Strings too difficult for Adv. Beg/Beg. Intermediate?

May 8, 2019, 4:58 PM · On the thread about "Preludes vs Dominants", it was mentioned that some strings might be too difficult for people of lower skill to make work properly.

I think Dominants were mentioned as being scratchy, etc.

So, I'm looking for excuses for a seeming decline in my ability to play my fiddles. I have Zyex on one, and Vision Titanium Solo on the other. BOTH of these string sets are causing a lot of whistling on the E string, but I think the Titanium is worse.

But, I'm also getting scratchiness, etc, and I'm wondering if I need other strings. These were put on because I was searching for resonance and some less murky sounds from one violin in particular.

So, for someone of my level, what strings should I avoid? Please don't say "All of them". I'm looking at YOU, Cotton Mather.

When I was in one shop, I was testing some violins, playing Cajun music, and the guy waiting on me said I sounded super, upper level. I know for a definite FACT that is not the case. And he was the one to recommend Zyex to me on one of the fiddles, that I'm now having problems with. Perhaps he misjudged my playing skill from listening to me through walls and a closed door.

Also, today is something like 66% humidity outside, and I have the window open, pulling in cool air with a fan. Would humidity be a factor?


Replies (23)

May 8, 2019, 5:07 PM · I need a video to judge. Seriously.
May 8, 2019, 5:21 PM · I may not be the best to advise on those particular string sets because I haven't personally used either of the two. (I've used Vision Solo before on violin, and currently use Vision on both violin and viola. But I've never used Vision Titanium Solo. For the record, neither Vision nor Vision Solo seems especially hard to play on.) And, like Erik, I think it's hard to judge your specific situation without a video. But I have three thoughts:

1) Thomastik-Infeld has a reputation for great middle strings and subpar E strings. Consider using a different brand for the E string. For violin, Gold Label, Goldbrokat, Warchal Amber, and Larsen all have good reputations. If you're on a budget, Goldbrokat also happens to be one of the cheapest E strings on the market.

2) Several people I know have used Zyex strings. What I hear is that they're very hit-and-miss. Some instruments love them, some instruments hate them, and there's very little in between.

3) Perhaps the scratchiness comes from too much bow pressure and/or using too much rosin? Were you playing on higher-tension strings before?


"Please don't say 'All of them'. I'm looking at YOU, Cotton Mather."


May 8, 2019, 5:52 PM · I am known to use too much bow pressure, but I've been trying to slack off. Was just trying to do a drone with a fingered string on the D and A strings, and it was damned difficult to do without additional pressure. Had to move further from the bridge too, to get some resonance going. When just playing one string, it was better.

I now realize I've asked a somewhat difficult question for people who can't see me play. On the other thread, it seemed an easy enough question for a couple of people to throw out opinions, so I figured I'd try to capture some info.

Zyex does seem squirrely though.

Edited: May 10, 2019, 5:50 AM · I have found the Thomastik Peter Infeld platinum-plated E string one of the best E strings I've ever used and never a whistle. This E string was overwhelming in volume when I tried it with a set of Tricolore gut stings on one of my violins - but perhaps that was because the Tricolores did not work with power on that violin. It is a $30 E string. Bot Thomastik's Pt-plated PIs E strings have worked great for me with sets of PI, Vision Solo and Evah Pirazzi Gold.

The Warchal Amber and Timbre E strings have also been whistle-free for me in combination with Timbre sets on 3 violins.

Going back decades I seem to recall no whistle with the over-wound Dominant E - but not a powerful string.

I have also had no whistle with the Goldbrokat E string that I use with a set of Tricolore gut strings on a violin that supports this combination well,my only violin that did not work well with a Warchal Timbre set.

I think I did have some whistling E-string problems many years ago when I was experimenting with various sets of Thomastik strings: Reds, Blues, Vision, Vision-Ti, etc.

May 8, 2019, 6:02 PM · Some strings don't play nice with some violins, but I don't think this is really a thing. If your e-string whistles, you can try a thicker gauge, but I wouldn't waste too much time and energy spinning my wheels on this.
May 8, 2019, 7:02 PM · Dominants are about as generic of a string as one can imagine. Generations of violinists have now used Dominants from the beginner level onwards. There's no reason why a beginner shouldn't be able to sound good on Dominants.

Murkiness suggests that there's a set-up problem that should be remediated.

May 8, 2019, 7:15 PM · I'm with Lydia on this isn't a string problem. Until the arrival of Thomastik Alphayue recently, nearly all of the small violins I put in the hands of students (1/16, 1/10, and 1/8 sizes) all were strung with Thomastik Dominant, and they had no issues making them work and sound good provided they committed to regular daily practice.
May 8, 2019, 7:25 PM · I tried the PI Platinum E at Andy Victor's suggestion but I don't think it offers my violin anything more than a Goldbrokat. I didn't mind trying it even though it was expensive, however. But I actually wonder if it's false. I've never had a false string before so I don't know what that would be like.

