fiddle (or bow) inconsistency

fiddle (or bow) inconsistency

hi everybody. Hope someone could help me to better understand which are the causes of a (minor) problem i have while playing. when playing in gigs, at the beginning the combination bow/fiddle gives a very good response, grip of bow on strings is excellent ( i use normally Pirastro Obligato). BUT….after about one hour playing bow starts to lose grip, sound is less powerfull, particularly on A and D strings.I tried to solve the problem by adding rosin on bow with no results, tried to do the opposite operation by cleaning strings from rosin with a very fine sandpaper, no results again. it looks like that the fiddle is "overheated/ sweaty": actually if i let it rest for a while, when i start to play again it gets back to normal!!! but i can’t keep an audience waiting for my fiddle resting!!! Is it something magic or there is a technical explanation ? ( and a consequent solution would be great!!!) thanks you all

Re: fiddle (or bow) inconsistency

You’ve been sandpapering the hair on your bow? Flippin heck

Posted .

Re: fiddle (or bow) inconsistency

You ‘cleaned’ the strings with sandpaper? Interesting.

Once you’ve got some new strings, use a small amount of methylated spirits to clean them after playing, making sure you don’t get any on the varnish of the body. You can look up the correct method on various violin forums.

The chances are you’ve already ruined your bow by applying too much rosin, and this is what is causing it to slip. Get the bow re-haired, run the bow firmly over the cake seven or eight times to ‘load up’ on the new hair, and then you should only need to apply rosin infrequently - once or twice a week should be sufficient.

And try to resist the urge to use sandpaper to clean the strings again.

Re: fiddle (or bow) inconsistency

Possibly a bow rehair needed. Pirastro make a string cleaning solution, though you can use surgical spirit. Just put it on a cloth first and don’t let it touch the varnish. Sandpapering your strings is not going to help them.

Re: fiddle (or bow) inconsistency

Touche STW!

Re: fiddle (or bow) inconsistency

It’s possible to wash bow hair - I wouldn’t normally recommend it, but hey, you’ve already sandpapered the strings. I have done it and it works. Put warm water and a few drops of washing-up liquid in a jug. Unscrew the frog, and hold the bow so the hair is hanging down in a loop. Immerse the hair in the water without letting the water touch the bowstick or frog. Wash, rinse, re-assemble and leave to dry.

As for the weakness in sound after an hour which disappears after a rest - are you sure your arm isn’t getting tired?

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Re: fiddle (or bow) inconsistency

Two things to consider: the human ear adjusts to volume, especially higher frequencies. You can easily test this by turning down (or up) the volume slightly on, say, a radio or cd player, and waiting a little while. Keep doing this until it is almost turned off, and, provided there is no competing, louder, sounds, you will still hear it well. In other words, the volume of your fiddle sounds fine when you start, but your brain is adjusting and it just seems to be getting quieter. After a brief rest, your brain ‘resets’ itself.
The other thing: as the evening progresses, venues tend to get noisier. If you are compensating by trying to play louder, you won’t get the best response from your fiddle. The feeling that the bow is not gripping could be due to your over-compensating. Try easing off a bit, instead of squeezing the life out of it.

Are you playing amplified by any chance? Because if you are, the problem could also be amplified (and your sneaky friends keep turning up their amps).

Do you have the same trouble when playing on your own, or is it just during gigs? If the latter, it’s unlikely to be a fault with the bow. Have you had the same problem with other instruments, or is it just that one? If the latter, it’s probably the instrument.

Or you’re getting older, and your hearing is going. 🙂

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Re: fiddle (or bow) inconsistency

I use a toothbrush to clean both strings and bow hair which seems to work well. Also not over-rosining the bow in the first place.

Have you tried bringing on a substitute bow after an hour? I always take two to a gig, my expensive German one and an Incredibow if I need more volume.

Re: fiddle (or bow) inconsistency

Just a thought, it might be to do with humidity. When the air is humid the bow hair stretches out, you then need to tighten the bow more (couple times over the course of time). But I also noticed there’s less ‘grab’ on the strings.

Re: fiddle (or bow) inconsistency

Maybe it’s the fact that you’re downing a pint after each tune. That makes my grip loosen too.

Seriously, try a harder rosin. Z’s conjecture about humidity is a good guess and soft rosin is more affected.

