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


machanrahan
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There are few things about violin sound which audiences and violinists can reliably hear and generally agree on. A wolf note in first position D on the A string must be an uncontroversial mark against an otherwise fine instrument. Its unsubjective character should make it an attractive area for researchers.

Grant that a wolf on G string around high B or C is normal on a fine instrument. But it does not normally migrate to the same note on the A string. Why is that?

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18 hours ago, John_London said:

There are few things about violin sound which audiences and violinists can reliably hear and generally agree on. A wolf note in first position D on the A string must be an uncontroversial mark against an otherwise fine instrument. Its unsubjective character should make it an attractive area for researchers.

Grant that a wolf on G string around high B or C is normal on a fine instrument. But it does not normally migrate to the same note on the A string. Why is that?

I think this is already well understood by those who know about these things. My (undoubtedly flawed) understanding is that the "force window" for clean Helmholtz motion of the bowed string is significantly smaller for a heavy string stopped at a high position. So it's more readily disrupted by the vibrational body mode responsible for the wolf tone. I guess someone like Marty will be able to give a more authoritative/rigorous explanation.

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It actually does show on those other strings but to a progressively smaller extent. For instance it's not uncommon for players to notice that their first position A string is slightly muffled compared with the E string. That doesn't have to be, and it's the wolf, which though it is really bad on one note,  does spread its effect over a range of three or four everywhere it appears. You don't notice this up high on the G because the howl of the worst note has distracted your attention from the surrounding notes.

Again, I say this all the time but it apparently never gets heard: pull the post north and tighter and you can make most wolves nearly completely disappear. If. The. Post. Fits. the result will not be undesirable. So refit as necessary.

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3 hours ago, Bodacious Cowboy said:

My (undoubtedly flawed) understanding is that the "force window" for clean Helmholtz motion of the bowed string is significantly smaller for a heavy string stopped at a high position.

It can be, with an instrument which has too little mass and/or rigidity for a heavier string, or a heavier playing style of the user.

1 hour ago, Michael Darnton said:

Again, I say this all the time but it apparently never gets heard: pull the post north and tighter and you can make most wolves nearly completely disappear.

Yes, but not without collateral tonal consequences, which many good players will consider to be negative. Kinda depends on where a particular player's priorities lie.

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6 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

It can be, with an instrument which has too little mass and/or rigidity for a heavier string, or a heavier playing style of the user.

Yes, but not without collateral tonal consequences, which many good players will consider to be negative.

In the case of my newish Strad copy, the stiff Oliv G, and the extra thick bare gut D and A which few stockist carry, are a big improvement. But maybe the Eva Pirazzis had just worn out. I have no idea how strings wear out, unless they are getting unravelled or rough, but they say they do.

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48 minutes ago, John_London said:

I have no idea how strings wear out, unless they are getting unravelled or rough, but they say they do.

A lot of it has to do with the mass-per-length-unit changing with use. This can happen either from wear (most obvious on aluminum-wound strings which can often be seen to have worn flat on the fingerboard side with extended use), or eventual internal contamination from rosin, body oils, skin detritus, etc.

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1 hour ago, David Burgess said:

Yes, but not without collateral tonal consequences, which many good players will consider to be negative.

I have been doing this for literally years, without complaint, for very good players on really great violins. Just last week I did it for someone who's been dealing with the problem for years, and her response was simply "why hasn't anyone done this before?" One thing that's absolutely necessary is to make sure the post fits after, which it  absolutely will not when moved to this new position. Many people won't notice this, but as you say, good players will and I'm very quick to make new posts when I need to.

I'll throw something else in, on this topic: Here I often hear people say that if you move the post closer the E string gets brighter. What is going on is that when you move the post so that it doesn't fit the E string gets brighter and the overall quality of the instrument thins out. If you cut posts that do fit this doesn't happen and outcomes are quite different, but it's harder to cut a post that fits at a higher pressure because the added pressure changes the shape of the violin and you have to compensate in the cutting.

From talking with players I've often heard that their results in adjustment in the past have been, uh, random, and this is a big problem in the industry in general, which leads me to think that good adjusters who have a  full sense of cause and effect are pretty scarce. Lots of advertised "tonal experts" but very very few actual tonal experts. I have heard multiple complaints about people with pretty good reputations among makers, which makes me think that the two worlds have very different opinions on the subject.

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1 hour ago, Michael Darnton said:

I have been doing this for literally years, without complaint, for very good players on really great violins. Just last week I did it for someone who's been dealing with the problem for years, and her response was simply "why hasn't anyone done this before?" One thing that's absolutely necessary is to make sure the post fits after, which it  absolutely will not when moved to this new position. Many people won't notice this, but as you say, good players will and I'm very quick to make new posts when I need to.

I'll throw something else in, on this topic: Here I often hear people say that if you move the post closer the E string gets brighter. What is going on is that when you move the post so that it doesn't fit the E string gets brighter and the overall quality of the instrument thins out. If you cut posts that do fit this doesn't happen and outcomes are quite different, but it's harder to cut a post that fits at a higher pressure because the added pressure changes the shape of the violin and you have to compensate in the cutting.

