Sounding edgy in recordings?

May 7, 2015 at 01:44 PM · Hey guys, so something I've noticed, is that I sound much more edgy, scratchy in recordings than what I hear when I am actually playing. This is especially true when I play slower pieces.

The other day I was recording some random piece(I think it was the meditation from thais, or vocalise?). It was something slow and short, and when I got done playing it, I was very happy and satisfied with how I played the piece. However, when I heard the recording, it just sounded awful. None of the subtle phrasing showed up at all. I was just so grossed out at all the unnecessary accents that I had to just hit the clear all button on my phone. Is that how I actually sound to the audience, or if my mind is playing tricks on me, and I actually sound way better than the version I recorded. I swear when I play, I know I am not perfect, but everytime i have a bow stroke, it just shows up terribly in the recording.

By the way, I'm using the video setting on the camera of my Iphone to record my playing. Could this be the problem? Anyway, just someone tell me if I am delusional or not, the fact that I think I sound 100 times better in person than recorded in terms of tone quality. Obviously there is no way for me to post an unrecorded clip of my playing... Thanks!

Replies (64)

May 7, 2015 at 01:56 PM · The sound recording on a mobile phone (or even on a camera in video mode) is quite insufficient for music. The volume is automatically levelled out, (but with a delayed action), and the digitalising of the sound can be very crude, causing broken, edgy sounds (a bit like a photo with huge pixels).

May 7, 2015 at 02:40 PM · Mobile phones vary greatly in the sound quality of a video recording. Some of the very new phones have good microphones. Older phones - not so much.

You might video record a friend and compare your video sound to the sound you heard while he/she performed. Then you'll know for sure.

Find someone with a new model phone and try the experiment again.

May 7, 2015 at 03:39 PM · The tone quality might be the microphone, but the sound of unnecessary accents is going to be real.

May 7, 2015 at 03:48 PM · Update: So I've noticed, that some of these "accents" are sort of diminished if I record in a smaller room, with worse acoustics(at least not as much echoing), and the tone is much more consistent in the recording, even though it sound sounds substantially worse to the ear haha. It's almost like the more "accents" I hear while playing the piece, the less they show up in the recording.

Something else I've noticed, is that unless dynamics are extremely exaggerated, it rarely shows any contrast in my recordings. Anyone else experience this? Are you just supposed to exaggerate them in general?

I'm not sure if confirmation bias is at play here(because its very easy to be ignorant), but I guess if nothing else, a poor recording will make me more careful when I practice :)

May 7, 2015 at 04:03 PM · Lydia, is there a way that I can be more aware of these unnecessary accents? I think when I practice, because the sound is not directly projected towards my ear, I really don't hear them as much, but I'm sure some of those are actually there. Hopefully there isn't something fundamentally wrong with my playing, but I did another experiment today, and recorded myself playing open strings with either heavy accent, or very softly, to the point where I could barely hear what I'm playing, and the recording sounded pretty much the same, except the volume changed slightly(not as dramatically as I heard while playing). I also heard approximately the same amount of edgyness.

May 7, 2015 at 06:47 PM · Two things happening here: 1. Reality check. 2. Recording techniques.

If you have ever recorded yourself singing, unless you have been very well trained, the recording will reflect a reality check.

But recording the violin is more than just plug and pray. Placement of microphones is critical. The number one beginner mistake is to point the mic at the ff-holes. If anything, point at the side of the violin or over from the left shoulder as a start. The room makes a huge difference on the recording as well. If you just want an accurate image of your recording, use ORTF from at least three feet away around eye level. With a pair of decent mics, you will get a realistic sound that closely approximates what the audience hears.

My immediate advice is dump the iPhone and get a Zoom H5. You can thank me later.

May 7, 2015 at 08:12 PM · Greetings,

dont know about the technology excepT can you text, Gurgle, Twotter and so on with this zoom thingummy?

But yes the accents are proabbly a techncial defetc. One of the hardest aspects of violin playing is keeping a constant bow speed and , strange as it may sound, we often simply don`t listen to ourselves playing. WE actually focus on a false construct in the mind or what we would like to sound like or just don`t pay attention. Simon F tells a story against himself that he didnt really start listening until after he went to Julliard on a scholarship and beagn studies with Delay. I dont rthink I starte dlistening to my playing until around the fouth year of music college. One of the characteristics of genius is , I suspect to be able to really objectively listen to what one is doing.

