wolf tone

Choice of classical guitar strings and technical issues connected with their use.
el baroda

Post by el baroda » Tue Feb 20, 2007 11:07 am

Hi, Bones. I cannot explain in technical terms what "wolf tone" (others call it "sympathetic buzz") is, but in the case of my luthier-made guitar, the tone produced on the B string at the 3rd fret sounded like a long and loud high-pitched echo. Very annoying. My other guitar (factory-made) does not have this problem. I spent many hours and money trying to correct it but to no avail.

Some members of the forum suggested that it could be due to a loose bracing or damage inside the guitar, an uneven fret, that part of the string between the nut and the tuning machine touching the headstock, wrong tension of string, etc. It was more of an accident that I found out today that the problem was due to my innacurate electronic tuner. As I've said, the annoying sound is now completely gone, and I am very happy and relieved.

Best regards.

el baroda

Post by el baroda » Tue Feb 20, 2007 11:13 am

Hi, Bones. It's me again. For a good write up on Wolf Tone, try to google for that term. I've read it and it's really informative. There are other less detailed articles on the subject on the web. Cheers.

bones

Post by bones » Tue Feb 20, 2007 11:38 am

Thanks, I 'll get reading then. incidentally I just did some quick aural tests on my Lister and if I play the open A string all the partials up to the eleventh are easily heard.

el baroda

Post by el baroda » Tue Feb 20, 2007 11:51 am

You're welcome. You are lucky not to have experienced this phenomenon. In one article, you'll read that even Johh Williams had this problem with one of his guitars (and we know he's got one or some of the best guitars in the world) and that he or his luthier had to stick a piece gum under the soundboard to dampen the wolf tone. If I'm not mistaken, your luthier (James Lister) tried to do this on one of his client's guitar but, unfortunately, without success. You'll probably read somewhere also that this problem seems more common in hand-made guitars than in factory-made ones. Very interesting subject. Yes, I did my homework. LOL. Good luck.

bones

Post by bones » Tue Feb 20, 2007 11:52 am

AH! now I undestand, :wink: I just read http://www.cello.org/index.cfm?fuseacti ... &tip=tip50
I have experienced wolf tones then, just not anything that made me want to smash the guitar up yet. Slightly duller tones or louder ones, yes I am familiar with those and notes that never seem to tune as I'd like particularly in the relationship between octaves across the 4th and second strings. I was thinking a wolf tone was a complete disaster rather than a minor flaw especially after hearing the likes of Segovia rattle on about them. I imagine the problem was worse in days gone by with poor string quality, anyway I've learnt something new today - again!
FWIW unless there is a major problem with an instrument it doesn't pay to get hung up on factors like the cedar or spruce debate or even what type of spruce and the odd note that doesn't resonate quite as desired. THE most important factor in owning and keeping a guitar is its playability, a musician will never make the best music on an instrument they hate playing, playability is the starting point, the sound next, everything else comes after that with cosmetics last.

el baroda

Post by el baroda » Tue Feb 20, 2007 12:22 pm

Can't agree with you more. With the wolf tone gone, I can now enjoy and give my guitar the attention it deserves. The soundboard is neither spruce nor cedar but it's got the playability that is a bit lacking in my other guitar.

My teacher once told me not to think too much about the wolf tone, but I couldn't. It was affecting my enjoyment of my guitar.

Best regards, my friend.

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James Lister
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Post by James Lister » Tue Feb 20, 2007 12:31 pm

bones wrote:AH! now I undestand, :wink: I just read http://www.cello.org/index.cfm?fuseacti ... &tip=tip50
I have experienced wolf tones then, just not anything that made me want to smash the guitar up yet. Slightly duller tones or louder ones, yes I am familiar with those and notes that never seem to tune as I'd like particularly in the relationship between octaves across the 4th and second strings. I was thinking a wolf tone was a complete disaster rather than a minor flaw especially after hearing the likes of Segovia rattle on about them. I imagine the problem was worse in days gone by with poor string quality, anyway I've learnt something new today - again!
FWIW unless there is a major problem with an instrument it doesn't pay to get hung up on factors like the cedar or spruce debate or even what type of spruce and the odd note that doesn't resonate quite as desired. THE most important factor in owning and keeping a guitar is its playability, a musician will never make the best music on an instrument they hate playing, playability is the starting point, the sound next, everything else comes after that with cosmetics last.
Hi Bones,

Thanks for that link - it's quite a good article, more comprehensive than most. Believe it or not, I think it still only touches on the subject! Bear in mind though, that wolf notes tend to be more of a problem on bowed instruments than plucked ones. On a violin (for example), the energy input to the string is continuous (as long as the note is being played), so that if the note lands on (or near) a resonance, you can get the "wildly fluctuating and uncontrollable tone" described in the article. On a guitar, however, once the string has been plucked, no more energy is put into the string. The most common effect of a wolf tone on a guitar is that you get a loud, fairly unpleasant tone, with little sustain. This is because the energy is lost very quickly driving the resonance. The precise quality of sound you get varies depending on how close the resonance is to the note played (and on lots of other things I think!). All guitars have resonant frequencies, the most significant being from the air volume, the top, and the back. Each of these resonate at a number of frequencies, so the system as a whole is highly complex.