From talking with players I've often heard that their results in adjustment in the past have been, uh, random, and this is a big problem in the industry in general, which leads me to think that good adjusters who have a  full sense of cause and effect are pretty scarce. Lots of advertised "tonal experts" but very very few actual tonal experts. I have heard multiple complaints about people with pretty good reputations among makers, which makes me think that the two worlds have very different opinions on the subject.

Aren't the front and back in the longitudinal dimension pretty flat around the middle where the sound post sits so that shifting it by 3mm doesn't need a completely new soundpost? How do you ever know it fits exactly?

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5 hours ago, Bodacious Cowboy said:

I think this is already well understood by those who know about these things. My (undoubtedly flawed) understanding is that the "force window" for clean Helmholtz motion of the bowed string is significantly smaller for a heavy string stopped at a high position. So it's more readily disrupted by the vibrational body mode responsible for the wolf tone. I guess someone like Marty will be able to give a more authoritative/rigorous explanation.

Your explanation is fine.

Professor Jim Woodhouse gave a video presentation on the wolf note for the Oberlin Acoustics Workshop last Summer :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTaOtKuWAHA

His presentation avoids any math stuff and is only about 45min long.  The subsequent question and answer discussions are informative too.  I should point out that Jim has also made instruments so he has a practical feel for the problems.

If  you want more math detail on the "force window" for Helmholtz motion I suggest section 9.3.1 of Woodhouse's online  book:  euphonics.org 

He has suggested an easy way of reducing the severity of a wolf note is to use a lighter tension string which reduces the minimum bow force needed.

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@uguntde  Because the c bout is moving narrower in this area both inside surfaces are tilted slightly towards the north, moreso as you move the post. And as you pull the post outward, the post ends have to steepen.  And as you pull it tighter, they steepen more because the center of the arch can expand outwards but the ribs cannot.

If I tell you how to know when it fits, it will set off the critics. :-)  But there is no way to know except at full string tension, and also by the pressure prints on the ends of the post when it's out. Visible fit is no fit at all, and even a difference in the pressure across the touching surfaces can sometimes be audible under certain situations 

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12 hours ago, Michael Darnton said:

...

From talking with players I've often heard that their results in adjustment in the past have been, uh, random, and this is a big problem in the industry in general, which leads me to think that good adjusters who have a  full sense of cause and effect are pretty scarce....

Very hard to know to who to go to. A good violinist or cellist might recommend a luthier for adjustments who is nothing special or sometimes who is downright bad (I speak from experience). Luthiers are pretty much a "black box" for violinists. I own two violins by a living maker whose name I mentioned elsewhere. I like his work a lot, obviously. But his core skills are as maker, not repairer or adjuster.

A friend who had his cello adjusted by a well-known maker in London was over the moon, but was told "He won't charge, but he won't work on it unless he feels like it." Fortunately he was approached for a favour, and and took the opportunity. So we are mostly throwing the dice when looking for a local luthier to make adjustments.

The Ida Haendel video is a case in point: her wolf note caused her great anguish, but in spite of her fame and contacts she did not find anyone who really fixed it. What are violinists lower down the food chain to do?

I also wonder whether when buying a new violin, the more expensive instruments will have better adjustment. If more was spent on adjustment for cheap instruments than expensive ones, perhaps the cheaper instruments would have greater appeal to players? This is one of the reasons I am sceptical about shopping around for a violin.

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4 hours ago, John_London said:

 

I also wonder whether when buying a new violin, the more expensive instruments will have better adjustment. If more was spent on adjustment for cheap instruments than expensive ones, perhaps the cheaper instruments would have greater appeal to players? This is one of the reasons I am sceptical about shopping around for a violin.

Perhaps your scepticism has boxed you into a logical corner?

Find a cheaper violin that sounds great, then you won't need to worry about whether it's adjusted optimally or not.

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I took Michael Darnton's response seriously and made sure the sound post sits well (doen't rotate). I also gave it a tiny bit more tension (pulled it 1-2mm further outside) and placed it close to the bridge. Nevertheless I had a massive wolf on the B - whether on the A or D string. Short staccatos produced a terrible sound. Weight on the G-string tail end had no effect whatsoever.

I then tried different strings. I had vision on it and the pegs also slipped all the time. I changed to Warchal Amber. These strings are in tune with very little tension on the pegs, no slipping pegs any more, and on top the wolf is completely gone.

I assume that some mode of the front is completely altered under higher tension. The maker (in this case Mr Hel Jr) never heeard the wolf as at his time strings were much softer made of gut.

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On 6/21/2022 at 1:23 PM, martin swan said:

Perhaps your scepticism has boxed you into a logical corner?

Find a cheaper violin that sounds great, then you won't need to worry about whether it's adjusted optimally or not.

The holy grail!

As a younger man I fantasized that a great instrument would make me play better. It's too late for that. I want one thing from violin & bow: don't get in my way! That does imply amazing luck with cheap equipment, or a certain mimimum level of quality in make and materials which many participants on this board could doubtless meet.

I read abstruse discussion about how violins "sound" because I find it fun. The gut strings (which do sound bettter, obviously) have tamed the wolf :-) Off to practice my first scale since recoveing (more or less) from Omicron.

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