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Eastman strings 2007 viola

Q: I have a question about a new viola. Here goes... A recently (August 2008)purchased 2007viola, from Eastman strings (via a music shop) has begun to buzz after a new set of strings were put on. I have checked for loose parts, seams, strings touching the peg box to no avail! I swapped the old, non-buzzing C and the results are the same. The loudest part of the buzz seems to come from the f-hole under my left ear. Could it be interior problems? Aaaack. The local luthier left town... 
Really need some direction.

A: Anything is possible, but buzzes actually coming from inside the body are rare. A loose bass bar or an extremely bad fitting sound post could do it, but first look for more obvious (and easier to fix) things. Check to see if your bridge has been bumped. If the bridge has been shifted toward the treble side, the arch of the bridge will bring your C string in contact with the finger board. The same type of slight shift can put your tail piece in contact with your chin rest. Your chin rest could be loose. Your fine tuners can buzz if they are backed all the way out. The joint between the top and sides or the back and sides can be loose. The fingerboard may need to be planed. You need to do less thinking about what might be wrong and more staring at the viola. A good trick is to have someone else play it and make it buzz. Then stare and poke your finger around. To buzz, two vibrating parts must be close enough together that they touch and untouch as vibrations pass that point. A small disruption of the gap with your finger will find your culprit.
        Remember, your bridge is not glued in place. It is held down by the string tension. It bends toward the fingerboard as you tighten the strings. Depending on the hardness of the finish it can slide more or less easily, side to side and back and forth. At least once every month you should get a good grip on it and move it back to where it belongs. It should be centered between the inside notches on the F holes, and there should be no gap between the bridge feet and the top.
        If you find an open joint, or, god forbid, a loose bass bar, the wise thing is to take it to a pro. You only get one shot at regluing it properly. If you fail the joint will never be the same.
Steve Mason

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