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Help with stubborn wolf tone on Kay Cello


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#1 Joseph Swenson

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 11:47 AM

Since I've owned this instrument (40 years now) I have had a stubborn and extremely annoying wolf tone that I have not been able to be rid of.  I have tried different strings (currently using Dominants), adding / removing fine tuners, a wolf-be-gone suppressor weight on the string, replacing the cheap tailpiece with a ebony one, but nothing rids me of the horrible resonance.

 

It is occurring on note E on the A string - a truly Awful place for a wolf.  I can barely get a clean sound there. Gpoing to a D or F on the same string, and the resonance is gone.

 

Anyone have some suggestion as to how it could be helped.

 

Thanks,

Joe


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#2 Bernie R

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 12:40 PM

Joe, I know nothing about cellos but when I Google "Kay cello"  I find that they are the lowest grade of student instrument, made of plywood. 40 years of wolf notes is long enough. Get a new one. I see solid wood student cellos on Ebay for less than the price of a new tailpiece.



#3 Richf

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 12:58 PM

Sounds like you've tried all the conventional fixes.  Since it is a Kay cello, which I believe has a laminated top, have you considered it may be a problem with the lamination?  Regardless, my luthier once suggested a super easy, cheap, and effective fix for the wolf on a nice Chinese cello:  wedge a wine cork under the tail piece.  Embarassing to explain to others, but very satisfying if it works -- and you get to drink the wine.  I recommend a nice red.  Good luck.

 

Richard



#4 Joseph Swenson

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 07:54 PM



Joe, I know nothing about cellos but when I Google "Kay cello"  I find that they are the lowest grade of student instrument, made of plywood. 40 years of wolf notes is long enough. Get a new one. I see solid wood student cellos on Ebay for less than the price of a new tailpiece.

 

Nice idea but I'm willing to bet $$ my Kay Cello sounds better...  Except for the E on the A string  :P

 

BTW that's the plan... I am going to get a new cello...

 

IMG_8699.jpg IMG_8748.jpg IMG_8761.jpg

 

Next year's project already underway.  :D

 

Cheers,

Joe


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#5 Joseph Swenson

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 08:01 PM

Sounds like you've tried all the conventional fixes.  Since it is a Kay cello, which I believe has a laminated top, have you considered it may be a problem with the lamination?  Regardless, my luthier once suggested a super easy, cheap, and effective fix for the wolf on a nice Chinese cello:  wedge a wine cork under the tail piece.  Embarassing to explain to others, but very satisfying if it works -- and you get to drink the wine.  I recommend a nice red.  Good luck.

 

Richard

 

If its a resonance in the top... that's a great idea.  I hadn't considered that... I have Guarneri violin copy with a similar issue.  Specifically feeling for the active spot on the top, i put a cork under the chinrest.  In this case did a great job ti suppress a 200 Hz resonance in a overactive top.  

 

It would be hard to feel for vibration points in the cello top when you're quite occupied playing with both hands occupied away from the point of vibration.  Guess I could take my shoes off and try my feet.  Ah... I'll use my guitar capo... That will free up the left hand.  That's it!

 

Stay tuned!


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#6 actonern

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 08:09 PM

If you bow the c string between the bridge and tailpiece, what note do you get?



#7 Joseph Swenson

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 08:15 PM

If you bow the c string between the bridge and tailpiece, what note do you get?

Approximately F#

 

I think the soundpost is too far from the bridge as the whole treble side from the bridge to the upper bout is very active.  Too active.  I need to tone that down...


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#8 Stephen Faulk

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 09:06 PM

I've heard some old Kay basses that were not bad. People poo-poo them if they see them before hearing them. 

 

Why not take the top off and see how thick it is? Just because it is plywood does not mean you can't re graduate it.  If you are worried about the ply's coming apart just glue them back down, or treat it with some of that resin they use on boats to reconsolidate mushy dry rot. What do they call that stuff Vernice West System? 

