Why is it so hard to make a decent E string ?

March 22, 2012 at 05:34 PM · Why is it so hard to make a decent E string ? I have Pirastro Piranito strings fitted to one of my violins and I have just fitted a set of D'Addario Pro Arte strings to the other violin. In both cases the cheap factory-fitted E strings that came with the violins were better than the much more expensive strings.

I can understand why it is difficult to make a good G, D and A string ( because of the cores and windings) but surely it cannot be so difficult to make an E string. The Gold Label E by Pirastro only costs $4 and the Jargar E string is $5 so it cannot be that hard.

Which would be the better E : the Gold Label or the Jargar ? I notice that many professionals use both so it probably depends on what sounds best with a particular violin but all opinions are welcome.

Replies (25)

March 22, 2012 at 07:35 PM · It all applies to taste. Also on the instrument. It the E' string sounds to brilliant try a darker sounding strings. The Pro Arte and Piranito are both steel based strings so it matches with the steel E' string. The violin makes a major contribution to tonal qualities. For instances a student violin cannot sound as well as professional grade instruments because of the way it's built. Another thing is that each string that you put on changes the whole tone. I have tried the Pro Arte and it seems like you want the balanced sound, those "Professional" grade strings are quite powerful and brilliant and often "Whistle" A good E' String for your set would be the Kaplan Non-Whistling E string. For the Jargar Forte I think it would make your instrument very powerful and bright. The Gold label is very sweet and brilliant. Though it would help it you can tell us how your violin sounds like and what you want to achieve.

March 22, 2012 at 10:53 PM · New violin needed?

March 22, 2012 at 10:57 PM · "Kaplan Non-Whistling E string"

This is a dreadful string. I prefer a better E string - even if it whistles ...

March 22, 2012 at 11:01 PM · Piranito are considered as hard bright steel-cored strings; if they sound good on your violin, it is not surprising that the nylon-cored Pro Arte (with their lighter, sweeter steel E) will be disappointing: they are a darker sounding, softer set, suitable for sensitive well-aged instruments, as a replacement for wound gut strings.

To have the same brilliance as Piranito, but with more variety and subtlety of tone, there is Jargar (a little stiff) or Larsen or Helicore, with a flexible tressed steel core. All three will have a louder, brighter E than Pro Arte, Aricore, or even Dominant, whose E is fine wire wound with aluminium - very sweet and responsive, and my personal favorite (although I seem to be in a minority of one!!)

March 23, 2012 at 04:20 PM · I second Peter. The "Kaplan non-whistling E string" does not whistle as claimed but has a thin, weak tone and does not project. It also dies in high positions and has a tendency to snap. I find Pirastro Gold the best compromise between tone and whistle.

Cheers Carlo

March 23, 2012 at 05:18 PM · As patrick says, it's a matter of taste. You will have to keep trying

them until you find one you like. This is what I have done the past

few years, and so far, Lenzner's Goldbrokat medium comes closest

to being the best all around E String there is for most violins.

March 23, 2012 at 05:38 PM · Patrick : I just want a smooth mellow tone for my violin. I only play for myself so I am not interested in projection or volume. I am quite happy with the G, D and A Pro-Arte strings. My violin now sounds much better than I expected it would.

Scott : Why do I neeed a new violin ? I just bought this one ! It seems a bit extreme to sell a violin just because you do not like the sound of the E string.

March 23, 2012 at 07:53 PM · @Brian for a good violin to play for yourself that offers a warm darker sound I would suggest this.........Yes this might be crazy but I had a spare bridge with a higher arch on the Bass Side I fitted that on and the mellow rich sound came out, but at the same time mellowing the Treble side. Although here are some solutions.

E'String Bridge Protecter

Most E' String comes with a little tube that you place on the bridge, if the E' string is to bright and harsh sounding try putting this on the bridge to mellow out the sound.

Corelli Crystal E' String

As stated here http://snapshotdesign.ipaperus.com/SharMusic/SHARSpringFlyer2012/

on the first page about E' strings Mr. Avsharian decided that the Corelli Crystal E' String, doesn't whistle, is powerful, bright, smooth when played alone, clear, and produces a nice ringing tone. There is also a string chart to help decide what you want your violin to sound like when you change strings.

Vison Strings

A lot of people really like the Vison Strings, but now it seems like the manufacturer's quality isn't as great as it was before. They are warm like gut-strings without the low tension ( Some people like it, but I really hate it) tuning disadvantages, and short lifetime. The E-string however I had never tried. Sorry if this went of track a little

E' String review

Gold E' Strings like the Pirastro Gold are very powerful and clear in the upper positions a very nice kick to the dark, warm sound of the Pro'Arte this is a standard in a shop near me on all of their instruments ( Except Rentals) Seems like everyone is content with this string, it's very sweet and matches with tons of string brands.

Hill E string is a nice mellow string, but very sweet sounding. W.E Hills and sons were a very successful company, I actually only liked this string with the Hill Rosin. Their rosin is one of the many that are favored. Although it lacks projection it would be a nice match to the Pro'Arte

Westminster is the most harsh E' String I've ever heard but people love it for the power. I don't reccomend this one.

