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Could installing a narrower bridge cure a wolf note on a Violin?


machanrahan
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I bought a 1923 Aristide Cavalli violin in haste, last year, for my retirement.  It was/is well above my playing ability.  It has, however, motivated me to improve and now at least I can produce a nice warm even tone.  However, whilst trying to play Elgar’s Chanson de Nuit I recently discovered a wolf C note on the G string.  I had one Luthier look at it.  He cured the wolf note on the G string by moving the Sound Post but then put it on every other C on all four strings.  The violin also took on a very, very thick velvety, muffled tone.  Another Luthier put it back to what it was before, more or less.  Now, there’s only one exact contact point that plays the C on the G string without the wolf tone and it’s not near the bridge as my teacher insists it should be.  The Luthier says the Bass bar is weak (the wood on the f-hole under the G string is sunken slightly).  He also noted that the Bridge sits over the Bass bar by 2mm.  If I have a narrower bridge fitted, could that cure the wolf note?  He said it might, but didn't know.  A paper clip on the bridge next to the G string does the trick too, but spoils the sound not to mention the aesthetics of it.

I don’t know anyone called Phil so I won’t be performing or anything but I would like my pride and joy to sound as good as it can.  I can’t change it because it took all my savings.  

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Changing violins because of a wolf note seems silly to me. There are probably a variety of changes which will cure or lessen the wolf including as you have already found a different bowing point or pressure. There are usually some kind of trade off with any adjustments but start with the simple stuff like changing strings, tailpiece material, distance between the tailpiece and the bridge, post adjustments and various combinations of all of those. These are only a few of the possible remedies so don't give up without a lot of experimentation.

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I think once some players identify a wolf note it can become a bit of an obsession.

I used one of these on a fiddle which did not behave as well as the player wished with other things I tried (what I tried modified, but didn't tame the wolf completely)... It worked pretty well.

I didn't get mine from this company....  probably have to search for a supplier who can service you where you live/work.  Expensive little things, but if they make a player happy....

The same luthier makes a silver one that attaches behind the bridge, but this one works in the pegbox:

Theunis Titanium

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9 minutes ago, Jeffrey Holmes said:

I think once some players identify a wolf note it can become a bit of an obsession.

I used one of these on a fiddle which did not behave as well as the player wished with other things I tried (what I tried modified, but didn't tame the wolf completely)... It worked pretty well.

I didn't get mine from this company....  probably have to search for a supplier who can service you where you live/work.  Expensive little things, but if they make a player happy....

The same luthier makes a silver one that attaches behind the bridge, but this one works in the pegbox:

Theunis Titanium

Thank you for taking the time to reply.  You're right, I am a little OCD and the state of the violin after the first attempt nearly broke me!  Is it just hit and miss to find the right weight?  2*85euros plus tax now we're out of the EU is a bit frightening.  I have noted the supplier though.  I think I'd better start with changing strings and move on to more expensive options as necessary.  Thank you, once again. 

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28 minutes ago, Jeffrey Holmes said:

I don't believe the ones I referenced work that way... they damp the string in the pegbox. If it works, it's cheaper than a good bridge! :) 

Jeffrey,

I’m surprised that the section of the string in the pegbox is really involved with the wolf. Also would think that it would be a bit of a pain if it moved around while tuning and or started running into other pegs etc. Any reason to think these work better than weights on the afterlength below the bridge or is this just another thing to try if other remedies don’t help?

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2 hours ago, sospiri said:

Isn't the most important thing for a player to adapt technique to minimize the wolf?

Yes, this makes sense. But there are instances where the "range" of player adjustment might be too narrow or too difficult to compensate for the wolfing. At the shop level, we might try reducing the wolf to the point where there is not excessive tonal sacrifice. There is that point where the wolf is nearly gone, but then the instrument voices like something 1/10th the value. And in one shop instance, I felt that it was possible to restore quite a bit of the original sound by playing the instrument for some time and working back the tone - leaving the wolf "repairs" in place. Like some physical therapy, it might take time.