A useful exercise I got from Drew Lecher is as follows.

Divide the bow into 8 parts in your mind. If necessray put a sticky dot in the midle. Set te mmto 120 . Each beat corresponds to one eigth of the bow. Now play wbs using an absolutley precise bow speed even when you change direction which is often where we speed up , as well as the transition from upper arm to elbow on the down stroke. You cna carry on with wbs a slong a syou wnat but the point of the exericse is that when you are satisfie dwith that change to doing -six- parts of the bow. Depending on which part of the bow you are in when you change to this number your bow usage and diretcion wil be random. After a while change to four parts of the bow. You might be in the upper or lower half or somewhere in between. Then two parts, then one part . Its a really simple idea but the randomness of shortening means you can focus on anybpart of the bow you choose and not get stale.

This hyper focus on bow speed will beginn improving your tone and bow control quite rapidly. Its a very powerful exercise.

Cheers,

Buri

May 7, 2015 at 08:25 PM · Dumping the iPhone gives you more time to practice. And with the Zoom, you can hear yourself from a different perspective and not be delusional.

If one must keep the iPhone, get the Rode iXY microphone at the very least.

May 7, 2015 at 08:27 PM · I think Kevin nailed it when he said "Two things happening here: 1. Reality check. 2. Recording techniques."

In that order.

May 7, 2015 at 10:11 PM · Not quite. Dumping the iPhone give you more time to live.....

May 7, 2015 at 10:22 PM · Kevin, excuse my ignorance. I wasn't aware that recording music was so complicated. I basically always place my phone basically next to the f holes. I'll try to ditch the Iphone if I can. I only want to know how I actually sound, not a distorted version of it. Thanks for the suggestions!

Buri, okay, I think now, I am pretty aware the the accents are likely some kind of a technical defect. Even if my microphone is bad, the fact that I hear anything at all indicates that something is not right. My question is whether there is a way to listen to yourself as you practice.

You talk about listening to a imagined version of how you play. That makes sense. However is there a way to know if you are doing something right or not without recording yourself and listening to it over and over?

For example, if I just play an open a back and forth and I think I'm not doing any "accents", but apparently I am, what is it supposed to sound like if I'm not actually accenting? obviously not the same way right haha?

Actually, now that I think about it, the way I sound recorded sounds a lot like my teacher used to, whenever he did a demonstration at my lesson. Of course, he is a much better violinist than me, but I always thought that his tone was "too edgy" and noisy, and didn't realize that I sort of sound the same way. I heard his other student play at a recital a few times, and she had a much more clear, and silky tone than he did. I remember one instance, where I listened to both of them play an excerpt(I think it was the slow movement of the brahms violin concerto?). My teacher, in my opinion, played every note perfectly in tune, and played all the technical stuff correctly, and played very musically. However I still liked the student's imperfect play better, just because my teacher had such a nasal tone, and you could hear it every time he changed bows haha!.

I guess my question is: how do you do things the right way if you don't know what "right" is supposed to be like. I can listen to other people's recordings all day, and try to mimic them, but I can't get into their bodies, and see what they are actually doing, to produce the type of results that they do. I mean the simple answer would be to get better at the violin. But "better" is such a vague term. If a very good violin teacher who plays in a well respected symphony, who listens to himself very carefully can still have "defects", then what am I supposed to do. I'm not even someone who plays the violin for a living, or someone who went to conservatory, but I just want to do things the right way. I hate to try different things and get the same result. Sorry kind of a rant :P

May 7, 2015 at 10:37 PM ·

I've often heard recording engineers say that vocalist don't like the sound of their own voice when they hear it for the first time recorded. Not sure why, but it may be because we are use to or bored with our sound.

That may be part of it, but the environment you are recording in will also kill the sound: standing waves thing.

Better equipment doesn't always equal better sound, because it's very important to understand how a room effects sound.

I've heard that to get a true sound of your voice or instrument is to record it outside. Keep in mind it will be a dry sound because of a lack of reverb.

