Mystery of the Buzzing Violin Strings
Posted on February 1, 2019
After I finished upgrading everything I could on my cheap fiddle, I was pretty happy with where I stood. Well, for about half a practice lesson. Then, the buzzing began.
At first, it was just on the D string. Currently, I’m still playing my lessons pizzicato (plucking strings and not bowing), and this would happen most times that I held down a string to make a note. Open string seemed fine. Then, the A string started it, too.
This, of course, diverted my attention from practice to troubleshooting because it was super annoying to try to play while there’s a buzz in the strings. I went as far as to restring the D string (I’m getting a lot of stringing practice) to try to figure it out. No go.
I then spent some time researching buzzing strings online. Oh man… I had no idea how sensitive an instrument this is. Just about anything could cause a buzz… from loose tuners to strings touching the inside of the peg box to the chin rest touching the tail piece to the seams on the violin coming apart… I mean… the troubleshooting list was so long.
So, yesterday, during practice, I decided I was going to take back some of the suggestions and get this mystery figured out. I checked all the trouble areas of the instrument, and narrowed it down to definitely something with the string itself.
I remembered that one of the stories I read where someone had issues with buzzing strings had to do with an uneven fretboard. I took a closer look at mine and realized… The vinyl fret guide I was using had gotten a bit warped and just slightly bunched up under the D and A strings in certain locations. Just out of curiosity, I took it off, and sure enough, no more buzz.
I’m a bit disappointed because the guide lasted less than 2 weeks of practice for the cost. It certainly was a big help while I used it, but I couldn’t see a way to remove the warping, and the buzzing was too distracting to deal with. I looked at violin tape to replace it… but couldn’t justify paying another $10 just to mark frets on my violin.
That’s when I remembered I have a bunch of nice washi tape. I pulled some out, marked my fingerings and there you go — it works perfectly!
On the positive side, I hope this is the last of the tweaks and troubleshooting I need to do to finally be able to buckle down and make some real progress. As of today, I will have been practicing for two weeks straight, for at least 30 minutes a day. That doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but when you’re juggling full time job, adult priorities, art projects, and gaming… eeking out 30 minutes can be a real challenge.
I’m finally getting to the point in my lesson book where they’re having me bow on the rosin. They also took away the letters on the notation of the songs, which is forcing me to really think about what note is what. I’d memorized the letters and the strings, but not so much the notes themselves, so it’s something new to practice.
It looks like very soon I’ll be starting to bow music for the first time. I’ve practiced bowing mostly open strings, and holding the bow with my Bow Buddy (which helps a lot). But I haven’t actually tried to bow a song yet. Two weeks in… so far to go!