What are some (preferably less expensive) violin string options for an intermediate-advanced violin student? My first teacher had my violin always strung with Dominants, of which I've read as a good middle-of-the-road. I've had a bit of a "quantum leap" in terms of sensitivity to technique/etc after I've changed teachers for the past year and a few months ago I've realized how the Dom. E is pretty horrendous. Since then, I've gone with the (standard?) Dominant-lower-three and Goldbrokat E combo.
And, while risking the post running too long, I was more specifically wondering if there were strings that would help with the tone quality when the violin is played softer? My instrument's forte is, well, playing forte (excuse the pun). It's got a fairly bright sound. Unfortunately, softer playing makes it sound thin, to put it flatly. I've tried a lot to fix it, in terms of my own technique, but again, I might be missing something. Oops.
I know opinions vary widely on this kind of thing, but listening to opinions is always beneficial before making a decision. c: Suggestions?
I've used Pro Artes to calm down a harsh instrument, however my violin now doesn't seem to like them, or dominants for that matter.
(assuming that technique is not your problem here)
Strings won't make a dark fiddle sound bright.
They won't make a bright fiddle dark.
They won't make an unresponsive fiddle responsive.
They won't make a warm fiddle brilliant.
The only thing that will make your bright instrument not bright is a luthier adjustment. Soundpost/Bridge, Fry technique etc. Sometimes a bright fiddle is just bright. Not every instrument can be adjusted to your liking; there are limits. But if your instrument is as finicky as you say(technique not helping) than it is highly doubtful that the problem is due to string choice. If you take your instrument to a good luthier and tell them exactly what your problem is and what you want, they will let you know if it is something they can work with.
Strings can complement instruments, but they cannot CHANGE instruments. I'd strongly recommend getting your instrument checked out or replaced. Violin is difficult enough without having major hurdles in the way.
Light gauge strings can help take the edge off. Corelli Crystals are inexpensive, easy going strings.
You may want to have the soundpost moved back a touch as well, it may help (you never know until you try).
I have found Corelli Crystals to be overly warm and like a heavy touch. Yes, they will help unbrighten the instrument to a degree, but also seem to make an instrument seem stuffed up. If a lighter bowing touch is a problem with Dominants, it will likely be even worse with strings that don't really like a light touch. I have a strong preference to using a neutral sort of string, like Dominants or Tonica. They seem to let the voice of the instrument come through naturally, and offer ease of playability.
I agree with Aaron.
On the other hand, violin can never be too loud.
If I understand correctly, you are unhappy with the sound quality when playing piano. That might be altogether another issue.
Try using a different bow.
Thanks for all the responses. I will definitely check out the Pro Artes and Corelli. And yeah, maybe there is something with my technique. I've been reading up on it and have been dying to try out some suggestions but sadly I am separated from my instrument tonight :(
And I'm not quite sure how I will manage to try out more bows, though that'd be fun. The nearest quality violin shop is >1 hour away and my mum is not inclined to drive all the way or pay for a new bow, I'd expect. Oh well. I'll see how much smooth-talking I can do. c;
Not long ago I ran across a video on youtube of someone playing the same violin with something like 8 to 10 different sets of strings. The whole video was about 30 minutes long, but included links in the description so you could make quick comparisons. Search "same violin different strings" and you should find it.
My 2 centimes d'€uro:
A violin can be too loud - in a honky, screamy way.
Lower tension strings let the wood "breath", and can allow a more varied but clearer tone.
Pro Arte or Aricore take the edge off an over bright violin.
Crystal or Zyex are cheapest, and the light tension versions might suit you.
The Dominant plain steel E is atrocious, but the aluminium-wound E is lovely - if we learn to bow it properly! (A longer, lighter stroke.)
Just my (long) experience...
Without wanting to get into too much nitty gritty here, but it occurs to me that maybe you have not discovered how to play softly? Bow nearer the fingerboard and use a faster bow with little pressure. Or even try a slower bow near fingerbaord and no pressure.
Experiment is the name of the game!
Adrian, if you mean "brassy" and "strident"? Yes, definitely.
If that is the case. Obligato strings function as a filter for higher frequencies. A bit thicker bridge could also help.
Most of us have been there before..... it is a costly adventure and in most of the cases one ends up at the square one - violin is what it is and changes in setup will not change its essential personality.
