G string Woes

Edited: July 14, 2019, 4:05 PM · Hello all,
One time I tried the Evah Pirazzi Gold violin strings. I loved them but there was a problem with them. The G string lacked clarity and gave my violin a wolf in the high positions (I was playing Lalo 1st movement at the time). The D and A strings were great though and the E was okay on my violin. I really loved the warm sound of the strings until I tried to play the G string in higher positions.

So I thought that maybe it was because the G string was too high tension for my violin. So I tried tonicas and that fixed the problem so that I could play Lalo for my jury. However I didn't like the sound of the G as much as I liked the EPG G. But just now a year later after doing more research I found that the tonica G is higher tension than the EPG G according to the pirastro site. The tonica G is 4.9 kp (10.8lbs) and the EPG is 4.8 kp (10.58lbs but rounds to 10.6).

All this time I thought I needed lower tension strings so I kept trying lower tension strings. I tried dominants and those worked better than the tonicas in terms of sound. I also tried kaplan vivo even though they aren't low tension and they were better than the EPG G. Now I'm in the middle of trying the Warchal Amber. I'd heard that the G string can be weak in high registers. It wasn't at first, but now it is starting to be weaker. I was practicing the solos of the 1st orchestra 2nd violin part of the Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis and I was having trouble with clarity on the G string when I hit A4 to C5.

So now I'm not even sure what my violin needs in terms of tension

To wrap up the strings:

Evah Pirazzi gold:
Great, but the G string was unresponsive in high registers

Tonica:
Fixed the G problem, but the G is higher tension and the sound wasn't what I was looking for in terms of warmth

Kaplan vivo:
Better than the EPG G, but still a little unresponsive. Also not much lower in tension (10.5 lbs)

Dominant:
Worked really well on the G. I also preferred the sound to the tonica. The G string is also lower tension (9.9 lbs)

Amber:
Also worked, but the G isn't so much as unresponsive, but instead rather weak. The G string is the lowest tension of all of them (43.05 N or 9.68 lbs which rounds to 9.7 lbs)

Basically I have no idea what to think anymore. I thought I needed lower tension strings (mainly the G) so that the G string would speak in higher registers. I thought the tonica were low tension at the time so tried those, but have now come to realize that the G string is higher tension than the EPG G string.

Anyone have any insight on what is going on?

Replies (33)

July 14, 2019, 4:41 PM · You tried a lot of G-strings; that's expensive. Have you tried a Gut-core G ? The Pirastro Gold Label might be the least expensive of the options. On three of my 4 violins I use the gut G next to a synthetic core D. Gut can last a very long time. It is the same kind of complex high-sulfur protein polymer that is in your tendons and ligaments, which can last a lifetime if not abused.
July 14, 2019, 5:11 PM · The last time I tried Evah Pirazzi Golds, the G string was riddled with wolf tones in higher registers.
A deal breaker for sure.
Edited: July 14, 2019, 5:44 PM · EPG sets topped with PI-Pt E strings (instead of the EPG sets' E strings) have worked well on my 4 differently voiced violins. HOWEVER, for two of those violins (which do not have wolf tones) I found much improved upper G string sound and response by using a Krentz wolf eliminator just for its tone-modification abilities. The other 2 violins were not improved at all by the Krentz - in fact, just slightly the reverse. My working hypothesis is that the Krentz acts a bit like adjustable/reversible regraduation of the upper plate (not substantial enough to call it a "theory").

The "Weich" (weak, or thin or low tension) versions of strings can be used to reduce tension, of course. What I did to determine which way to go wrt. tension was to detune the offensive string a half tone and also to tune it a half tone higher. If either change improved the performance of the string I decided to check with my luthier about a better choice. I was able to go in and get some trial strings on the spot to install and try and listen to one of their better trained players on my fiddle too. GREAT RESULTS!

July 14, 2019, 6:01 PM · Jeff,
That is precisely what happened to me. That’s why I immediately stopped using them.
July 14, 2019, 6:03 PM · Joel yes I have tried quite a lot of strings and it was indeed expensive. But I was also eye opening in terms of what strings do and don’t work on my violin. No I haven’t tried gut but I have been considering it especially the eudoxas. However after having found out about the tonics g I don’t know whether I need lower or higher tension now.
July 14, 2019, 6:07 PM · Andrew do you think it could be the e string in the evah golds? It is quite a heavy string in terms of tension. But I’ve used other e earrings that are pretty tense and they didn’t have much of a problem.

