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tomi
Hi!

Has anyone ever had a problem with "whistling" E string?

I've seen forum postings about it but I haven't had that problem...until now.

Some posters say it is quite common on gold Es, which I now have too. My steel E never whistled.

Yesterday I really took some time to investigate and isolate the problem and this is what I found out:

I have one spot where that whistle presents itself and it is in fiocco's allegro measure 5 where there is E on A, D on A and open E under a slur. Trouble spot is this when bow hits the open E.

Playing just open E, no problem. But when I slur from A to E I can make it whistle almost every time now.

One interesting thing. I wiped E clean of rosin and played the slur once. No whistle. Then slur again on the same track where bow left some rosin on the E string. It whistles again.
Then again, I take a clean spot, no whistle... and so on.

And by whistle I mean that the sound is like I was playing with harmonic pressure. And when the whistle starts I can play the whole bow length and it keeps whistling, so it is not some brief disruption in sound but something else...like bow wouldn't grab the string properly or something.

I can break the whistle by REALLY applying pressure during the bow stroke but in general I'd say bow pressure is not the cause here.

And about the amount of rosin, last time I applied rosin is about a week ago so there shouldn't be too much of it. I also tried applying more of it yesterday, didn't help nor made it worse.

So, problem is identified and isolated. Now I'm open to ideas to fix it? :)
tomi
30 Responses
Posted: July 15, 2011
Last Comment: February 22, 2016
Replies

Joseph Lavariere
Posted: February 22, 2016
E-string
I always have the gap checked between the fingerboard and the string at the nut whenever I have anything different in the string.
I find the e cuts into the nut and bridge.  See if you need to fix these first.

Regis McCall
Posted: February 22, 2016
have you tried the Warchal "Amber" E string? It's the best E string i've ever used and it has eliminated my whistling completely. They also make an AMAZING A string called "Avantgarde that is just amazing with titanium solo strings. Food for though.

-your friendly neighborhood fiddler.

Nick
Posted: February 19, 2016
Warning! the video below is VERY LOUD in the beginning. It gave me a shock when I watched it! Turning down the volume is advisable :)

Nick
Posted: February 19, 2016
This discussion includes members-only video content



Good luck with the "reactivation" tomi. I look forward to hearing your progress with Book 4 soon :)

About the whistling E string, I took the opportunity to ask about it from a very good player (playing on very good violins). Here's a short video about what he thinks...

tomi
Posted: February 16, 2016
Hi Nick!

"It's great to see your reply on your original post of 2011. I have read many threads in the past with your contributions and it's great to have you back as VL "veteran" so to speak. How are you getting on now? What are you playing?"


Thanks :)
I've been quite busy lately so I haven't had too much time to focus on improving my playing. Of course I've been doing enough to maintain the level I've achieved, no way I am going to let that go to waste once I've put so much effort to it :)

Actually I was looking for a teacher for this spring after a year and a half break, but unfortunately all were fully booked. Better luck after summer holidays then ... having a teacher greatly improves motivation and time allocation in favor for the violin :)

What I'm playing right now...trying to maintain and of course improve my favourite:, meditation from thais. Haven't tried to learn many new pieces lately. But mostly been playing along with my kids while they progress through suzuki method...Just ordered book 4, so new stuff inbound for me too. I've played only Vivaldi A-minor from that book before.

Trying to re-activate myself here too :)

Kevin
Posted: February 13, 2016
FWIW, I'm in general agreement with Nick's advice. The whistle is the torsional vibration mode of the E string, as the string researchers have said. Our part as players is to try not to excite the torsional mode.

The usual scenario involves a rotary bow action going from the A string to E string. The arc traversed by the bow hand, and the speed of traversal, are critically important. 

If you get the pair wrong, the rotary action reduces pressure on the E string as the center of mass of the bow "pulls" the weight of the bow away from the string. Also the string contact point by the bow hair tends to travel around the string in a rotary way, exciting the torsional vibration mode.  And as the string researchers observed, once the string gets into torsion mode, it doesn't come out out.

Nick's suggestion of slowing down works because it reduces the bow speed (less rotary action at the contact point), maintains better hair pressure (less center of mass lifting action by the bow), and (my guess) probably allows the bow hand to travel in a better arc.