May 7, 2015 at 11:55 PM · Singers also hear themselves through sounds conducted through bones. Those sounds are not heard by the audience. That is why people who hear themselves on recording the very first time are usually surprised by how different they sound. So singers get to learn sensations rather than relying on hearing their own sound.

Playing the violin is a bit similar since the violin is right under the ear. Cellists don't suffer from the same problem to the same extent.

May 8, 2015 at 03:56 AM · Greetngs,

just in general I think it is really important to listen to Greta violinists everyday for as much as an hoir. I honestly believe this builds up and changes our internal repertoire of sound and encourages us to experiment more. All the variables are explained really well in The Violin Lesson.

I had a weird experience many years ago. I went to a very good Alexander Technique teacher and he got me so focused on the primary control IE relationship between head neck and back, that I wasn't interfering with my sound at all. I suddenly realized that I had been imagining my sound as a sort ofheavy Oistrak type as I am thick set (flabby if you like) but the actual playing that came out when I by npassed the ego was -much-closer to Milstein. That is why AT lessons are so powerful. There is no distinction between mind and body in the Cartesian sense so as the body changes what we consider consciousness changes . If u like we shatter our false consciousness about playing. It can be really disturbing.

Within the limits of our instruments we have to experiment in particular with vibrato, amount of finger pad and pressure ewe use and do lots of tone building and bowing exercises rather an eternal focus on e left hand which is what w extend to do.

Cheers,

Buri.

May 8, 2015 at 05:08 AM · @Buri

"Within the limits of our instruments we have to experiment in particular with vibrato, amount of finger pad and pressure ewe use and do lots of tone building and bowing exercises rather an eternal focus on e left hand which is what w extend to do."

Hmm, I think my vibrato has pretty much stayed the same same I started playing. I'll definitely do some experimenting this weekend.

@ Jenny

"Figuring out why you unintentionally accent is helpful. Sometimes there's a reason, sometimes it's just the way you've conditioned yourself to play. There are bow change accents, bow angle accents, unstable string level overcompensation accents. I'm sure there's more, those are the one's I'm guilty of!"

This has been my exact struggle, figuring out what's wrong. I know what I have a lot of bow change accents, however, I can't seem to understand how evaluate things like stability or angle issues.

I'll post 2 or 3 of my more recent recordings, and if anyone wants to listen to them and give me feedback on how to improve my tone, or whether you hear stuff like overcompensation *I actually don't even know what that means haha)that'll be great! I have pretty thick skin, so no need to sugar coat anything.

I'm much more concerned with edginess of the first piece than the second one, so if its a hassle just listen to part of that and let me know. And please ignore the nasty slides. I was experimenting.And if the second piece sounds weird, its because my violin was badly out of tune.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1zEQxJwJ_g&feature=youtu.be

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfhcE1aFw1I

May 8, 2015 at 03:44 PM · On a quick listen of a minute of your Thais: The accents are real. They're caused by the sudden acceleration of the bow, for the most part. That's specifically what you should listen for. It's not just on bow-changes, but also when you change pitches on the same bow, or even when you take a long bow (where you may accelerate and decelerate on the same bow).

May 8, 2015 at 04:53 PM · Thanks guys, I actually really hate my tone in that thais recording, since it's not how I imagined to sound at all, but I appreciate the feedback. Now that I think about it, yes I tend to do a lot of unnecessary acceleration. I think this is because I've built up to habit of using a tiny amount of bow, and only using bow speed to generate volume. I think I barely used the frog in that recording. I'm not sure if that's the most musical approach to it. I think this is probably even more true in the second piece(the bach), where I use about 3-4 inches of bow to play the entire piece! That's why you might hear a kind of snapping sound or whatever. I just watched a video of a very good violinist play it youtube(milstein), and he seemed to use more bow than me.

May 8, 2015 at 07:53 PM · Greetings,

it's one of the defining features of great violinists that they use more bow than the rest of us (usually).

This piece and those like it are actually rather difficult to play at an artistic level. Right now you've done a good job getting it to first degree black belt level. in other words, it's not unimpressive but in the real world of martial arts that just means you have got it to the level where you can start learning.

Here are some suggestions.