I’ve been meaning to try that trick of lowering or raising the pitch a half step, but now I’m not sure how effective it’ll be considering my experience with the tonics being higher tension than the EPG but working fine and the dominant being less and being great too.

July 14, 2019, 6:46 PM · continued-- Besides the trick of raising or lowering a string by a 1/2 step, for the E string a cheap experiment is to try all 3 gauges of the Goldbrokat. And then there is the quality of the instrument. Unless your Violin is a very expensive, high level instrument, that Tonica or Dominant G might be good enough for your budget.
July 14, 2019, 7:07 PM · Christian - do you have a luthier? If so, go to your luthier, tell him/her what you have told us and ask for advice. S/he will be in a much better position to advise you since s/he can see and hear you violin, examine it in detail, and try to figure out what might work. You have received a lot of good well-meaning advice, but the best advice will come from an expert who can see and hear your instrument. Good luck!
Edited: July 14, 2019, 7:22 PM · Try a gut G. If you can, get one without a silk underlayer. The silk layer makes the tone softer and less gritty, but I think it's too mushy. A gut G with no silk wrap has a very clear sound, with lots of texture.
I believe Pirastro puts the silk on all their gut G strings with no option to remove it. Maybe you can email them about it? Either way, I'd check out the Tricolore G.
July 14, 2019, 7:44 PM · Multiple sets of strings are an awfully expensive solution to a relatively simple adjustment problem that should take about 30 seconds for a good adjuster!
July 14, 2019, 7:45 PM · Sounds like an adjustment issue more than a string issue. Or just a violin that's not great on the upper G string. Lots of inexpensive violins have issues in the upper reaches of the fingerboard.
Edited: July 14, 2019, 9:53 PM · My first inclination was indeed to go get my violin adjusted. I haven’t been able to find a luthier around where I am. I’m a student at University of North Texas. I had one back home where I’m from but I’m still in the Dfw area. I did try one luthier here and we tried adjusting it while the evah golds were still on there and it helped a little, but it was still a little wolf sounding up there just not nearly as bad. That’s why I starting trying different sets. It sounds expensive but it was really only when I needed to change sets unless the set was that bad like the vivo. The vivos sound great on my other violin though that needs a brighter string in order to not sound muffled.

Joel there are plenty of professionals that use dominants on their priceless vuillames, strads, Guarneris, and what have you. I don’t think it’s an issue of how expensive my violin is.

I have considered going back to dominants since that’s what was on my violin when I got it. The first time I went back this year they sounded great with a Westminster e but I wanted it a little more powerful so I’ll probably try the heavy Westminster with the set. A good thing about dominants is that you can change the sound of them with different e strings, so I’ll probably get a couple different e strings with the dominants like Joel was talking about with trying the different gauges of the goldbrokat e strings. Most e strings are quite cheap so this is probably a better route than different g strings and whole sets.

July 14, 2019, 11:03 PM · "I have considered going back to dominants since that’s what was on my violin when I got it."

Just about every violin at every dealer comes with Dominants. They do that so you can compare violins in the shop with the same strings. Occasionally you will have a luthier (like Potter's) that will take the time to try to find the best strings for some of the mid-grade to upper-level violins (and cellos) that they have in inventory.

July 14, 2019, 11:31 PM · Paul I was just saying that since they were on there when I got the violin and I liked the violin then, maybe I should just stick to dominants and experiment with E strings and get the violin adjusted to work really well with dominants. Most shops I go to don't have the same strings on the majority of their violins either.
July 15, 2019, 12:05 AM · Violins with any brand of string will sound different with different E strings. That's why it's very common to experiment with E strings first, and to keep the E static while changing the choices on the lower strings.
July 15, 2019, 12:20 AM · Wow I've never considered keeping the E string and changing the lower strings. I've always done the opposite.
Edited: July 15, 2019, 12:44 AM · --Cotton M. Do you know which gut G strings do not have that silk layer ? I was not aware of that.
Also, the aluminum winding on the D or A breaks very easily. It is a soft metal. I prefer a silver wound D, and a good steel A. It makes sense that the E string has more influence than the others, it has the higher tension number. The total pressure of the bridge on the top plate is the sum of the tension of the 4 strings, and is also a function of the angle of the strings to the bridge. One of my violins fooled me. It is a sturdy, modern, student grade violin, but it prefers the lower tension strings.
Edited: July 15, 2019, 7:36 AM · Pirastro's Baroque Chorda G, a gut-cored wire-wound string , as opposed to flat-wound, has an intermediate layer between gut and winding, which I confirmed by dissecting an old one, but I don't know if it is silk. However, there may be other Baroque G's that do not have such intermediate layer. Worth looking at the specialist Baroque/Early Music gut string makers.

