D'Addario Helicore (with wound E string). Good? Great? Terrible?

August 30, 2007 at 05:54 AM · Does anyone use D'Addario Helicore strings? And, if so, does the aluminum-wound E string sound better than the plain steel one?

How are they? Are they considerably better than the D'Addario Prelude strings? Responsive without being too stiff? Bright? Metallic? Harsh, even?

I want some strings with more umph than these Preludes, but I don't want them to be so over-the-top that every stray cat within a hundred-mile radius surrounds my house, trying to get in to rape my violin.

As always, any suggestions, advice and other information will be greatly appreciated. Thanks! :)

Replies (15)

August 30, 2007 at 02:36 PM · Hi,Larry, Prelude is a modestly-priced "student" string, though decent for the price. I was happy to see those on rental violins, as compared to ancient and/or anonymous strings, but wouldn't have anybody buy them who was hunting for a specific tone. My understanding of Helicores is they are a bright, relatively edgy string. I am aware of a number of fiddlers who use those or Prims. Brad Leftwich said he thought Prims were popular in some part because they last a long time, accept fine tuners happily, and stay in tune through the long, repetitive playing required for accompanying squares and contras. My opinion is you might do well to work your way into strings that are more middle-of-the-road first. Maybe a better grade of strings like Pro Arte or Dominant, or for more edge than those, Obbligatos? I'm afraid Helicores, Evah Pizazzi, Infeld Red, etc., might be shockingly over the top to you. Sue

September 6, 2007 at 04:13 AM · Well, I got some Helicores in today. Unfortunately, Woodwind & Brasswind (wwbw.com), the company from which I ordered them, completely screwed the shipment. I also ordered a Codabow Aspire, yet it never shipped. It was to come separately from the other items I ordered. I was charged for it, of course, but it didn't arrive. The last bit of tracking information for it from FedEx was that FedEx was notified of a shipment to go out. Nothing else ever happened with it. Also, I received the Helicore strings with the plain steel E string, when I ordered--and paid more for--the aluminum-wound E string. I figured the plain steel string would be even harsher than the already nearly unbearble Prelude steel E string.

The G, D and A strings sound beautiful. Bright, clear, and loud. With the Prelude strings, my instrument had an almost smoky, throaty sound. As I've said on another post, it reminded me of Kathleen Turner's voice. Sultry, yet forceful. With the Helicores, I can already tell there's a dramatic change in tone depending on the point of contact with the bow. Near the fingerboard, they still sound like Kathleen Turner, only they can get much louder than the Preludes. Between the fingerboard and the bridge, they sound more like Celine Dion--clear, pure, and loud. Near the bridge...well...Roseanne Barr...er...Arnold. Whatever she goes by these days. I was so amused, I couldn't help playing "Star Spangled Banner," just for old time's sake. *grin*

The above descriptions refer only to the G, D and A strings, however. About the E string, it turns out, I was right. There's only one phrase I can think of to describe it, no matter where along the string you play: wail o' the banshee. I can't wait to get the wound E string to replace it. It should be considerably more in line with the other three strings.

All four strings have excellent response. The Prelude G, D and A strings liked to try to hang onto a note for a split second after you removed your finger from the string, and this would cause a strange sort of vibration that would leave the hair not being able to grab hold properly, causing an odd squelching noise. Though always brief, it was definitely noticeable, and I certainly won't miss it. The Helicores do exactly what they're supposed to, when they're supposed to.

I've contacted WWBW about the mix-up with my order, and I have assurances from Elaine in customer service (who was ever so pleasant, once I was able to get her on the phone after holding for nearly twenty minutes...in sales, they answer the phone on the first ring...go figure!) that the situation will be resolved, and that the correct string AND my bow will be shipped tomorrow, overnight, so that I receive them Friday. I'll post my findings on the wound E string, as well as what I think of the Codabow Aspire, as soon as I get them and get a chance to play with them.

Wish me luck! :)

September 6, 2007 at 01:24 AM · Try the Kaplan Solution wound E string....Aubrey Haynie uses them...can't be all bad !!

David Blackmon

September 6, 2007 at 02:02 AM · I find that Helicore strings are difficult to get used to because the width of the g,d &a strings are much narrower than "normal" strings.

September 7, 2007 at 12:18 AM · generally,wound 'e' strings are not as responsive as a straight steel e string.

September 8, 2007 at 01:01 AM · I play Helicore heavy gauge on my fiddle, Dominants on my violin. I don't like the Helicore medium gauge on any instrument that I've tried them on; the heavy gauge are a completely different animal. The sound is very good for fiddling; strong bass, smooth mid tones, and the treble carries well in a noisy jam. They are responsive in fast playing, and also respond pretty well to technique. You can get anything from a very sweet to a gritty tone, and most points between, and they are generally stable, but a little sensitive to temperature.

I don't think too many serious classical players would like them very much, but for old time and bluegrass fiddling, blues, and jazz, they are very good.