Right now it doesn't have any architectural structure. Where is the absolute most intense musical moment or note. Unti you make a decision about that you can't decide what kind of landscape you are painting because nothing is in proportion to anything else in any coherent sense. What we are getting is an aural version of a picture of a desert.

so you need to make a list if all the things you can change to make a segment of music more or less intense. This list is not that big but there are important elements that you need to vary.

Why do you need to vary them ?

Becuase exert phrase or indeed note has to have a specific color related to the architectural whole mentioned at the beginning. That's what makes this work so bloody demanding.!!!

Right now you have roughly two colors: yellow and white. Crrelates with your vibrato to a large extent. You need to use vibrato on every note including the faster ones but you can also choose to play completely white. The difference is that you made a choice. For example I could imagine a player choosing to play non vibrato on the section that begins with a c natural. That would be an interesting sound.

This Probaly seems rather theoretical so try this. Hold the violin in cello position. Sing the piece phrase by phrase and try to express the emotion you are singing by varying the speed and width of the vibrato. Then transfer what you learn onto the normal position.

Also, play it using absolutely even, robotic biw strokes that you wouldn't dream of doing usually. But try to express the music of the piece through your vibrato. you will have to do dynamics, accents etc only with vibrato. Then do the opposie. play without vibrato and do everything with the bow. Then play as nirmal. You need to a lot of this exercise in my opinion.

Play every phrase on each sound point in turn and then just play it without much thought as though you are performing it.

The lack of vitality in the piece is partly because to you a long note is just that. But in your whole being you have to feel a rhythmic pulse going on under every long note. it is the music's heartbeat. Right now you are in metaphysical cardiac arrest.....

Practice playing passages with long notes while imagining different rhythms such as triplets , semi quavers and a combination of both. Notice how the long note is actuall different depending on what simple underlying rhythms you imagine.

Milstein plays this piece like an angel but although it is just opinion, I think this work belongs to kreisler. One version he recorded is to my ear some of the greatest plaing ever, by anyone ;)

You might also take a look at the Glazuniv meditation which I actually prefer as a work. The same issues apply though.

Hope this helps,

Buri

May 8, 2015 at 09:01 PM · Id also like to suggest you take a look at Oistrakh playing Dvorak Slavonic dance no 2. See how freely his body flows in a spiral as he uses masses of bow. See if you can absorb that kind of form and emulate it in your playing. it's not that you should pplay that way but I think it is the kind of thing one can play with.

Take a superb role models and see what they do. He uses three quarters of the bow, I use Hal He sounds better. What did I just learn? Kind of thing.

Cheers,

Buri

May 9, 2015 at 11:05 AM · SW Would you provide details on what equipment you used for the posted recordings, describe the room size and acoustics and microphone placement? I record only to assist in practice using either a laptop or a small voice recorder.

May 9, 2015 at 02:27 PM · Dave

equipment: Iphone 4g. I go to the camera mode, and switch to video recording mode.

room size: 10 by 12 feet

Acoustics: Very mediocre, but the recordings in this room sound less muffled than the other one with much better acoustics.

Microphone placement:

1st recording: I took the advice here, and placed it about 2-3 feet away from me a my bed, so it's vertically lower than my violin. I typically record by placing the phone either next to the f holes or inside my pocket.

2nd recording: If I remember correctly, the phone was in my pocket.

May 9, 2015 at 02:45 PM · Put the phone across the room from you.

May 9, 2015 at 05:07 PM · Playing with the placement of your iPhone won't help too much I am afraid. In both recordings, I hear the sound of a cheap microphone (and that's exactly what Apple put on the iPhone). Do yourself a favor and rent or buy a proper recorder if you want to hear a better recorded violin sound. Otherwise, recordings like yours are fine for listening for articulation but not so much for sound quality.

May 9, 2015 at 05:29 PM · Biggest thing I've noticed about my microphone is that it's just not very responsive, regardless of whether of not you play well. I did an experiment this morning. I tried to play something the way I normally played it, then tried to play it as ugly as possible(not hard since it was Paganini). The recorded sound was nearly identical!