There is also the hierarchy where cellists are more likely to have to create the ability to compensate and violinists the least. I think much of this is the scale, where the cello is much larger. We sometimes squeeze with our legs, where on a violinist performing with Cirque du Soleil, might not look odd... Activating a wolf on the cello, compared to that of the violin, requires a significantly greater amount of energy. I can sometimes make a mental calculation as to how severe a wolf might be by how quickly it takes effect. Having the player crescendo on both up and down bows starting from a pianissimo helps in determining the threshold of activation.   

But you are correct, in that it becomes difficult to avoid certain notes, keys. It's one thing to have a set of harmonicas...

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1 hour ago, nathan slobodkin said:

Jeffrey,

I’m surprised that the section of the string in the pegbox is really involved with the wolf. Also would think that it would be a bit of a pain if it moved around while tuning and or started running into other pegs etc. Any reason to think these work better than weights on the afterlength below the bridge or is this just another thing to try if other remedies don’t help?

Forgive me, as I am hardly Maestro Holmes. And I have not used this particular device placed in the pegbox.

But there are strange effects created in the string lengths in the pegbox, mostly noticed on cellos. Reducing the parasitic effects on particular pitches is one.

Mass at the scroll has an effect on the long movement of the top. In one instance, to have a student identify a particular wolf, we clipped on a tuner to a free peg. With the tuner clipped on to the peg, it took us a while to center on it. With the tuner off, the instrument clearly wolfed on an identifiable position on the tuner. I added weight in the pegbox and the wolf was managed that way.

Again, I look forward to Maestro Holmes' response.

But like pinching with our knees or c- bout devices like those from Otto Musica, decades ago, I now assume that there are possibilities at the scroll. 

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20 minutes ago, Anders Buen said:

A narrower bridge will normally give a worse wolf.

That's what I found too.

The bridge acts as a lever which converts the sideways motion from the string's vibration to a vertical motion of the bridge foot.  The ratio of the bridge height to the bridge foot width determines the multiplier effect of the string's force.

A narrower bridge increases the bridge foot force on violin top plate which worsens a wolf.  And a wider foot spacing helps reduce a wolf.  But the effect is small.

Another small helpful thing is to use a lower tension string.  Adding a few of these small things together can make a wolf note more manageable.  Good players take pride in being able to control wolf notes so you don't want to completely eliminate them because they become real frustrated when they can't find a wolf note to show off their skill.

It's sort of a sick amusement for me to watch them searching in vain for wolf notes. 

 

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9 minutes ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

Good players take pride in being able to control wolf notes so you don't want to completely eliminate them because they become real frustrated when they can't find a wolf note to show off their skill.

It's sort of a sick amusement for me to watch them searching in vain for wolf notes. 

Yer just jealous.

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5 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

Jeffrey,

I’m surprised that the section of the string in the pegbox is really involved with the wolf. Also would think that it would be a bit of a pain if it moved around while tuning and or started running into other pegs etc. Any reason to think these work better than weights on the afterlength below the bridge or is this just another thing to try if other remedies don’t help?

The silver model used below the bridge does just that.  I think the idea of the pegbox model has something to do with kinking. I've just used one, so the jury is still out, but I noticed little change with the exception of taming the wolf.

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I struggle with a terrible wolf on high C and to lesser extent on high B on G string (Strad 1713 copy). This thread got me experimenting with a small bulldog clip on the G in the peg box, and below the bridge. It tames the wolf a little in the peg box and a lot below the bridge, but it also "tames" the violin in a bad way.

I wondered about asking the local violin shop, or the man who made it for me, to rectify this fault. But I fear they might do something which diminishes the instrument in other ways. Is that fear misplaced?

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1 hour ago, John_London said:

I struggle with a terrible wolf on high C and to lesser extent on high B on G string (Strad 1713 copy). This thread got me experimenting with a small bulldog clip on the G in the peg box, and below the bridge. It tames the wolf a little in the peg box and a lot below the bridge, but it also "tames" the violin in a bad way.

I wondered about asking the local violin shop, or the man who made it for me, to rectify this fault. But I fear they might do something which diminishes the instrument in other ways. Is that fear misplaced?

Just curious, was the wolf already present when you bought the violin? If so, why did you purchase it? If the reason is in the sound that fascinated you, I fear that solving the wolf problem will irreparably change that sound you loved.

