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String goes semitone flat when bowing

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by dtsamples, Apr 15, 2010.

  1. dtsamples

    dtsamples Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2010
    Wilmington, DE

    I am brand new to DB, and I am trying to learn to use a French bow. I am having some trouble bowing on the open G string.

    When I downbow near the frog, the note is true. As I pull, it seems to hit a spot where it goes a semitone flat, and as I keep pulling it goes back up to pitch. The result is G<Gb<G all in one downbow. I don't notice the same problem with an upbow. I also only notice this problem at a very specific spot on the string. I've looked at the string and cant see a noticeable burr. I'm wondering if this is some how due to an excess of rosin in that one spot on the bow, or if it could be due to a string imperfection.

    My bow also isn't strung perfectly. I think I screwed it up when I was applying rosin for the first time. I've got loose hairs going in every which direction even when the screw is tightened. My teacher played with my bow on a different bass and didn't notice the issue, so that's why I'm thinking it is something to do with the string.

    Sorry if this is a stupid beginner question!


  2. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    It could be a bum string, e.g., something wrong with the internal core. My son's first cello (1/8 size) had strings that would go a semitone [DEL]flat[/DEL] sharp when bowed hard. New strings cleared up the problem.

    It's worth spending some lesson time trying to get this matter sorted. It might be easier to diagnose if one person plays while the other takes a close look at what's going on. Unfortunately strings are expensive, but used sets often crop up on the classifieds here, and a used high-quality string might work better than what you've got.

    Welcome to TB!

    Note in edit: My son's cello went sharp, not flat. Now I am puzzled.
  3. What strings do you have on?
    More rigid (less elastic) strings, like steel full-core models, may show that problem.
    A good example of such string is the Super-Sensitive Red Label.
    These strings are very cheap and it'd be a good idea to get something better. :)
    (and they're quite hard to play due to their stiffness)
  4. dtsamples

    dtsamples Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2010
    Wilmington, DE
    Not really sure what I have on there to tell the truth. Just whatever strings a Cremona SB-2 comes with. Just a cheap set I'm sure. I'll have to bring my bass to the next lesson so maybe my teacher can diagnose.
  5. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan Supporting Member

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    This is just a guess about the problem might be.. if you apply lots of pressure when bowing, the tone can sound a hair sharp. It could be that you're applying more pressure when bowing near the frog, and when you bow towards the tip, the pressure is lesser, resulting in a slightly flat tone (1/4 tone differences). Having too much rosin on the bow hair as well as caked up rosin on the string can affect/help create uneven pressure too. Just my 2 rupees.
  6. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    is your bow changing speed as you draw it? maybe that place lets you change speed the worst.
  7. That's clearly a combination of very poor strings and a minor technique problem. Your bow speed and weight is varying, which is the cause of the change, but the worst of it is that the strings are exaggerating the change.

    New strings will help you learn how not to do this, and spending a while playing long notes into a good tuner (I like strobes best for this) so you can get the technique right.
  8. M Ramsey

    M Ramsey

    Mar 12, 2005
    North Carolina
    Good quality, but dead strings, will drop as well. But I think from reading his original post, he should buy a decent set of strings and try that out. Warburton may be right as well about the wolf tone eliminator. A good UPRIGHT BASS luthier could help you to determine that.

    Not some 19 year old kid selling electric guitar strings in a local music store that caters to those wanting to buy cheap Mexican made Stratocasters. I'm just saying.....
  9. i'm with PW, sounds like a wolftone to me. it's not uncommon to have a wolf on "G." plus, you say it's only in the one spot on your bass... if it were your strings/rosin/bow/anything else you mentioned you would expect it to affect other notes you play on that string/with that rosin or bow, etc. the good news is that if it's a wolftone, it's a totally normal thing and easily solved. you should check out the new harmony wolf eliminators, i have a couple and they work really well. good luck!
  10. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan Supporting Member

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    Ah, good thinking P'dub and Square Bear. dtsamples, try pressing your left knee/inner thigh by your knee against the back of the your bass while you bow the G (just a possible "quick fix", but as the others said, take it to a luthier specializing in upright basses, and pick up a wolf tone eliminator).
  11. Try bowing that G on your A string with your fouth finger up by the neck heel. If it's a wolf it should get pretty dicey from that, on up to the A harmonic on that A string.
  12. Im guessing technique. I read a lot of these kinds of posts from people who just started bowing....
  13. dtsamples

    dtsamples Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2010
    Wilmington, DE
    Hey everyone, went away for the weekend so couldn't check in, but thank you for the help. It very well could be my lack of technique, but I am able to recreate the problem regardless of the speed I bow (or so it seems to me). I have my lesson tonight. I'm not going to be able to bring my bass, but I figure if I can recreate on my teacher's bass it's me, and if I can't it's something to do with the strings/bass. I'll keep you all posted on what the result is.

    In the mean time, I'll need to read up on wolf tones.
  14. great....let us know what happened. With a good teacher you will be able to get to the bottom of this...
  15. dtsamples

    dtsamples Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2010
    Wilmington, DE
    Verdict is.........

    Bad strings. They rotate when I play and cause the string to go flat. Could only recreate the problem on my teacher's bass to a mild degree. I don't have a huge budget for strings, but does anyone have recommendations? I'll check through the forums too, but since you all are already helping me I thought you might have some quick advice.

  16. moles


    Jan 24, 2007
    Winnipeg, MB
    Corelli's are a pretty affordable arco-friendly string. Haven't gone there myself yet, I'm sure I will eventually.

    If yer really broke, I might have some gently used D'Addario orchestrals for you - send me a PM...

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