From Kevin Tompkins
Posted March 28, 2008 at 10:55 PM
Of course...that's with playing days of 7+hours at least 6 days a week.
They don't disintegrate like synthetics, the tone is simply gone.
What REALLY stinks though-is having concerts next weekend and 3 weeks after that-and having REALLY dead strings right now.
I can't win.
Do you mean when you play fifths up and down the fingerboard and they seem to wander in and out? Yes, that is a good test for the strings going "false".
P.S. Oliviu: why doesn't your fiddle havr strings and tailpiece?
I don't really know how often I "change" violin strings because there are new brands coming out so frequently that my obsessive need to try has me changing at least once a year. But my current expeerience with Evah Pirazzi stark strings indicates they last well. I do clean my strings dry every day and with alcohol every week or two and this keeps the tone and reponse well.
I also clean my bow hair. Between that and cleaning strings I think I reduce (or eliminate) false intonation and tone problems for extended time.
All I will say is the thought of ANY string other than Red Labels being played by an active musician for 3 years leaves me cringing in my seat.
I never got Evahs to last more than a month or two-with anal violin/string cleaning and bow cleaning/rehairing.
One pro friend has said many times to me that the whole notion about strings not lasting more than x number of hours is just scare-mongering and propaganda powered by the string manufacturers and that if one keeps strings clean etc, there's no reason why they can't last a couple of years. He made a very sensible point that if metals deteriorated as fast as some players assume they do, much of modern engineering would be exceedingly dangerous as a result.
I'd like to see some measurable scientific evidence of sound deterioration rates.
Do we know how often Heifetz, Milstein and other "greats" changed their strings?
Certainly cleaning them helps, but also the chemistry and or cleanliness of your hands has a major effect.
This is how and why some people can go years while others only weeks.
The strangest I've seen is the galvanic corrosion that occurs where a set of dominants touches a bridge carved from by Gliga Co. Two fiddles did the same thing--in summer weather. Stained the wood, the aluminum wound strings formed a white jelly at the intersection, the other strings formed dark stains. The staining then led to crushing of the wood and the strings (including the D) digging deep furrows.
In the end, you change when they (really do) need it.
The bottom line is this - your strings will last a really long time. Read on, though.
Now, um, that needs to be clarified.
Just because the string lasts a long time (Dominants can last for like 4 years with no problems) doesn't mean that they are in tip-top musical condition.
The playing life for Dominants is around 4-6 months, give or take. You can keep a set of old strings around in case one breaks, they last a really long time outside of the playing life; however, the intonation of old strings is going to suffer as you move toward the highest tension points on the fretboard.
I used to have a second violin, and I played the heck out of it. (Who can afford multiple string sets?). The strings were Dominant, and probably 3-4 years old. I was hacking away at Beethoven's Violin concerto and I drew a crowd of orchestral violinists watching me play. So, I mean, your strings will still appear to sound great after many years. The real test is when you have to play bar chords (Bach Sonatas, Partitas, Romantic Concertos, etc.). Beethoven's violin concerto doesn't have too many double stops and chords, so my old strings sounded good. If I had played some Bach, people would have cringed a bit.
The best test for false strings is to play perfect fifths up and down your fretboard. Make sure the fifths are in tune using harmonics and careful tuning. Then, play fifths and listen to the strings closely. When the strings are very much in need of a change, these fifths will sound pretty ugly. Sometimes, the fifth will fluctuate in and out of tune. This is a dead on sign that you are in need of a change.
However accurate the strings are, they're bound to wear. Constant finger pressure and shifts etc. When they've been on for some time, take a careful look down the fingerboard. They're probably noticeably thinner at the nut end where we spend most of the time playing. And then don't expect them to be true either along each string and certainly between the strings - best tested on fifths, but if the adjacent strings aren't true to each other, nothing will be in tune, and if you start trying to compensate that will only make things worse when you do change them.
I also know that they all seem to "go off" slowly - change one string, and it immediately sticks out from the others with a brightness and immediacy that the others don't have. I'd usually try and change every year or so at the most.
I'm in denial about the fact that I should have done it last month, or, using the 120 hour rule... gulp! Several months ago.
No $$ = no string change. Gotta love Dominants.
Dominants usually break before they're a year old, let alone four. The person who used them for four years may have set a world record.
I change mine fairly often, when they start to sound dull, with a lack of overtones and edge to the sound.
Message for short budgeted violinists:
If you like Dominants, then give Tonicas a try. They are very very similar and last longer. And Tonica E is infinitely better than Dominant E.
All the best.
Tonicas are cheaper, too - at my local store, they're $25 a set, as opposed to $40 for Dominants.
I personally change whatever strings I'm using every six months - I usually stick to Evah Pirazzis, but I'm currently using Passione, which has lasted for a little over two months so far, though the G string seems pretty dull-sounding by default.
My teacher has been on the same set of Evah Pirazzis for about a year now - they definitely have lost their edge, but can still produce a nice sound (that is slowly going false) on his violin (which many experts suspect to be a del Gesu, which is probably what does it - I definitely wouldn't try this on my own violin!).
Violinist.com Editor Laurie Niles is in New York to cover the biennial event at The Juilliard School, including classes by Brian Lewis and Sarah Chang.
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