Solutions for the Whistling Open E String

The shrill, piercing whistle sometimes produced by a violin’s open E string is one of the most frustrating and baffling problems violinists face. Let’s explore some possible causes of this phenomena, as well as some solutions.

The shrill whistle happens when the string vibrates in a trosional (twisting) motion. When behaving normally, the E string vibrates in a Helmoholtz or sideways motion. This torsional vibration of an unwound, plain, steel E string is approximately 4,800 Hz. In contrast, an open E normally vibrates at 660 Hz. The torsional damping (how quickly vibrations tend to die away) is very low with whistling E strings. This is why the whistling sound usually won’t stop quickly once the string begins to vibrate torsionally. Your fingertip provides high damping, and that is the reason why whistling will not occur on stopped notes. It is also true that older E strings that have begun to tarnish tend to whistle more easily as well. However, with all these facts in consideration, bow placement may be the biggest factor when it comes to whistling E strings.

Many people have success when using the Kaplan Solutions Non-Whistling E string manufactured by D’Addario. This string is specially designed as a wound string with an added damping compound. In addition to these features, the Kaplan Solutions E string also includes a stranded steel core. All of these components lower the torsional frequency of the string, which increases torsional damping. As a general rule, any wound E string is going to be more whistle resistant than a plain solid steel E string. The windings provide high

Kaplan Solutions Non-Whistling E String

torsional damping. As we have mentioned above, another aspect to consider when trying to outsmart a whistling E string is bow placement. If you try attacking the open E string fortissimo near the fingerboard, you will very likely produce a whistle. Trying the very same action closer to the bridge will usually produce no whistle.

Both bow placement and the type of E string you choose contribute to the likelihood of whether or not you will have trouble with a whistling open E string. The suggestions here should help in understanding the reasons behind why the whistle happens, and some ideas on how to avoid it. Kennedy Violins offers a wide selection of violin strings, and our friendly, knowledgeable staff will be able to assist you in selecting the best strings for your particular needs.



Practicing Rhythm

Article by Clayton Haslop

Over the past two nights I was treated to two very
special musical performances. The first courtesy of the
Manhattan Beach California Middle School string
ensembles, the second featuring the MBMS bands and
percussion ensembles; all led by Denise Haslop and her
gifted second, who also happens to be my next older

Not only was the playing consistently excellent through
both performances, the deportment of the 300 plus young
musicians was absolutely professional, from the
sound-check before each concert right through to the
final burst of applause.

It was quite something to behold, let me tell you.

Now one thing I did notice at times was the
all-too-familiar tendency, by a few, to ‘push the beat’.
Indeed without the firm and steady presence of Maestro
Haslop there might have been some dicey moments out

As it was, however, the little rushlings were kept nicely
in check.

Anyway, these little rhythmic infidelities served to
remind me of a powerful lesson in ‘time awareness’ I
received as a sophomore at the USC, back in the day.

The Symphony Orchestra had been engaged by the
composition department to record the score to a student
film. Not your typical college production, upon
completion ‘Fraternity Row’ was actually picked up and
distributed to theatres by Paramount Pictures.

And when it did, why, we all picked up a nice check for
services rendered. It became my first paid scoring gig!

In any case, I was the concertmaster for the sessions.
And when I sat down for the second day of recording I
found a cue on the stand with an extensive solo part to
play. It was fast, rhythmic, and moved back and forth
from 1st to 6th position.

Immediately my pulse began to pound.

Now, as with much under-scoring, the cue was recorded to
a ‘click.’   The click is a metronomic beat delivered
through headsets to the ensemble. It keeps us absolutely
married to the onscreen action.

So there I was, in a new environment, playing to a click
for the first time, with a bunch of young ‘guns’ about me
thinking they could probably do it better.

As you might imagine, on the first run through I was so
possessed with getting the notes bombs could have gone
off in those headsets and it would have made no
difference to me. When I finished I was startled to find
the ensemble playing on for several seconds after me, in

Oh yea, I’d had done more than ‘push’ the beat. I’d laid
some serious rubber with that solo line.

Needless to say, I was DEEPLY chagrined, and I resolved
right there never to let that happen again.

After all, common agreement on the flow of time is the
single MOST IMPORTANT ingredient in ensemble playing.
After that you have dynamics; after that, the specific
rhythms. Indeed the actual pitches can ONLY MATTER when
the former are first seen to.

