Seeing as our E strings are steel for convenience, I was wondering if it would be possible to make the E string resemble a synthetic by making it out of a very flexible metal that can be made into a thick string similar to gut. If this would not work due to the string having due great of a dead zone where it becomes inflexible as you shift up, could an e be made by cross-weaving flexible metal strands with strands of polymer ad then wrapped in a very thin wrap to give brightness and warm at the same time?
PS: Are you there, Mr. Warchal? Info would be greatly appreciated. :)
The Kaplan Solutions E felt and sounded less steel-like than any other E string that I'd tried - very thick and soft. Not that I liked the sound or response, personally...
Tonica alum wound E also has a unique sound and feel.
Can I please get responses that actually address the concepts for a very thick E or a semi-synthetic one please?
Thicker does not compare to a gut E in thickness, and nobody has even mentioned the second idea! :)
Presumably the search is for a synthetic E that plays and sounds like gut but lasts a darn sight longer than the usual half dozen weeks that you can expect from a gut E?
My guess is that there are difficult technical problems in replicating a gut E in synthetic, which is why we haven't seen such strings yet, at an affordable price anyway.
A recent Strad issue actually covered an aluminum wound synthetic e string by Velvet. Something like 0.46 mm thick.
Getting more diameter at the same pitch requires a less dense material, so metal is out.
Almost all classical guitarists use plain synthetic strings. You could get something like the diameter and tension you seem to be looking for by trying a nylon or other synthetic guitar E-string. Guitar string length is twice that of violin and the E pitch is one octave lower, so this should be in the right ball park. I seem to recall gut is denser than nylon, so the guitar string would be a little fatter than a normal gut violin E-string. I have no idea what kind of sound you'd get, and I bet pitch stability would be a big problem, but it's a cheap experiment to make.
According to the Velvet website there are no violin strings in their catalog, so I would guess that the E reviewed by The Strad is an experimental pre-production string.
Half a cetury ago, I tried using half a guitar E in plain nylon. I liked the tone, but it stretched a lot, and became flattened where the fingers pressed.
My luthier (in London) explained that the tension on a violin is higher than on a guitar, and that synthetic polymers cannot cope.
This was before the advent of Dominant strings; maybe the newer Perlon, or the even newer "composites" could serve in an unwound E?
This is where carbon fibre technology could come on the scene. Perhaps the R&D is already in progress somewhere.
I've even read about tressed silk E's for hot and sticky climates (or hands?) in olden times.
When I joined a local symphony orchestra many years ago as a young cellist, the leader was using a silk-covered E.
I'd guess you may be asking the wrong people. String makers might have more information.
Thank you Mikael for notifying me about this discussion. It is nice to hear that most of you can play other instruments except of a violin too :-). However, the acoustics of bowed string is completely different from the fretted one.
If we consider the fretted string, the starting impulse is lateral. Even on fretted instrument, every detail matters. For example - what angle is the impulse for lateral motion directed. This is why there is such a sound quality difference between tirando ( free-stroke) and apoyando (rest-stroke) guitar playing technique.
Bowed string is a completely different matter. We are feeding the string with the energy constantly and quite intensively. Since we are not able to bow in the centre of the round string, but just on the tangent, the torsional stability (or weakness) comes into the sound generating process too.
The string that is bowed on its surface (on the tangent in fact) is tempted or even forced to oscillate torsionally like http://www.oralb.com/en-CA/products/electric-toothbrush/professional instead of doing it in a lateral way.
This is a “whistling E” vibrating mode in fact. Once the string becomes to vibrate such way at the beginning of bow stroke, you have almost not any chance to amend the vibrating way during the same stroke. The thicker the strings, the more the torsional stability matters.
This is why not only tenacity, elasticity, density, internal damping and many other factors, but also “torsion stability” level is important for designing bowed strings. Unfortunately, not every formula that works on guitar may be transferred (and vice versa).
Thank you Mr. Warchal!
So, IS it possible to make a very thick and flexible steel E. or an E that is polymer woven with steel fibres and then wrapped?
