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Mendy Smith

The String Factor

February 12, 2011 at 5:23 AM

I have used the Dominant medium gauge strings for several years and switched to the heavy gauge strings about a year ago to get a little more volume and richness in tone.  Over the holidays I started experimenting with different brand strings: Zylex & Helicore .  The strings that have been on my viola for the past month have been Helicore.  The Zylex were too harsh sounding on my viola, but the Helicore were surprisingly warm sounding for a steel string with a very fast response.

But after working with the trial bows for some time now, I realized that I was evaluating them on a set of strings which for me are experimental. So this evening I switched back to the heavy gauge Dominant strings.  The difference under my ear was astonishing.  The question now is how does this affect my bow preferences?

I started with bow # 4, the heaviest of the four and was nearly blown away by the sound coming from my instrument.  It was crisp, clear and with all the overtones that the Dominants could give, fast and slow passages alike.  It was like having a cello under my ear.  But after an hour, I starting to get that warning tingling sensation in my bow arm, so I stopped for a break.

I then tried bow #1, the lightest.  I did not expect that it would be able to handle the thick C string, but it did surprisingly well, even at the tip of the bow and fast passages.  It responded well to staccato and sudden dynamic changes even with the thicker strings.  After an hour with the lighter bow, my arm didn't tingle. 

I have one more round of rehearsals and lessons over the next few days before I need to decide what to do next when my trial period expires.  So far bow #1 is the favorite.  I'll be making a trip down to the local music shop this weekend to see if there are any new offerings in the price range of the bows I'm trying out now.  The next few days will be very interesting.