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I am new to the cello and have been experiencing a sound on the G string that I can't quite pinpoint the cause of. Everywhere I have looked online appears to be specific to wolf tones or rattles, and I don't believe it is either.

The best I can describe the sound is like a metallic tone on top of the normal G frequency. I only get the sound when I play open G and it is not every time, sometimes it takes some effort to replicate. Here are a few other observations I have made:

  • No other strings are contributing. I can dampen all other strings and it still makes the sound.
  • It seems to get worse with more rosin.
  • There doesn't appear to be anything else on the cello vibrating.

If I can't figure it out, I plan to take it to the shop where I bought it to see if they can troubleshoot, but I thought I would ask here first just in case it is a possible easy fix.

The cello is an Avalor Studio 2008 - Guy Cole with Thomastik Infield Spirocore G and C strings.

Edit---- Audio clip is here: https://voca.ro/bLownwgbPX0 The second bow stroke has the sound in question.

Thanks in advance!

  • Any chance you can post a recording of the noise? – Tim Burnett - Bassist Dec 5 '19 at 20:00
  • One thing you could consider is trying out different strings. Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error to match the best strings with your instrument. I know strings can be pricey, but it might make a lot of difference. Maybe ask your teacher if they have any old/discarded strings you could try out first. – Jomiddnz Dec 5 '19 at 20:37
  • @TimBurnett-Bassist I will post the sound as soon as I can get to the instrument and record it. Good suggestion! – T James Dec 5 '19 at 20:52
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    @TimBurnett-Bassist Audio is upload! – T James Dec 6 '19 at 1:16
  • Not a full answer as this is an inexpert opinion, but I had a similar issue on an old double bass I used to play. The issue, as far as I could tell, was a slight kink in the string that liked to cause a high overtone. Changing the string fixed it. I also think that this problem isn't very major (it's pretty slight in the recording) and part of getting good at the instrument is learning how to tame wild sounds like this with your bowing technique. – MattPutnam Dec 6 '19 at 2:40
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Since you mention you're new to the cello, I suspect this is largely a case of inexperience with bowing. I bet you will not hear it if you pluck the G-string.

I have played several different cellos of different quality, and while a topnotch instrument is less likely to show this problem, the G-string is more prone to this sort of "shatter" behavior until you learn just the right amount of pressure and acceleration curve as you start the bow stroke.

For starters, try starting a bow on A (fingered on the Gstring) and without changing anything in the bow speed or angle, release the string and see if the G pitch is reasonably clean. In addition, make sure you are not too close to the bridge, as that makes starting a clean open-string tone more difficult as well.

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  • Thank you for the feedback! I had recently played for several months on a beginners cello and switched to a higher quality one recently. I had never had a problem on the other cello but I will be sure to try your strategy and see how it works. – T James Dec 6 '19 at 16:06
  • I was able to meet with someone more way experienced than me and it turns out you are correct that it has to do with the amount of pressure on the string. By dropping my elbow a bit more and letting gravity do more work I am able to avoid the sound more consistently. Thank you for steering me in the right direction and I hope this helps more fellow beginners down the road! – T James Dec 9 '19 at 15:16
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As Matt Putnam suggests, this could be an issue with the string itself. Either damage or a quality control mishap. So check over the string visually and by running your (clean) fingers over it. Detune the string so you can inspect it at the points of contact at the nut and saddle.

Another problem that can cause rattling on an open string of a stringed instrument is if the nut or saddle is too flat and parallel to the string direction. This makes the string sit farther back from the sounding portion and it strikes the material of the nut or saddle with each vibration, causing a Sitar-like buzz. To check this, detune the string and pull it out of the nut slot. Take a straight edge and make sure that the nut slot has a slight back angle so that the vibrating portion of the string makes contact at the edge on the fingerboard side and not somewhere in the middle. The saddle should have an edge and not be too flat.

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  • I believe I have some old strings on a practice cello that I can try switching out to see if it improves. Thank you for the information, I had no idea small deformations in strings could cause such problems. – T James Dec 6 '19 at 16:10

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