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Solution to twangy shrill cello A


PhilipKT
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So a wonderful cello, the open A string sounds awful. 
It sounds very shrill and metallic and bright.

The other strings sound terrific, full of complex overtones and body and easy to play and lots of volume, but once you get to a string, it’s like that problem child that nobody in the family wants to talk about.

Tried two Larsen A, Jargar A was worse, Jargar Dolce not much better. 
There are no open seams, and the sound post has been adjusted once, any suggestions?

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O-ring under the string at the bridge. Was good enough for Janos Starker on his Gofriller.  I've also used Pirasto Aricore A string for a darker sound. I do love how you can have four completely different brand/model of string on a cello and it doesn't matter as long as it sounds good. Corelli Crystal are also supposed to have a dark sound. 

 

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9 minutes ago, Brad H said:

What is the clearance of string above FB at nut?   Is the luthier sure the nut slot is properly shaped?

I will check. It’s possible that’s it. It looked quite low to me. A credit card wouldn’t slide under the string all the way to the Nut. He did file away a bit, but perhaps more is needed.

@glebert thank you for the string recommendations. I’ve never tried either and I certainly will try them both. The other three strings on this cello are a Larsen and Spirocore on the G and C, and they all sound great. And if by O-ring, you mean the little leather string that fits in the string groove, it already has one.

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36 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

 

@glebert thank you for the string recommendations. I’ve never tried either and I certainly will try them both. The other three strings on this cello are a Larsen and Spirocore on the G and C, and they all sound great. And if by O-ring, you mean the little leather string that fits in the string groove, it already has one.

Actually I meant a rubber o-ring or washer, like an industrial seal. It can sit under the string and wraps under the string on either side of the bridge and dampens some of the overtones. It is hard to describe but easy once you see it. I find it helps for an open string but doesn't affect the tone much for any fingered notes. 

Here is a pic of what Starker had on his cello. Maybe not industrial o-ring but similar. 

image.thumb.png.c2d7b34b89289856096faf40d76bd3b9.png

 

 

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It’s not entirely clear from the pics, but it looks like the nut termination is causing the problem. The nut should terminate the speaking portion of the string at its very edge with a “cliff.”

Your cello’s nut appears to have been trimmed improperly in an effort to lower the A string height. The nut seems to slope down as it ends, creating a curved and indeterminate contact point. 
 

This is very much like a sitar bridge (jawari or Jivari), in which the termination is a carefully curved surface which interferes with the pulse train traveling along the string, causing the pulse to break up and shift the string’s energy to the higher partials. That’s what gives the sitar its characteristic nasal twang. 
 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jivari

I once got a desperate call from a professional musician former student who stated the she was getting married the next morning and at the rehearsal, the piano sounded like a sitar!  Sure enough, one of the strings was terminated with a ramp shape (poor bridge notching).  A few swipes with a sharp knife cured it. 

So, in your case, if the luthier judges that there’s enough ebony left to do so, I’d have the nut re-dressed to make it terminates cleanly at its edge. Or, possibly better, just have a new nut made. 

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30 minutes ago, JoeDeF said:

It’s not entirely clear from the pics, but it looks like the nut termination is causing the problem. The nut should terminate the speaking portion of the string at its very edge with a “cliff.”

Your cello’s nut appears to have been trimmed improperly in an effort to lower the A string height. The nut seems to slope down as it ends, creating a curved and indeterminate contact point. 
 

This is very much like a sitar bridge (jawari or Jivari), in which the termination is a carefully curved surface which interferes with the pulse train traveling along the string, causing the pulse to break up and shift the string’s energy to the higher partials. That’s what gives the sitar its characteristic nasal twang. 
 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jivari

I once got a desperate call from a professional musician former student who stated the she was getting married the next morning and at the rehearsal, the piano sounded like a sitar!  Sure enough, one of the strings was terminated with a ramp shape (poor bridge notching).  A few swipes with a sharp knife cured it. 

So, in your case, if the luthier judges that there’s enough ebony left to do so, I’d have the nut re-dressed to make it terminates cleanly at its edge. Or, possibly better, just have a new nut made. 

This was very informative and helpful. Thanks

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1 hour ago, JoeDeF said:

It’s not entirely clear from the pics, but it looks like the nut termination is causing the problem. The nut should terminate the speaking portion of the string at its very edge with a “cliff.”

Your cello’s nut appears to have been trimmed improperly in an effort to lower the A string height. The nut seems to slope down as it ends, creating a curved and indeterminate contact point. 
 

This is very much like a sitar bridge (jawari or Jivari), in which the termination is a carefully curved surface which interferes with the pulse train traveling along the string, causing the pulse to break up and shift the string’s energy to the higher partials. That’s what gives the sitar its characteristic nasal twang. 
 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jivari

I once got a desperate call from a professional musician former student who stated the she was getting married the next morning and at the rehearsal, the piano sounded like a sitar!  Sure enough, one of the strings was terminated with a ramp shape (poor bridge notching).  A few swipes with a sharp knife cured it. 

So, in your case, if the luthier judges that there’s enough ebony left to do so, I’d have the nut re-dressed to make it terminates cleanly at its edge. Or, possibly better, just have a new nut made. 

Thank you, I’m about to go take a look and I will see if I can get a better photograph. I really appreciate your suggestion. This is a really nice cello but at the moment the A string is almost unusable

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29 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

Thank you, I’m about to go take a look and I will see if I can get a better photograph. I really appreciate your suggestion. This is a really nice cello but at the moment the A string is almost unusable

Quick diagnostic for a rounded nut: You can try cramming a toothpick under the A string, getting it as close to the upper nut as you can, and see if that improves the sound.

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25 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

Quick diagnostic for a rounded nut: You can try cramming a toothpick under the A string, getting it as close to the upper nut as you can, and see if that improves the sound.

Thanks David! When I become Supreme overlord, you can have Rhode Island.

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