Another question comes to my mind: being a copy of a Strad 1713, doesn't the original also have the same wolf problem? It would be something to consider carefully when commissioning copies.

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6 hours ago, Davide Sora said:

Just curious, was the wolf already present when you bought the violin? If so, why did you purchase it? If the reason is in the sound that fascinated you, I fear that solving the wolf problem will irreparably change that sound you loved.

Another question comes to my mind: being a copy of a Strad 1713, doesn't the original also have the same wolf problem? It would be something to consider carefully when commissioning copies.

Why did I buy it? I don't shop around. I agreed to buy it before it was complete & have a DG copy by the same maker.  I aspire to make the sound, whereas some (not all) players far better than me are looking for sounds in their violin and bow. A violin made of good materials, executed with great hands, eye and heart by an experienced maker who does not charge a "big name" premium, and without the headaches of a valuable antique, and I am 100% satisfied, as I am with the Stagg & Clutterbuck bows I bought unseen at auction (the Nurnburger was a bit of a miss, but still a decent stick for the price). Having said that, I do love the instrument's sound. It would be nice to fix the wolf. I've ordered an Oliv stiff gut/silver/gold gut G (expensive!) which might help.

The orginal, the ex-Gibson/Hubermann, may well have a wolf there. The copy, whilst it would not fool an expert, is pretty close.  Not sure which piece to listen to to answer that question? Moses Fantasy opening maybe, but I am not sure Mr. Bell has recorded it since buying that violin. Beare's would know if that Strad has a wolf on C.

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On 6/7/2022 at 12:57 AM, nathan slobodkin said:

Changing violins because of a wolf note seems silly to me. There are probably a variety of changes which will cure or lessen the wolf including as you have already found a different bowing point or pressure. There are usually some kind of trade off with any adjustments but start with the simple stuff like changing strings, tailpiece material, distance between the tailpiece and the bridge, post adjustments and various combinations of all of those. These are only a few of the possible remedies so don't give up without a lot of experimentation.

I agree! But only being able to play forte and one contact point is difficult to answer.  It's like buying a horse to compete in 3 day trials only to find he horse won't jump bars or goes crazy on grass (I've seen both cases).  I tried a Goldbrokat e string.  It didn't cure the wolf, but, dear me! it sounds fantastic on my violin!  I'm using obligatos with a kaplan wound e at the moment.  I'm going to try the pegbox trick next.  This experience is also encouraging me to listen more attentively which is also good.  As long as I don't play Elgar, the wolf doesn't really bother me-just upsets my head! 

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I recently got a P Hel in my hands which I had played before and it had a terrible wolf. A very nice violin, a collector's item. When I got it in my hands the bridge and sound post had fallen over. I reset the sound post and put up the bridge. I cannot find the wolf any more and that wolf was a real pain before (on the B on the D-String).  I have no idea what I did, the fix came by accident. I used the old bridge position as marked in the varnish and set the sound post close to the bridge (not too much tension to start with and left it like that). Nothing extraordinary.

I also have long had a Derazey with a massibe wolf on the C (D-string, depending on the weather also on the A string where it becomes a real pain). This made me never play it for years even though it has a very beautiful and powerful tone. At one point I added weight to the tail piece and it was all gone. In the end I fixed a very small piece of roofer's lead on the bottom of the tail piece with double-sided tape. This has been a permannent fix for a long time now.

I have fixed many wolfs. Usually adding weight somewhere helps. I also use magnets to identify where weight is needed. If you put magnets on the front make sure to have some tape underneath in order not to scratch the fiddle's varnish.

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There is sort of a balance between the strength of the B1- and the B1+ resonances. A wolf are usually found around the B1+ mode, c5-c#5-ish. If the B1+ is much stronger than the B1-, the instrument will be more likely to having a wolf. If the top/bar is made a little less stiff, and thus reducing the B1+ amplitude and increasing the B1-, the violin will be less wolfy.

There can appear wolves at other notes too, even high up on the e-string. Then other fixes can be used like dampers on the afterlenght strings, putty strategically placed. Same note as wolf.

 

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