From Blake Reed
Posted May 21, 2011 at 05:35 AM
It's that time for me to get a new set of strings. I have about a $3,500 violin, and was wondering which strings are best for my instrument. I don't want any gut strings or anything, but I mainly want a string that projects far on the E string, as my instrument seems a little weak in the high E string positions.
Thanks for any and all answers!
Tried the usual suspects yet? On the projection end of things, try:
Thomastik Peter Infeld
Thomastik Vision Solo
Pirastro Evah Pirazzi
Pirastro Wondertone Solo
First of all, it would help if you told us what strings you have on your violin right now, what kind of sound they produce, and what you like and don't like about that particular sound.
It's hard to go wrong by starting off by trying Dominants. They produce a more neutral sound than other strings, and you might end up liking them. Something you must do with Dominants is use a different E string. Most violinists choose to pair their Dominants with a Pirastro Gold Label E or a Jargar Forte-gauge E. I find that the Gold Label E has a more sweet, clear tone that compliments the rest of the Dominants nicely and the Forte E has a rounder tone that makes the Dominants sound more gut-like.
If you're violin is like mine and it reacts strangely with Dominants, Tonicas are another good option. Their tension is a little higher than Dominants, but if you find it easy on the fingers to use Dominants, this shouldn't be much of a problem. They are also more bright and brilliant than the Dominants. Unlike the Dominants, they have a pretty good E string, and I find that the wound aluminum/silver E string is very nice and whistle-prone.
Using one of these brands will probably put you on a clearer direction on finding the strings that will produce the sound that you want on your violin. My string preference as of now are Tonicas with a Pirastro Universal/No. 1 E. Of course, your violin is completely different from mine, and the strings that suit your violin and your sound tastes will probably be different from mine as well.
To give you a basic idea, some popular warmer-sounding strings will be the Pirastro Obligatos, Pirastro Violinos, and the Thomastik Infeld Reds, and some rather popular brighter strings are the Pirastro Evah Pirazzis, Thomastik Visions, and Thomastik Infeld Blues. There are many, many more brands of synthetic strings out there, but those are the ones I believe to be the most popular for their sound classifications.
If your instrument has trouble projecting on the E string, I'd suggest a forte-gauge Jargar or a Westminster.
Goldbrokate (my current choice), Gold Label, Golden Spiral, Oliv (I suggest heavy), Larsen (tarnishes easily, but has an awesome sound), Jargar medium, etc. are all also good E strings.
If you want the rest of the set to project better, Evah Pirazzis and Visions are quite good. I find that Dominants can improve in projection if you pair them with a .27 (heavy) gauge E string (I'd pick Jargar, Westminster, or Goldbrokate).
I'm mostly a gut-string user; but I have experience with some synthetics and composite-cores listed earlier -- Dominants, Wondertone Solos, and Vision Solos -- although there's some doubt in my mind about the last ones. They could have been Vision Titaniums -- this was summer 2005.
I agree with Cyril's point about the strings you have right now. Keep in mind that we can't hear your instrument. What sounds great to you might turn us off -- and vice-versa. Ask your teacher or a luthier or another experienced player. Take plenty of time to experiment. Try out different string combinations and compare results. Play the tryouts for these people and have them play for you. Test in different rooms with different acoustics. Compare the sound of the strings when newly installed with the sound after a few days of steady use.
About the weakness in the high E-string positions: Maybe a string change will take care of this, but I would definitely go over this with your teacher or a luthier. I don't know your situation; but a number of factors can come into play here -- such as bridge height, sound post adjustment, bow-hair tension. left-mounted versus center-mounted chin rest. I avoid E-string sleeves -- they are a real tone-killer. Ditto for ebony inserts -- avoid.
Hope this helps. Again, let us know what you're using now, and let us know later on what you end up with.
Since I only started playing the violin again last year after decades away from it, I am not clear what "E-string sleeves" and "ebony inserts" are. Please can you enlighten me?
For strings I have Eudoxas on one violin and Dominants on the other. This means that I use both gut-core and synthetic-core strings, but they seem to suit the respective violins well.
Nicky, the E-string sleeve is a very small plastic tube that the manufacturer slides the string through. The tube itself is, by my own visual estimate, less than 1/4 in./6.35 mm. long. You place it on the bridge at the E string groove to keep the string from digging into the bridge.
The ebony insert is a wedge-shaped piece that the luthier cuts into the bridge. Again, it keeps the E string from digging in. There may be other shapes -- I don't know offhand.
The other thing I don't like about the sleeve, besides the tone-deadening effect, is that it raises the string a bit higher.
I presently use parchment on the E-string grooves. That works well for me. Somewhere on the v.com site, other players report using glue instead of parchment. It may be Super Glue, but I don't recall.
I am a long-time user of Eudoxas -- these strings really emphasize the viola-dark sound of two instruments of mine. On the third fiddle, I'm currently using Wondertone Solos, which exploit the warm-bright voice of this instrument and give it more edge and carrying power.
Thank you for your clarification, Jim. I had correctly guessed what the E-string sleeves were but not the ebony inserts. Thank you for pointing out the E-string sleeves' deadening effect on tone. Alas, parchment here in the Old World tends to mean bits of medieval manuscripts and so to be almost unavailable, but I'll look out for newer bits. It's good to read that you use Eudoxas, since a professional string player had one of my violins set up with Eudoxas before I got it and I have found that the right strings are married to the right instrument, offsetting the instrument's tendency to (in my opinion) over-brightness . Thank you also for your recommendation of Wondertone Solos, which I will bear in mind.