May 9, 2015 at 10:15 PM · As I think somebody mentioned earlier, your phone has AGC (automatic gain, or level, control), not adjustable. That means the phone tries to keep the recording level constant. Playing louder or softer therefore has little or no effect on the recording. Also, when there is no sound the phone raises the input to maximum until sound is detected. The effect is a noticeable pulse at the end of even a short silence. That may be part of what you are hearing as "accents." Any decent music recorder, such as the Zooms, has manual level control available. That is critical for useful recording. All of my decent recordings, some of them commercial quality, have been made with older cassette tape recorders that have only manual level controls. Recording directly into a computer with software such as Audacity and most any condenser mic is likely to give much better results than a phone.

May 10, 2015 at 03:39 PM · Just a thought, but "video mode" might have worse audio-digital conversion than "audio mode" (Chunky sound)

Anyone tried both?

May 10, 2015 at 03:59 PM · Use GarageBand to record.

May 10, 2015 at 07:16 PM · It is possible to make passable recordings with fairly cheap equipment.

However, I record a lot and I use mics that cost between approx $160 each and $1,000 each. And that's into a $500+ pre-amp and a recorder at approx $800

Then the files get transfered (24bit 44.1 Khz) into a program on the Mac called Reaper. I listen back through a small mixing desk into headphones or speakers.

So it's really not going to sound good using a phone where the mic costs about $2. Even on more expensive video cameras the mic(s) often only cost about $10 or so, and the results are bad.

But a cheap recorder such as a Zoom with external mics at about $80 each might sound OK.

The reason studios use expensive mics and recorders and rooms with good accoustics is that you can't get a finished CD at 16 bits resolution unless the masters are recorded at the highest possible quality. (Usually 24bit and even 96000 Khz).

The violin, like the piano and the clarinet, are hard to record, as they have so many overtones and harmonics, and so the recording quality will be pretty foul unless you have good equipment and know how to use it.

May 10, 2015 at 09:57 PM · If you know what you are doing, piano can sound good with close miking. A violin cannot. That makes piano a bit easier to record.

May 10, 2015 at 10:24 PM · I own a BlueSpark Digital microphone for iOS devices, but honestly, the recordings I've made with the household's iPhones (4S, 5S, and 6, over the years) have been just fine, whether violin alone, violin and piano, or violin (concerto) with orchestra. The post-processing done by YouTube to reduce the file size has a vastly larger impact than the phone's microphone does.

May 10, 2015 at 10:59 PM · I think I will look into getting a zoom H5 if guys think it's worth it. It would be nice to sound better in recordings. However, I am not necessarily looking for something that will artificially enhance my sound. If recording with a crappy microphone will exaggerate my mistakes, then I wouldn't mind. I'm mainly looking for something that provides a practice aid and a reality check(both in terms of articulation and tone quality). Maybe something that would not hurt the ears of people here too much if I plan to frequently post recordings on this board. Someone told me that listening to yourself play forces you to improve in those areas. If you guys have found higher quality recordings to be beneficial towards this goal, then I will seriously consider upgrading my equipment.

Another question: This sounds ridiculous, but what do you think about recording in the bathroom? Would the water from the toilet help enhance the sound? Also, to what degree would a better instrument play into the sound of a recording(I might have a friend who is willing to lend me his nice, expensive instrument if I ask nicely :) - though I've never tried it before).

May 10, 2015 at 11:51 PM · For a practice aid, recording using your iPhone, either via Garage Band or the camera app, will work just fine.

With the phone positioned several feet away from you, you can regard the phone as a reasonably accurate guide to what a listener will hear.

If you want the best possible tonal quality for something you're publishing for other people to hear, you will want a high-quality microphone but even more importantly, lossless audio (i.e., not a YouTube or Facebook processing of the result).

But you certainly don't need high-fidelity recording for practice purposes. You should assume that what you hear on the recording is actually real, and start learning to hear those issues in real-time when you're playing, too.

And yes, a better-sounding instrument will of course help you sound better on recording (and probably help you to play better too).

May 11, 2015 at 12:55 AM · If it's an older iPhone, these are not too expensive:

http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Microphones-2-0-Recording-Microphone/dp/B003Z8WHDC/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1431305653&sr=8-3&keywords=iphone+blue+microphone

May 11, 2015 at 01:00 AM · My laptop with it's built in pinhole mic seemed to distort my sound. I opened the microphone properties and lowered the "boost" and turned off some other effects. That seemed to help. On my laptop a right click on the speaker icon leads to the mic properties.