A valuable lesson.

Now a couple days ago I was asked to comment more on
sub-dividing. Naturally this skill has tremendous
usefulness in developing time awareness; especially so
when dotted rhythms are present.

Take the famous ‘funeral march’ from Beethoven’s 3rd
Symphony. It is written in 4/4, a broad 4/4, and begins
with a dotted eighth plus sixteenth pickup. Usually a
conductor will give a one beat preparation – beat 3 in
this case – before the music begins.

Now even as the conductor gives this indication I will be
subdividing the beat in my head into 4 subdivisions;
‘three-ee-and-ah.’  When he or she arrives at beat four,
where I begin to play, I do the same; four-ee-and-uh.
These syllables, by the way, are conventions for
subdividing in sixteenth notes. Eighth note subdivisions
are simply ‘one-and, two-and, etc.’

Now, you may be surprised that I sub-divide the prep
beat. After all, how am I to know EXACTLY how fast it
will be?  

Yet doing so gets me immediately involved, ‘proactive’ is
the newly coined word, in the flow of time. As I follow
the baton through space I make minor adjustments to the
flow of subdivisions, if necessary.

And by the time I enter with my first note I’m as dialed
into the time flow as the conductor himself; I know
precisely where to place the sixteenth within that fourth

I do recognize that ‘verbalizing the beats’, and
subdivisions of beats, whether in your head or out loud,
is a challenge. And it can be frustrating to do it AND
to hold yourself to a proscribed flow of time,
particularly when you are first learning a piece of

This is why I teach, in the practice room, to first play
WITHOUT regard to tempo. The most important thing in
this practice is to put a verbal LABEL to each and EVERY
beat. If you need to stretch a beat way out of
proportion to get it out, by all means do so.

And keep doing it until you know how the music lays on
the time-line like you know the back of your hand; even

Once you’ve made a habit of knowing time this way, why,
you’ll have a connection to the flow of music you can
‘take to the bank’ all day long.

All the best,

Clayton Haslop

P.S.  Again, with ALL my programs and courses you will
find me encouraging and encouraging you to this habit.

Clayton Haslop made his professional solo debut at age 20
under Sir Neville Marriner and the Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra touring six major cities of the western
United States. These critically acclaimed performances
not only lead to numerous engagements with orchestras,
they also resulted in his being appointed founding
violinist of the Los Angeles Piano Quartet at
Marriner’s recommendation.

Haslop is active in the motion picture industry as solo
violinist and concertmaster on such films as Avatar, Up,
The Matrix films, Titanic, Ratatouille, The Curious Case
of Benjamin Button, Star Trek, The Incredibles,
Jurassic Park, Apollo 13, and The Perfect Storm.

As a student Clayton Haslop was coached
extensively by the legendary Nathan Milstein.

Music is a family affair

In my other life, I work in the very small (but fast-growing) niche of kids independent music, or kindie music. It encompasses all genres, with white guys with guitars dominating the genre. So when groups come along that turn that notion on its head to give us very entertaining, musical and age-appropriate music for kids without relying on the standard power trio instruments, it does my heart good.

I recently attended a conference in Brooklyn, NY called Kindiefest, which brings kindie artists from all over the country together with other industry professionals – promoters, PR people, producers, radio personalities, licensing companies – for a virtual love fest of kids music. We were treated to standard rock-configured bands, like The Verve Pipe, a kickin’ punk (yes, hard punk!) band from Detroit like Candy Band (unique in so many ways, not the least of which was the fact that it’s made up of four women!), prop-heavy bands like The Pop-Ups, and so many more. It was all very loud and energetic and so very FUN, that I was amazed and not a little relieved when a truly unique group took the stage and chilled us down a bit.

With the wonderful name of Cat and Bird, we were treated to an acoustic set of guitar and two violins. The clip below was a song from their set during the artist showcase after a very long and busy day of conference panel discussions and mentoring sessions, so you’ll have to overlook the background noise – it’s a bunch of very tired but energized folks blowing off steam in a bar in Brooklyn:

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Now, my point is this: if it’s age-appropriate (i.e., nothing explicit or subject matter beyond, say a 10-year-old’s need to know), pretty much all music is good for kids. And playing violin doesn’t necessarily consign you to classical music.

