wolf tone

Choice of classical guitar strings and technical issues connected with their use.
el baroda

wolf tone

Post by el baroda » Thu Dec 28, 2006 7:12 am

Hi. After reading replies to my last thread (accuracy of electronic tuning), I did some search on intonation and came across the term "wolf tone". I think I may have such a problem with my B string when pressed on the 3rd fret. The sound is hard to describe accurately but it's definitely different (and a bit annoying) from the other notes on the string. Is there a DIY way to fix this, or do I just have to live with it? I think I've read that this is a common phenomenon with handmade guitars. (I am using normal tension strings on my handmade 664mm scale guitar, if this info is relevant.) Your help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks and best regards.


Post by widdly » Thu Dec 28, 2006 8:04 am

According to this page http://www.cello.org/cnc/tim49.htm changing the strings to a lighter gauge might help (it works for cello).

According to this (charmingly titled) forum post http://www.gearslutz.com/board/showthread.php?t=91699 John Williams sticks some gum inside his guitar to stop wolf tones. :shock:


Post by jarods » Thu Dec 28, 2006 12:24 pm

hello ! don't you think the distance at frete 1 to the downside of the string "B" is not too short...
i remember i have had a problem with the D string...at frete 4, there was a bad resonnance, with a strange vibration killing the note "F#" i pressed...i was on the way to "file" the frete :roll: ... not at all! i just put a D string in a harder tension, and it was oki :idea:
i supposed it was a resonnance string/sound board and especially the barree under soundboard, which become in resonnance...

thks for yours links widdly on the wolf tone item!

el baroda

Post by el baroda » Fri Dec 29, 2006 7:51 am

Hi, Widdly. Thanks a lot for your response. It is comforting to know that even John Williams has had this problem (and he's got the best guitars in the world!!). Thanks also for the link, but unfortunately I can't access it from work. I will check it out when I get home tomorrow.

Hello, Jarods. Thanks for the suggestion. I will definitely try to replace my B string with a high-tension one. Hopefully, this will get rid of the wolf tone. It's a real shame because the rest of the notes are very good.


el baroda

Post by el baroda » Fri Dec 29, 2006 8:22 am

Hi, Widdly. It's me again. I was able to access the link that you mentioned. The phenomenon (wolf tone) was very well discussed. Thanks a lot.


Post by jarods » Fri Dec 29, 2006 12:30 pm

el baroda wrote:..... I will definitely try to replace my B string with a high-tension one. Hopefully, this will get rid of the wolf tone. ....

happy new year to all :idea:

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James Lister
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Post by James Lister » Fri Dec 29, 2006 12:53 pm

Wolf tones arise when you hit a resonant frequency within the guitar (this resonance can be in the air cavity, the top or the back). They are present in pretty well any guitar, but are far more noticable in some than others. I recently had a customer who could hear the slightest resonances even though he was a relative novice in playing terms. I tried the "gum" fix on a guitar for him (I used Blu-tack - far more pleasant to use!), but without much success. I'd be interested to hear if any other luthiers have had success with this method.

James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK


Post by Azalais » Fri Dec 29, 2006 2:55 pm

Changing string tension (or brand/type) helps (or tuning to a slightly different frequency)... I also usually leave the sound hole a bit on the small side so I can adjust/sand the diameter slightly larger if necessary after everything is glued, strung up and playing.

My baroque guitar has a paper-thin top, and it adores A's... with so many octave strings and A combinations... it sometimes goes absolutely wild with sympathetic vibrations, especially with brand new gut strings... if I want to, I can really make it howl... the sustain is amazing!


Post by Allan » Sun Dec 31, 2006 6:05 pm

I had some terrible wolf tone problems on a guitar I had made last year. After I read some advice about switching strings on the internet I changed from Hannabach 815s to D'Addario normal tension. The problems all immediately, and completely disappeared.



Post by olenaval » Tue Jan 02, 2007 5:39 am

Hi my good friend El, throw away the guitar and buy a Derecho... hehe.

Kidding aside, try a better set of strings. I use now hannabach as recommended by Sanft. Savarez strings are equally good. Your strings just might need changing. Good luck, partner. In any case, bring the guitar over when you come. Maybe Tabo can do something about it, if its a bridge or brace problem.

I have been having the same problems with the three ISP's that I have. Would you believe it? The connection now is just about as fast as a good dial-up. It has not been solved. See you around!


Post by UncleBill » Tue Jan 02, 2007 5:46 pm

I had a problem with my Kohno. When I would play G(3) on the 6th string with G(3) on the first string it created a very bad noise. I tried different strings with no success. Then a terrible thing happened. A crack opened up on the top of the guitar beside the fret board. The howl went away. Never came back. Bill.


Post by olenaval » Wed Jan 03, 2007 2:08 am

That must be it, then! The sound board or part of it probably resonated at that pitch due to the lack of glue. As guitars age, the glue comes undone. Of course, when it totally detached, the resonance went away. Wood vibrates dependent on its length, assuming all things equal. The ends must of course be fixed properly.

El, you've got to have the guitar looked at, if the strings don't cause it.

el baroda

Post by el baroda » Tue Jan 16, 2007 9:53 am

Hi, friends. Just a short note to let you know that the "wolf tone" that was bothering me for a while is now gone completely, after I replaced the offending string with a Savarez normal tension string. I tried a Martin string initially but it did not work. I am keeping the rest of the D'Addario Composite strings on my guitar as they sound great. For a while, I was really worried that there was something very wrong with my new (used) guitar. What a relief to know that the string was the culprit. Thanks again to all of you for your input. Best regards.

el baroda

Post by el baroda » Tue Feb 20, 2007 10:02 am


I think I owe it to everyone who tried to help me to let him/her know that I have finally found the cause of the wolf tone that had been bothering me since I got my new (used) guitar. No, it was not the B string (I have replaced it a few more times since my last post) nor my guitar that was causing the problem. It was my electronic tuner!!! I found out today that it was giving false readings for the B and the two E strings (i.e., these strings were actually tuned higher than what the tuner was showing). To correct the anomaly, I tuned the A's on all six strings and the result was spot-on. The wolf tone (or sympathetic buzz) is now completely gone. Since my tuner is not accurate with open strings, I will follow this alternate tuning procedure from now on. Or maybe, I'll get myself a new and better tuner.

If anyone is experiencing weird notes, please check your electronic tuner first before spending money on new strings, etc., as I did.

Again, thank you all very much for your comments and suggestions. Best regards.


Post by bones » Tue Feb 20, 2007 10:43 am

I'm not sure I even know what a wolf tone is, :oops: maybe I've been lucky in the guitars I've played, if a wolf tone is a note that sustains less then yes I've got those on my current guitars but nothing I can't compenstate for. There is nothing that I think, 'my god that is awful!' For years as a child I played on a really crappy Korean guitar which I still have and learnt how to produce a good tone from it, that is full of dead notes are they the so called 'wolf' tones? My '73 Ramirez 1A sustained beautifully everywhere and had no apparent flaws. Incase anyone is wondering if I'm deaf I can hear the overtone series perfectly and pick out partials easily. :wink:
Definition of a wolfy please!

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