Keep pawsitive,

Dave

May 11, 2015 at 01:08 AM · Greetings,

I agree with Lydia, for private practice purposes just sticking the iPad on the music stand gives me enough information to work on.

It's interesting that Heifetz was against recording oneself , arguing that listening is the discipline. May have had a point, but just a rough recording on a really awful microphone can help lesser mortals take a really big step forward.

Cheers,

Buri

May 11, 2015 at 01:26 AM · Thinking about distortion... For some reason, I've found that recording from an iPhone 6 running iOS 8 needs to occur at a greater distance than from an iPhone 5 running iOS 7. No clue why, but the distortion can be significant on the 6 (in which case you'll hear it -- a clear overdriving).

May 11, 2015 at 01:33 AM · So, I actually haven't changed strings in 6 years(they've only been played on for 3 years). I know this because sometime in 2009, during a lesson, my teacher complained that my violin was hard to tune, and took me to the shop. Is this actually a problem when it comes to tone quality? By the way they look, nothing appears to have been worn out, and I don't seem to find my violin too hard to tune, unless I'm doing something wrong. I practice a decent amount though.

May 11, 2015 at 01:36 AM · yes

Brevity

May 11, 2015 at 02:07 AM · Yeah I'm glad Buri brought up the Heifetz anecdote. I seem to recall hearing the same thing from Friedman. He was against using a recording device as a practice aid because he believed one should be trained to hear the problems while playing and make the necessary adjustment.

I'm not an audio engineer, but generally from my experience with recording in a studio, a mic that is placed extremely close to a instrument will pick up all of the surface noise, and grit that might be lost in a hall. The same goes for recordings involving a grand piano. I know some audio engineers avoid placing the microphones next to the pedals and action of the keyboard because some extraneous noises are picked up by a good microphone.

May 11, 2015 at 02:19 AM · Even 3 years is an absurdly long amount of time to keep strings on a violin. Change every 3 to 6 months, depending on how much you play. If you're not fussy about how you sound, or you play very little, you might be able to get away with changing every year, but I sure wouldn't recommend it.

May 11, 2015 at 02:56 AM · Gosh it's been so long...forgot that the violin needs to be maintained. Now that I think about it, I do actually remember being told by my teacher to change strings every time I had an audition/recital/concert..etc coming up, but most of the time I still didn't since I wasn't aware that it affected the tone that much, or made any difference aside from the instrument being easier to tune. It probably won't affect the quality of the iphone recordings that much, but guess it's time to get some strings.

May 11, 2015 at 06:42 PM · OLD strings will not sound as good, and will lack some resonance. It will also be harder to tune fifths. (Stopped 5ths)

I think I agree that too much recording won't do you too much good. The only way it might help is to record and note the date and keep. Then 6 months later record again (same piece if possible) and see if there is an improvement.

But yes, I absolutely agree that you have to train yourself to hear the problems when actually playing. Go back immediately to correct the problem, and remember next time not to repeat the problem.

May 11, 2015 at 06:58 PM · High frequencies get absorbed by air more than low frequencies. That's why at a large distance, the clarity of a violin sound falls off. Scratches and screeches don't get heard in the hall for a number of reasons. One big reason is that their durations are usually extremely short and they just get swallowed by the reverberation. But when the mic is just a few feet away, everything is "heard" by the mic. One can tame things a bit with EQ or drowning the sound in reverb. Recording in the bathroom is one way to drown the sound. But what's the point of recording yourself if all you want to hear is mud?

May 11, 2015 at 07:36 PM · Shawn, you mentioned that your strings look ok despite their age. True, but that's only the external appearance; what goes on within a string is a very different matter. I assume you use synthetic core strings, as do most of us. Synthetic core strings - in fact any string with a covering - will have at least one layer of material between the metal wound outer coating and the core, which may be a synthetic material, metal wire in various wound configurations, plain wire, or even gut. With time, and with playing, the interfaces between the layers of the string start to break down, causing the tone and other features such as volume and responsiveness to deteriorate; even in an extreme case for the outer winding to part company with the core - which I had happen once with a Dominant cello D in the middle of a symphony concert, the result being like playing on a piece of wet string.