I use superglue on the E-string notches on both my violins – just a tiny drop is all you need. Make sure it is absolutely dry before you put the string back on! You can check for this by putting a smear of the superglue on a matchstick at the same time as you do for the violin bridge, and then inspect the matchstick at intervals to see when it's dry. It dries fairly quickly, anyway. Usual caveats – don't get the superglue on your skin or elsewhere on the violin.
Another item of the violin that can (and does) affect the tone is the tailpiece and the micro adjusters. Again, check this out with the luthier.
I'd also add the Hill E to the list of top Es (it's nearly as inexpensive as the extraordinary Goldbrokat), and works very well with gut strings.
BTW, I'll just mention that I've inadvertently completely chased away the noisy wolves that plagued the 7th position and higher on the G on my old violin, no matter what string I used. This time, I changed the Eudoxa G for a Chorda G (also a gut core string made by Pirastro, but the winding is wire wound, not flat wound), and the miracle happened. The Chorda G feels a little floppier than the Eudoxa but has a gorgeous warm tone (slightly softer, perhaps) that goes all the way up to the high D, and matches the Chorda D and A which I use on that fiddle better than the Eudoxa did.
I know that you do not want gut strings, but have you tried the Pirastro Passiones? They are gut, but wound with metal. They have a very warm and beautiful sound on my viola. The main reason you would not want gut is because of their instability, but these strings have absolutely no problems with that. They are marketed as being the most stable gut strings around, and they really are. They stay almost perfectly in tune all the time, and have the best sound for my instrument. Your violin is almost certainly different from my viola, but I think it would be worth the try. If you really do not want to try gut, maybe Evah Pirazzis or Obligatos? Evah Pirazzis are synthetic and overall, great. I only felt that they were really bright when I used them. My viola sounded very violinistic. It sounds much deeper and nicer with Passiones. I never tried Obligatos, but if you are looking for a dark and synthetic string, these have gotten rave reviews from many.
Blake, do you have a budget? Some of the string sets mentioned here are pretty expensive, and it will cost a lot of money and take a long time to experiment. It would be best to have your luthier (hopefully s/he is very good) try your violin, and come up with a recommendation. If you are only unhappy about the E string, since E strings are temperamental and inexpensive, it's worth experimenting with Brian Lee's suggestions.
For a brilliant E string that is also very inexpensive ($1.55), Charles Avsharian recommends Corelli Crystal. I have tried it and it is quite nice. It seems to have slightly higher tension than the Larsen Tzigane E, which is sweeter sounding and also brilliant ($6). The John Pearse Artiste E is also very fine, similar to the Tzigane, and available for $4.40 separately from Quinn Violins.
A full set of Pearse Artiste strings is available for about $25 from juststrings.com. They have received many glowing reviews. In my experience they do have the sweet, warm sound that many reviewers have praised, but I would say their lower strings (G,D,A) are more student quality than professional quality because my set had rough irregularities on the windings that interfered with shifting and bow response.
I've had good consistent results with Dominants w/Gold Label E. Never any surprise, always a good baseline to compare to, and though they may not be the best-projecting, or the loudest, or the longest-lasting (although they have a decent lifespan), IMHO they're the best all-around strings. However, I second Saagar's recommendation for Passiones if your budget allows. Once settled in, these strings have been rock solid, even with the wild climate swings we've had in NE lately.
If you want projection, while being cost-sensitive, check Warchal brilliants here: http://www.gostrings.com/wabrviset.html .
Warchal has recently introduced a new formulation, which should be warmer and have more projection. The new formula is available here.
I got Warchal brilliants as a direct replacement for a set of Evahs (gold E) and Vision Titanium Solo (with an Evah gold E). On my two instruments, the Warchals sound different, but just as good as, the other strings. In fact, I think Warchals actually beat the others, by a bit. The Warchal E works well on my fiddles. (Disclaimer: this is on my instruments, and it's my OPINION. YMMV)
They have a lot of the feel of wound gut. Pretty soft and, uh, how would I put it? Stretchy?
I got two sets of the Brilliants for a little more than one set of Titanium solos.
Once they settled in, the Brilliants are now rock-solid pitch stable. I think they beat the sound of Dominants by a mile. Compared to Eudoxas? Pretty close in tonal quality.
I'm not paid by Bohdan, but I am very happy with his product. :-)
Blake - different strings sound different on different violins. What sounds good on mine may not sound very good on yours. The short answer is that there is no recognized best string set for a $3500 violin or any other violin. Therefore, to resolve your problem, you need to go to a luthier who can hear your violin with the strings you have on it, get some sense of what sort of sound you are trying to achieve, and then give you sound advice on what to try next. You have received a great deal of good, well-meaning advice from the people on v.com, but it will not be of much use to you. While various strings have a recognized sound qualities, e.g., Evah Pirazzi are bright, Pirastro Obligatos are warm, choosing a particular string set for those qualities may not work on your particular violin. Sorry, but there is really no alternative to visiting the luthier. Good luck!
That's one way Tom but surely its not the only way; a luthier knows more about your violin that you do but my experience is that often they have rather limited knowledge of string varieties - and use the same string they first put on a violin or a safe bet (Dominants usually). A violin dealer is usually a better info source because its in their interest to make the instrument sound as good as possible.
However, it all depends on what YOU are after and what you like/dislike about your violin. Some people like a string that sounds beautiful to the ear in the studio while others what to keep a projecting, performance string on. I tend towards the latter since I'm always thinking about how to reach an audience (generally a phantom one :) ). Also, if you are a beginner you may not care that one string gives you wolf notes above an octave; something that's obviously a major problem for a soloist etc etc
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