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Thread: Wolf note?

  1. #1
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    Default Wolf note?

    I was practicing some licks on my Collins MT and noticed something weird. I pick the A string at the 5th fret (D note) and then slide down to the 4th fret. The 4th fret note is there, but with another note. Turns out it's the D note. I remembered the term "wolf note", googled on it and that seems to be what it is.

    It seems to be coming from the G string, even though the note is actually a D. It stops if I put my finger on the G string. I've noticed that my tuner sometimes shows D when the G string is in tune. Seems the body must be resonating to a D.

    Regardless of what it is, how do I stop it?

    Thanks,
    Ralph
    1984 Flatiron A5Jr; Collings MT; Built an F-style kit
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Wolf note?

    sell the mandolin.... sorry
    I will be interested to hear what the luthiers say about this and if it is actually fixable without recarving the top or back...

    From my experience.... sell it.....that's what I eventually did with a mandolin that had a wolf problem..... it fixed it ...for me
    John D

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    Butcherer of Songs Rob Zamites's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wolf note?

    I disagree with JFDilmando. I'd recommend reading this thread before doing something as drastic as selling an instrument. Dave Cohen's post in particular seems to be (no pun intended) sound advice in this case.
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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wolf note?

    Quote Originally Posted by HogTime View Post
    It seems to be coming from the G string, even though the note is actually a D. It stops if I put my finger on the G string. I've noticed that my tuner sometimes shows D when the G string is in tune. Seems the body must be resonating to a D.
    The body should plead not guilty. That high D has exactly 3 times the frequency of the low G, i.e. it's a natural harmonic of G and when you play the open G string the high D is part of its sound (the so-called wolf notes follow a different process connected with the strings below the bridge; they're also called wolf tones, but I find that a bit hard on him).
    It's physics, all stringed instruments have harmonics, some more, some less, and you can't stop them. Going beyond what JFDilmando said, I recommend playing the tuba (where you'll get other physical phenomena to struggle with, of course).

    Or... you can just accept harmonics as part of the beauty of the sound, such as I do. Harmonics ringing on after we played the note is like the reverb in a church, and I normally don't hear complaints from choir singers that while they sing the second note the first is still in the air.
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    Registered User Hendrik Ahrend's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wolf note?

    Bertram is spot on. All of my three Gibsons resonate like that on their first three strings; that's what I expected BTW.
    In stringed instruments the "wolfe" is usually spoken of in connection with sounds of the strings below the bridge, as Bertram observed. But sometimes, stringed instruments generate alien tones otherwise, which are also called "wolfe".
    As a side note: Historically, a "wolfe" was any unwanted sound. In descriptions of the meantone temperament (e. g. A. Schlick, M. Praetorius, A. Werckmeister) the unusable 5th (usually g# - eb) was called the "wolfe". When Andreas Werckmeister (1681, 1698) developed his ideas on temperaments, he demanded "that the wolfe with his obnoxious howling should stay in the woods" ("daß der Wolf mit seinem widrigen heulen im Walde bleibe").

  6. #6
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wolf note?

    Thanks for that side note Henry, I didn't know the exact historical roots of the wolf word, although, of course, once you're into harmonics, the topic of temperaments is unavoidable...

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    Butcherer of Songs Rob Zamites's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wolf note?

    Quote Originally Posted by Henry Eagle View Post
    When Andreas Werckmeister (1681, 1698) developed his ideas on temperaments, he demanded "that the wolfe with his obnoxious howling should stay in the woods" ("daß der Wolf mit seinem widrigen heulen im Walde bleibe").
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    Henry Lawton hank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wolf note?

    Something like this happens on tuning the A strings of my 06 Goldrush YellowBell usually only after playing one A string then the other repeatedly. I can't hear any change when the tuner changes from A to E and stays there on one of the two strings. After reading this thread I used my finger to muffle first the set of E strings and then over all four string sets behind the bridge but both attempts failed to locate the source of the E reading on my tuner. Whatever nodal over ride that makes the E tone stronger to my tuner than the fundamental A is undetectable to my own hearing abilities so it's just a tuning nuisance. I love the voice of this mandolin and for all I know this might be one of the reasons why. The only other difference I have to keep in mind when playing this mandolin is keeping the pick angled when playing the E strings. I naturally do this but have noticed the other three sets are not as dependent on this for good tone. My vintage Gibson oval hole mandolins are not like this and not as dependent on pick angle. Is this common in F5 mandolins?
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  9. #9

    Default Re: Wolf note?

    ok... I have read what has been referenced above... and read what others have offered to this point, and i am afraid with all this information, I still go down the road..... sell it.

    I had an instrument, which had such an unfortunate attribute... not any "hmmmm I think I hear something... maybe its an overtone, but can't quite tell" kind of thing... it was a disagreeable, distinct howl of a tone which was marked, and very obvious and distracted considerably whenever one would play that note.... I spent a great deal of time and investigation, with more than a few musicians and luthiers.....

    I sold it.....that and only that, solved my problem..... if you absolutely LOVE this instument, by all means spend the time, effort and money to try and deal with the problem..... it might take awhile, and considerable resources.... or not.....
    John D

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wolf note?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bertram Henze View Post
    Or... you can just accept harmonics as part of the beauty of the sound, such as I do. Harmonics ringing on after we played the note is like the reverb in a church, and I normally don't hear complaints from choir singers that while they sing the second note the first is still in the air.
    Harmonics and/or sympathetic vibration from the open strings, all adds to the character of the instrument. I love that the whole mandolin is singing, not just the string I plucked. A warm sort of organic sound. Without out them I think the mandolin can perhaps get too mechanical/digital sounding. Part of my preference away from ff holes, actually.

