Friday, June 24, 2011

Violin Open E String Whistling Problem (Part 3)

Let us explore some common beliefs about whistling E-strings.

"The open E whistles easier if you play a D natural right before it." False. The D natural has no effect on the whistling; it just happens to be the most common note played before the open E.

"The open E whistles easier on a down bow." False. The E will whistle on an up bow just as well. It has so happens that crossing from the D to E string is most commonly done on a down bow.

"The bow hair needs more rosin, or needs to be rehaired." There is some truth to this. If the bow hair is in poor condition or lacks rosin, this will make it harder to start a normal note and make it easier to whistle. However, if your bow hair has enough rosin, adding more will not prevent whistling.

"Gold plated E strings are easier to whistle." There is some anectodal evidence to support this, but no proof. If true, it might be due to the smoothness of the gold plating, which reduces torsional damping due to the string rubbing against the bridge string notch and nut.

Certain types of plastic sleeves or string notch covering may make whistling easier. I recently encountered violins with bad whistling problems that had a very smooth and shiny bridge string notch covering material instead of the traditional parchment.

Any adjustments to violin setup that changes the response of the E-string can affect whistling. However, there is no single violin adjustment that will prevent whistling in all cases. Therefore, luthiers might go through a lengthy list of adjustments, including soundpost, bridge setup, changing the shape of string notches, the tailpiece assembly, etc. in hopes of finding a cure. The only remedy that will work all the time is to use a string like our Kaplan Solutions non-whistling E (KS311W 4/4M).

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