The under rated "D" string.

March 2, 2018, 1:11 PM · For mysterious reasons I've been swapping D strings just to hear what happens. These would be standard D's BUT only the "heavy" versions.

I wound up using Obligato, Tonica, Helicor and Dominant strings but the Dominant (3) were the constant or base set.

The first thing I noticed while installing the Tonica was that the other strings went limp! This is a major find for me. Changing strings is much more than just changing pitch.

(Tonica became my "go to" string)

With this Tonica Hvy, it was much quieter under the chin. AND iI had a very welcome boost in bass.
The Tonica version was clearly a better sounding violin. (No, not yet a Strad !!!! )

Is anyone else"playing with strings except for "E" ?


Replies (41)

March 2, 2018, 1:52 PM · I'm all for playing with strings.
March 2, 2018, 1:54 PM · I have pretty much "played" with strings except for "E" for 50 years.

My latest "go to E" is Peter Infeld Platinum. I have used it on 4 different violins with three different "other string."

March 2, 2018, 4:12 PM · Until you have tried a nice thick uncovered gut D you have not lived.
March 2, 2018, 4:15 PM · The D on most violins is the weakest string, and difficult to achieve clarity. After much experimentation I've settled on the regular aluminum Dominant.
March 3, 2018, 3:03 AM · I remember a blog post by Ray Chen where he wrote that the D-string is actually the least important string!
March 3, 2018, 5:18 AM · Violin D string is really not easy to design and balance from the stringmaker point of view. You can either make aluminium one, which is a bit thicker A string in fact. Or you can make silver version, that is more or less a thinner G string. If we give a choice to (almost) any player or dealer, they usually choose silver D. We charge the same price for them, so having more precious version seems to be a bargain for them.

But it is almost impossible to balance silver D with the rest of the set. It is warm, melow, but lacking the texture (grain structure) of the sound. On the other hand, aluminium one has a plenty of texture and even what you call "sizzle" in sound. It is good for projection, but can be annoying close to one's ear beeing used on bright instruments.

Using silver or aluminium D strin has also many other consequences, mainly regarding durability. You can look at some pictures taken under the microscope here http://www.warchal.com/faq/the_lifespan_of_strings.html

During the search of the ideal balanced D string sound, we found that a mere alternating aluminium and silver ribbon can give you the ulitimate sound result. Such D string is still warm sounding, but if you dig into it, you get the desired texture and even the sizzle. Unfortunately, the aluminium corrosion problem manifests even more visibly there. (You can see the pictures at the end of the article). We have used this formula on Vintage D firstly. Despite the fact that the string has been not suitable for people suffering from strong aluminium corrosion, we have decided to use it in Amber D as well. The sound result of such design is amazing.

So speaking in general (trying not promoting our products:-) I suggest you avoiding silver D strings in case you lokking for projecting sound. However, you might have problem with corrosiom (depending on your perspiration quality) than.

Edited: March 3, 2018, 8:06 AM · Long time Warchal string fan here and so enjoy reading all of the information Mr. Bohdan puts out there for us to read and learn from. Have tried almost all of Warchal strings except for the Ambers which is on deck to be used next string change. I do like the sound of Brilliants versus Vintage better on my instrument but not really sure of whether it is the tension that I prefer or maybe learning now it is the use of silver versus aluminum D string.
March 3, 2018, 8:47 AM · I'm not sure if this thread is about strings or about the violins they are on.

I've never noticed any lack in almost all of the D strings I've used. But I do recall the violin of mine that my granddaughter chose for her own when I gave her a choice after 8 years of lessons. It has a D string so rich and strong that it rivaled the G string's 5th position. (Think of how this allows you to "cheat" on some fingerings! 'Air For the "What" String.')

March 3, 2018, 11:18 AM · I love Warchal Amber strings. When is that new D to be included in the Amber set?
Edited: March 3, 2018, 4:39 PM · Aluminum D’s FTW!! I find they have better response to the bow and, as Bohdan said, more texture (at the expense dealing with some under ear fizz).

The Amber set is amazing, BTW. Closest wound gut sound approximation from a synthetic, if that is what you are looking for. The Amber E is the most innovative thing to happen to E strings since the beginning of time.

March 3, 2018, 1:10 PM · "The D on most violins is the weakest string, and difficult to achieve clarity."

Interesting. On my violin, the D string is louder, richer, and clearer than the other strings, including the E, and it sustains for longer than the rest of them. When I play pizz. chords, the D string is the most prominent and continues to sound for a second or two after the rest fade out.

I switched over to using a silver Obligato D string a couple months ago, and it's my favorite of the strings I've used (Dominants, Pro-Artes, PIs, Infeld Reds, and Eudoxas). I haven't noticed any problems with volume or projection so far.

