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Mendy Smith

Another Week, Another Bow

February 11, 2011 at 3:24 AM

This week I spent more time with bow #1 (the lightest of the four I have on trial). 

During orchestra rehearsal, we finally got to a part that required col lengo.  I did not feel comfortable trying this one technique on a bow that I did not own, so I played the section on the edge of the hair with a little staccato instead.  My stand partner for that evening tried to instruct me on the proper way to do col lengo, and I got a "look" from the conductor as well.  But when I explained that the bow I was using was on trial, all questions ceased and during break everyone wanted to see the bows I had on trial. 

After two long rehearsals, my arm did not feel tired in the slightest.  Fast passages were much easier.  I had to use a bit more arm weight when crossing from a higher string to a lower one on the up-bow than I did with bow #4 to get the lower string to speak at the tip.  Sudden dynamic changes were easier as well as staccato sections.  In chamber music rehearsal, the piece for three violas sounded sweet and did not overpower the other two parts (I'm playing the top line). 

I've been trying these bows with Helicore strings.  This weekend, I'll switch back to the Dominants that I have used for years and see/hear what happens.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on February 11, 2011 at 9:14 AM

Mendy, I listen for the same things you do when I'm buying a new bow.  I also listen to them while I'm practicing to find my weaknesses and work to correct them. 

Take off those Heliocores! My luthier generally puts them on beginners' violins because they sound brighter than most strings.  I don't like them on my violin, and one of my more advanced students gets downright angry at the mention of them.  I don't like the words "bright" and "dark" for describing violin and viola sounds, but the viola's sound is often described as dark.  I would think that Heliocores and violas would be incompatible.  I'm beginning to learn to play the viola, and I had the luthier change the Heliocore strings to Pirastro Tonicas before I took the instrument home.  If I had a little more money, I'd buy some Dominants.  I'm looking forward to hearing what happens when you play with Dominants with your new bows..

From Mendy Smith
Posted on February 12, 2011 at 1:36 AM


I put the heavy gage Dominants back on Hilda and I think she may even forgive me for experimenting on her ;)  The dominants have so many more overtones.

However I will say that the Helicore strings didn't sound so bad.  They were surprisingly rich for steel strings and had a fast response. 

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on February 12, 2011 at 9:10 AM

Have you tried Pirastro Tonicas on your viola?  If so, what do you think of them?

From Lisa Van Sickle
Posted on February 12, 2011 at 6:24 PM

Mendy, your current blog about strings doesn't currently accept comments.  Have you tried Obligatos?  They seem to be the "it" string for violists for the past few years. 

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