximate age?

While we are looking at things could you measure the height of the strings from the fingerboard i) at the nut and ii) at the end of the f/b? (Measure to the underside of the strings)

cheers edi

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Strings can absorb finger grease and sweat, and get heavier on the half where they are fingered... or wear, or stretch funny, or get loaded with rosin, or...

I'd say get a new set of strings, assuming the setup is not out of spec.  Very old  strings can be very bad in lots of different ways.

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Have the string height at the end of the fingerboard checked. If the G and D strings are too high, then pressing it at the same position as the A and E string will make the notes sound sharp. If they are too low, then the notes will sound flat.

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Have had a few Stentor instruments come through and very often the old original strings are just unplayable, especially the G. Produces a tone that's off, muffled, and just plain weird. 

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Even with new strings and a low action, the problem may just be the laws of physics, such that the relative position of each note is something we have to learn by ear, by feel and practice.

I have noticed that I do have to move slightly towards the bridge by a tiny fraction on the G string playing a descending scale. The best players will do this automatically without realising. It may also be true on the D string but by a much smaller amount such that I'm not so conscious of it.

So your teacher is both right and wrong in my opinion. Don't adjust the instrument, just learn to recognize the pitch and adjust your finger position accordingly.

But as others have said, check your string heights above the fingerboard and get back to us with some measurements.

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Most classical (synthetic) strings are pretty stretchy, and won't change tension significantly (and therefore pitch) when going from the free position to being pressed down to the fingerboard, even if the action is fairly high.  Steel-core G&D strings are a different story, and perhaps that's the issue here.  If the string free length is shorter than normal, that would exacerbate the problem (easy to check).

One simple test is what guitarists use for checking bridge adjustment:  play a harmonic by lightly touching the string, and then see if it goes off-pitch when pressing down to the fingerboard.  If it goes off pitch, either the string should be changed or the action might be excessively high.  And/or you have steel-core strings.

You could also see if the harmonic positions are the same on all of the strings.  If not, either the strings need changing, or the bridge would have to be visibly skewed.

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I did some experiments and the changes in intonation when pressing a synthetic g string vs d string were tiny, fractions of a mm. I will try again with steel core but I expect they will still be very small.

On ‎8‎/‎6‎/‎2019 at 6:31 PM, JGough said:

Hi i have a stentor student 2 from the 80's. im new to violin. My teacher has pointed out that the G string finger positions are a few millimeters towards the nut compared with the A and E strings. that explains why any fingered note on the G never sounded in tune. and the same goes for the D string but not by as much. she sugested asking the luther to maybe shave the nut or adjust the shape of the bridge.

Ive asked my luther and he said  that isnt the problem at all and that i should just change the D and G strings.

Now i see how the old strings could alter the sound quality. but i dont see how they would alter pitch that much. so could somebody please give me a second opinion because my teachers explanation seems to make more sence to me.

Thankyou

Just nod and agree with her, but trust your luthier.

 

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On 8/6/2019 at 1:31 PM, JGough said:

Hi i have a stentor student 2 from the 80's. im new to violin. My teacher has pointed out that the G string finger positions are a few millimeters towards the nut compared with the A and E strings. that explains why any fingered note on the G never sounded in tune. and the same goes for the D string but not by as much. she sugested asking the luther to maybe shave the nut or adjust the shape of the bridge.

Ive asked my luther and he said  that isnt the problem at all and that i should just change the D and G strings.

Now i see how the old strings could alter the sound quality. but i dont see how they would alter pitch that much. so could somebody please give me a second opinion because my teachers explanation seems to make more sence to me.

Thankyou

As you can see, by not posting technically illuminating photographs to begin with, you've left people here with a feeling that they "need to do something", but no solid information to work with, so they are speculating in the absence of data.  We had this happen in another recent thread with a similar string problem, and all manner of good advice got posted.  When the OP finally got around to posting  clearly focussed close-up photographs of the string run from pegbox to tailpiece, it turns out that their explanation hadn't been clear enough, and most of the advice had been off-target.  Once we could all see and judge the situation for ourselves, the problem was obvious, and an easy one to fix.  I suspect that yours will be, too.

Yes, I know you are new here, your posts are being held up for Jeffrey to approve, and all that sort of thing.  Please do what you can to post the photos we need, anyway.  Thanks. :)

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Without putting too much pressure on the shop in question...

How much are you willing to spend on this repair? Violadamore is the most direct in advocating pictures, as we are kindly guessing for a solution. The second courtesy offered  is the respect many have shown towards your instructor and suggestion given.

Here is a weird-ish short analysis, given the conditions stated above, with some superficial reasoning below.

1) A reasonable repair person and instructor has seen that the nut is likely square ( perpendicular ) to the fingerboard, as is the bridge to the centerline of the top.

2) There are no odd chips on the bridge or the nut, lengthening any one string.

3) Strings are likely old. String behaviour when old can behave randomly, but there are some common characteristics, though general.

3a) thin or thinner strings when they deteriorate tend to go flat and unstable as one places their fingers up the fingerboard. The "perfect 5th" on the e- and a- strings, even at the 3rd finger position ( the octave d and a pitches ) can be way out of tune if there is any rust, oxidation, worn out plating, and/ or distortion of the shape of the general roundness of the string. The strings tend to go lower ( flatter ) in pitch as these take effect. The higher up you go, and thinner the string, more severe the problem. I propose that these strings are more likely to be the culprit.

3b) Thicker strings rarely go up in pitch, but, aside for the strings developing weird pitch problems due to gunk build up, some strings can sharpen a bit before going wildly flat as it is excited. The lowest string can be the lowest tension string and that greatly increases this effect. This occurs when a string is bowed with a "stickier bow" and enough pressure is applied so that tension increases enough to raise the pitch. I do not think this is happening as your instructor would have had you change the lower strings.

Could it be that the upper strings are so "old" and not healthy, that the finger positions had to be placed sharper than normally set? The e-string positions should have been the furthest from the nut. Would this explain the odd fact of having to place the finger position indicators ( tape, dots, stickers ) closer to the nut? Good photos really would help.

Also, generally it is easiest to bow the e- and g- strings, not for just the beginner, but everyone. But their behaviours are the most different. 

And some teachers start students only on one or two strings. Some extreme practices might include the removing the d-string or sliding a strip of felt under the d- and g- strings. This is done when the arc of the bridge is too flat and it might be too expensive to repair for the first few weeks ( or months ) or a parent is starting a toddler/youngster, or? Anyway, some here would think it is worth the investment of a new set of strings. They do not have to be the most expensive and your teacher might have a recommended choice. But do not purchase the cheapest nor straight gauge violin strings.   

Finally, learn how to change your strings. Perhaps not now, but be patient, like almost everything in the bowed instrument universe and learn. There are several techniques in winding around the pegs and some for the tailpiece and some to accommodate unique characteristics of the instrument. The three important suggestions are:  a)  supprort the pegbox properly when using the pegs,  b)  always loosen the peg a bit first before tightening ( there are a few odd situations where one might not do this, but it is not recommended for most amateurs - and do not ask about this, )  c)  to make the sure there is adequate graphite or shop preferred materials to allow the strings to slip.  

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