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I know in playing classical violin pieces generally the player will stay away from the fingerboard, and in folk playing a lot of players hover right on the edge of it for a "warm tone". I noticed that on my violin, as I start to approach the finger board my pitch drops off drastically. My D string in the center between the bridge and the finger board will be right on D, but when I am at the edge of the fingerboard, it will be a C##. (I've doubled checked with a tuner and it confirms that I am 1/4 tone flat.)

Is this normal? I'm assuming no. If it is not normal, is there a way to fix this? For example, something to do with getting a new bridge?

Edit: I have played with my bridge a bit my moving it ever so slightly toward the finger board (1/16") and now it is only 20 cents flat which I seem to be able to fix with bow speed and pressure.

Question still stands though, is this normal?

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    Why not just move your finger up a little to bring the note in tune? May 21 at 0:13
  • As Todd says, this, like on any fretless strong instrument, is entirely within your control. You move your finger to where the note you want is. You don't do it by position, you do it by pitch - as you have noted it is at a different position when you bow hard as well.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    May 21 at 9:07
  • Althought bowing position/pressure/speed can certainly affect pitch, a quarter tone or even just 20 cents seems too much. Is it just the D string or do the others behave alike? I suspect there's something wrong with the string. May 21 at 11:04
  • It was only the D string. My open D was a quartertone flat, i just changed strings and once they are broken in I'll know more. Hoping it is an easy fix! May 22 at 1:35
  • Does the pitch vary depending on how much bow pressure you use, and/or how fast you bow?
    – gidds
    May 22 at 11:55

3 Answers 3

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Is this normal?

No. I've just got my tuner out and tried this. No discernible difference in pitch between fingerboard, middle and bridge. Just a difference in volume because I had to use more bow pressure as I approached the bridge to get a good sound.

If it is not normal, is there a way to fix this?

The first thing to do is to double check by using a different tuner. It may be that your tuner is at fault.

The second thing to try is to take it to a luthier to check over. They will have the skills and knowledge to fix and identify any problems and, in my experience, what they can do with an instrument which doesn't sound quite right can be almost magical.

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You should edit your question to make clear that you are talking about the location of the bowing action on the string rather than about anything to do with the fingering hand.

A bowed string instrument works by having a sticky bow transfer energy to the string in a stick-and-go action. Bowing closer to the bridge makes for less interference with the normal vibration, resulting in a pitch closer to the pizzicato pitch than when bowing closer to the fingerboard. Pitch also depends on bow pressure and speed and on the build of the instrument (a more responsive instrument taps more of the vibrational energy and thus affects pitch more).

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Whatever you do, do NOT move the bridge! Unless this is a cheapo student rental, some luthier will have placed the bridge at an optimum point relative to the fingerboard and tailpiece.

It is quite possible that you are pressing the bow hair far too hard onto the string, which can lead to nasty detuning. It is also true that the pitch will vary with pressure and with overall dynamic level, but typically not as much as you seem to be dealing with here.

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