Deterioration of a multi-layer string will happen within a few months or even weeks, which is why teachers advise putting on new strings a few days before an important performance. I get the impression that the more expensive a string is, and hence the more complex its internal structure, the shorter its playing life - c'est la vie.

I'm not necessarily advocating using plain gut strings as an alternative, inexpensive though they may be, but the plain gut A and D in my experience have a useful playing life that extends way beyond that of a wound A or D - for me 12 to 18 months use out of those strings is normal (but then I'm a fairly busy symphony player, not a soloist).

May 11, 2015 at 08:10 PM · 12 - 18 months for plain gut A and D? Did I read that right? That's incredible longevity. Maybe I should try them. Which brand do you use?

May 11, 2015 at 09:43 PM · Kevin, the brand I've been using for quite a while is Savarez Oiled Gut, imo superior in longevity, tone and general playability to Pirastro Chorda plain gut which I used in the past. The Savarez strings all come in double length, which is a useful financial plus, especially if you have two violins.

For practical purposes it's convenient to renew the strings every 12 months, including the copper-wound G. The gut E, as you would expect, doesn't have the life span of the A and D, no more than 3 months max, so I use it on only one violin; the other, my main orchestra instrument, is fitted with a Goldbrokat E (heavy).

May 11, 2015 at 09:50 PM · Trevor made a good point which Shawn might find useful - new strings take a week or two to play in (depending on the amount of daily hours you play). Probably 14-20 hours.

Then they sound good for a month or two (or three) depending on how many hours you do. Unfortunately after that they do start to deteriorate. It all depends too on how much bow pressure you use as well, and how much your left hand wears the string. Being light fingered helps, but a lot of pressing and violent left hand pizz will certainly wear them out sooner.

May 11, 2015 at 10:16 PM · Trevor, where do you buy these Savarez Oiled Gut strings? It looks like Savarez makes Corelli strings which I have used.

May 11, 2015 at 10:30 PM · Kevin, I get them online at www.thestringzone.com where you'll find them under "Savarez Corelli". Yes, Savarez, who have been making strings for about 200 years, do make the Corelli brand.

May 11, 2015 at 10:53 PM · I had no idea. Thanks for all your help guys, especially Peter. I care a lot about the violin, and actually can't even get it off my mind sometimes when I need to. It's almost like the more I struggle, the more I want to pick it up. It's kind of sad actually :). I'll make sure to get new strings regularly if they are that important. Tuning 5ths is obviously a huge deal. I've never tried gut strings before, so I'll probably try them out this time. I was just going to throw some dominants on there.

BTW, I don't remember the brand I was using before, but the strings have these blue linings at the top. If I remember correctly, the brand name is something "blue" something too. If anyone knows what these strings are called let me know! Otherwise, it probably doesn't make much of a difference anyway. I'm open to experimenting if someone has suggestions.

May 12, 2015 at 12:33 AM · Infeld Blue?

May 12, 2015 at 07:16 AM · Yeah! That. I think the infelds(when I first got them) sounded a lot brighter than other strings I've tried before. I'm not sure I liked that sound or not, but at least on the e string, I seemed to prefer that type of a tone.

May 12, 2015 at 01:24 PM · Trevor, since the Savarez gut strings are long enough for two violins, are both ends on each string looped already so all one needs to do is cut them in the middle?

May 12, 2015 at 02:29 PM · Kevin, the Savarez plain gut strings aren't looped so you have to make your own knot or loop. In practice this means you tie a knot for the A and D big enough to stop it from pulling through (a simple loop with the free end passing through twice and pulled tight suffices). A loop is necessary for a gut E because the string is too thin for a knot to hold. You can of course make a loop in the A or D if you wish - I do it myself sometimes, and I've seen it done by pros, but I think a knot is tidier for those thick strings. Knots and loops in gut strings are stable because the string distorts, stretches and holds itself pretty firm when brought up to pitch.

The Savarez double length G (wound with plain copper wire) comes with a prepared loop and cotton winding at one end only, so when you cut the string in halves you'll have to knot the unlooped half. A simple overhand knot is all that is needed for this thickness of string.