Jargar is a powerful string with both Steel and Gold qualities this string and the Pirastro Gold are the most Favorited string. This would be best for playing in large concert halls.

Kaplan E' String solutions are a nice string made from the same company as Pro'Arte although a weak string it doesn't whistle. I know that some people use this for recording and studios with pop, country, western music. Not very great for classical due to the fact that in higher positions it tends to snap. The Loop E' tends to snap faster than the ball end.

Overall you should try Pirastro Gold and the Jargar E' String that aren't very expensive. Also I've heard that Pirastro made a universal E' String that fits every string sound. But I haven't heard reviews you might want to check that out and give us a review. As said so wonderfully by Peter Bahng " Violins, Bows, Strings, Rosin is only a matter of taste."

March 24, 2012 at 03:13 AM · Patrick : I have placed an order with an ebay company for a number of E strings : Gold Label, Lenzner and Corelli. I think I should find something to suit amongst all those. Sarah Chang uses the Jargar E string so I think that will be too loud and powerful for what I want ; it is more suited to the concert hall.

I always use the E string protector on the bridge. I shudder to think what it would sound like without it !

I do not really want to alter my bridge anymore as I have spent the last fortnight taking 3mm off the top. The bridge was ridiculously high when I first received the violin. The action is perfect now and I am reluctant to experiment with it at this stage.

I suspect that a slight sound post adjustment would probably yield some good results but that is beyond me at this stage.

March 24, 2012 at 06:06 PM · My strong hunch is that the difference in sound between all of these E strings is greatly overblown. Anyway even if they are so different I don't know how you can decouple that from the individual proclivities of your own violin.

March 24, 2012 at 10:53 PM · I'd like to put a bid in for the Olive gold E.. clear and clean and also sweet. OTOH most E strings sound great on my violin ...

March 25, 2012 at 03:18 AM · @patrick: I wouldn't call the westminster harsh!? Especially the medium version has a very clear but pure and focussed sound on my violin. Not overpowering the other strings at all. If there would be a string that I call harsh it would be the westminster heavy, the jargar forte and the infeld blue.

March 25, 2012 at 04:14 AM · In my opinion, there is no such thing as "harsh"... if anything, I feel that "harsh" strings have more sound potential. I personally find it easier to pull back and make a relatively brash, strident string sound sweet, rather than pushing a sweeter, warmer string sound stronger or more violent.

IMO you can never go wrong on most typical violins with a set of Dominants (with the aluminum D) and either the Jargar Forte or Westminster heavy E strings, or a Goldbrokat medium or heavy E.

I consider Goldbrokat to have a warmer sound that still projects easily.. if you want to push it even farther in that direction (which I wouldn't recommend), the string I'd use would be Pirastro's Universal no. 1 E string; it's a very warm-sounding wound E string that reminds me of the D'addario Solutions E string, but without the drawbacks.

I haven't tried it in a while, but I also remember the Larsen E string as being one of the warmest I ever used. A few years ago, I was at a stage in my playing when I liked a warm E string, and this was one of my favorites, along with the Goldbrokat and the Gold Label E (which, despite the name, is a plain steel E string; I think I spotted some confusion on that matter earlier on in this thread).

March 25, 2012 at 11:13 AM · Brian, I am not with dominant strings. i play Evah pirazzi a/d and Larsen tzigane g. I tried both westminster forte and jargar forte. To me Jargar forte is similar to the infeld blue and really too "harsh" on my violin. But the westminster heavy was also a little bit harsh (sorry for using this term over and over, I hope you understand) but more clean on my violin. The simple reason, why I am back with the medium westminster is, that my violin nearly exploded under my ear with the heavy gauge. Wich is a nice potential to have but makes practicing without ear protection an dangerous habit. Back with the medium string my violin is more warm and a little less edgy in sound. But still very powerful. But I would like some string between the medium and heavy westminster, I think if I play something with accompaniment like solo concerto I would switch back to the heavy westm. again.

There are so many different E-strings, that it is hard to tell wich one is the "best". I would say its a question of playstyle and taste. I had times, where I loved golden oliv, Eudoxa and Larsen E-s, so I come from the warmer side of sound. I loved to play wound gut 3 years ago also. But it really also depends on the violin wich string to chose. My old violin would not sound so great with the setup of my new violin.

March 25, 2012 at 08:06 PM · Mr. Streuff,

Of course I respect your views, but I have long ago stopped to care about my ear in regards to the violin being "too loud". Simply put, I ALWAYS have ringing (and tinnitus) ears, especially after many hours of practicing. Although many prefer using tamer strings, and others do use some sort of hearing protection, I revel on listening the the "full glory" of my violin's tone in my ear (granted, I am 100% sure I don't have normal hearing by now.)