A good explanation of some of the differences in plucked and bowed strings:
Why there should be both, polymer and steel fibres in the core? There is not much space for extra weight in the violin E string. Almost all of the diameter (cross section) has to be used for the core, if steel is used as a core material.
You should use something stronger and lighter at the same time, for example Kevlar fibres in order to be able to bear extra weight on it.
Until synthetics came along in 1948 the non-wrapped strings used by violinists, harpists, and guitarists were all of pretty much the same type. So one may ask why we can't have an equally versatile non-wrapped synthetic string.
In the discussion of Aquila's "Nylgut" strings on the Stringking website, we find this: "Unfortunately, because the bow 'slips' on it, Nylgut cannot be used on bowed instruments." That seems to be the crux of the matter.
Two months ago I was changing e strings and for fun decided to put on an e from an old used "Startrite" set. It was exquisite, soft, smooth, full, mellow. That sound lasted 2 days and during those 2 days I was in heaven. On the third day it was dead. I would gladly pay a premium to get that sound again.
Could one not have a Nylgut-style string with the surface roughened?
Good question, Adrian. Is the lack of traction due only to the smooth surface, or is there some other quality of the material itself involved? After all, the metal strings are smooth. Don't know the answer.
And I see now you have tried a nylon E-string. I realise there are other problems having to do with the stretchiness of nylon, but did the bow engage well with it?
Why could we not just wrap a thin gut E in very fine steel?
I know gut can be sold down to about 0.35-0. 4 mm thickness, and wrapping it would give it a diamter of about 0.45 mm. :)
Theoretically we could make any thickness of the gut (up to single muscle fibre) and the flat steel winding can be done easily 0,03 mm, but the question is the tenacity of gut. I am not the gut strings producer, but as I know, the tebsile strength of gut is just enough (so so) for making plain violin E string and the quality of raw material is even worsening due to rapidly changing cattle farming praxis.
0,03 can be wound on very flat (steel plain wire) surface. I assume slightly uneven surface would require a bit thicker gauge. However, even 0,03 mm matters, if such a material of high density is in question.
The more weight you add, the thicker has to be the core. Please consider, that say 0,04 mm (e.g.) winding means 0,08 (that is almost 0,1 mm) in the whole diameter in fact. Moreover for adding 0,08 mm steel, you need to remove several times more gut from the core because of density difference.
Moreover - please consider what would you gain except of new marketing claim in fact? Even if such string would not break instantly at installing, the reliability of the string would be even worse as plain gut E (it would break more easily) and the tunning instability would remain the same.
There are a couple of strings that do go a long way towards minimizing the difference between the E string and the others, if that's what you're looking for. My favorite for that is a wound Pirastro string that may not exist anymore. I think it would be similar to the wound version of the Eudoxa E. I notice on their site a new string they call No.1 that looks promising in the same way.
I view the use of special strings to deal with whistling to be sort of a patch, not a cure. The real problem lies deeper in the setup of the instrument. I guess for cheaper violins a band-aid is useful, but really, a good violin should get a good setup.
A plain gut E doesn't whistle, and it sings without screeching.
When I have a moment, I'll remove the windings of a synthetic string to see if the naked core will behave like a plain gut E.
BTW, synthetics are only a compromise substitute for wound gut, anyway.
Thank you Adrian!
Yes, you are right, and I do try to use gut E's, except that they last about 6 weeks before I need a new one, and I am a uni student. :(
I was asking because it would make the string much longer lasting (though more unstable), but would still sing much better than any steel e< wound or otherwise. :)
I shall try the Velvet E when it is released and tell you all about it. :)
Isn't it history that the E strings Paganini was always breaking were plain gut?
Mr Warchal, was it perhaps a semi typo to contrast fretted with bowed? After all, viols are both fretted and bowed. And the jazz double bass is neither fretted nor bowed!
The string that has been designed as bowed can be fretted of course. But such versatility does not apply vice versa unfortunately. Bowed strings has to be much more sophisticated. This is why they use to be several times more expensive than fretted ones.