Another case in point:

Just a week after my trip to Brooklyn, I helped out a bit with the Kennedy Violins booth at the Columbia Gorge Fiddle Contest in Hood River, Oregon. We set up this booth:

Kennedy Violins trade show booth


Now, this is a pretty cool booth and I dare say most of the musicians at Kindiefest would have been intimidated seeing so many violins in one place. But what was really heartening to me is the fact that at this event, this fiddle competition, there were whole families who were right at home with these instruments and very eager to get their hands on them, play them and especially, to listen to others play them. Mom, Dad, Gramma and Grampa, and all the kids. One thing I hadn’t fully comprehended until I came to this show, was the depth and meaning of  a longstanding tradition in families all over the country to pass down the fiddle to each successive generation. I mean, I knew it intellectually as a part of Americana, but I never connected the dots as it pertains to music and family.

I was paying particular attention to the kids while at the competition and how they engaged us as they rambled by, passing the hours during the competition waiting for their turn to play, or waiting for a family member to compete. And this was their normal – their everyday – just what they do. Like skiing, or hunting, or playing football, or any of the other family traditions we have.  It’s part of who that family is and what they do as a family, which I think is a pretty cool way to grow up.

This next video is three sibs, and the song features the youngest on banjo. They might not look really happy, because they’ve just learned this song and they’re concentrating on getting it down, but they are having fun with those closest to them:

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Kennedy Violins truly is geared toward getting the family into music – and now, if you’re in the Portland/Vancouver area sometime, you can bring the whole family by and check out our violins, violas, cellos and basses, along with the tons of strings and accessories at OUR NEW LOCATION! Yep, we just opened a brick-and-mortar shop! More on that a bit later. Stay tuned…


Road trip — KV style

Last Friday, we packed up the van and drove to Hood River, Oregon — in the heart of the Columbia River gorge just outside of Portland. We set up our new booth at the Columbia Gorge Fiddle Contest, where we were also a sponsor. Friday night kicked off the event with a performance by The Callender’s. Their music helped set the tone for the eventful weekend.

Saturday was the main event. This was my first fiddle competition, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was trained classically, even though my family had a background in old time music. It didn’t take long for me to be impressed by the level of musicianship on so many different levels. There were fiddlers who spanned generations and even oceans to come to the fiddle contest. It wasn’t uncommon to find each member of an entire family carrying their own instrument, or groups of kids who made their own band.

Our booth was set up near the school gymnasium where the fiddlers warmed up and prepared with other musicians. Songs of all varieties emanated from the room. We talked with many new customers, and we were able to meet several customers who were competing on their instruments that were previously purchased from Kennedy Violins. One of our customers, Miss N, competed for the first time and made it into the final round in the Small Fry division. We were quite proud of her accomplishment. The two girls in this video are also playing on Kennedy Violins instruments. They competed in the Twin Fiddles division and took fourth place!

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The stories continue on with a young cheerleader playing a violin that was passed down through the family by her great-great-great-greatgrandfather, who met a new friend on Saturday and entered the Twin Fiddles Division on a whim.

The most popular question we were asked was, “What is the difference between a violin and a fiddle?” Basically, the only answer is, “The way you play it.” We have heard that some fiddlers prefer a flatter bridge so that they can play on more than one string at a time quite easily, but we haven’t had people specifically asking for this feature for their fiddle.

We had a great time and can’t wait to hit the road again with our booth and instruments. “Like” us on our Facebook page and watch where we’ll be traveling to next. We’re always looking for ways to meet current customers! Know of an event that caters to musicians? Email us and let us know!

The Legacy of a Genius

Johann Sebastien Bach was one of the most notably gifted and talented musicians and composers of all time. His music had a significant influence on many composers who would come after him. Being very pleasant and delightful, his music is enjoyed by many today.

Bach was born March 21, 1685 in Eisenach, Saxe-Eisenach, which is modern-day Germany. His father taught him to play the violin and harpsichord, and his uncle taught him to play the organ. Sadly, Bach’s mother died in 1694, and the young musician went to live with his oldest brother, Johann Christoph Bach. During this time, Bach received teaching on playing the clavichord from his brother, and was also exposed to the great works of many of the prominent composers of the day. Continue reading The Legacy of a Genius