The Chorda G is also available with copper winding, which gives a different tone. Both types are available in different weights.

What I particularly like about the Chorda G on my old violin is that it effectively kills off the wolf that prowls in the high regions of the G.

July 15, 2019, 8:12 AM · Joel, the wound gut strings made by Savarez for early period instruments don't have what you call a silk layer (actually it's either nylon or polyamid). These gut strings come in two flavours: wound with copper or wound with silver plated copper for a different character of tone. I use them for G and D on two different violins, both with modern tuning (A = 440 Hz) since several years. For my instruments they don't have cons that I could mention. Very full and good sounding strings with a long lifetime compared to a string with synthetic core. Savarez offers these strings in a wide variety of gauge.
July 15, 2019, 8:42 AM · Gamut's Academie G string has an option to have the silk layer removed, and Aquila probably doesn't put silk on their G strings at all.
July 15, 2019, 9:21 AM · I used gut-core strings on the single (1951) violin I owned until around 1974. I used Pirastro Eudoxa and later Olive - Pirastro's Gold Label never was right on it. When Thomastik introduced Dominants around 1970 they clearly were not as good on it, but a few years later Pirastro introduced Tonica strings, which were a worthy replacement for the climate-sensitive guts on that violin (I've retried the Pirastro gut-sore strings thrice since). I have recently learned that this violin is pretty weak under Tricolore strings with a Goldbrokat E. It seems very nice these days with Warchal Timbres, but it's all-time favorite combo seems to be Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Gold strings topped with a Peter Infeld Platinum-plated E which were on it just previously - and may be next again.

Two violins I acquired between 1972 and 1974 and another from 1990 worked well with Dominants. All 4 of my current violins have probably been their best ever under the PI-E/EPG combo. I got another violin by the maker of the 1990 violin in 2000 - more about that later.

The first 3 of my violins have been subjected to most new string brands that came along in the past 20 years from Pirastro and Thomastik and some of the Warchals. The original 1951 sucks with Tricolores, which are very nice on the 1974 fiddle and the 1974 fiddle sucks with the Warchal Timbres, which are very nice on the 1951, 1972 and 2000 fiddles. Unfortunately for me, my granddaughter commandeered the 1990 violin when she was 12 (18 years ago) so my experiments with strings on it ended. The replacement 2000 violin does not have the same remarkable tonal qualities as the same maker's 1900 violin.

I actually have a totally full "string drawer" in my cabinet for violin, viola and cello accessories including partially used and new strings for future use. I would hate to add up what $s I must have spent for those plus all those that died noble deaths or were gifted away over decades. NO! I won't do it!

When and how does one decide "My instrument is now the best it's ever been and GOOD ENOUGH! No more string experiments."?

July 15, 2019, 4:45 PM · Christian Harvey:

The first thing you should do is make sure there's nothing wrong with your instrument - no seams open, good adjustment, etc. All bets are off in terms of string selection if you're open. Assuming that everything is in good working order and you still have the same problem, I think that the truth might be the opposite of your first theory. EPG strings are surprisingly low tension for a modern Pirastro string. You might try a set of normal Pirazzzis with a relatively high-tension E, like Westminster stark, or Wondertone Solo Advanced Steel 26.7.

If you're not a fan of Pirastro, or Pirazzis in particular (some people find their sound one-dimensional) some alternatives are Cantiga from Corelli, or one of the "Solo" lines from Thomastik (Vision Titanium Solo, e.g.). Stark Dominants are the cheapest option, but they are VERY heavy, and can feel hard to play on.

July 15, 2019, 5:38 PM · Hang on - the Pirazzi golds sets have two alternative G strings: the regular (expensive) and the actually gold-wrapped (veery expensive). Which of the two did you have problems with, if not both. If one you could try the other....
July 16, 2019, 12:04 AM · Hi Elise,
It was the regular G string that was problematic. I have thought of trying the gold G, but that’s a pretty expensive string. About $60 last I looked.
July 16, 2019, 5:22 AM · I've been using the gold-gold and have not had any of the problems you describe on my fiddle - interestingly, I'm about to try the silver, lets see if I see a difference.
July 16, 2019, 11:27 AM · The EPG gold G was terrible on the violin I tried it on. Warm but really fuzzy and sluggish. The silver G worked fine on that violin though.

