Written by The Weekend Vote
Published: October 24, 2014 at 5:18 PM [UTC]
Of course we need all our strings, and we appreciate them differently, depending on the music. But writing about Giora Schmidt and his quest for a modern instrument this week, I was struck with one of his preferences: that he wanted a violin with power on the D string, for those special D-string moments, like the beginning of the melody in the first movement of the Tchaikovsky concerto. It made me think, which string do I like best on my own violin, and why? When I pick up another violin, what do I want to hear from each string, and what would be a deal-breaker, if I didn't like it?
So I thought it would make for a nice vote this week: which is your favorite string? Here are a few thoughts on the various strings. First, that part of the Tchaik with the nice D-string moment -- here is Josh Bell playing the piece at the 2013 BBC Proms with the National Youth Orchestra of the U.S.; the part I'm speaking about is at 3:13:
Some people don't like the brightness of the E string, and yet check out 16:08 in the video above -- what other instrument than the violin can reach those height and still sound gorgeous?
One might have a little "thing" for the G-string (no silly jokes please!) because of moments like the beginning of the 2nd movement of the Franck Sonata -- behold Soyoung Yoon playing it in 2009 at the St. Elizabeth competition (wish I could tell you the pianist!):
Of course, the A string seems to be at the center of our universe, the beloved note that tunes the orchestra. Should it be 440, 442, higher? Do we think much about this string, or is it just a workhorse for us, between the juicy high and low notes?
And I've included the C string, as we are all one family here in the string section. Many love those rich deep tones better than anything else.
So please chime in on your favorite string, and let us know why you picked what you picked! (If you like more than one string, and yes we all do, remember that this is just for fun!)
As for pitch, for heaven's sake can we please just leave it at 440?
And by the way, Laurie, I absolutely LOVE the Weekend Vote. I think that is a terrific feature.
As for tuning, I do prefer tuning to A 442 or even 443. 440 really sounds low to me, especially as you descend to the lower strings and the pitch gets progressively lower with each 5th. It's quite noticeable. Overall, I would say flatness sticks out to the ear more than sharpness, so I think tuning to 442 (or to a D major chord rather than minor on the piano) will give the bottom strings the bump up they need to not sound flat.
About the Franck, that's the second, not the last movement. :)
Especially when a resonant note is played that activates the string below, that really hits the sweet spot for me.
I've always liked a dark, viola-type sound in the contralto register. One of my fiddles is especially good for this with darker-sounding wound gut or composite core G. I have to watch that I don't overdose on sul G tones -- one-string scales, arpeggios, improv's. Besides playing violin, I also work out a lot, and I begin to feel the demands on the right shoulder if I play too long on the G without a break.
But I also seek brilliance in the high tones -- without shrillness or over-loudness. So I'm picky about which E strings I use on my different fiddles.
Regarding the A tuning: I can tolerate up to 442 as a listener, but not higher. As a player, I tune to 440 -- unless I'm playing with a piano that's off. Thank goodness for the singers -- notably the late Renata Tebaldi -- who have put their collective foot down on the matter of pitch inflation.
In the latter, particular case, it depends on which instrument in my collection. In general, one might say that it is the E which immediately distinguishes itself most from the viola and cello, where we can soar to the heights. But, assuming a violin with a very good G, or a very even violin, I'd pick the G. The G has (ideally, again depending on a particular instrument) a richness, color and depth that makes it most convincing in many cases when played alone for long stretches. Think of Paganini's solos for the G string alone, the Willhelm arrangement of the mvt. from the Bach suite in D for G string alone - and in fact known as the "Air on the G String", the long opening of the Ravel "Tzigane", the wonderful passage in the Sibelius 1st mvt. right after the 2nd cadenza, and the long opening statement of the 2nd mvt.- all on the G. These are not flukes. It's hard to imagine any other single string sustaining interest like the G. Yet, again, I'd hate to choose a favorite limb.
To me the 4 strings represent respectively, the 4 voices of a mixed choir: the G - bass; D - tenor; A - alto and E- soprano. Nice to have a whole chorus at our fingertips!
As for the pitch, I've sometimes wondered about the newer style of nylon or perlon core strings. We are told on the packaging not to tune above the correct pitch or the core begins to tear, thereby presumably shortening the life of the string. Can anyone expand on this and just what is meant by correct pitch?
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