March 3, 2018, 6:59 PM · Bohdan Warchal: I tried a set of Karneol's a few years back. took them off after about an hour and haven't tried any Warchol's since. Waaay too bouncy for me. another guy on another site described them as 'like rubber bands'
....just saying
March 4, 2018, 1:01 AM · Dave: thank you for your feedback. The negative one (especially if someone is able to describe what he/she minds precisely) is much more important for us than the laudatory ones, we receive daily.

To be entirely honest, I have joined violinist.com mainly because trying to improve my English skills. During the communism era, it was almost impossible to learn English language, so I am still a bit behind. Violinist.com is a good source for learning the musical jargon and distinguish the nuances of sound timbre descriptions e.t.c.

However, some feedback may be used for further development and product polishing and some sounds rather confusing to me. I have just tried to find all meaning of "bouncy" in the dictionary, and I got lively, vigorous, vivid, active, so it sounds rather positive to me. If you say "too bouncy", you might mean "too lound" or "too brigh" I guess.

On the other hand, rubber is not a material that could resonate or emit any sound. So "like rubber bands" evoke the meaning "dull", or "not projecting".

So I would like to use any feedback for further improvements, but sometimes it has been not easy, particularly if various feedbacks are contradicting. Moreover, we can ever hardly be able to guarantee that any of our product will suit every instrument and taste of course. However thanks for sharing your experience with us, any other feedback will be appreciated anytime in the future.

March 4, 2018, 4:44 AM · What Dave wrote, perhaps he means that the strings are low tension?
March 4, 2018, 5:48 AM · Bohdan - your Web site shows availability of the amber D in two versions; silver wound and silver/hydronalium. But only one set. Which D is in the set? And the vintage is shown as wound with hydronalium only. Silver is not mentioned.
March 4, 2018, 6:08 AM · Mr. Warchol: thank you for responding, I will try and be more specific. I'm not talking about sound, I'm talking about feel and response. and yes, as jean dubuisson has said, perhaps they are low tension. too much elasticity... elasticity like a rubber band. I do not mean too loud or too bright. They caused the bow to 'bounce' too much. I could not control the bow, as compared to any other string I've ever tried.

I am very passionate about violin strings, as I'm sure you are. over the space of 42 years, I have tried 95% of ALL the strings of Pirastro, Infeld, and D'addario, and spent thousands of dollars, but I have never encountered anything to the extent of what I have tried to describe with the the Karneol's.

on a more positive note, I am rather intrigued with your Russian A, although I have not tried it. I don't think I play well enough in the higher registers for it to be practical for me.

March 4, 2018, 6:36 AM · Dave: Thanks for more details.

Bo: Thanks for refering mistake in our material chart. Vintage D should be stated as Hydronalium / Hydronalium-Silver. I have already asked our webmaster to fix the chart.

As a part of the Amber set we deliver only 703 D string that is wound by Hydronalium-Silver. 703 S (silver only) is just a special single string substitutuon for those suffering from aluminium corrosion. Soundwise I prefer the basic 703 (Hydronalium-Silver).

March 4, 2018, 10:55 AM · I do not want to confuse the issue so I'll keep it short. I think that a string is both pitch and tension and tension may be more important in some cases. Here is a mental exercise I contemplate:

Change a string to a higher tension.

Other strings go loose.

Bring the loose strings back to pitch.

I now have a "different" violin. I now own an "endless" number of violins ? :)

PS Are coated strings the same diameter as uncoated?

March 4, 2018, 12:14 PM · I personally love the feel of "loose" strings, whether they be gut or low tension synthetics. I like that Mr. Warchal has these alternatives for players, even when their brand is not as well-known as Pirastro, et. al. I did not feel this "bounciness" (looseness?) when I used the Brilliant Vintage Set, of which I have been very fond of despite my inclination towards gut. Some violins also LOVE this low tension, but I can understand it's a whole new world when you are used to many "modern" synthetics.
March 4, 2018, 3:57 PM · @ John Birchall (of Mar 2), I have been using "a nice thick uncovered gut D" (Pirastro Chorda) on my old orchestral violin for at least three years - for the avoidance of doubt, not the same string over that period (I do change it every year when I think of it!) - and enjoy it. Not surprisingly, it works well with its Chorda gut brothers the A and G, but for pragmatic orchestral reasons I use a Pirastro steel E. Occasionally I might use a steel A, but not for long - I soon revert to gut. Incidentally, I find the plain gut A more effective than a covered gut A such as the Eudoxa.

Because I tune to A440 I use the medium tension Chordas, as advised by Pirastro. If I were to be playing at A415 then heavy gauge would be used.

March 4, 2018, 7:44 PM · I just wanted to say... I agree completely with Darlene Roth on the tension issue.

Her statement "I now have a "different" violin. I now own an "endless" number of violins" is true, funny, profound and frustrating, all rolled into one.

