When I play a fast legato down-bow from the A string to the E string, then the E string remains silent. You can only hear a very faint and high-pitched noise.

I tried all kind of adjustments:

  • First, my left hand doesn't touch the E string. I know this sometimes causes the same problem.
  • The E string is clean (there is no rosin on it).
  • I tried to apply different amounts of pressure.
  • I tried it with different amounts of bow tension.
  • I tried playing close to and far away from the bridge.
  • I tried another bow.
  • I even made sure the e string isn't twisted.

Nothing has helped so far. What else can I try? What else can cause the E string to remain silent? Is it my instrument? Is it the string?

I use the following string: D'Addario K420B-5 Kaplan E string

  • 1
    So if you play the e string by itself it sounds fine and if you play legato from a to e with both strings open it doesn't sound? And I assume you've checked your bow tension? (Is that what you mean by bent?) Apr 8, 2015 at 22:24
  • @ToddWilcox Yes, this annoying effect occures most when playing the open e. The a string isn't necessarely open when the effect occures. The speed plays the biggest role I guess: when performing the legato slowly, then the e string does sound. And yes, I ment the bow tension, sorry, I'll correct that. Apr 9, 2015 at 7:35

4 Answers 4


For me it is always

  1. my left hand accidentally touching the E string (at the base of the first or second fingers where they join the palm),
  2. my bow drifting away from the bridge,
  3. my bow angle drifting so that it is no longer parallel to the bridge, or
  4. the angle of my bow to the string i.e. my bow is sitting too upright so that the bow hairs are not splayed across the string.

You mention the first two of these in the question, but do try the remaining two. You also mention in a comment on your question that "when performing the legato slowly, then the e string does sound [correctly]". That might suggest one way forward:

  1. take the problem passage and play it slowly and deliberately with a metronome;
  2. gradually increase the tempo of the metronome taking care to keep the same quality of bow work and fingering; and
  3. stick at the speed where you first hear the problem and work on technique. Try to feel what's different in your playing and correct it.

It feels unlikely that it is the instrument, but if you can reproduce the problem with an exercise as simple as repeating the transition from an open string a to an open string e in quick succession then you could easily go to a friend or a music shop and try out other violins. Thus you would know for sure.

If all that fails then I recommend finding a teacher (preferably one use to teaching adults). (N.B. Actually I recommend finding a teacher anyway.)

I tried a non-whistling E string too but that made little difference, concentrating on technique did.

That said, I do sometimes make mistakes and get that noise, especially in fast or difficult passages. The only consolation I can offer is that it sometimes (though rarely) happens to professionals: I heard Pekka Kuusisto make the same slip as he started an encore; he did look shocked!

  • 3 and 4: check and check. No, still whistling. I can reproduce the effect performing a fast legato. As I mentioned in a comment above I think that the speed plays the biggest role: when performing the legato slowly, then the e string does sound. Apr 10, 2015 at 7:11
  • OK - I'll add another idea to my answer.
    – dumbledad
    Apr 10, 2015 at 7:20
  • Thanks, your approach to the problem is perfectly right. But I reduced the passage to simply playing a - e. That's it. I can reproduce the whistling effect by slowly increasing the speed. Just that. By now I'm quite sure it's the material (maybe the old rosin) or the adjustment of the instrument. Yesterday I also made sure that the e string is not twisted (read about that somewhere else). Now I'm waiting for the new rosin to be delivered. I'll keep you up to date on this. Apr 10, 2015 at 7:27
  • OK - I'll add another idea. Please do keep us up-to-date it's a fascinating question.
    – dumbledad
    Apr 10, 2015 at 7:38
  • 1
    I guess I haven't checkt well enough the first time. It was 4! My bow was sitting to upright. The stick must be tilt (like in this picture or even more). So in the end it was not the material. Although the new rosin does reduce the whistling a little, the main factor was my technique. Means now I've got to get rid of another bad habit. Apr 11, 2015 at 21:49

It's likely part instrument, part string. The E string is not wound so it has less grip than the other strings anyway. This can be acerbated by the acoustics of the instrument: some instruments show this more than others. If the E string cuts into the bridge, this will generally also have this sort of effect. My violin maker fits a bit of drum skin (no idea how he fixes it, probably some sort of glue) to the bridge at the place of the E string to avoid that.

I've tried using a gold-plated E string on suggestion of my violin teacher but it did not really make much of an improvement.

At the current point of time, I'm playing with a synthetic set of strings. They don't have the carrying power of the expensive Pirastro strings but I'm not playing large orchestra anyway. They break much less frequently and the overall response is more balanced and mellow.

Oh right: use a good, fresh piece of resin, sparingly. And wipe your strings off after playing. Sanding or knifing off a few layers will refresh your resin but it still does not preserve its original stickiness for more than a few years.

Now that I think of it, swapping out the somewhat ancient resin might have been the most effective measure I had for getting rid of the whistling E string in the long run. There are several different brands here as well with different composition. Might be worth trying a few but it's important that they have not already spent a decade on shelf so perhaps go to a violin maker for that: he should likely have enough of a turnaround on them to avoid that pitfall.

  • Din't think it could be the old resin. Indeed it has spent a decade on the shelf. I will try a new one. Apr 9, 2015 at 8:04
  • Trashed old rosin. Ordered new rosin. Cleaned bow hair with spirits, soap and water. Waiting for new rosin. Will inform you on the results. Apr 10, 2015 at 7:20
  • The new rosin did help, but only very little. The main factor was my technique. See my comment below the answer marked as correct. Apr 11, 2015 at 21:55

Well the source of the problem can be possible three kinds: a) your skill b) the violin/string (ruling out the bow as you already tried a different one) c) not enough rosin on the string (But I suppose we can rule it out) In order to test for a, have someone else try the same thing. In order to test for b try an entirely different violin.

As for a potential solution I have one thing to offer. Well you said you tried varying the pressure as well as the distance to and from the bridge. But are you aware of the concept of "sounding point" (where your bow contacts the string) and it's relation to "bow pressure"? For example if you applied very light pressure near the bridge the sound will not be a good quality one, even silent; and if you applied very harsh pressure near the fingerboard the sound would be too harsh, the slightest of the pressure can cause good quality sound near the fingerboard. So it's not a matter of adjusting pressure or distance from the bridge rather it's a matter of considering both. Even string thickness plays a role here. The thickness of the string will also be a slightly significant variable along with those two. Another variable is the "poisiton" you're playing in (1st position, 2nd position, etc.) For example, Simon Fischer wrote in his book Basics, "in low positions, the G and D strings are too thick and hard to respond easily when the bow is near the bridge. Near the fingerboard, the A and E strings are too soft to be able to take more than minimum pressure." It is also useful to note that speed complements pressure. When the pressure is low, speed ought to be high and vice versa.

In other words all of these must be considered in relation to each other as you bow. Not something you can try separately.

  • Getting another violinist to play the existing set-up is a great idea.
    – dumbledad
    Apr 10, 2015 at 9:02

I can reproduce it easily on my violin when playing this. For me, it's rather a loud and annoying whistle. It occurs when playing the red note.

enter image description here

Anyway, there is this video from Todd Ehle (prefessorV) that helped me a bit with the issue.

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