Do you use a metal A string?

April 12, 2018, 10:37 PM · I have tried a metal A, quite a while ago - but I wondered how many people do? Oistrakh made a wonderful sound and he used one.

Any comments?

Replies (17)

April 13, 2018, 1:37 AM · Many people used/occasionally use steel core A & E, and something else for the other two. It has to do with many things. The most common I have personally heard is eaither a different approach in tone (two treble strings and two "bass" strings, somehow like a 4-voice choir, or a better tone from the instrument with a steel core A, improving the "tonal" and "power" gap between the D and the A, and the A and the E. If the latter is the issue, it seems to me more as an unaddressed setup issue, or a not so correct string combination.

In many occasions I have tried a steel core A, but personally did not like either the result or the fact that I had to alter my bowing, or even get to a stickier rosin to achieve the same tone with GDA synthetics.

Fortunately if you want to experiment, there are many quality steel core A strings now.

April 13, 2018, 1:59 AM · Glad to see you posting again Peter. I have considered trying a steel A for quite some time since Warchal Strings started advertising them in the never ending quest for a better sound. It seems that a lot of people who do use a steel A use it with a separate fine tuner which I do not want to add on the tailpiece.
Edited: April 13, 2018, 3:03 AM · Just as I have a problem relating to the steel E, I hate the steel viola A: I like the trumpet, but not right under my ear!
I think we mistakenly expect the highest string (perched on the corner of the bridge, and practically over the soundpost) to accept the same bow-stroke as the lower strings: I use a longer, lighter stroke on a wound E (even the despised Dominant one!) or a synthetic viola A.

But a steel violin A has the advantage of a better transition to the E. I even have LP sleeve of Grumiaux with two fine adjusters..

April 13, 2018, 3:31 AM · The Warchal A I have used and you don't really need an adjuster. It's pretty good, and I "might" consider it again.

Adrian - read Ricci because he says you need a different bowing and left hand technique on the E, and I agree. It's never easy - playing the violin.

April 13, 2018, 11:14 AM · I've never tried Steel A and E with synthetic G and D (never tried gut strings). I much prefer synthetic As on both violin and viola. I hate the metallic sound of steel viola As. I like the sound of the steel violin E, though.
April 13, 2018, 11:28 AM · I do. The Warchal Russian-style A is decent, but the Avantgarde E (which uses the spiral that the Amber E has) is fantastic. I match it to medium-gauge Passione or Warchal Brilliant Vintage on the lower two strings.

My violin has an especially brilliant, powerful E-string, and I think that having the steel A smooths the contrast between A and E a bit more. But that's almost an interpretive choice in a way, because the E-string contrast can be used to significant tonal-color effect.

At the moment I'm using an Amber E with Passione lower strings, because the Avantgarde A was out of stock.

Edited: April 13, 2018, 4:17 PM · Occasionally I substitute a steel A and E for their usual gut counterparts, a typical instance being a few days ago when we started rehearsals for Beethoven 9, which we're performing in June. The combination of 2 steel + 2 gut works well on my old violin, but I'll revert later on in the year. I suppose one answer would be to get another violin for all-gut playing.
April 13, 2018, 3:18 PM · I don't use it regularly, but I keep an Avantgarde A as an emergency string in my case. I prefer the sound of a wound gut A, but for emergency situations the Avantgarde is almost instantly stable. And for a steel string it is very good.
April 14, 2018, 2:34 PM · I use a Helicore A. I like the response. Currently using it with Obligatos which you would think was a weird match but I find it fine.
April 14, 2018, 4:21 PM · I have used a set of Pirastro Permanent strings on one of my violas. They are very good (regardless of the core material), however because of some idiosyncrasies of that viola I have switched out the A and C strings to lower tension strings.

But because of that good experience I have tried the closest match I could find on one of my violins and set it up with a Pirastro Flexocor-Permanent set - except for the E string; I always use Thomastik Peter Infeld Platinum E strings on my violins and will until one of them breaks. After that I may try Evah Pirazzi Platinum or Gold to see how they do.

April 14, 2018, 5:55 PM · I've used a Spirocore A for a really long time now and love it. Works with most sets, since it's sufficiently round sounding. Keen to try the Avantgarde though.
April 22, 2018, 12:53 PM · I'm using Warchal (steel) A & E and PI D & G. Sounds fine. (to me, anyway)
April 23, 2018, 12:09 AM · The other day the A string of my Tzigane set started to break in the area of the bow pressure and I changed it with Warchal Avantgarde.

The sound was fantastic. Warmer than I expected. However it was uncomfortable for me because of its different feeling under the finger. It would take me a while to get used, so I put another Tzigane A, but next set, I will put the avantgarde and work on getting used to it. (In my tryouts of strings, next in line is the combination Eudoxa Stiff G&D, Avantgarde A and Amber E).
Apart from the texture and feeling, it was loud, colorful and warm and it mixed very well with the rest of the set. It is a good string.

April 23, 2018, 2:36 AM · I've decided to continue with the PI synthetic A string and not go back to the metal one at least for the time being, as I'm quite happy with the sound of the PI A,D and G. (Thomastic - Peter Infeld).

But one day I might try the Warchal strings, or at least the A.

April 29, 2018, 12:16 AM · Yes i do.

Warchal Russian A with Dominant G&D and Pirastro gold label E.

Eudoxa Aricore with Obligato G&D and Hill E string.

April 30, 2018, 10:29 AM · Another metal A-string that I like is NS-Electric made by D'Addario. They are the cheaper, all-steel version of the Helicore strings, designed to be used with magnetic pick-ups. I suspect that they sacrificed some volume in exchange for a mellow, clean sound.
May 9, 2018, 2:12 PM · Love the Avantgarde A. On my violin it really sounds comparable to a Vision Solo or Evah. You'd never know it was steel by the sound, but it has the nice playability of a steel string -- very good clarity at the top of the fingerboard.

I don't know where "Russian Style" A comes from. One explanation is simply that Russians had less money in the Soviet days and steel As were cheaper than gut. But I have also heard that Russian technique encourages staying in high positions on the A to lessen the number of shifts up and down the E. In any case, if you play with a steel A, you want something that is a transition in sound between your gut/composite D and your steel E. Avantgarde does that really well.

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