Friday, January 26, 2007

 

Twisted


Lately I've been having a lot of trouble staying in tune. I've also been getting some dreadful squeaks on the open g-string. I was having to alternatively loosen and tighten the fine-tuners a lot at each session (I know the pegs weren't loose). Something just wasn't right. I inspected the pegs, the tailpiece, the strings, and finally the bridge. I stood one of my dampit cards on the cello in front of the bridge to see if it was square to the cello. On the upper strings' side, the top of the bridge was tilted back (more than 90 degrees), while on the lower strings it was tilted forward (less than 90 degrees). Every once in a while I've had to adjust the tip of the bridge especially after changing strings, but this was the first time it was twisted like that. The base of the bridge was not out of place.

After some trial and error I was able to square the whole bridge to the top of the cello. After all that, it did seem to sound better again.

Still, that was kind of bizarre. What's going on?

One possibility is that the bridge has gotten too flexible (maybe it has weakened with age?) It seems like a decent bridge, it came with the cello from Ifshin. I've not seen any discussion on the forums about bridges wearing out this way. I bought a spare when I bought the cello. I'll bring it along when I take the cello to the luthier in Anchorage, just in case that's the problem.

Another possibility is that the top of the cello has flexed unevenly. Several times these past few weeks temperatures have varied by 40 degrees several times, with accompanying changes in absolute humidity. I've kept the dampits regularly moist (no free water, though), and the room humidifier has been running steadily. The cello doesn't "appear" to be warped or twisted in any way.

I've been drilling my fingers on third position. It started with the "Countdown Etude" my teacher gave me last summer: [on the a-string it's 0A-4D, 0A-3D, 0A-2D, 0A-1D]. I played this over and over until it seemed normal. Several weeks ago, I started consciously thinking about what each of these alternate fingerings really represented, and I started mixing things up [0A-4D being the base and then randomly playing 0A-xD and back to base, telling myself each time "second position", "third position", etc.] Then last week, I started adding the fourth finger to the mix: [0A-4D, 0A-3D-4Eb, 0A-2D-4E, 0A-1D-4F, etc. - but randomly.] I've noticed my accuracy and speed improving fairly quickly on this new exercise.

The LeClerc duet that I've been working on has a run of notes on the g-string, starting in third position at Eb and walking down the string to the open G. I'd been struggling with that part for several months, now. But after just a few days with this new exercise, I noticed today that I'm doing pretty good with that part. Recently I started working on the second octave of the F-Major scale up to 4F on the a-string, with improving accuracy. I'm also doing better with my fourth finger extensions.

Progress...

Comments:
Hello! Thanks for your comment on my web site. It's interesting to read your cello experiences.

It's strange what's happening with your G string. It could be a number of things. Check that the elevation of the string is high enough so that even when it is vibrating, it does not buzz against the the fingerboard. Sometimes the problem is the nut towards the pegbox -- if it is too low, the string does not get enough clearance when it comes out of the pegbox and can rattle terribly against the fingerboard down near where you put your fingers in 1st position. But, buzzes and extraneous noises are notoriously difficult to locate and troubleshoot sometimes on string instruments.

It's probably unlikely that the instrument is "flexing" in any strange way, especially as you are keeping good care for it.

Good luck on your cello work! It's interesting to read about your discoveries!!
 
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