Right, so the list of possible strings increases. I've got about seven tabs on my browser open right now. c:
I have been wondering if technique is the problem, and I will presently check once the guests are done with coffee downstairs. I'm sure I've tried most of what you've touched on, but like you said, experimentation never hurts.
I think I should probably clarify that my violin is, like some of you said, often strident in forte, but also has a raspy, breathy quality when playing softly, or up the fingerboard. I've tried to play closer/farther to the bridge, with varying amounts of pressure (while still maintaining piano), less/more bow hairs used, etc etc, but it hasn't accomplished much, from what I can hear. I wonder if it's just under the ear? Anyhow, no excuse to keep trying to figure it out.
I'm due for a check up with my luthier pretty soon so I'll bring up those points. Perhaps it's just me being too picky/getting too used to the professional's recordings with solid technique and expensive violins, ha.
Ack! Now I have to bring the instrument to the luthier. It seems my bridge has begun to bow over towards the tailpiece. It's not leaning, either...
"the violin is what it is and changes in setup will not change its essential personality"
No, but as with ourselves, we can round a few rough edges... Behavioural therapy for violins!
While you are at your luthier's ask him/her to listen to your violin with its current strings and try to suggest some other strings that will achieve the sound you seek. This may also require other adjustments, e.g., soundpost. You have received a lot of well-meaning advice from people who cannot hear your violin with its current strings. Different strings sound different on different violins, and the strings that produce a certain effect on mine might sound awful on yours. Good luck!
Thanks for all the advice, all. And I will be sure to bring up all these points with the luthier. Apparently he's pretty good at what he does so I've got high hopes. c:
This is something I heard from a luthier recently - and something that, as a cellist, I understand easier (cellists are forced into listening to tone very early on cuz our intonation sucks at first): use dark strings with a dark instrument and bright strings on a bright instrument. Which actually makes sense. Trying to make your violin sound "average" or not too bright, not too dark will fight against it. While in my personal life I feel that fighting against your nature is useful and eye-opening, on instruments, it can be highly limiting. That being said... I have bright strings on my dark cello.
Just go get some strings and yeah, it sucks cuz its not cheap, but don't be afraid to fail. Go get some strings.
Changing strings is pretty deep. It's like changing a small part of your soul.
Like has been said, a lot of variables here! I like Pro Arte but Zyex have a more complex tone - definitely takes the Dominant edge off that you mentioned and respond well under piano.
You say your problem is when playing piano the sound is raspy/breathy as in there is more scratch/hiss noise vs actual note played? If so try a grippier rosin like melos dark or andrea solo. Vienna's Best is less grippy but also reduces scratchy sounds.
Cheapest decent synthetic strings I have tried are the new Super Sensitive Red Label Pearl ($25) dont let the price fool you. I prefer them to Dominants. But my favourite strings are Warchal Brilliants and sometimes Evahs
May I insist on lower tension strings, and a wound E. (Plus a re-educated bowing arm?)
What kind of violin is it? A friend of mine has a $190 Chinese violin she got from eBay that is insanely loud but cannot make a decent soft sound no matter how hard I try. I don't think it ever will have a decent pianissimo, no matter what strings are put on it.
Were these the original factory strings? Cheap China violins usually come with all steel strings which only play loud, even a swap to entry level cheap super sensitive reds are better. Have you tried it with synthetic strings? They have a better dynamic range than steel strings (except maybe zyex which is nice but difficult to play soft except on old violins)
Based on my experience....and alot of dollars spent on trying all types/brand of strings (Thank goodness I have kicked the habit)
Violino strings worked for taming my loud, slightly harsh sounding violin. I have tried many others.
My strings are beginning to go false and I think it won't be long until I need to change them, so I'll keep these suggestions in mind. Also, Dominants can get pretty damn expensive, especially when I don't buy a full set (as I use a Goldbrokat E, though I may look into other options..). They also don't last at all after being broken in, which is a huge hassle, and again a pain on the wallet. I think I'll invest in a different set and see what happens once they truly wear down. (My bow has not been rehaired in over two years either...ack)
And to answer some of your questions, the violin I currently use is a Jay Haide à l'ancienne violin, bought at 2,500 USD. It is currently strung with Dom A D G and a Goldbrokat medium E. It's tone qualities were mid-range compared to the other violins offered, but at the time it was mostly my teacher making the decisions. It's a lovely instrument, a high quality Chinese-made student model, but it's only fault seems to be the one I mentioned.