Like everyone else, I've done a lot of experimenting with the problem. For me, limiting the bow hand speed in the arc, and limiting the curvature of the bow hand arc seem to work well. Both of those changes limit the center of mass lightening effect, and limit the rotary torsion contact point effect.

I've also added a bit of extra hair pressure in the mid part of the arc as well, to counteract the center of mass lifting effect even more, to ensure there's enough hair pressure.  So I rarely get a whistle any more.

Nick
Posted: February 11, 2016
Hi Elke, I practised bow speed and pressure a lot when I came across the "screaming E" (in Minuet 3 book 1 I think). I got over the problem (through repetition) by just getting the feel of the right pressure and speed as instructed by my teacher - it took about 15 minutes instruction by him (and countless hours practise by me!). The problem has got better but often re-appears when learning a new piece which means I have to practise the cross over again to make sure it doesn't whistle.
The margin for error is so small (or should that be large?) that any deviation to what I practise (in terms of speed and pressure) makes the E scream again. Even if you do practise a lot, if you have a bad day or have to play in unfamiliar surroundings or in front of people which makes your right arm a bit wobbly due to nerves (as what happened when I "played" fine violins recently), the whistling E returns. When i'm at home and playing/practising, it rarely surfaces, except for when I'm learning a new piece.

In practical terms, I try to slow down a little with bow a split second before I play the E and at the same time try to apply a little more weight to the bow to grab the string - if I don't get this right, the bow seems to skim rather than grab the string causing a scream.

Elke Meier
Posted: February 11, 2016
"to avoid screaming E, use less bow and a firmer contact as you cross the string" - What exactly does that mean, Nick? I really like the sound of my Amber E-string when it sounds nice and sings, I really, really dislike it when it screams! But I have not really found out how to control it. So he says you need slower bow speed every time you hit the E-string? At the same time more pressure? But how do you manage that? Do you really think about changing the bow speed every time you cross over?

Nick
Posted: February 11, 2016
Hi Tomi,

I tried the Kaplan too and it was very effective i.e. no more whistling E. When I changed strings to Warchal Karneols, I switched the Kaplan for the Warchal E string and the whistling returned. My teacher wrote in my notes:  "to avoid screaming E, use less bow and a firmer contact as you cross the string". This seems to have done the trick and I no longer use the Kaplan E (but I keep it in case the whistling returns to my playing...).

It's great to see your reply on your original post of 2011. I have read many threads in the past with your contributions and it's great to have you back as VL "veteran" so to speak. How are you getting on now? What are you playing?

tomi
Posted: February 11, 2016
Cool, someone found my old post :)

Kaplan's non whistling E solved my problem back then. Haven't tried anything else since.

Seems that whistle is caused by some specific violin + string (maybe also bow) combinations. Change just something in one of those and problem might be gone.

Elke Meier
Posted: February 9, 2016
Raul, since you mentioned the Warchal Amber: I was intrigued by this E-string also. I have the Warchal Amber set on right now, in the beginning I was absolutely excited by this E-string, it was extremely easy to play, different from anything I had experienced so far (which was not much: Obligato, Dominant and Zyex on a different violin), it had a wonderful singing quality - WAY better on my violin than the Lenzner Goldbrokat which I had had before. But now, after three months I am tempted to put on the Lenzner again, because I really don't like the sound of the Amber E-string any more. It is often VERY shrill (well, maybe it is my bowing, but then that would mean that my bowing has really deteriorated since November) and it just seems unbalanced with the other strings. The other Amber strings I still love very much, but I avoid especially the open E whenever I can because it just pierces through everything very unpleasantly. If I can get the high notes right (very light bow pressure compared to the other strings, only played on the edge of the bow hair), then it still sings out very beautifully, but it seems like the times when I manage that get less.

Ral Rivas
Posted: February 9, 2016

I have experienced this issue exactly as Tomi has said.

I think that a wrong bowing technique is not the cause although playing closer to the bridge avoid most of the whistling "E" notes. But sometimes (depends on the music) you need to bow on the E string closer to the fingerboard and not to the bridge.

I have done some experiments using different strings. The result is that bowing in the same manner in two different strings, one whistle and the other doesn't whistle, so, the string has some part of the blame or, I dare to say, most of the blame.

I have used the no- whistling Kaplan string and IT NEVER WHISTLE regardless of your bowing.