Tip: when preparing a new gut string for knotting or looping you'll find it's too stiff, so what you do is to take 1.5 to 2 inches of the end of the string, wiggle and bend it between your fingers over that length and it quickly becomes pliable enough to be easily knotted or looped. For a first timer I'd advise practicing loop making and knots with a length of twine.

An important point with gut strings is that the pegs must be in good condition, turning smoothly and not sticking. Further, it is equally important to make sure the string runs smoothly over the bridge and through the groove in the nut at the end of the fingerboard. You don't want the string sticking in these areas when you're tuning. If there are problems in these areas it is best to get them sorted out beforehand by a luthier - a simple enough job and shouldn't be expensive. In any event, I always apply soft pencil lead (3B grade is good) to these notches and grooves before fitting a string, whether it is plain gut or anything else.

[Edit added: Kevin, in reply to your pitch question, which arrived on screen just after I submitted this response, both Pirastro Chorda and Savarez Oiled Gut are apparently intended for classical A440 use. At any rate, I've experienced no problems. If A415 is important then there are other string makers who will provide what the player wants - Gamut and Damian Dlugolecki are two that come to mind.

There is a reasonably comprehensive list of string makers here:

http://www.vanzandtviolins.com/vn-strings.htm]

May 12, 2015 at 02:33 PM · Thank you Trevor for the info. One last question (I hope): Is the set that TheStringZone sells for tuning to 440Hz or 415Hz? I notice that on CarbonBow, one can get all kinds of diameters.

May 12, 2015 at 03:14 PM · I'd argue if you're looking for a big bright soloistic tone, gut probably isn't the way to go, though. If you liked the Infeld Blue sound, try Evah Pirazzi, Evah Pirazzi Gold, Peter Infeld, or Vision Titanium Solo.

May 12, 2015 at 03:32 PM · I think it was Shawn who had the (very old) infeld Blues, not Kevin who was just interested in gut strings.

May 12, 2015 at 05:15 PM · Shawn complained about his violin sounding edgy. I would think gut could take the edge off. But indeed I was the one intrigued by Trevor's endorsement of gut strings.

May 12, 2015 at 07:52 PM · Greetings,

discusison of strings can end up going round in circles because so much depends on the individual instrument but the generalizations so far are very helpful. Having chatted with you on and off for a while I am not sure you would rreally enjoy playing on gut although I am a big fan myself. Requires a somewhat differnet playing style (underlying factors never change) and possibly even slight modification of set up. I personally dislike Evah Pirazzi for the extra effort rquired to play them and what I see as a mistaken road for the bets kind of violin sound. Lot of awesome player suse them.

A slightly more mellow (probably) version of the blue is simply to switch to infeld red. The point about these strings is you can use a mixed combo of the blue, red and regular dominants which gives you quite a lot to play with to find out what works on your fiddle. Costs a lot of money as well...

Cheers,

buri

May 12, 2015 at 09:21 PM · Shawn was saying he'd use gut this time around too (see 10:53 post), which is why I directed a comment at him.

I've never found EPs or EP Golds to require extra playing effort, but it's entirely possible that I simply haven't noticed it, since I've normally used them on highly-responsive instruments. More effort to grab the string and make it resonate (bow deeper into the string)? Or something else?

May 12, 2015 at 09:44 PM · Greetings,

Lydia, gottit. In a later post he says he has never tried gut.

Cheers,

Buri

May 13, 2015 at 01:15 AM · Thanks guys! I love these new strings(they're just dominants). It's amazing how much better my violin sounds.

A lot of the acceleration accents I had before are gone now. It's not so much the strings themselves, but I think my instrument resonating better is making my bow hand more relaxed.

I actually didn't end up using gut strings. The thought of having to adjust the length of the string was too sketchy :). Maybe someday though.

May 13, 2015 at 05:22 AM · For what it's worth, it's been a great pleasure to play the Passione (gut) strings and I haven't felt the need to make huge adjustments in my setup. I feel that the violin enjoys the lower tension overall, so I have a looser soundpost position but that's about it. I agree that if you're looking for something different, it would be worth trying at some point.

May 13, 2015 at 05:38 AM · Greetings,

ah, maybe there is the confusion. What i call gut you might call plain gut?

I used the passione once and thought they were absolutely wonderful. They are my choice ofstring, and as youi say, no real adjustment needed.

Cheers,

Buri

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