Individual string tension relation to volume
I've been experimenting with different tensions for individual strings and I was curious how it relates to the overall volume of the violin. Would you think the volume of the instrument is determined by the net tension on the instrument or by that of the individual strings? In other words, if you use heavy gauge G and D strings with lighter gauge A and E strings with the total combination equalling around the same tension as a medium gauge set, would the instrument as a whole sound about as loud as the medium gauge set across all strings, or would the G and D be louder and the A and E quieter? Or a bit of both?
I am inclined to think the change should be tonal more than volume.
I agree with Michael, more tonal and response. Higher tension equals less response.
As someone who plays on gut strings, I've had plenty of fun playing with this idea.
Heavier gauges as Cotton notes work great for gut strings. Wieniawski and Paganini used A strings that measured to 17PM. I’ve never seen a review of one of their performances criticizing their lack of ‘response.’ It takes a lot of experimentation to see what works for you and your violin.
I have an interesting data point. I met Aaron Rosand in South Korea a long time ago and he said he usually liked gut (Eudoxas or Olive) but that on the road in weird weather zones he used light gauge Dominants, which he said behaved about the same and were equally loud.
My experience over many years on a number of instruments has informed me that it depends on the instrument.
I think that it is more about balance. More tension is not always "better". Something like a Stainer or Amati might not react to the higher tension with more of anything. A heavier built instrument might like/want more tension. How tight the post is and what sort of bass bar would also figure in.
Rosand used a light gauge plain unwound gut A-string (approximately 14PM) by Damian Dlugolecki. He had a very light touch and I remember he specifically told me how he hardly used any bow pressure, unlike someone such as Michael Rabin who used a lot of downward pressure to get that big golden tone. For someone like Rabin, a heavier gauge would probably be more ideal.
Rosand used this ... Perlman uses that ...
When I started viola in the '60s there was only gut vs steel. I chose steel for reasons of budget and adjusted the viola accordingly. The arrival of Dominants changed all that, although for a recording session I went back to gut cores.
I am not an expert, so this will be subjective. Of equal importance to the tension of individual strings is the total force of the set on the top plate. I think it is something like tuning a drum or banjo head. Not enough tension sounds slow and flabby, not enough response. Too tight chokes,crushes the sound, is prevented from optimum vibrating. (I also play in a drum corps!) The total force is also dependent on the angle that the strings have with the bridge (vector trigonometry!). In practice that angle is not standardized, each bridge is custom fitted to the arch of the top and the angle of the fingerboard. I have one cheap violin with a bridge/fingerboard that is too low. I use high tension strings to help compensate. Another of my violins is modern, solidly constructed, and it surprised me by preferring low tension or gut strings. My larger Viola prefers a low tension C-string. We experiment, which costs money. Or your experienced Luthier will have some intuitive insight.
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