This other string also promises to be no- whistling, but I have not tried it yet. By the way, is very curious.


http://www.warchal.com/amber.html



Dianne
Posted: February 8, 2016

Just wanted to respond to this terrific thread started by tomi in July 2011! (That video, tomi, is priceless to hear the whistling E!) - I also fast forwarded and grabbed some continuations of this discussion, and they are at the bottom of my comment.

I have two violins with the same strings, and I have one song that I play where I have run into the problem. One violin has never given me the whistling E and one will give me the whistling E every time - unless I bow exactly straight - and with even pressure. They both have the same bridge and were gone over and setup by the same luthier. The violin that gives me the whistling E is a mid 20th century German violin that feels a bit larger in my hand. The violin that is easy for me to play is an early 20th century French that feels smaller in my hand. I experimented with this for awhile last summer with that song while preparing for a recital, and I wonder if my bow arm is just a bit different between the two violins. When switching between the violins I have found that I need to 'remember' how to play the two. I also have two other violins I purchased when I 1st started playing - one has steel strings and the other has Evah's and the Evah E did have the problem but I don't remember the song(s). On the vintage violins I was able to see the circumstance -  in 1st position I played a D# on the A string and slurred to an open E string. (This is pretty much exactly what Joe P. commented in a later thread.)

Beth suggest using a Kaplan Solutions Non-Whistling E if the whistling E is a problem, below in this thread. She also writes some words  of wisdom  <<My theory is if your E string whistles occasionally, check your technique. If it whistles regularly and predictably no matter how you modify your playing, then it's the E string.>> This fit my situation perfectly!

Later VLab threads that continue the discussion of the whistling "E':

http://www.violinlab.com/Community/details.php?id=2810

http://www.violinlab.com/Community/details.php?id=1553

https://www.violinlab.com/Community/details.php?id=7289

http://www.violinlab.com/Community/details.php?id=5347

http://www.violinlab.com/Community/details.php?id=4691


Eileen
Posted: July 18, 2011
LOL Don ! I get one every once in a great while, but haven't heard a one since I switched from a gold E to steel.

Don Meek
Posted: July 18, 2011
Thanks for posting the video. I have often seen mention of a whistling E string but imagined it was just a kind of shrill sound I sometimes get when bowing fast. Thats the first time I have heard a REALLY whistling E string. Actually I am pretty glad it is the first time I've heard it.. it made all my hair stand on end LOL ! So far, I have yet to produce that kind of whistle.. here's hoping I never do.... :)

jojo
Posted: July 17, 2011
thank you Beth, I will go and read these, I am always 'sceptical' of research supplied by the people who developed the product though. I am not saying it is not true, I am just saying I am 'sceptical', it is the same in my job when we have research to say that this machine which saves babies lives (I am Midwife) is the only one which tells you of impending 'fetal distress', the machine is produced by 'Huntleigh' and 'Huntleigh' has published the research (this is not true I am just making an example), 5 years later it is all found to be 'inacurrate'....or not enough evidence...of course!

in the case of the 'non-whistling' E string nobody will ever be 'bothered' to do a research to prove them wrong as what is the point, tehre is no money in it LOL

to cut a long story short if you get rid of your 'whistling e' problem by adjusting your bowing (like I did) then you don't need a 'non-whistling' E string. If you can't get rid of the whistling E problem then you can try their strings I guess :)


Beth Blackerby
Posted: July 16, 2011
Here's a great series of blogs from some experts who probably know more about this issue than anyone in the world. The blog's author, Fan Tao, along with Dr. Norman Pickering and all the folks at D'Addario have devoted decades to the study of string science. I'm not receiving a single free string from D'Addario to mention their research. Trust me when I say the entire string community pays attention when they talk (or write).