It is a miracle of nature, that a simple plain gut meets all requirements of high quality bowed string (except of nowadays standard of projection). It provides high elasticity, high torsional stability as sufficient friction (grip) on the surface. The Creator has done good job obviously.
Adrian, you are right, gut E string does not whistle, since gut is elastic enough. This is why we have incorporated the elastic helix area into the metal string resulting in the new Amber E.
Mr. Warchal, I have to say that gut strings project very well, it is simply that the Gut E does not pierce through all the bright synthetics and steel strings when played toether.
So, short of the E (unless you play alone or in a small group) they still work perfectly we;; in halls. :)
The great romantic concertos with their stratospheric high notes were all played on a gut E, so some R&D would be welcome..
Flesch hated the steel E, and his fingerings tend to avoid Open E and the lower positions.
I feel the same about the steel A on the viola: I want a string instrument, not a trumpet!
Adrian, it would be interesting to learn, what would Dvorak say hearing his concerto played on metal E string. Composers were mostly enthusiastic about progress. Bach got very happy about new type of piano e.g.
But I understand what do you mean, although most of current players ask for "warm trumpet" sound. This is why we have at least equipped the metal E with helix area that provides the string sufficient elasticity. The result is warmer tone and whistle resistance. If it is not enough for you, plain gut E, (the original ones, played by many famous violinists of the past), is still available on the market.
I can assure you that there is a lot of research and development in stringmaking nowadays, at least I can tell it about our company. If you compare strings to violin, there is a huge difference in progress. From Stradivati era, just small imporvements have been made (particularly bridge shape and a bit prolonged neck) on the violin. Strings did undergo a great long way of progress since than. You do not need to replace your E string six times during your performance (as historical records says).
Since gut strings are a completely natural product I think it is only polite and good manners when passing a field of sheep to say "Thank you!" to the inhabitants.
Eating lamb chops ensures access to future gut string production.
I use Jargar E-str ng Blue and I absolutely love it!
Anyway, thank you Mr Warchal for sharing your expert knowledge. I had already read Norman Pickerings "The bowed String" and thought i knew it all; now I have learned even more!
I'm still waiting to hear how your experiment with unwrapping a synthetic core string works out. I assume you already know that most, if not all, synthetic cores are made of parallel fine strands, rather than a monofilament?
@Lyle: That is Adrian's experiment, not mine. :)
Also, what I was thinking was a core made of steel strands AND polymers strands woven together and then lightly wrapped to, in essence, ask if a "semi-synthetic" E is possible.
Doesn't seem possible according to Mr. Warchal, but he may have just misunderstood me, as English is not his first language. :)
Point taken, Lyle!
And Mr Warchal's English is as good as many "native" contributors..
My English knowledge is not good enough at all, I am fully aware of it. I have started to learn English just as an adult, quite recently. We were totally isolated from the rest of the world during my childhood and study. However it could be hardly mentioned as any excuse, since there still was very few people, who made it in spite of quite hopeless environment.
To be honest, this has been the original reason I decided to join Violinist and Maestronet community. I wanted to improve my language skills, mainly the professional music slang.
I am glad I have found these online communities. I have met a lot of nice people here. Thank you for sharing your problems and ideas with me. They help to guide my creativity at my thoughts about future R&D.
p.s. you can call be Bohdan, I am just a violinist as all of you are...:-)
A.O.'s last comment reminds me of a specialist gut G, used sometimes by the Early Musick violinists, that is uncovered (!), but gets the required weight whilst still keeping the diameter within playable bounds by interwinding the gut fibers internally with very fine metal wires. I believe it is called "gimped".
The reference to Paganini breaking strings was probably in his popular concerts when he was wearing his showman's hat and had engineered his E (and perhaps the A as well) to break on demand so that he could continue playing stratospheric E-string passages on the lower strings as if nothing had happened, to the awe and wonderment of the audience.
A spate of one player's gut Es breaking in a normal concert I would put down to a number of possibilities: a bad batch of strings (not unknown even today with synthetics), badly prepared notches in the bridge or nut cutting into the string, bringing strings up to pitch (or higher) too quickly, using up old strings (asking for trouble), inappropriate bowing technique, or just long finger nails.
