In my post regarding tone, numerous people discussed strings and trying new strings. it seems that several of you change strings as often as you change underwear. I’d be interested in your strategy for determining whether one set of strings sounds better than another. I had a discussion the other day with my violin teacher regarding this. We both agreed that, to get a fair comparison, you would need to break Set A in for a couple of weeks, Then take Set A off and put on Set B and wait a couple of weeks before those are broken in. Then you would need to play both one after the other to get a good determination of sound quality. On a variety of threads here, some of you talk about having tried quite a number of different strings. It sounds like that has been, for several of you, over a short period of time. Do you do it methodically, or just put a new set on and “see” if you like the new set better or worse? Are you trying out new strings sets when the previous set needs replacing or just when you become dissatisfied and want to try something new? Do you ever settle on a brand or are some of you constantly looking for something better? If the strings aren’t worn out, do you save then and organize them into packages? Do you find yourself putting a set on that you have taken off premature to them wearing out? I want to try some new strings. So many possibilities I want to try. I can’t see spending $80- $100 and immediately taking them off and trying something new. I want a good sound. But finances have to play a part as well. Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
Rob, your question cuts to the core of what I see as a significant problem facing violinists -- there are so many things we can do to improve the sound of our instruments, but the plain fact is that these parameters have scarcely been subject to rigorous, controlled experimentation, partly because when it comes to the sound of a violin, there are so many parameters, and they're so closely inter-related, and so much subjective judgment is involved that rigorous, controlled experimentation is basically impossible.
Rob - Paul's reply is full of wisdom, so I will only add a few thoughts. One thing is that it is important to have someone play your instrument for you so that you can hear the effect of the strings you have. Strings that sound not so good under your ear may sound somewhat different if you are standing six feet away listening to someone play. Another is that somehow, if you find the right strings, your instrument will suddenly sound like a Strad or you will sound like Heifetz (same thing with rosin). Strings are unlikely make that kind of difference. A final consideration is what sort of groups you are playing in. If you are mostly doing chamber music, you are likely to want strings that are warmer than if you are mostly doing orchestra, where you want strings that project well.
Rob, that's a good test only if you don't ever play your violin for those first few weeks of "break-in". Which is ridiculous. Otherwise, behavior during that period counts, because it does--you are playing then, and sound matters during that period as much as it does during any period they're on the violin. If a set of strings took a couple of weeks to sound good. . . that's a horrible thing, I think.
I think, generally, synthetic strings are more similar than they are different. If you switched an Evah for a Tonica on my violin and had me play it blindfolded, I don't even know if I could tell—certainly not right away. That is, if I still played synthetics at all.
I'm planning to change strings twice a year. So far I use Dominants, as they are middle of the road. The last lot started unravelling after about 9 months. Shar's comparison chart thinks they are warmer than Tonicas. Fiddlerman thinks Tonicas are warmer. In 6 months' time I'll try Tonicas. The truly warm strings all seem to be gut, in which I have zero interest. I had been using Hill dark rosin on new Dominants, but today I put on some Royal Oak Classic instead, and that did seem to produce a warmer sound.
Typically, I have a couple different types of strings that I want to try on a violin depending on age, origin and what it sounds like with the existing set of strings (usually whatever the luthier had on it). I'll throw a set on, try them for a couple weeks and make some notes on sound. Based upon that first set, I'll change them after a month or so to a new set of strings and keep whatever I took off since they're still pretty new. Again, more notes on sound quality and time it took to break in. At that point I'll usually decide whether I'm happy with what I've tried or if there's something particular I'm unhappy with that needs to be remedied.
I only one tried a set of violin strings that took 2-3 days to settle in. They were Larsen Tzigane strings. They were almost intolerable at first. For the first day or so, it sounded like I was playing inside a coffee can. When I change a set of Obligatos, Evah Pirazzi, or Vision Solo, sound-wise they're ready to play right away.
I have been lucky enough to live near violin shops that stock libraries of "tester" strings, enabling me to try out many, many strings in an afternoon.
Another alternative for string testing is to have a second violin in the case to wear a second set.
Yes if you are worried about a string breaking or delaminating during performance you're best to have a set of strings you've taken off as these are preconditioned and they will not lose a half step in the first minute of playing.
