whistling strings

whistling strings

Pesky problem: when I play an open A on my fiddle, the E string adds an annoying high-pitched ring to it sometimes—seems to get worse as the fiddle warms up. I’m sure it’s the E string vibrating sympathetically, because the harsh ring goes away if I mute the E with my fingertip.

I’m using a Winchester E string—27.5 gauge—and Dominants elsewhere. I replaced the tailpiece—thinking E fine tuner might be involved-with a Widmer tailpiece with 4 built-in fine tuners, but the problem is still there.

Is this what they call a "whistling string"? I found a 2002 thread that mentions the term, but it seemed to refer to getting a harsh tone on the E when you’re bowing the E itself, not the sort of sympathetic vibration problem I’m having.

If any other fiddlers here have dealt with this particular problem, I’d like to hear about it, before I go to the violin shop and get their opinion.

Re: whistling strings

Those sympathetic vibrations and overtones are part of what gives a stringed instrument its full tone. The player may hear them individually, but from a few feet away, they blend into an overall sound.

But if this ringing E is really bothering you…. Do you have a sleeve on the string where it sits on the bridge? This can help dampen the E string just a tad. Especially useful if your bridge has one of those ebony or plastic inserts under the E string (which sometimes makes the E sound brittle). Or adjusting the position of the sound post may help. It could be that the current post setting is really favoring the A and E strings, to the detriment of the D and G strings. How do your D and G strings sound? Muddy or clear? Thin or rich and full? If you answer muddy and thin, get that sound post checked out.

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Re: whistling strings

I had a similar problem, which improved when I replaced the metal wittner tailpiece with a wooden one.

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Re: whistling strings

That could be it. I’ve never met a metal tailpiece I like. If you want built-in fine tuners, look for a Pusch tailpiece. They come in ebony, rosewood, or boxwood, very well made, with great fine tuners built in so you retain the proper string length.

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Re: whistling strings

Yes, the ringing really is annoying, kind of a fingernails-on-blackboard type thing. And yes, I’m using the little sleeve on the E string, but it doesn’t help much, if any. There’s a little patch of "parchment" (I think that’s what they called it—translucent tape-looking stuff) on the bridge where the E rides—no insert.

The original tailpiece was wood, so I don’t think changing back will fix the problem. Besides, I really like having 4 fine tuners.

The other strings all sound great, so I’m reluctant to have the soundpost moved, but maybe that’s what will do the trick.

I’ve also read that some models of Piastro E strings are better about this. Any experience with those?

Re: whistling strings

The open E is obviously resonating to the 2nd harmonic of the A string (which shows that those two strings are tuned exactly a 5th apart, if nothing else!)

If you play an accurate A on the E-string does it pick up a resonance from the A-string, or does it sound not quite so strong as you’d expect? I’ve come across this latter effect once or twice and I suspect some of the energy from the A on the E-string is used to drive the open A by resonance, and so make the high A sound softer than it should. A test for this effect is to play the G# and the A# on the E-string and see if they sound stronger than the A on the E-string.

Do you use that little bit of plastic tubing on the E-string where it goes over the bridge? If you don’t, then that might be part of the problem.

If you think you’re due for a change of strings try changing from Dominants to something else - Helicores perhaps, and a different brand of E.

What is the response like on the G-string? If it sounds dull with little resonance, even with a new string, this may indicate that the soundpost needs adjusting, and perhaps the bridge - jobs for the expert.

Trevor

Re: whistling strings

I have four fine tuners on my tail piece, and it’s made out of wood. So you can have it both ways.

Re: whistling strings

I play the Chinese Erhu, one string Fiddle, & never have this problem! :-)

Re: whistling strings

Try an E string that’s wound as opposed to plain steel. I’m not familiar with the brand of E that you are using; perhaps it is wound. If it’s a vibrating sort of sound, check for any small cracks in the instrument or any open seams—that can cause the same effect sometimes.

Re: whistling strings

Arrrg—the E string is a **Westminster**. It’s plain, not wound.

Thanks all, for the input. I’ll see what the violin shop has to say.

Re: whistling strings

Don’t forget to ask if they have an Erhu! :-)

Re: whistling strings

I have a wound Kaplan E on just now - they’re good.

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Re: whistling strings

I made a banjolin once, and the G used to drone terribly. Seeing as I almost never use the open G, I stuck a small piece of rubber under the zero fret on that string.

Re: whistling strings

On some mandolins you get a similar effect from the strings ‘south’ of the bridge. Some people put little rubber gromets between them to stop it.

Given some of the similarities between the violin and the mandolin (depending on the latter’s construction) that might help - mind you I’ve never had the problem.