I play the violin, and for some reason, especially when I go from the A-string to the E-string, the E string squeaks a really high-pitched note that sounds like a harmonic, even when I take all my fingers off the fingerboard. Is there any way to stop this from happening?

  • 1
    You mean, instead of sounding the fundamental, it sound a harmonic? Or in addition? And what transition exactly do you mean – d on the A-string to open E, or any note on A-string to open E, or d to any note on E, or any note on A to any note on E? It would be clearest if you could add a recording. May 20 at 20:05
  • It sounds like a really ugly high-pitched squeak, similar to the sound of an incorrectly-played harmonic. it isn't a real harmonic of course, because then it wouldn't happen even if I have all my fingers off the strings.
    – SupBruh
    May 20 at 20:07
  • It can be a harmonic even without fingers. On my old cello I could get the D-string to break into the second or third harmonic just by playing sul ponticello with low pressure and high bow speed. But I'm not convinced in your situation it's a harmonic at all you're talking about. Thus it would be good to hear the sound you're talking about. May 20 at 20:36
  • No I'm not sure it's a harmonic but it sounds kinda like one. adding to that, I can play really loudly and put a ton of pressure on my bow and it'll still make the squeak sound. when the squeaking sound occurs, there is literally no way for me to stop it except stop moving my bow. I can literally put my fingers on the E-string and play a part of Csardas and the squeak doesn't stop, and it doesn't even change pitch (which leads me to believe the sound is coming from the small section of string at the bottom of the scroll.)
    – SupBruh
    May 20 at 20:40
  • 1
    Right, that could well be. It's hard to diagnose without having the violin at hand. You should try around with damping various spots, strings behind the bridge and other open strings, with tissue, tape or something and see if something can stop the squeak from happening. May 20 at 20:50

Speaking as a fellow violinist, this is a common problem. It only happens on the open E string and it often comes when low bow pressure is used usually combined with a shallow angle between bow and string.

The standard solution is to play 4th finger on the A string, particularly for intermediates on up. If you are a beginner use it as an excuse to get practice using your 4th finger. In other words, try and work around it.

There are times, though, when the open E string can't be avoided. A double stop would be a very obvious example. In that case use a bit of extra bow pressure to snuff it out.

In general playing if you feel you need the sound of the E string for an open E then make sure you approach the stroke with a good bow angle and reasonable pressure.

Frustration often leads violinists to try different brands of E string to try and find one which doesn't do this. When violinists get together for a chat they will often compare notes about which strings they use and say things like "I use brand B for my G, D and A and brand C for the E".

I've never found a violinist who has found the secret of which brand of strings guarantees no whistle on the open E but feel free to join in the game. Meanwhile try a bit more bow pressure and a steeper bow angle.

Edit: Augustin Hadelich has a YouTube video talking about this problem and showing that even top soloists have this problem:

His diagnosis of the problem is that it can arise when the bow doesn't "catch" the string well enough.

  • 1
    thank you for your advice. I have been playing violin for over 6 years, and it seems like using the 4th finger would be quite tedious but it's worth stopping the ugly squeaking noise.
    – SupBruh
    May 20 at 21:40
  • 1
    Classical violinist Augustin Hadelich has an interesting YouTube video on this very problem here - youtube.com/watch?v=PP5tC27fDjw. Maybe I should edit it in to my answer. May 20 at 21:53
  • Searching for "e string whistling" on YouTube returned some more videos, so I guess it's a well-known issue. Perhaps mentioning that "This is known as 'whistling E string'" at the beginning of the answer might help to summarize the issue?
    – Andrew T.
    May 21 at 10:59

Augustin Hadelich's video in Brian Towers' answer is useful. I would expand on it a little:

  • The most sure-fire way to eliminate this problem is to use an E string designed to eliminate whistling. I've used this "Kaplan Solutions" E (https://www.sharmusic.com/Strings/Violin-Strings/Kaplan-Violin-E-String---4-4-size---Medium-Gauge.axd) at various times of my life and whistled maybe a couple of times per year. The tradeoff is that other brands offer a more "brilliant," incisive E tone, especially desirable for a soloist to project above an orchestra. But if you're in a place where avoiding E whistles is more important than being a connoisseur of string tones, then it's a miracle cure.
  • If you have to use an E that whistles, there are still a few bow-hand tricks you can use. The important thing is to let the bow hair get a good "grip" on the string before setting it in motion. This is key to good articulation at any time, but especially important here.
    • If you're simply going from an A string note to an E string note, you can get a good articulation by engaging the fingers of the bow hand;
      does a good job of showing off the "squeeze/extend" motion that can give a cleanly articulated start to any up-bow or down-bow.
    • If you're playing a chord that has open E on top, your options are more limited. Try to roll across the strings in such a way that your transition from A to E is less gradual and more assertive; don't slowly "fade" your bow weight from A to E. Finally, there's less danger of whistling when your bow is slightly closer to the bridge, so you can intentionally angle your bow so that it doesn't form a 90-degree angle with the strings, but rather is farther from the bridge on G string and closer to it on E (
      ). Go easy on that one, since it's then harder to set the string in motion when you're closer to the bridge (and you definitely don't want to get close enough for a real ponticello sound). You can "drift" back into a normal placement after the E has been set in motion.

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