 

It's a Kay with wolf on an importnat note, what is the very worst thing you could do to make it worser?  :)



#9 Joseph Swenson

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Posted 23 October 2013 - 12:14 AM

I've heard some old Kay basses that were not bad. People poo-poo them if they see them before hearing them. 

 

Why not take the top off and see how thick it is? Just because it is plywood does not mean you can't re graduate it.  If you are worried about the ply's coming apart just glue them back down, or treat it with some of that resin they use on boats to reconsolidate mushy dry rot. What do they call that stuff Vernice West System? 

 

It's a Kay with wolf on an importnat note, what is the very worst thing you could do to make it worser?  :)

 

Had one of those in HIgh School as well.   :D  Actually it was my brother's whi ended up selling rather than offering to let me buy it..   :(  I've been perfectly happy with my Kay cello.  Its got its own sound - different from the traditional spruce and maple variety.  Doesn't have that woody crispness in the highs.  But it has a nice mellow sound. Good bottom end.  

 

I'm pretty sure Kay subscribes to the concept of a vibrating membrane for a top, and I'm pretty sure its the the same thickness all over - being formed laminated plywood.is flexible enough and gthinning it would only make things worse I fear.  I measured the thickness at the both soundhole and its 3.8 mm.


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#10 Joseph Swenson

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Posted 23 October 2013 - 12:26 AM

It was as I suspected... I moved the soundpost about 4 mm closer to the bridge and wolf is signifianctly reduced if not completely eliminated.  I did not notice a problem at orchestra rehearsal tonight.  All it took was locating the area on the cello that was vibrating and coupling back into the string vibration.  In this case it was the top on the treble side center and upper bout. 

 

I "thought" I had tested moving the post around to see the effects on the wolf tone, but I only moved the post very small amounts (violin amounts) and all centered around the wrong position.  

 

Anyway thanks all for the help. :lol:

 

Cheers,

Joe


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#11 Stephen Faulk

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Posted 23 October 2013 - 04:39 AM

Which orchestra are you playing in? 



#12 actonern

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Posted 23 October 2013 - 05:12 AM

I had a cello with a wolfy e that was very much improved by tuning the c string afterlength to an e... in your case, move the tailpiece back towards the saddle till you hit an e and see if that helps?



#13 KALaBenne

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Posted 23 October 2013 - 08:51 AM

I have a 1956 Kay Cello I affectionately call my "dumpster cello" because a friend of mine found it in one.  When I had it put together it had the worst wolf ever.  You couldn't even play the open D string.  After a while of not being able to stand playing it, I figured I couldn't make it any worse so I cut a new bridge and moved the soundpost.  The difference was amazing.  It might be a plywood student instrument, but when properly setup, it's easier to play than a lot of the student cellos we have in our school system.  I do however, still refer to it as the "dumpster cello."

 

Keith


Edited by KALaBenne, 23 October 2013 - 12:11 PM.


#14 Joseph Swenson

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Posted 23 October 2013 - 10:28 AM

Which orchestra are you playing in? 

 

local amateur - Livermore Amador Symphony... somewhere back in the cello section..  :)

 

I had a cello with a wolfy e that was very much improved by tuning the c string afterlength to an e... in your case, move the tailpiece back towards the saddle till you hit an e and see if that helps?

 

Thanks! I will try it that..  I haven't checked the after length. 

 

So my moving the bridge closer didn't get rid of the wolf entirely... only reduced it.   <_<

I think the problem is just an overactive top plate.  Perhaps a set of lower tension strings...  I need to replace the A string.  Its been loosened and tightened a few too many times messing with the sound post tail piece and fine tuners.  

 

Am anxious to get started building my 1st cello.  :)

 

Joe


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#15 Stephen Faulk

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Posted 24 October 2013 - 07:32 AM

local amateur - Livermore Amador Symphony... somewhere back in the cello section..  :)

 

 

Thanks! I will try it that..  I haven't checked the after length. 

 

So my moving the bridge closer didn't get rid of the wolf entirely... only reduced it.   <_<

I think the problem is just an overactive top plate.  