I am using all Starks on a loud violin (yes, my hearing is not good these days, hah!) The Oliv E is, however, not as in your face as the heavy Goldbrokat .28 or the Westminster .27.5, but plenty loud without any shrillness (it indeed produces a very beautiful tone, although it's not timid in the least.) That said, some violins/violinists do not need the most "powerful" strings to project well, and medium Es are widely used to good effect everywhere. But yes, I tend to prefer "reserve power" over too much sweetness.

March 25, 2012 at 09:19 PM · Soundwise I am thinking the same. It feels good to have some extra power. But I play sometimes with my left ear near to the violin and at some points I had to stop practicing because my ear hurted. Also after practicing it felt way more numb then usual on the left side. When I hold my head straight, wich usually I do during "practice" (but not during playing necessarily) I don't have such a big problem with the loudness and enjoy the power of heavy E strings. In fact I will change before the next bigger concert I have. But I like more to practice without earplugs these days, because you can work different on sound quality then.

So again. I really like and need a powerful violin under my ear, its very important to have some kind of boost availible. But to feel how my left ear is diminuishing hearing on a daily basis scares me alot considering that I think I could have a long way to go as a musician. I would be interested in testing the db-number wich my violin can produce under the ear. Maybe I will go to a lab once, where they can measure it. My violin is really the most powerful violin I know and have played yet. But its like with rock music, if you would always practice E-guitar loud in your studio you will get numb way too soon, but having the possibility of a roomfilling sound is totally a good thing.

March 26, 2012 at 03:17 AM · Simon, your post made me wonder if anyone has ever tried placing a microphone on the other side of the room and listening to one's self through very well-sealed headphones or ear buds. That way you would get an "accurate" appraisal of what the listener will hear and you can control the volume. This is different from having the violin "under the ear." Of course the microphone cannot be so far away that there would be a noticeable delay. Even 11 feet away produces a delay of 10 milliseconds which might be significant, even if there is no delay in the electronics. I'll have to think about this more.

As far as E strings I think Brian will solve his problem by just trying a few.

March 26, 2012 at 07:17 AM · A few thoughts.

For my own private pleasure, a wound E (aluminium on very fine steel) gives a sweet, silvery tone, and needs a long, light bow-stroke. The only ones I know are Dominant and certain Eudoxa. (I live in France). Helicore, too, but the tension seems higher.

I change to a plain steel E (Pro Arte, Crystal, Jargar etc.) when I need soloistic "projection".

I then use a Helicore A (tressed steel core) to avoid the sudden change of tone from A to E.

I use a ball of cotton wool in my left ear for two reasons:

- The agressive high frequencies are reduced (not removed) and I seem to hear the violin from a distance with better judgement of my tone;

- A violin played loudly produces nearly 100dB under the ear (70dB a few feet away). Unlike many violinists, my hearing is still intact (at 63yrs) apart from the usual losses due to age.

I notice many musicians opting for brighter instruments as they get older: to compensate for high-frequency hearing loss?....

The violin E and the viola A are often harsh because they are on the corner of the bridge: try a dot of blu-tack on the corner for a (very) slight muting effect.

March 26, 2012 at 10:54 AM · Paul, that is an interesting Idea. in Fact I can try this today using my zoom and my closed akg headphones! It will certainly be interesting!

March 26, 2012 at 09:22 PM · John Cadd : the weather here is very humid and it has been raining for about 4 weeks straight.

I think a new bridge will be required eventually and a soundpost adjustment may also be a good idea but as the nearest luthier is over 1,000 miles away then these things will have to wait. Trying a few E strings is an inexpensive experiment which will have to suffice for now.

March 27, 2012 at 01:02 AM · Simon I wonder if I can do it too with my TASCAM and I have AKG headphones too but they will have to be VERY sealed headphones to block out your violin that's right under your ear. Let me know how it goes.

March 27, 2012 at 01:40 AM · Use sound cancelling earphones - Bose has a pair that cut out even transient noise...

March 27, 2012 at 07:30 AM · OR become a conductor and then you will be oblivious to everything ...

March 27, 2012 at 09:15 AM · When practicing, I sometimes use Sennheiser headphones with a Zoom mic about 8 feet away. However, I am aware that mic+'phones can colour to some degree the sound I hear. I suspect this will be true of most set-ups short of the most up-market. I usually find it more convenient to use a bit of cotton wool in my left ear.

Currently, on one of my violins I'm using a set of Larsen Tziganes. I rather like the Larsen E and find it up there with Goldbrokat and Hill.

March 27, 2012 at 09:53 AM · Rather than getting involved in lots of electronics why not just do some practise and listen to what happens in the room? It's a bit like a writer sharpening 40 pencils so that he/she will not run out - just to find the creative juices have dried up and they can only write a couple of sentences.

If we talk less about what we are hearing and instead change our playing to make it sound the way musically we want it, then surely this is the best course of action?

I suppose talking and writing posts is easier than getting down to the nitty gritty though. I'm doing it myself at this moment.

Back to Rider quartet and those bl**dy triplets at a crotchet = 160 - that's the speed the Alban Berg take the first movement ...

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