This has to be both the most concise and comprehensive description of violin E strings that I've ever heard.

Edited: March 5, 2018, 11:57 AM · Thank you Dave!

I have enjoyed the thread but actually ,I have been phishing.
My real motive is a question:

How come the viola has spawned so many relatives while the violin stands alone ??
(in a family sense).
Even I could design "another" violin ( starting with the D string if I must.).

Why did someone need viola #2 if (when) #1 existed? OR OR why was there not a similar lineage for the the violin? I think that having a another kind of violin has possibilities !!!!!

Edited: March 7, 2018, 10:53 AM · Not to derail this thread further (something I tend to loathe, so I'm loathe to do it but...)

I too found that the Warchal strings (I've tried the Amber ones, with the E as the exception here) had too slow a response on my violin possibly due to the low tension. I am hesitant to try the Brilliant set (slightly higher tension) - even though I loved the way the Amber strings felt under my fingers. They were also too wild/loose on my violin once the response began. I also had a very difficult time with harmonics/false harmonics - something that was not an issue with the other strings I have used/am currently using.

I'm using PI's now, and I like them, but I'm going to try yet a different set next time - maybe a higher tension string, we'll see. The PIs scratch/squeak too much (an issue that was not present with other strings). Ah, the quest for the perfect strings/string combinations...

All this said, I LOVE the Amber E!

I love the way the D string sounds on my violin, but maybe my ears are not at the level that others are here.

March 6, 2018, 8:26 AM · Changing the D to a markedly different tension from the other strings is going to complicate our bowing somewhat, since the contact point changes.
Edited: March 13, 2018, 6:38 PM · Agree with Trevor and John B.-The plain gut string can last a very long time, if it is not damaged. The "gut" is a high sulfur protein collagen polymer. In addition to the strong electrical bonds between the amino acids there are weak bonds that pull the strand into a three-dimensional structure that acts like a spring. In the body the metabolic turnover of the protein is very slow, that's one reason why actual injuries to the joints, tendons, ligaments heal very slowly. If not damaged or hyper- extended, tendons and ligaments will last a lifetime.
March 16, 2018, 3:48 AM · Someone described the D as like "playing on wet cardboard", but I don't think a higher tension is the answer. I have rediscovered the pleasures of lower tension strings: less volume under the ear, but more colour and "projection". The "rubber band" comment is simply due to inadequate bowing i.e. too far from the bridge, too stiff & heavy, etc.
March 16, 2018, 4:15 AM · Adrian: I stand by the rubber band comment. I do not bow too far from the bridge, and although I have a firm bow hand, I don't think it could be described as stiff and heavy.

The gostrings blurb describes Karneols as "easy playing strings with a natural tendency to produce a desirable tone without unnecessary effort" pretty sure this is where the springy-ness comes in.

I've played on a lot of different strings over 40 years, and never encountered anything as springy as the Karneols. The rubber band comment was not made by me, only repeating what another player said about them.

to swing the pendulum the other way, would you play on Infeld Prazision solid steel core strings?

btw, I've got a set of Warchal Brilliant Vintage on the way. I'd be interested in knowing how you would rate them for tension?

March 16, 2018, 7:39 AM · Warchal publish tensions on their website
Edited: March 16, 2018, 3:26 PM · Dave, OK I haven't (yet) tried Warchal strings: I play on medium tension Tonicas at the moment, on both violin and viola.

When my right hand is affected by sawing wood, bricklaying, or opening pots of jam, I hold the bow a little further from the nut...

March 16, 2018, 10:17 PM · Brilliant Vintage feel "normal" under both fingers and bow, but it has been some years since I last used them. They are not as pliable as gut, but compared to many popular synthetics on "medium" tension, are easy to play on. I did like them a lot back then, and are relatively affordable (plus you lose nothing by paying less-they are not "cheapo".)
March 16, 2018, 10:29 PM · Low tension strings for the win. Someone here said in conservatory their teacher insisted they use Eudoxas so the low tension would force more precise bow control. I found this to be a great idea, and it’s another reason i’ve switched to low tension strings, besides the superior sound of gut.

Next i’m going to try low tension dominants like Aaron Rosand suggested, and then Ambers, and then low tension Obligatos. I’m particularly looking forward to the Warchal’s, because the research listed on the website combined with the posts here are just awesome.