My approach thus far has been to use experience, feel and ear to minimise the effect - but I'm now starting to bring a little scientific method to bear to analyse the various resonant frequencies, and relate these to the tone of the completed instrument. Whether I will use the data to change the way I build at all, I'm not sure yet.

James
James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK

el baroda

Post by el baroda » Tue Feb 20, 2007 1:43 pm

Hi, James. After reading your post, am I correct in assuming that what I experienced was not a "wolf tone" after all, but was the result of the B string being tuned too high compared to what the electronic tuner registered? The annoying tone definitely had a long sustain, not a short one as you described. Either way, I am very happy that it's completely gone now. Thanks and best regards.

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James Lister
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Post by James Lister » Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:02 pm

It doesn't really sound like a wolf tone to me, but without playing it myself, it's difficult to say for sure. Anyway, glad the problem has gone.

James
James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK

el baroda

Post by el baroda » Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:06 pm

Thanks a lot, James.

Abd El Ghani AZZI

Post by Abd El Ghani AZZI » Thu Sep 06, 2007 4:44 pm

Nice topic (thanks james).
I'am quite sure I have a wolf note on my open A. And It is annoying.
It's just always been there, whatever strings brand I use (I have used s(to)o many).

The cello article reads four methods to get rid of Wolf tones :
1-replace the culprit string with a string of lighter gauge.
2-bow with greater pressure on the string
3-purchase what is called a "Wolf Mute," and mount it on the short section -of the string located below the bridge of the instrument,
4-German company called Gewa "has made a marvelous damper which is glued to the inside of the cello top
1-I'm not shure how it would be to play with a low gauge A, along with higher gauge strings.

2-Can't bow anyway :D

3-Can't mount Wolf mute

4-Won't be travelling to Germany any soon

and won't try JW's gum tip, not for a start.

Any idea?

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James Lister
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Post by James Lister » Thu Sep 06, 2007 6:03 pm

Hi fEZ,

I you have a wolf tone on the open A, it's most likely that your guitars main body (air) resonance is very close to A. You can check this by singing into the soundhole and feeling/listening for the reaction of the guitar. The note at which you get the most response is the air resonance. When you sing to your guitar, don't put your head too close to the soundhole, as this will change the resonant frequency slightly, but try to sing into the soundhole from the side. Also damp the strings while you sing. Assuming you don't get locked up for this strange behaviour ( :shock: ) - let us know the result.

Unfortunately, it's quite difficult to change the resonance without taking fairly drastic action - either thinning the top, or reducing the heights of the struts.

James
James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK

Abd El Ghani AZZI

Post by Abd El Ghani AZZI » Thu Sep 06, 2007 6:19 pm

Oh thanks James!
I took all precautions (locked my room's door too).

The guitar actually resonated on different notes depending on the octave I was singing.

But generaly the A seems to be the note with most influence on the body.

It made the wood well vibrate mainly on A2 (Open A sound), but less on A3.

Thanks again.

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James Lister
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Re: wolf tone

Post by James Lister » Fri Sep 28, 2007 11:20 am

Hi fEZ,

Sorry, I somehow missed your last post.

Yes, the resonances will generally appear on different notes depending on the octave. It seems that your main body resonance is indeed at A2. Sadly the only way to fix this is probably to reach inside throught he soundhole, and remove some wood from the braces with a small plane - and it's possible you could introduce other problems. If you really want to have a go though, I'd be happy to guide you through the process.

James
James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK

goni

Re: wolf tone

Post by goni » Fri Sep 28, 2007 4:38 pm

jmdlister wrote:Hi fEZ,

Sorry, I somehow missed your last post.

Yes, the resonances will generally appear on different notes depending on the octave. It seems that your main body resonance is indeed at A2. Sadly the only way to fix this is probably to reach inside throught he soundhole, and remove some wood from the braces with a small plane - and it's possible you could introduce other problems. If you really want to have a go though, I'd be happy to guide you through the process.

James
Hi James,
wouldn't slightly altering the tuning up or down (let's say 1/4 of a tone) solve this?
My thinking being, since the guitar is fretted there are only half tone intervals and the "wolf frequency" could end up being in some intermediate space...

Regards

Gonzalo

Regards

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