Here's the first part of the blog. You can read parts two and three at:

http://daddariobowed.blogspot.com/2011/06/violin-open-e-string-whistling-problem.html and http://daddariobowed.blogspot.com/2011/06/violin-open-e-string-whistling-problem_24.html

Violin Open E String Whistling Problem (Part 1)

One of the most frustrating problems for violinists is the whistling E string. You play on the D string and when you cross over to the open E, it whistles with an annoying high frequency squeal. Or you play a chord in Bach and the open E string whistles. This whistling is not due to poor bowing technique: I have heard the best violinists in the world whistle their open E-strings. The whistling open E string is caused by the string vibrating in a torsional (twisting) motion rather than the normal Helmholtz (transverse or sideways) motion. The torsional vibration frequency for an unwound plain steel E-string is approximately 4,800 Hz (an open E is 660 Hz), and independent of the diameter of the string or the tuning. The torsional damping (damping is how quickly the vibrations die away) is extremely low, so once the string starts to vibrate torsionally, it does not want to stop very quickly. Your finger tip provides very high damping, and that is why the whistling does not occur with stopped notes. (Stopped notes can still squeak due to low string damping and poor bow technique, but that phenomena is generally not due to torsional behavior.) The lower strings dont have whistling problems because the windings provide extremely high torsional damping. That is why a wound E-string (for example our Helicore H311W) is more whistle resistant than plain E-strings. We also add a damping compound to our wound E-strings which increases torsional damping. For the ultimate whistle-proof E-string, try our Kaplan Solutions Non-Whistling E string (KS311W 4/4M). In addition to the winding and added damping compound, it uses a stranded steel core, which lowers the torsional frequency and further increases torsional damping. The Kaplan Solutions Non-whistling E-string is also very sweet sounding compared to solid steel E-strings, yet has plenty of power due to its high playing tension, comparable to heavy tension solid steel E-strings. The string has a solid ball-end, which cannot be removed, so we include an adapter which allows it to be used with common hook type fine tuners. In part 2, I will discuss why it is so difficult to prevent an E string from whistling.


Eileen
Posted: July 16, 2011
That's "excellent" Tomi ! Nice camera work !! :-)

You never got a whistle when you played closer to the bridge. What did you notice about your strokes as you made them ? Did you feel any difference in how you approached the string when you bowed nearer the bridge as opposed to a bit further toward the finger board ? I thought I could see that your hairs were more flat on the string when you got the whistle and more on the edge when you didn't, but I can't really tell from the angle if that's so.

I wonder if it has anything to do with how the length of string between the hairs and the bridge respond ? When you have more distance there, maybe it allows the string more room to vibrate oddly or something if you don't hit it just right. When you play closer to the bridge the string in that area really doesn't have the room to vibrate as much or at least it's a more concentrated vibration and maybe more focused. I don't know.....just a thought...


jojo
Posted: July 16, 2011
Hi Tomi, it's interesting how you never got it to whistle when you bowed nearer to the bridge :)

because of where your camera was I cannot see 'how close' or 'far' from the bridge you were, but between 0:43 and 1:07 you did 5 or 6 strokes nearer the bridge and none of those had a whistle,good isn't it?

I think you don't get a whistle on the up-bows 'probably' because you might have less pressure on the E string when bowing that way,that is my assumption/guess anyway.

so.....try to keep near the bridge when you are approaching those open Es in Fiocco, that is what I do anyway and it has worked for me, I used to get a whistle just where you mention in Allegro (fiocco) and I don't anymore, I hope it works for you.


tomi
Posted: July 16, 2011
Hi!

I just got a new toy yesterday: Samsung galaxy s2...so I went and tried to shoot some video with it.

So here you can hear and see the whistle.

Quite hard to try to bow and hold a camera(phone) at the same time so that it also captures what I want to :)

Also notice my studio environment (bathroom) ;)

Some clarification about the video: First stroke is with E just wiped clean. Second stroke goes on same path. Then I try different spots on the string and also do some up-bows (won't whistle on up-bow slurs!)


Beth Blackerby
Posted: July 16, 2011
My theory is if your E string whistles occasionally, check your technique. If it whistles regularly and predictably no matter how you modify your playing, then it's the E string.

jojo
Posted: July 16, 2011
I solved it too Eileen, I also don't get a whistling E anymore but NOT because I use a 'non-whistling E string', the mystery I referred to was in regards to what the solution was LOL

it seems that like in some other things there is not one solution which fits everyone ;)


Eileen
Posted: July 16, 2011
Lol...seems as thought Beth has solved it with HER violin anyway ! ;)

BTW...I loved the story of Josef Szigeti and his whistling "E"...LOL ! Bravo !


jojo
Posted: July 15, 2011
it looks like this will be an unsolved violin 'mystery' then :)