The reason you start with the E string is that it impacts the sound of the whole violin. And E strings are cheap. For my previous instrument, I went to Ifshin's, a violin shop in the Bay Area that keeps a large library of E-strings for testing purposes. I tried a ton of E strings there in different gauge until I settled on a Jarger Forte for that instrument.

For my current violin, I experimented until I found the Amber E. You usually end up changing E strings more frequently than the rest of the set, so you can more readily try more of them. (I have found the Amber E to often outlast the lower string synthetics though. The Avantgarde A is similarly long-lived.) I have kept buying the same E, while experimenting with the lower strings.

July 16, 2019, 5:50 PM · Nate I've never actually tried the regular Evah Pirazzi. After hearing about their short lifespan and not particularly liking brighter strings I've just stayed away from them. Maybe it's time to give them a shot. I haven't tried Vision Solo either, but I have used titanium solo. Also when I got my instrument checked the first time this was happening nothing was wrong with it. I even got my bridge shaped (there was a lot of extra material) and a new sound post.

Lydia I'll probably try a bunch of E strings like you did to try and find the best one for my violin. So far I like the Amber the best out of all the ones I've had. But It'd be interesting to try some heavier gauge E strings. Especially perhaps with Evah Pirazzi on the lower strings like Nate was suggesting.

July 16, 2019, 5:50 PM · Nate B,

The Evah Pirazzi Gold D string, at 4.7 kp, and G string, at 4.8 kp, are not low in tension, by any means.

They are almost identical to the tension figures for the Evah Pirazzi (green) strings in medium gauge, at 4.8 kp for the D string and 4.9 kp for the G string.

Edited: July 17, 2019, 12:25 AM · It just occurred to me that I haven't tried Evah Golds since I got my new sound post. When I tried them it was about February last year and I got my new sound post in December. At the time I was using tonicas and Kaplan Vivos. The new one is longer than my last one to accommodate the humidity where I live. Maybe the Evah Gold G will work now? I took them off pretty quick after I had problems with the G so I might still have the set somewhere.
July 18, 2019, 1:10 PM · Andrew,

I didn't mean to imply they were low tension strings in the same way, say, Violino are low tension strings. However, when it comes to string tension, a small change makes a big difference, and Pirsatro's trend over the years has leaned towards higher and higher tension. It's an unusual departure for them to make their new flagship string a reduction in tension rather than an increase.

Just for comparison, a Violino G, advertised as low tension string, is 9.5 lbs, compared to a medium Dominant at 9.9 lbs.

A standard Pirazzi medium G is 10.8 lbs, the same as a heavy Dominant, vs. only 10.5 lbs for Pirazzi Gold. This is well outside the range that can be considered "almost identical." :P

July 18, 2019, 7:34 PM · Update: I tried putting the Evah Gold G back on my violin with the new sound post and the wolf is still there. I put the Warchal String back on and the wolf disappeared, but was still a little weak up the g string. The dominant string didn't have a wolf at all and wasn't weak.
July 19, 2019, 9:43 AM · Christian, from what you are saying, the dominant strings do the trick. Like you -and other people- said, experiment with various E strings and the TI Dominant ADG. Also, consider that there are two Dominant D options, silver wound and aluminium wound I think, maybe you can try both and see what happens. I really like them, in fact I am currently using them with a medium Eudoxa steel E.
July 20, 2019, 1:30 AM · Hermes I believe you're right. I have a full set of dominants (besides the e) that aren't too old that I can use until I get another set. I'll likely keep the Amber E on to see how it works with the dominants since I really like the warm sound I get from it. The non-whistling is a nice bonus as well.

I can get Dominants and a couple different E strings from Concordmusic.com for a really good price. They also have a special dominant set that lets you choose from 5 different e strings for a discounted price depending on which one you choose. The most you'll spend would be $53.60 for the Jargar. Unfortunately if I end up liking a heavy gauge e string I think those sets only come with medium gauge e string. However, it shouldn't be too much more if at all to get the e string I end up choosing if it's not one of the ones they offer.

Thank you all for your help and input. It was greatly appreciated.

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