I think when people say some strings are harder to "make work properly" they might mean that there's no point for a beginner to get truly top-shelf strings because you might not be able to benefit what they offer that cheaper strings don't.

May 8, 2019, 9:17 PM · As per an earlier thread - it is possible it is not the strings that changed but the bow. Last re-hair?
May 8, 2019, 9:17 PM · Regarding it being a setup problem, I've had 3 luthiers look at it and work on it. One just said outright "It's a bad fiddle". It wasn't always so. I have improved it a bit by making the bridge seat better on the faceplate (how come no one else noticed that), taking the Fishman V-200 pickup off of it (tone killer when used as an acoustic), and have been working with strings to bring it up more. Just bought a sound post adjuster to probably require another trip to the luthier.
May 8, 2019, 11:18 PM · Per the bow, I have a couple of different bows, and was just evaluating some others. Some of the eval bows did perk it up, but perked up other violins too. More resonance. However, the two favored eval bows were kinda "bouncy" so returned them. So, my two main bows were rehaired in the last 7 months.
May 9, 2019, 9:13 AM · I’m not a believer in this. Two exceptions. Steel strings do terrible that a professional would struggle to make a decent sound. Or handing a student a set of oliv. But I don’t think it is worth it to string up the student violin with a set of Evans or obligato or even ddario kaplan. I think you just need strings that are decently made and good quality. Something like tonica I haven’t actually found strings that are sort of middle level synthetics to be more difficult to play.
May 9, 2019, 9:19 AM · Contrary to Andrew's experience, my Pi platinum E string whistles like crazy on my violin (it did not on a previous instrument) whereas the standard one does not (Goldbrokat's sound okay on my violin for about 3-4 weeks). I've since done a little modification to the platinum E and it no longer whistles, but it stinks that I had to do that in the first place. Am going to try Jargars next.

Is the scratchiness under your ear or is it screeching that someone 4ft away can hear?

Edited: May 9, 2019, 1:38 PM · For whistling E, try the Warchal Amber E string. It has fantastic sound and is designed not to whistle. It sounds awesome and it’s also a good price. Don’t waste your money on a Platinum PI e string, I’ve had that one and it whistled excessively, like someone else mentioned. Other than that, your strings seem fine and as long as they’re in good condition, I don’t see the worth in changing strings. The scratchiness is most likely coming from you or your bow, maybe even your violin, but not the strings. In any case, quality practice can be a solution.
May 9, 2019, 9:56 AM · If you're already been to luthiers and the violin is properly set up and adjusted, then the problem is not strings or the fiddle, it's how to use the bow.

Take a violin lesson or two, just spend a few hours really getting back to the basics of bow technique and sound production. Sevcik Op 2 is maybe a good starting point.

This is not criticism of the OP a player. Everybody can benefit from this. Even pro golfers continue to work on the basics of their swing. Violinists can never stop working on how to use a bow to draw sound. It's an extremely complicated thing involving fingers, wrist, elbow and shoulder -- dozens of muscles.

May 9, 2019, 12:26 PM · Once upon a time people learned on gut strings, which are supposedly "hard" to play on.

Not another gut vs synthetic opinion, but worth considering.

(I actually find famous, powerful synthetics "harder" to play on because they are stiffer on the fingers, and require lots of weight to get the tone going. But players get used to their tools over time, be it gut or otherwise.)

May 9, 2019, 12:37 PM · @Thomas, even my teacher was getting whistling with the Titanium Solo E string. She swore I was touching the string somehow. I showed her I wasn't and still getting the whistle. She didn't try the Zyex to see about the scratchiness.

I have a set of Tonicas here. My Vision and Zyex strings have only been on a couple of weeks, so I'm loathe to switch them out. Perhaps only to put on another instrument maybe.

@Pamela, the scratchiness, well, no one else here to hear it, so can't tell about 4 ft away. Could be just under my ear. It feels like the bow is grabbing unevenly. grab, skip, grab, skip. Same bow on another instrument with another set of strings does not do this.

May 9, 2019, 1:26 PM · The Titanium Solo E didn't whistle for me, but even the gold plated choices do not do that often for me. BUT all steel E strings that are not wound or "non whistling" can and will whistle by accident. Even great soloists have had regular E strings whistle throughout recitals.

It is also said some violins are more prone to have whistling Es.

May 9, 2019, 2:43 PM · My Tonica E string has never whistled. It came with the violin. I assume it is wound.
May 10, 2019, 5:43 AM · Shop put a Warchal "springy" string on. Don't remember the name. Not 100% gone, but it helps.

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