Beth Blackerby
Posted: July 15, 2011
Yes, there really is such a thing as a whistling E string. I've been plagued with it too. Even when I'm attacking the note properly, and not accidentally touching it with another finger (which will cause a whistle). They even market a string that doesn't whistle. I use it and my E string never whistles!! It's the D'adarrio Kaplan non-whistling E string. I always use that string now, and like I said, the whistling is gone.

jojo
Posted: July 15, 2011
here is a blog from violinist Clayton Haslop talking about the 'whistling E':

I have gone and experimented with what he said after reading this blog and it has worked!

here I have 'copied it and pasted it for you'

The Case of the Whistling E This story is a favorite amongst violinists, maybe youve heard it.

Late in the career of the uniquely compelling violinist, Josef Szigeti, he performed at Carnegie Hall. On the program was the famous Chaconne of Bach. Throughout the movement are to be found chords that use the open e string.

On that occasion, each time maestro Szigeti struck one of those chords his e string whistled, without fail. Members of the audience could sense his rising frustration.

Finally, at the last climatic iteration of the opening phrase, fully 15 minutes after the movement began, his frustration got the better of him. In bar two of the phrase there are two, four note chords that use an open e. The first, true to form that night, whistled. The second also whistled, but this time the hapless virtuoso was ready for it.

Upon meeting with the unctuous bleat he fiercely drew the bow back and forth several times fortissimo until he produced a flurry of ear rending open es.

Having thus exacted revenge, he played to the end and was met with thunderous applause and more than a few belly laughs on the part of fellow fiddlers.

Now, the case of the whistling e is not entirely closed.

Yes, in part it is due to the condition of the string tarnish will cause a string to go false and increase the likelihood of whistling. And yes, there are E strings on the market guaranteed not to whistle. Problem with them is they dont sound very good otherwise.

No, there is a secret to solving the case of the whistling e that goes deeper than mere equipment. And for reading this email, good friends, I will give it to you.

The biggest factor in causing the e string to whistle is bow placement on the string. Try attacking the e string fortissimo with the bow striking down near the fingerboard. You will, more often than not, get a whistle. Now do the same thing with it nearer to the bridge, e voil, no whistle. Case closed.


jack
Posted: July 15, 2011
Tomi,

I haven't experienced (as far as I can tell) the known issues with the E string. However in my research on strings I have found the following bit of information that may help.

"Jargar : Many soloists have switched to this E, especially the heavy gauge. Seems to possess the qualities of the gold and metal Es without the evils. It doesnt rust or tarnish, is very round in sound, and powerful but not harsh."

I have purchased this string, but it has not yet been delivered. I currently use Pirastro Gold E with Dominants and once I put new strings on my violin, I'll be sure to report my findings.

Cheers!


tomi
Posted: July 15, 2011
Yeah, I'll keep on trying different things.

Funny thing this fiocco...now that I listened again this performance, that I've linked earlier in my fiocco thread:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tkk6DtawbWQ

Her E squeekes right on the same spot as mine, at 0:13 :)

jojo
Posted: July 15, 2011
I am afraid but the 'whistling E' is always a problem which is to blame on us and not the string or the rosin or the weather/humidity and so on. I didn't like to admit this but I have resigned to it and have learnt to admit it LOL

Often it is down to bowing too close to the fingerboard with too much force, sometimes you only need to move a millimeter or two away from the fingerboard and towards the bridge, just that little will make the difference.

this problem of 'whistling' Es is often found in chords which involve an open E and where you have 3/4 notes played together, of course these are more easily played nearer to the the fingerboard BUT this is where you get the 'whistling' E coming out as well so you have to 'compromise' and 'come away' a little from the fingerboard.

sometimes also the angle of the bow, if you are too low with your hand towards the floor when playing on your E string, this will make your E whistle much more easily.

guess what: I never got a 'whistling' E either until I played Fiocco! LOL

no, it's not your string, experiment with bow pressure and pressure point (ie just a millimetre or two more towards the bridge) and angle of the bow, I am sure you can 'conquer this' as I did :)


tomi
Posted: July 15, 2011
One addition about the steel E.
I'm not quite sure did any of the pieces I played until fiocco's have a slur to E in them and I have played that piece only while I have had gold E. (obligato)