Experimenting with wires as String Replacements
Hi guys, it's me, the guy with the fake name here.
As you all know, I love writing blogs on Violinist.com and I always have something to share. (Often times very disagreeable and stupid)
This time, I have something definitely stupid. I've recently been trying to find some kind of common metal or plastic wire to try and imitate or replace the steel and perlon strings.
Of course, first thing people around me told me that I was crazy, and would most likely damage my violin or something, which is why I'm using a cheaper violin as my guinea pig.
I've so far strung a copper/nylon intertwined based wire from an broken Samsung charger, a pure copper intertwined wire, and a copper intertwined wrapped in aluminium foil.
My results for these were that they all could only tune up to a D pitch before they broke.
The copper/nylon one, I had accidentally untwined it and it started fraying, but was still playable. I found that it actually sounded like the steel D strings you could get from like D'Addario Preludes. The same applied with the pure intertwined D.
As for the one copper with the aluminium foil wrap, it completely failed and was very muted actually, as if I had kept the rubber layer of the wire I had extracted it from.
Just something that I've been doing. (BTW if any of you remember my fake Dominant post, they sounded like steel strings, like Red Label quality.)
Any of your thoughts on my string experimenting?
I'm personally curious what tennis strings would sound like, but those are too thick for violin. Maybe you can try badminton strings?
The first question that comes to mind is why?
@John that... is an idea that I haven't thought of
^ Why not? :P
One thing I've heard about purely metal strings is that the pitch bends very easily with any pressure from the bow. I've never used them, so I can't say for sure, but I think Fiddlerman has a video where he can bend the pitch of the string an entire semitone just with bow pressure.
Christopher, that is very true with certain crappy metal strings, especially lower-pitched ones. Violin Kiddu, your experiment sounds cool to me. It's weird and quirky, but it's cool. I have also heard of people in third-world countries making orchestral stringed instruments out of trash materials and using wires for strings.
experimenting is cool, good luck...
Christopher I think that is Simon Fisher in that video
Early harpsichords and clavichords could have brass strings, but pianos have tempered spring steel ones, because of the higher tension.
As long as this experiment does not take up valuable practise time, it can do no harm.
@Adrian flattened? Wow
An interesting experiment. Just make sure the wires do not cut or entangle bow hairs.
I saw an old time banjo player on TV who used fishing line for strings, using different test (strength) for the different pitches.
A secondary question: does anyone know if steel piano wire of the correct gauge could be used as a violin E?
I don't think there is piano wire thin enough. But steel guitar strings work. I have used them to convert a 3/4 size violin into a piccolo violin using a extra thin top string. And they are dirt cheap.
Might it be too stiff? But I suspect that violin E's are spring steel rather than just wire.
My first thoughts on it are that this IS an area where recent technologies have been applied.
"Large string manufacturers like D'Addario employ engineers full time to look at just these kinds of things."
Good question. Pull apart a modern synthetic and they're basically a Dominant copy. For all the hype nothing has really improved, neither do they last any longer. E-strings are just a piece of wire, some of the best have been around even longer than Dominants.
@Timothy Smith I know copper and bronze are rather soft metals, but since the wires I am using right now are actually several rather thick copper wires, they're actually holding out right now
Suppliers like Malcolm Rose sell all sorts of wires.
"A secondary question: does anyone know if steel piano wire of the correct gauge could be used as a violin E?"
Violin strings are made to furnish a given tention, if you use wires you can put the instrument under too much tension, ruining it.
Michael Praetorius tells us in his Syntagma Musicum II (De Organographia) from the year 1619 that violins were, rarely, strung with brass and steel. He reports that these violins have a quieter and sweeter sound than the usual ones that everyone was familiar with. [page 48 in the original edition 'VIOLN DE BRACIO']
I may be wrong, but I have doubts about the "steel" strings that Praetorius mentioned. Steel is basically an alloy of iron and carbon, the proportions and the process both critical for a successful product. Praetorius's "steel" wasn't the steel we have known since the 19th century.
For those who wonder why we can't have better strings as the result of current engineering tech I would say it's planned failure.
Why are you assuming we need "better" strings?
Violins in 1619? I think I don't know my violin history...
Trevor, I bet you are right about the steel, maybe it was a low carbon steel, closer to pure iron. Kiddu, you might want to experiment with strings intended for harpsichords and clavichords. (edit: just noticed that Bud Scott has already suggested this above).
'Violins in 1619?' Kiddu, if you want to learn a little bit about early violins, just look up Andrea Amati and Gasparo da Salo, that will get you started...
Aha, a fellow string-experimenter! Personally I have been attempting to make strings out of the guts of a wide variety of kinds of cat, to determine which gives the best tone (depending on breed, fur colour, diet etc).
Companies design a life expectancy into their products all the time. I don't believe strings are any different.So yes, this is planned failure.
I have trouble believing that companies design a life expectancy into violin strings.
Maybe a better way if saying it is, they probably don't care if the strings only last for a year.
When I was looking for suitable guitar strings to use for my conversion of a 3/4 to soprano violin I found this string tension calculator very useful:
Eh, I wouldn't be SO sure about that, Scott Cole. It's been shown that plenty of companies have designed planned obsolescence into their products. Thinking about it from their perspective, it makes a lot of sense. If, as a company, you could make 10 million per year instead of 5 million per year by "allowing" your strings to only last effectively for 6 months instead of 12 months, your shareholders would be....displeased if you didn't. At least, it makes sense from companies who have already established their brand, since people are going to buy their products either way.
Bo, that String Calculator is a great resource! I just used it to play around with possible "Praetorius" wire stringing schemes. I found that the soft iron strings would not be able to stand the tension of the E string, even at A415. So it seems that Praetorius really meant it when he called for steel rather than iron. Perhaps something like these Tinned Harpsichord Wire strings, as are available from www.fortepiano.com would be similar to what Praetorius was familiar with: "Tinned Harpsichord Wire is a tinned low carbon steel wire of low tensile strength, often referred to as Zuckermann Wire or Tinned Iron Wire."