Also try cleaning the hair of the bow gently using a toothbrush (as suggested by GP) but first put a few drops of methylated spirits on the brush.

Re: fiddle (or bow) inconsistency

I use a big piece of new, clean cork to clean the rosin off my strings…Works great. I have also washed my bow hair with Dawn dishwashing liquid and warm water in the manner prescribed by c.g. above except I did it in the sink… Dawn really is good at cutting grease and oil.

Re: fiddle (or bow) inconsistency

Turn up the amp one notch

Re: fiddle (or bow) inconsistency

thanks all for the comments. actually isn’t sandpaper . it is a very fine abrasive rock wool,which gently removes the rosin from the strings. I also changed bows using a brand new one ( coda classic) but with no success: may be the cause is in liquid state :the humidity or, has someone suggested, the pints. thanks again for the advice

Re: fiddle (or bow) inconsistency

Marlon Brando’s tecnique!!!

Re: fiddle (or bow) inconsistency

What!? What is all of this? Just put some rosin on the bow and play away… and put away the sandpaper and methyl alcohol.

Rosin is just one factor in playing, pressure, speed of the bow and your fiddle’s particular characteristics all play a part… forget all of the craziness

Re: fiddle (or bow) inconsistency

So: it’s getting worse after an hour or so…. taking a break makes it better. Mmm. Why don’t you consider that the problem might not be in the bow/strings/fiddle, but in the fiddler himself that gets tired. Maybe you start a bit overenthusiastic and use too much power and pressure during the first hour. Try to take it easy right from scratch and you’ll last longer.

Is this making any sense to you or am I completely wrong?

Re: fiddle (or bow) inconsistency

i don’t think it is me getting tired . i dont find one hour playing such a big effort . it is certainly something else. thanks anyway

Re: fiddle (or bow) inconsistency

Gam : may be you are right here:"The other thing: as the evening progresses, venues tend to get noisier. If you are compensating by trying to play louder, you won’t get the best response from your fiddle. The feeling that the bow is not gripping could be due to your over-compensating"

Are you playing amplified by any chance? YES. Because if you are, the problem could also be amplified (and your sneaky friends keep turning up their amps).

Do you have the same trouble when playing on your own or is it just during gigs? NO (but when I play alone i make more pauses, and don’t normally play more than 1 hour. Thanks GAM

Re: fiddle (or bow) inconsistency

‘Do you have the same trouble when playing on your own or is it just during gigs? NO (but when I play alone i make more pauses, and don’t normally play more than 1 hour)’

In spite of your denial, this still gives me the idea that your own stamina might be the problem, or to be careful: part of the problem.

Re: fiddle (or bow) inconsistency

Are you playing in saunas or something? Lots of sweaty punters in an enclosed volume? Maybe humidity is making the instrument shrink/swell in places and not work as well as a result - sides coming loose, soundpost contracting vertically. Could happen - I guess.

Re: fiddle (or bow) inconsistency

Here’s a more probable cause: not the bow, not the rosin, but the player.

Q: Do you play louder at gigs than usual? Or try to play louder to be heard?
A: If so, the cause most likely is that you are overdriving the violin. It becomes too "hot", the sound closes off, and it will not sound at all if you don’t give it a rest. After a rest, it has returned enough to its original vibratory state, so it can sound again.

I have overdriven my fiddle to silence a few times, until I realized the cause: too much energy input, from too much pressure on the stick.

Pressure on the bow will make the sound louder within your personal space, so you hear it loudly. However, a lighter faster bow will be heard in a larger volume of space. This seems counter-intuitive, until you try it.
Also note that when players make a quick long stroke on a short note, this small note is accidentally louder than the surrounding notes, especially louder than its following note which is usually on a strong count. The quickness of stroke does add to its volume, however, not crushing the sound helps more, and for short strokes as well. Speaking of crushing, the left fingers also needn’t be pressing the strings to the fingerboard at all, much less hard.

Pressure on the stick is often with the index finger, which also gives you a hard, nasal tone. Try contact and use of all your fingers, especially the middle finger, and hang your arm weight on the bow. These can give you a larger, fuller, more loving sound that can be heard and appreciated by all.

If these don’t work, amplify enough so you needn’t overplay.
When horns and drums are playing, unamplified fiddles look really good, and really quaint.

Let us know what you discover.
vlnplyr