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Mendy Smith

New Strings Attached

March 26, 2010 at 2:16 AM

I'm a huge fan of Dominant strings.  I've been using them exclusively on my viola for many years.  At the rate I play, I have to change them at least every three months, and in the busy season, every two months or so.

When it came time to replace my strings, I went out on a limb and did something different.  Instead of the medium gauge strings I always get, I got the heavier (stark) gauge. It's not as dramatic sounding as changing to a completely different brand, however the difference in tone is amazing. 

The thicker gauge strings brought a new richness in sound - like a milk chocolate vs. the white chocolate sound I had before.  They project more and have more  "body", something that the medium gauged strings never produced.  The difference was big enough to be noticed by my fellow violists in the orchestra.  The only downside is that it takes a bit more effort in faster passages on the lower strings to get a clear tone - bowing "into" the strings more.  It took much effort to begin with, and now it takes just a little bit more. 

So far, I think the additional bowing effort is worth it due to the payback in tone production.  Most of what I play does not have fast passages on the C string.  Brandenburg #6 being the main exception, which I don't plan on performing in the near future. 

From Don Roth
Posted on March 26, 2010 at 1:05 PM

Do you find that you are using more rosin with the heavy set or is increased bow pressure/attack doing the job ?


Posted on March 26, 2010 at 3:50 PM

Good! I like DOMINANTS too, with the exception of the A string that I replace for a Jargar or Larsen. But I've been using EVAH PIRAZZI with a Larsen A on the violas I make now.

Yes, the response may get more difficult with heavy gauge strings, but it's up to the player making his decisions.

From Lisa Van Sickle
Posted on March 26, 2010 at 5:22 PM

Isn't it interesting how even a small change like this makes us re-evaluate so many things: in this case the ease of tone production vs. richer sound, the need for Cing agility, etc.  I guess any set up is a series of compromises, and it's good to revisit the choices once in a while.  I've been using Obligato viola strings- love them there, hate them on my violin.  What else have you tried, Mendy?

From Graham Clark
Posted on March 26, 2010 at 8:35 PM

On violin I always used to use a heavy G with medium D and A. The weight of the G on the bass bar added something to the other strings.


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