    Whether its a wolf tone or not I am not sure, but as described, I don't find them objectionable. I tend to agree with Bertram.
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    Default Re: Wolf note?

    Entirely natural to hear sympathetic resonances from other strings, and this can be suppressed, if you need to, by either using a spare left hand finger or the right hand damping the G. Shredding guitar players take care to damp other strings so that the sympathetic sounding doesn't dirty up their sustain tone. You can also use the effect.

    Any good instrument will produce this effect, but if you are playing with some power you won't hear it. Only when playing very quietly is it noticeable.

    BTW, wolf tones in violin-family instruments are not related. They occur when the body has a strong resonance with such a narrow pitch range (high Q) that it makes string at a neighboring pitch try to sound both at once, like my viola whose open A string tried to sound both a 440 and something like 435, which was a resonance from the neck. I solved that problem by adding weight in the pegbox which lowered, and spread, the resonance. Common wolf tones happen around the F or F# on cellos and violas.
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  12. #12

    Default Re: Wolf note?

    I agree with Bertram and others in this thread that say this is a normal effect. I experienced the same thing when I was first playing on an inexpensive Grestch, I was ready to blame the luthier who did the setup on it. Then I went and played a number of higher quality instruments and they all did it to an extent. From a Collings MT (which I now own), a prewar Gibson A, Gibson snakeheads, and various inexpensive The Loar, Eastman and Savanah mandolins.

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    Butcherer of Songs Rob Zamites's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wolf note?

    Quote Originally Posted by JFDilmando View Post
    ok... I have read what has been referenced above... and read what others have offered to this point, and i am afraid with all this information, I still go down the road..... sell it.

    I had an instrument, which had such an unfortunate attribute... not any "hmmmm I think I hear something... maybe its an overtone, but can't quite tell" kind of thing... it was a disagreeable, distinct howl of a tone which was marked, and very obvious and distracted considerably whenever one would play that note.... I spent a great deal of time and investigation, with more than a few musicians and luthiers.....

    I sold it.....that and only that, solved my problem..... if you absolutely LOVE this instument, by all means spend the time, effort and money to try and deal with the problem..... it might take awhile, and considerable resources.... or not.....
    I don't think that the OP is reporting "...a disagreeable, distinct howl of a tone which was marked, and very obvious and distracted considerably whenever one would play that note..." however.
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  14. #14

    Default Re: Wolf note?

    If I have misinterpreted what the OP was describing, then by all means disregard my comments.... From experience, and from my understanding of a "wolf tone" or "wolf note" it is not something that you either expect, commonly experience, or tolerate in any fashion. It is not something that is inherent in most instruments, and certainly not something that you would like to have in your instrument.

    We must be talking about different things, if folks think they would like to live with an instrument with a true wolf tone, they haven't heard an instrument with one.

    in the violin world, folks talk about the presence of severe, or slight wolf tones, but universally agree that significant wolf tones are mostly not to be tolerated. Regraduating, bridge work, various devices, post adjustments, string alteration, all can be tried to varying degrees of success... some 100% cure, some a bust. If you have an instrument with a severe wolf tone, I am sorry ... if it is something that you think is a normal "overtone" or just a complexity that you are hearing ..then you have at the very least a minor wolf tone issue.... and much more likely to be "treatable".... maybe. You will know if you have a significant wolf tone.... it will NOT be tolerable.... and you will want to try either to solve, or move on. Those that offer that you should live with it, don't know what a wolf tone sounds like.
    John D

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    Default Re: Wolf note?

    Wolf notes are not unusual in the violin family. They are most frequently addressed by changing the afterlength (strings behind the bridge). This can take the form of adjusting the lenght of the string, changing tailpieces or adding small weights to the strings. My bass had a fairly mild wolf on the low A. It went away when I put a bow quiver on the instrument (tied to the afterlength). I would not get rid of an instrument for having a wolf not without first trying the many easy and cheap ways of getting rid of one.

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    Registered User DougC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wolf note?

    Quote Originally Posted by HogTime View Post
    I was practicing some licks on my Collins MT and noticed something weird. I pick the A string at the 5th fret (D note) and then slide down to the 4th fret. The 4th fret note is there, but with another note. Turns out it's the D note. I remembered the term "wolf note", googled on it and that seems to be what it is.

    It seems to be coming from the G string, even though the note is actually a D. It stops if I put my finger on the G string. I've noticed that my tuner sometimes shows D when the G string is in tune. Seems the body must be resonating to a D.

    Regardless of what it is, how do I stop it?

    Thanks,

    O.K. I did this on my Collings MT and it does the same thing. But only if I don't play any more notes. The way to stop it is to play another note. If you are playing some tune that has a long sustain between these two notes, there will certainly be time to put your hand onto the G string and D string and stop the sympathetic tones.
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    Default Re: Wolf note?

    DougC, thanks for the results of the experiment on your MT.

    I'm definitely not getting rid of my MT because of what I experienced. My post was out of curiosity, not panic. What I heard was only because I was practicing slowly. In normal playing, "The Wolf" doesn't make an appearance.
    Ralph
    1984 Flatiron A5Jr; Collings MT; Built an F-style kit
    HogTimeMusic.com // Songs on Soundclick.com
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