March 17, 2018, 12:32 AM · Adalberto: your comments on Vintage are encouraging. Thank you.
March 17, 2018, 2:27 AM · ...just had a thought. speaking of liking lower tension, how 'bout Vision titanium Orchestra. I believe they have fairly significantly lower tension than all the other visions. I've tried them but didn't work very well on the fiddle I had at the time. thought they sounded pretty nice tho.
March 17, 2018, 8:43 AM · I have only used Titanium Solo, and despite the above average tension, they worked well enough, and do not require that much pressure to play or get the sound going. Depends on your violin and preferences. The only thing is that they woke my violin's lone wolf on G's high C, which is not an uncommon place to play on-I can always work around it (I usually have to when I use synthetics), but would prefer it wasn't there. It's more likely you won't have too many trouble with Titanium Orchestra tension at all if you liked the Solos, but perhaps you don't "need" the orchestra version. Maybe try them at some point. The Titanium Solo is the one set I like a lot from Thomastik, in addition to the old "reference" Dominant (which indeed I haven't played on for many, many years.)

(I haven't used Infelds Blue or Red in what seem eons either-though I never thought they were "bad". Never got into the Pi bandwagon, no matter how many respected musicians love them-the price seems absurd and unwarranted to me. I like the Titanium Solo expensive E, so do not believe me a brand loyalist or hater either.)

Maybe I should myself try these Titanium Orchestra one day, but I am too enamored with gut to try too many synthetic sets at this point. I do believe the latter have their use, however.

Often "Solo" and "Orchestra" labels are overrated-the violinist can make most sets sound soloistic or to "blend in", with proper technique. No Solo set will help a player sound "soloistic" without having that ability first (though I prefer to have ample reserves of power myself-just not with too much tension.)

March 17, 2018, 1:00 PM · Incidentally, sometimes for amusement, I intentionally tune a few cents flat and the sound can sometimes be really good (but not for ensembles!!) . Sometimes better than pitch.

Never met a "D" I liked.

I'm confused about sounding point. Should I pay strict attention? Sometimes I notice that I'm chasing notes all over!

Edited: March 18, 2018, 8:22 AM · In my pocket music dictionary* there is a table of tuning pitches from the late 13th century to the present day. The oldest tunings are usually from existing church organs that retain their original pipes. Tunings for A in this table vary wildly between 506 and 377, and seem to be based on the tunings of local churches. The current A440 was set at an international conference in 1939, but in some places it has since tended to drift higher.

In the table A415 is notable for its absence, the closest tunings listed in the Baroque period being A408 and A422. So why apparently no A415 in the Baroque period? I think it is because A415 is a modern artefact chosen because it is conveniently a semitone below A440, making it easier for a continuo harpsichordist to transpose a semitone as necessary and for the string players to tune to the harpsichord. The harpsichordist may do the transposition manually, or the harpsichord may have a lever that moves the strings along or back a semitone relative to the keyboard. Electronic harpsichords would manage all this digitally instead of mechanically.

*Dictionnaire de Musique, par Roland de Candé.
ISBN 2-02-000297-3.
The table of tuning pitches is in the Diapason section.

Edited: March 18, 2018, 4:05 AM · Adalberto: interesting that you should mention a woken wolf. The EPG G that I recently put on (the G that allegedly contributed to my wrist sprain) woke a wolf on C# note on D string. it was never there with any other string, and went away when I replaced the G.

Darlene: what do you mean by 'sounding point' and 'chasing notes'

Edited: March 19, 2018, 10:59 AM · ~Darlene,-- If your D-string works better tuned a little flat, then that string is a candidate for the low-tension version. "Sounding-point" is probably a synonym for Carl Flesch' "point of contact" The ideal, best, sounding spot to set the bow hair varies with both the length and thickness of the string. Among experienced players it becomes instinctive. Tone production is difficult because we have to find a balance of three independent variables; bow speed, weight, and point of contact. ~jq
March 19, 2018, 1:23 PM · I'm not sure how relevant this is, but I read somewhere, or was told, that the "sweet spot" on a piano string where the hammer is designed to strike is 1/9th of the distance along the string from one end of the string.

Applying that to the open A on one of my violins, that 1/9th equates to 37mm from the bridge, which visually happens to be just short of the top of the f-hole. That is the "sounding-point" on the violin, equivalent of the piano string's "sweet spot", and where one tends to bow most of the time on an open string. As you play higher notes up the string so you'll subconsciously move the sounding-point closer to the bridge at a new 1/9th distance to maintain the same quality of sound.

There are occasions of course where you'll deliberately bow closer than 1/9th to the bridge to get a brighter, more intense sound, or further away towards the finger-board for a more muted quality.

March 19, 2018, 3:02 PM · I also read about that 1/9 number. That top of the f-hole spot is probably right for the open G-string. For the open E, it is closer to the bridge. Adding extra weight or leverage moves the sweet spot closer to the bridge. Too much weight over the fingerboard cracks the sound. Too little pressure near the bridge gets into ponticello, and so on.
March 20, 2018, 6:24 AM · 1/9 is the position of the 9th harmonic (the open string is the 1st harmonic, for the avoidance of doubt), which is 3 octaves + 1 whole tone above the open string. So, on the E string it will be an F# that is beyond the top note on the piano.

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