Viola Spirocore Tungsten C paired with Dominants

July 29, 2020, 4:56 PM · Based on recommendations found in this website, I decided to take the plunge to try out the famed Spirocore tungsten C on my viola. My current string set up is:
A Larsen
D Dominant
G Dominant
C Spirocore tungsten

The C string iteself sounds great. It's powerful and rich. I really like it.

The problem is the pairing with Dominants and the difference in response. The Dominants are much more responsive than the Spiro C. When I string cross from the Dominant G to the Spiro C, I risk loosing the "grip" on the C string. I have to prepare with a bit more right hand weight on the bow to engage the C string properly.

Anyone else have to adjust their playing style for each string when using different types of strings on the same instrument? Any tips on how to intergrate the different strings seemless in string crossings?

Replies (5)

July 29, 2020, 5:06 PM · Is a lighter tungsten C string an option? Seems like the obvious thing to try.
Edited: July 29, 2020, 9:52 PM · Cotton's suggestion might work. But it might not.
I've been playing viola for 47 years - the first 42 only occasionally for a minor performance and the most recent 5 years once or twice weekly in orchestra and chamber music (plus personal practice). I own 2 violas, one for all those 47 years and one for the recent 24 years They are very different:

The older viola has played well and sounded good with any strings I put on it (the top plate of this viola (originally a German "factory instrument") was regraduated by a violin maker friend of mine (and maker of one of my violins). I read once that violist Yuri Bashmet used a full set of Spirocore strings (not unusual with some famous Russian virtuosos) - so I tried that and they worked fine. Right now this viola is strung with a full set of Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Gold and they are even better. Over the years this viola has probably had 4 or 5 different string changes and all had satisfactory results.

My other viola was made for me by a different maker friend of mine (who has also made 2 violins for me, one eventually given to my granddaughter). This viola is very picky with respect to strings. I now have it strung so it is at its best and louder, more responsive and better projecting than the other. The strings that permit this performance (after about 6 string changes over its 24 years with me) are Dominant Weich (low tension) A and C, and Pirastro Permanent D and G. It took me 22 years to finally get to this combination. This viola was terrible with both the Spirocore and Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Gold sets and not quite good enough with other various string mixes I tried over the years.

I also play violin and cello (81 and 72 years respectively) and I have 4 violins and 3 cellos. Having to bow the heavier lower strings more robustly is nothing unusual (simple physics).

If you can get to a violin shop with knowledgeable staff you might be able to get good advice on strings to better balance your viola - that's how I finally got to the string combination I am now using on my newer viola - advice from a staff member (a violist) at Ifshin Violins in El Cerrito, California about 2 years ago.

Edited: July 29, 2020, 9:27 PM · I've tried a similar setup and had the same problem.

For a more powerful C versus the medium Dominant C, I switched to a heavy gauge Dominant C, which is admittedly a much thicker string than the very small-diameter medium Spirocore tungsten C.

Along the same lines of what Cotton wrote, you could also try using heavier-gauge Dominants next to the Spircore tungsten C, to match the tension levels more closely.

Edited: July 31, 2020, 10:57 AM · I was intrigued by Andrews unusual setup: synthetic C & A, steel G & D.

Here in France violists like the opposite: A trombone-like C and a nasty strident A, with warm, mushy G & D. Some one described D-strings as "playing on wet cardboard"!

I always try complete sets, as I naïvely imagine that the makers know what they are about.. My viola was originally strung with Helicores, but with Tonicas (with their synthetic A option) I have a more complexe, subtle tone and a quicker response. I like the Aricore A, for a sweeter, more violin-like A-string.

I shall try the Helicore G & D, though, to relieve lockdown boredom..


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