Search This Blog

Sunday, July 18, 2010

From My Luthiers Blog

Finding the buzz
We see instruments of all qualities here, from those which are so poor as to have no business in the hands of any student to fine professional instruments. Many of them come in with problems, both problems inherent in the instrument as well as problems which require maintenance or repair. That’s okay, it’s what we’re all about. Every once in a while something is SO simple, yet so frustrating to the owner. Buzzes are a good example of this.
Saturday morning a woman and her daughter came in. They had bought an instrument elsewhere and immediately discovered that it buzzed. Having been to two music stores and another violin shop, they had found no solution and actually raised the idea that perhaps they should just forget that particular violin and buy another. Sadly, the music store where they’d bought the instrument insisted that no buzz could be heard.
Well it could be heard all right. The violin buzzed on every string, on almost every note, and just got louder the harder one played. It sounded more like a kazoo than a violin.
Three minutes later they were on their way out the door, the buzz gone and at no charge.
Buzzes can come from many places, but no matter what it’s always two surfaces touching each other lightly and rubbing once the instrument begins to vibrate. On most instruments we’ll check for open seams, loose piece such as fingerboards, nuts and saddles, open cracks, cracked bridges and soundposts, and problems with the nut and fingerboard. Hardware items such as the trim for pegs, tailpieces and buttons will also do it, as well as chinrests which contact the tailpiece. One great fear of many players is the idea that either the bass bar or one of the linings has come loose, as this usually would mean the removal of the top at great expense. Fortunately in 35 years working in this business, I’ve only seen two loose bass bars and one lining that couldn’t be repaired externally.
Basically any two parts of the instrument can work together to cause a buzz.
This one was one of the more unusual and simple buzzes though, and was the first place I looked. Being a student instrument, the violin was covered with a rather heavy varnish which had been sprayed on. That type of varnish likes to fill gaps, and it had flowed together between the point and curve of one of the f holes, drying and becoming solid. When the instrument was strung up, the various pressures on the top had broken that point of varnish loose, and the varnish was buzzing against itself on the other side of the f hole. A quick flick with my knife and the buzz was gone. This is a “new” buzz though, as even commercially produced instruments from the mid 70’s and earlier never had this problem, the varnish being applied differently. Until then even the most basic German and French student instruments were still made with traditional techniques. Sadly this is no longer the case and this sort of sloppy varnish work is becoming more common.
I can imagine the poor workmen at other shops in the area… searching for a long time and not having the training or experience to know or recognize the problem. 35 years is a wonderful thing.
This entry was posted on Monday, September 28th, 2009 at 10:39 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.


  1. Hi – will you post your Blog at The Luthiers Community ay Our members (which include other luthiers, players) will love it.
    It's easy just cut and paste the link and it automatically links back to your website… it’s a win win.
    We are just getting started and could really use your help. It’s free and easy.
    Email me if you need any help or would like me to do it for you.
    The Luthiers Community:
    James Kaufman, Editor

    1. Sorry i missed your comment. I will look into your request thanks

  2. Will do sorry I'd I'd not reply sooner