String suddenly sounding bad

Dear members,

Here is what happened: I’ve restrung/revoiced a double manual Zuckermann kit. At time of delivery, everything was working fine and all strings had a nice sound. A couple of weeks later, the client calls me for a string which suddenly sounded bad. I’ve replaced the string but to no avail. There is no interference with the string buzzing against adjacant jacks or dampers that are too long. To be sure, I’ve removed all jacks in the neighbourhood but no avail. I even removed the jack itself and tried with a guitar plectrum: still a bad sound.

Any idea what’s causing this and how to solve is?

Many thanks,



Can you be more speciifc, please? Which string? What do you mean by a bad sound? What wire did you use? ETC.


If by “bad” you mean a dead sound, maybe the bridge- or nut pins are the culprits? They could be not tight enough.
I assume the other strings all sound fine, right?

@David: The string is West-Fälische Eisen with a diameter of 0,262 mm roughly 4 semitones from its breaking point.

@Domenico It’s indeed the only string sounding bad. It’s not a dead sound, more like the string went out the night before for heavy drinking and smoking cigars. It’s 2 hours driving to my client. Do you think the problem is with the bridge/nut pin? Should I ask him to check if they are loose?

Chris, what pitch is this string? Does the sound (we still dont know what kind of sound you are talking about) vary with tuning?


Dear Chris:

apart from the suggestions of checking for a loose bridge or nut pin, try damping the string (or strings) behind the bridge and see if there is a problem there. Maybe the string is making contact with something it should not and causing buzzing. If so, insert a piece of felt near the hitch-pin.

Do let us know what you find.



Perhaps you could post a recording of the bad note compared to a good
note. There are a lot of ways to sound “bad”.

Do you have a buff stop? Could that be interfering? (It could even be
the buff batten itself.)

As it takes me 2 hours driving I can’t easily make recordings/pictures but I’ll already ask the owner to check both the nut and bridge pin.
Idem for the buff batten.

The sound is “rough” when compared with the others. The material and diameter is the same as the strings close to it so that’s not the problem.

As written before: the problem started suddenly. It wasn’t there from the beginning nor was this problem there with the old stringing.

The sound does not vary with tuning. It’s keeps on sounding bad whatever the pitch.

Re: tuning, a couple times I’ve had something like Chris is describing. I was stringing a new harpsichord, however. Turned out I simply had the offending string tuned an octave lower. Maybe something with the harmonics prevented me understanding what was going on (I am still blushing…).

I’d go for loose pins. Maybe you could ask your client to try pulling the bridge pin and the nut pin out of the wood, using only his fingertips. If he succeeds, of course the pin is not firm enough.

If your client could send you a video, would be a great help.

EDIT: I have now read that you describe the sound as “rough”. Could it be a sudden modification of the plectrum? maybe it’s natural quill?

Hi Domenico, no it’s just delrin. But one never knows: I’ll ask to switch the jack with an adjacent jack to see if that helps.

If you have changed the string it is not the string, obviously. Good test. Therefore it is likely to be bridge or nut pin. We have a little hammer with which we tap down the pins - surprising what a difference this makes, and ensures firm pinning. It is also a fact - well, at least in my opinion, that air at the bottom of the pin’s hole can soak up energy and lead to a ‘bad’ sound. A seemingly small effect, but it is plainly audible. Also make sure there is no corrosion or varnish etc on the pin where the string contacts. What pitch is the instrument overall?

Hi Andrew, it’s a transposable instrument 415/440.
Good suggestion for trying top tap on the pins with light hammer.

Le 23/02/2024 11:57, Chris Vandekerkhove via The Jackrail écrit :

As it takes me 2 hours driving I can’t easily make recordings/pictures but I’ll already ask the owner to check both the nut and bridge pin.
Idem for the buff batten.

Couldn’t you ask your client to record a video of a couple of notes with
his telephone?

If the soundboard has risen due to humidity, the board or the 4" bridge may be touching the string.

Probably a lame question… I presume you’ve already excluded the possibility of a sympathetic resonance with some object your client might have added to the room since the instrument was delivered.


Hello Chris

Maybe one of the pins on the nut or bridge is slightly loose? Or the angle is not OK?

All the best
Bj Steens

Any closer description of “bad”? I sometimes have similar experiences, but usually blame the plectrum, and work on that. Did the string get kinked at one point? (I would not think that Chris would allow this, though). WGK

String can’t be kinked as he has tried two. We can rule out string.

Was the string replaced by the user? If so, there’s a possibility there is not enough downdraft at the nut, although if you put the first string on then that is not likely.

Even a small amount of corrosion on the bridge pin where the string contacts can do this. Careful examination is needed.

That’s exceedingly unlikely, to have a pinpoint resonance like that. I have never heard of that occurring or reported. To further refute, it would affect both 8’s at the same pitch.