September 8, 2007 at 01:17 AM · I FINALLY got my wound E string and bow. They had to be shipped overnight, and I received them this afternoon.

Already, I like the wound E string much better than the plain steel one. It's not nearly as tinny and harsh as the other one was. It sounds much more closely matched to the other three strings, which makes me very happy. Overall, I'm loving the Helicores. I feel, dare I say it, inspired again. :)

Also, the Codabow Aspire is already turning out to be quite a good bow. It's rather light, which I actually like, and it's not just a thick piece of spaghetti with hair strung across it. It bounces ONLY when I actually want it to, rather than just at will like the one it replaced. I dare say it'd make a good bow even for much more advanced players, even if only as an affordable backup.

September 8, 2007 at 01:45 AM · Michael Richwine:

I have heard that the heavy guage is better than the medium guage.

Thanks,I'll order a set.

September 8, 2007 at 02:19 AM · Michael:

Is the width of Helicore strings [heavy guage] the same as "normal" strings ?

Or are they a wee bit thinner ?

September 8, 2007 at 02:43 AM · I almost went with the heavy tension Helicores, since, in D'Addario's little string chart showing volume-vs-responsiveness-vs-tone, the heavy strings were even louder than the Prelude heavies, while my Prelude strings were mediums. However, they weren't that much more responsive than the Prelude mediums, and I wanted something a bit quicker to snap back from rapid rolls. The light Helicores have the best reponse of the D'Addario violin strings, but they seemed to be rather quiet, again, according to their chart. So, I figured a happy medium would be...well...the mediums.

However, I'll certainly try some heavies down the road when I have an extra $25-$30 to burn. I'm intrigued now. :) Thanks!

September 8, 2007 at 02:23 AM · Larry, I admire your sense of humor! Helicore mediums have been a favorite of mine for quite awhile for Bluegrass fiddling. I think the Bluegrass fiddling of Jason Carter is the greatest since people like Paul Warren have passed on. I made a violin for Jason and gave it to him a few years ago. I put on a brand new set of Dominant strings before I gave it to him not knowing what strings he was accustomed to. He looked at the strings and didn't even bother to play it. He said, "I'll be right back." I was visiting with Kenny Baker while he was gone. He quickly returned from the tour bus with the violin strung with Helicore's and proceeded to blow every other fiddler away in the jams he got into to test out the violin. Helicore strings have a "live wire" sound. Very quick indeed. I don't personally know any classical players who use them. I made Jason a dark sounding violin that you can play as hard as you wish with no overdriven distortion tone. If you play hard enough to break bow hair on a classical tone violin you will get noise at the same time. If you ever get a chance to see the Del McCoury band with Jason on fiddle, it will be one exciting time.

September 8, 2007 at 05:28 AM · Lee, I'm gonna go Google and YouTube him/them right now. Though I do wanna try to get into all styles of fiddling, including bluegrass, I think the overall sound people tend to go for in their instruments in Irish, bluegrass and country will suit me just fine for what I'm trying to learn, which is...ummm...I really don't know WHAT to call it.

Perhaps an amalgamation of genres? Maybe someone will know when I get good enough to play for them, and they can tell me what the hell I'm playing. ;)

However, I think I'll leave classical to the people who've spent their lives learning to play such. I'll be lucky ever to scratch out the alphabet. I wonder if they print sheet music for it that hasn't been mislabeled as "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."

Thanks for the info! :)

September 8, 2007 at 02:11 PM · Joe, it's whatever works for you on your instrument. My experience is that heavy gauge Helicores do what I want; your experience may well differ. With violins, everything affects everything, and merely changing E strings can alter the whole sound of a violin appreciably.

As for thickness, they're not as wiry feeling as Zyex, but I can play really fast a little bit easier on the violin with the Dominants on it. May just be a matter of a tiny difference in setup, since the strings are plenty responsive.

September 9, 2007 at 12:09 PM · When my daughter was loaned Leri Slutsky's Borman violin by Mrs. Slutsky, it had a Helicore A, along with Dominant G and D and a Gold Label E. I know Oistrakh used a steel A, so the idea of a steel A struck me as keeping with a fine tradition. And it sounded great.

On her Borman, she uses Evah Pirazzi G and D and a thick gauge Westminster E along with a Helicore A. The Helicore A sounds wonderful -- it's a good match with Evah Pirazzis and doesn't go bad quickly like the Evah A. It's bright but not overly bright. Not at all harsh or metallic.

September 9, 2007 at 03:45 PM · All these different strings, so little time...and money. But, everyone here has piqued my interest in trying various brands/kinds of strings, even mixing and matching. I reckon I'll have to start watching the websites for sales and other savings, then just stock up on at least one of every kind of set I can find, then just experiment...a lot. Though, I reckon I'll quickly wear out my pegs, or even my peg box. But, no one ever said the pursuit of knowledge was cheap! ;)

Thanks for all the advice you folks've posted. I'm having a blast learning to play this instrument, and I've become absolutely fascinated by every single aspect of it. Y'all're certainly helping to keep it fun. :)

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