When to upgrade students' strings
I've got four students, two age 9 and just beginning, one age 10 with a year under her belt, and one 14.
My 9 year olds are doing fine with their beginner, cheap strings (probably red label), but I just switched my 10 year old's from red label to Dominant. Her red labels were getting pretty nasty, and started to unravel, but do you think I should have put on new red labels or do you think it was a safe move to upgrade to Dominants (which I personally hate but I'm not about to tell her mom to buy her Evahs or PI's)?
She's about to do her second solo festival audition in January, and has picked a song from Suzuki 1. She knows her G 2 octave scale, and A and D 1 octave, and seems to be getting better at holding/using the bow properly (with help from a pinky holder I found on Shar). She's incredibly enthusiastic about learning the violin.
I'm thinking of also upgrading my older student's strings, but hers is a rental.
TL;DR (too long; didn't read):
1) is 5th grade too early to upgrade from red label to Dominants
2) is it worth upgrading strings on a rental for a 14 year old
Helicore or Tonica might be worth considering - it all depends on how they "fit" on the fiddle, you never really know until you try.
Hmm I'll try those on my young one's next. I took her violin for the week (and lent her my backup, the one I played in middle school/high school) to break them in, and I might be biased from being used to my own instrument or it could be the fact that it's under my ear and not across the room, but they sound scratchy and metallic. I haven't played on Dominants in ages, so they might not even be broken in yet. I changed them last Friday. She plays a 4/4 1713 Cremona Strad student copy
Thomastik Alphayue is $20 a set, for a decent synthetic that comes in all sizes.
Red Labels are terrible. I'd replace them with a decent synthetic right away. Dominants, Tonicas, Alphayues, etc.
Yes, upgrade those strings! Red Label strings feel more like steel suspension cables than strings anyway. And the sound!
Great, thanks guys! My next question, just because it's been a few years, how long does it take for these Dominants to break in? When I used them I was much younger and didn't have a trained ear to listen for new vs broken in. These new ones sound terrible, and it's been a week. They're not /as/ horrid as they were when I put them on, but it still is pretty unpleasant. Could just be the violin, too. Basic student model.
Anything but Red Labels! Eek, those things are awful. Dominants usually take about a week, but we do a lot of playing around here, so it may be more if they aren't being played that much.
Why make beginners suffer with awful strings? I agree with Lydia's recommendations.
Mary Ellen, I ask myself the same question with string players and oboists... I know students start on terrible instruments and horrid, machine-made reeds to save the school a bit of money (let's face it, parents aren't going to want to spend $20 on a reed that will last a couple weeks at best if the kid is careful), but WHY do they have to be so bad?
My child started on Tonica when she was 3. Her 1/16 rental violin came with it. There should be no age restrictions on having a decent set of strings.
For the younger ones - Evah Pirazzi fractional size is half the price of full size (I don't think many makers do this?) which makes them even less than Dominants ($60+?). Maybe the idea is you love them as a kid and keep buying them as a grown player.
It's interesting that Evah does fractional sizes, I didn't know that!
There are a lot of other strings besides red label and dominants. I avoid both. Red Labels are just awful no matter the level. I see dominants as old technology. Thomastick (and other brands) have new strings (Vision and others) that break in fast and sound better. The break in fast is important to me with less advanced and/or younger students.
I also kind of feel that Dominants are not great... Breaking in my student's new Dom's was awful; I sounded like a dying cat and my parents made it known (lol sorry Mom and Dad!)
EP fractional strings are loud, at least they are when my daughter plays them. We have tried a lot of fractional strings from Aphayue to Zyex but we always revert back to EP.
Dominants can take a while to break in. If it is a student playing gently, it can take 1-2 weeks for them to reach their core sound. For a pro really working them, it can take a couple of days.
A case where the question only results in more questions. There are reasons why 'practicing' string players most often practice on Red Label or Prelude perhaps Spirocore or Helicore. Extremely good strings and violin and bow may all be 'harder' for a beginning/ inexperienced/ marginally trained player. Few performance String players use unwound gut strings ... and not because temp and moisture make it problematic. Gut is difficult. Likewise, synthetic is more difficult vs steel. My weak minded opinion is, let the 'practicing player' experiment with the more manageable nuances of steel until their level of play justifies a string that is needed to achieve their goal. PS: It is common as a Luthier to see an instrument that 'new strings' are the teacher/ player/ parent's 'solution'. Often it's post, bridge, string height, nut height, or projection height. T.Matthew