In the highest register, assuming a well setup instrument and a decent bow, a good gut E should sing and project as well as a metal string; but it is a different sound, rounder and not shrill and metallic. I look on a gut E as a tonal continuation of a gut A, and an open gut E is often acceptable in circumstances where most open metal Es wouldn't be.
During the coffee break in an orchestral rehearsal last week one of my colleagues asked me about my gut strings. I demonstrated a tonal example of the close correspondence between a gut E and a gut A by alternating the G on the E with G on the A. She said she could hardly tell the difference between them. This throws an interesting light on the violin music of the Baroque and how some passages in Locatelli and Bach may have sounded at the time.
And the short life-span of gut Es? I live with it, bearing in mind that plain gut As and Ds, and copper-wound gut G, last virtually a 12-month for me. I buy my Savarez gut strings in double length which only slightly more than the price of single guts.
Bohdan, may I ask if my idea of a core would work if most of the core was synthetic, with only some of it being steel strands to give it enough weight?
Then, you could wrap it in the thinnest available winding to get a string that is thick (because of the synthetic), but still bright enough to project because there is some steel in it. :)
Sorry about the mixup. I've always been a little confused and it's not getting any better.
I suspect the idea of mixed steel and synthetic strands would not be practical for an e, partly because of distribution issues. My guess would be that an appropriate synthetic monofilament (Kevlar, maybe?) wrapped with titanium might work, but I'm just guessing, after all. It has probably been tried, but we wouldn't know if it didn't work.
It is generally known that one of our competitors is patent oriented instead of R&D oriented. They applied for a patent of using aramid fibres (Kevlar e.g.) for musical strings about 20 years ago or so.
Do you know why they never launched any single Kevlar core string? Since aramid fibres are not suitable for the musical strings at all. Its elasticity is even worse that elasticity of plain steel wire. We need to go the oposite way, to increase the elasticity (this is what we did with Amber E), not worsening it. If you touch a violin A string in the very middle, you should get a". But you get A-sharp instead on Kevlar core string. The small prolongation of touching the string towards to the fingerboard causes such an significant pitch increase, since the core is not able to stretch at all.
Moreover, the sound is awful. If they would spend just a brief research in their sound lab or workshop, they would learn that any patent protection was a nonsense.
As for the titanium, it is one of the least suitable material for stringmaking as for the acounstic. It is good for reducing weight of various fittings, fine tuners e.t.c., but not very much for strings. About five years ago in Austria there was an idea of making even solid titanium violin E string. The product has been withdrawn from the sale within a few weeks time.
Thank you, Bohdan. :)
Would you happen to know about the yet unreleased velvet synthetic E of about 0.46 mm?
Let's remember that a "plain gut" E ( or A or D for that matter) is not mono-filament, but rather a rope-like braid. I still have to get round to "undressing" a synthetic A to see if the core could function on its own. But what lurks between core and windings is gummy stuff to dampen the ringing vibrations, unlike gut which has its own internal damping.
I'm still waiting for the 0.46 mm synthetic E that is to be released by Velvet. :)
"Seeing as our E strings are steel for convenience..."
You're asserting that E string aren't steel because it's the best material, but because it's
"convenient"? I did read through all the posts, but I'm still wondering exactly what problem you're trying to solve by making a more complex (and undoubtedly more expensive string).
Aluminum-wrapped E strings can work on certain instruments and I've used them in the past. But they don't work on my current one. Personally, I hope they never stop making the plain steel Golden Spiral E.
Yes, but steel strings are there ans used because, as opposed to a gut E, they don't die in about 6 weeks, nor snap in high humidity.
Besides, Velvet may yet release that synthetic E, so it is possible. :)
I would like to be able to look into a crystal ball and see what violin strings will be made of and sound like a hundreds years from now.
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November 12, 2015 at 06:40 PM · The Amber E is designed like a spring to gain the flexibility normally lacking in a simple strand of steel wire.