 

 Go to Home Depot and get brick and glue it to the overactive top. J/K

 

How about the tailpiece is it big and heavy? I reduced the wolf on my 40 year old Chinese cello, which is not bad now, by getting a lighter tail piece and adjusting it closer to the saddle. The top is made of some kind of fir like Doug Fir, I took the top off a found it was super stiff and about 5mm thick all over. I took some meat out of it and it is not a bad instrument now. 

 

 

Wish there was an orchestra here to play in, there won't be one be unless I start one with the school kids. A lot of work. 



#16 Joseph Swenson

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Posted 24 October 2013 - 12:53 PM

 Go to Home Depot and get brick and glue it to the overactive top. J/K

 

How about the tailpiece is it big and heavy? I reduced the wolf on my 40 year old Chinese cello, which is not bad now, by getting a lighter tail piece and adjusting it closer to the saddle. The top is made of some kind of fir like Doug Fir, I took the top off a found it was super stiff and about 5mm thick all over. I took some meat out of it and it is not a bad instrument now. 

 

 

Wish there was an orchestra here to play in, there won't be one be unless I start one with the school kids. A lot of work. 

 

I thought about gluing a steel washer to the underside of the plate...  Seriously ;) 

 

But I think the soundpost position and fit is still the key.  It is the original post which is starting to develop split ends and and doesn't fit well any more.  I will replace it this weekend.

 

I started out with a very light tailpiece and replaced it with the ebony one.  Not sure the original wood material.  I can always put the old one back in if needed and use the ebony one on my new cello project when its done. I could still sell the Kay.  I've never been unhappy with the tone.  Just play-ability up on the A string.,

 

Sounds like you need to start a school orchestra.  That would be awesome.  AND rewarding!!  School orchestra / band / music in general, was what helped me survive high school.  :ph34r:

 

Cheers,

Joe


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#17 Mountain Luthier

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 04:51 AM

I've fixed some wolf tones by adding some mass the the overactive part of the plate. Experiment with a pair of rare earth magnets. Move them around.


Tim Black
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#18 baroquecello

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 06:06 AM

It is a little strange that it only occurs on the a string. That is very unusual, I've never come across that on a cello that was in good working order. Are you sure that it doesn't occur on the d string, first position, first finger, or on the g and c strings? Is makes me suspect that something in the setup, like badly fitting sound post and/or bridge, or something like a loose seam, maybe a badly fitting end pin, a problem with the scoop in the fingerboard, or a faulty string are the cause of your problem. Only after you've checked all those, you should try the usual wolf killers on the strings, maybe rezx or the kind of wolf killers that a glued on the problematic position inside the cello (think those have the best tonal result, even though I think best is to learn to live with the wolf and only use the eliminator when specific problematic pieces are played). Sometimes changing string afterlength can help (Jerry Pasewics advised to try 1/5th string afterlength instead of the common 1/6th. etc etc. But from your posts it sounds like you need a proper sound post and a bridge adjustment.



#19 Roger Hargrave

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 03:10 PM

Most instruments have wolf notes. The problem is that when an instrument is sounding well, very often so is the wolf. There are many ways of treating wolf notes; some are more successful than others, but most kill something of the tone while killing the wolf. Cello wolf notes are probably the easiest to cure and the best cures are usually those that are fitted inside. However, finding the correct position and fixing the killer exactly at that point is not easy.
But last week at Julie Reed’s place, I saw a new gadget that purports to kill wolfs. I cannot tell you that it works on all cellos, but I was impressed with the demo. It is not a permanent fixture and has to be put in place for each session, but it is very easy to locate. Apparently the entire cello section of the New York Phil. use one. They involve a powerful magnet that places and holds a weight in the correct position on the bass side of the belly. The gadget is called the ‘Krentz Wolf Eliminator’.
Try: www.krentzstringworks.com
I bought one, but I have not actually used it yet. Actually, I bought it initially to find the correct place to fit a wolf killer. Nevertheless, if this thing works it will be reversible and will not cause any damage.
No time to spend on web sites. Need money.

#20 actonern

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 04:26 PM

There's even a Krentz Wolf Eliminator for women!

 

 

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