DaDarrio Pro-Artes are affordable, well tempered strings.
I've just dug up a couple old E's from a trial period some months back, when I ditched the Dom E and tried a few strings. I've decided to revisit them for the sake of seeing if my ear's changed at all.
Adrian, you've suggested a wound E and much to my surprise it turns out there was one rolling around my house. It's the "No. 1 Finest Wound E" from Pirastro, and I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the tone. It's got quite an attractive sound. The only problem is that the string I have in my possession is at a medium gauge, which is too much tension for my fingers, like you mentioned. I recall the small shop in my town only had medium gauge but I will be taking a trip to Ifshin soon to get my bow rehaired so I will be sure to inquire about it there.
Also, I happened to have gotten a medium gauge Evah Pirazzi E at one point, which I was more than interested to try, knowing it's reputation. I'd read countless times about the Evahs' power, but I didn't quite understand what that meant until now. Wow. Stunningly focused. The only thing was that it had a bit too much of a bite for my instrument. The depth felt a bit lacking compared to the wound E, and it sounded a bit metallic. I wonder if it stays that way or settles down some, and I might leave them on for the next few days. (Of course, I won't exactly be regularly using Evahs as a set as I am not a professional with a separate budget for expensive strings!) Perhaps the magnitude of its strength is increased when it's played side-by-side by my older Dominants.
One thing's for sure, after trying those two my (corroding) Goldbrokat sounds awfully boring, haha.
I was originally going to suggest, but it sounds like you might just be needed a lighter gauge string. If you like the Dominant set try a light gauge version of it.
the usual dominant e is just a shoddy piece of wire. The company wa sactually giving them away free in Japan so I have dozens of them in my fridge. When I offer them to students for Christmas the look at me like I just threw up in their violin case. I understand the wound version is actually pretty good butam too lazy to try it.
The thing about dominants (a perfectly good string, even for a lot of pros) is they can be use din various combinations with infield blue and infled red. The experimenting can cost a bit but you might find the red helpful on this violin, or not......
You don't need to change whole sets. Any mix is okay.
The titanium Vision strings of various kinds are also excellent.
I also found the Passione to be terrific if you are considering changing to wound gut . The cost is offset to some degree because they do last an awful long time.
A couple questions, what is the difference/pros & cons of low gauge?
And what's the opinion of Tonicas? My violin was set up with those strings, but I don't remember much of them. I suppose they're pretty similar to Dominants, but less depth to them?
Lower gauge strings are can often have a rounder/richer sound and are lighter under the fingers, but they end up lacking in projection and are a bit less responsive.
Tonica recently changed their formula and I have only heard amazing things for the new batch.
ViolinStringReview.com review of Tonica
The reviews on the page are all on the new formula.
I find the wound Dominant E is lovely: alright, a bit fuzzy at the top end of the fingerboard, bur sweet and responsive. It may not suit everyone's style, but if it sounds grotty, then you are trying to bow it like the usual iron bar E. Use long, light strokes, and it will sing for you!
"Lower gauge strings are can often have a rounder/richer sound and are lighter under the fingers, but they end up lacking in projection and are a bit less responsive."
Everything about the answers here convince me that one cannot ask for string advice--you simply have to try them yourself. I'm not saying the above is incorrect, but on my violins lower gauge strings sound thinnner, not rounder and richer, are lacking in power, but are MORE responsive. That's why I use a light G Dominant (medium would sound muddy and unresponsive on my violin).
Someone else recommended an aluminum Dominant E: I've loved them on past instruments and hated them on my current. Some people think Evas are responsive--I find the lower strings to be balky and loud without refinement. And I've never found Dominant steel to be objectionable.
The point is not that anyone's right--I just doubt anyone's experience is of much value for another instrument. It's too personal.
I'm currently using the wound Dominant E (loop end) on my #2 violin, a 2002 Jay Haide. This E is indeed lovely to play on, works well with the gut strings and responds well on that student fiddle right up to the G in alt - that's the one almost off the end of the fingerboard - notes a little lower playing as clear as a bell. I think it depends on getting the setup right, and particularly the bow.
I'm going to have to string my fiddles (2 violins, 2 violas) with Eudoxas (wound gut, un-doped for brilliance) just to hear once more what vibrating wood should sound like, and then grope slowly towards "projection" etc. I might even risk my sanity with a plain gut E!
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September 27, 2014 at 11:30 PM · D'Addario Pro Arte?