All good thoughts. Some new ideas to consider. Since I first starting playing about ‘62 or ‘63, I suspect I was playing on gut strings. I looked up Dominants, and they became available in 1970. That was about a year before my slow 2 year violin burnout began. If I had to guess I stayed with gut strings. When I started to play again in January, I used the Dominants that a local luthier put on my instrument about three years ago when I had a complete setup done. Unfortunately, I didn’t start playing again at that time. I worried the Dominants had gone “dead” so, after three months, I put on Obligatos (a suggestion from another luthier).I used them for 3 months. I wasn’t sure, but it seemed they lost the warmth. I’m realizing how new I am at discerning sound characteristics! I put on a new set of Obligatos. After a month or so I started getting unpleasant sounds from my G, D and A strings. So, I began thinking about switching strings again. I can’t say they are worn out. Maybe. I’m not good enough to make that determination. I’m thinking I might try a set of gut strings. But all from the same set, or a different E string. Do I put the Obligatos into plastic baggies in case I want to use theme later? I’m concerned I will regret the guts and immediately look for another alternative. At some point will my wife wonder about my string budget? Ha Ha. Lydia, I haven’t asked whether any of the local guys have test strings. But I suspect they don’t. I could be there a couple of afternoons. But after deciding, I’d be a customer for life of the shop that allowed me to do that testing. Pondering which direction to take. Again thanks. You guys are a great resource of experience and information.
Could be going false/tired with use, or maybe there is something in your adjustment that is creeping out of position. Bridges that were once perfect can sometimes wander around.
Putting strings away in a bag is fine. If they are still good.
Michael (or anyone else) have you gotten a chance to try the rondo viola strings in your shop? I'm planning on trying them on my viola because I love them for violin, but I haven't been able to find much on them in terms of what people think of them. One shop that I asked said that they think they behave like their violin counterparts which is a good enough reason for me to try them, but still the curiosity.
Michael- I’m in Southern California. I don’t care too much about longevity. As long as I can get 3-4 months our of a set, I’m OK. But I want to get the best sound of strings that I can so I can eliminate that from the discussion of my tone. I’m a little gun shy to start buying stings randomly though. I have looked at the strings charts. It’s funny that the same strings will show up differently on differentl string charts. I’m thinking of Eudoxa strings next. I hardly ever have to tune the Obligatos. But I’m not worried about tuning a little more often. I have an old violin and I’m thinking the violin was made when gut was the only option (other than steel). On the Shar website, they have a string chart. One of the two characteristics is direct vs. subtle. Could someone explain those for me?
Direct vs. Subtle I suspect is just fancy-talk for Loud vs. Not-as-Loud
Not quite. The chart on Violin String Review (which otherwise has similar axes) has a separate icon for volume. "Direct" strings have a cleaner, more penetrating tone while "subtle" strings have a more complex sound.
This question is about kid's 1/2 violin: is there is a clear sign that strings need to be changed? Or they are good until they are there? :)
Most new cheaper 1/2 size violins come with worthless Chinese strings that sound terrible and can be vastly improved upon, I would recommend Tonica as the cheapest best for the money quality string out there, about $35/set
Andrew is right
I don’t have a cheaper 1/2 size violin.
Per Zalai's website: His instrument is a 1733 Stradivarius which decades ago used to be the famous violinist & MDR Sinfonieorchester concertmaster, György Garay's concert violin.
I stand corrected.
Thanks Amrita. I’ve never understood the concept of overtones very well. My question might be, who would want less overtones? Is there a specific type of music that lends itself to a more clean tone?
A flute doesn't have many overtones, organ pipes can lack overtones, just as an example of sound that is more like a sine wave
There can be such a thing as too many overtones as well. I once had a coach have my quartet play sul ponticello to help blend our sound better. It worked, but I’m not completely sure how. My understanding is the abundance of overtones created by sul ponticello helped open our ears to listen to each other more closely. Someone with better understanding of sound physics could probably explain it better.
In regard to the question about Rondo viola strings, we got half a dozen sets to try at the shop after a couple people raved about them. We put them on six violas and every set had amazing results, so we immediately ordered more after selling all six violas in two days. The professional players who have tried them have been loving them.
FWIW, Aaron Rosand played gut on his del Gesu, but switched to light Dominants when the humidity was going to be high and variable, like on tours in Asia during wet seasons.
Aaron Rosand also used weich/light gauge Tonicas as well per Pirastro's website: https://www.pirastro.com/public_pirastro/pages/en/Aaron-Rosand-00001/
It's too bad Pirastro discontinued the Tonica in weich/light gauge. Only mediums now.
Andrew, they're all over the map. The Latest Thing, usually, whatever it is that week. One of them has been with some Warchal string for quite a while now, which is notable.
I might not be typical of Michael's clients, but I totally sympathize. There are a few instances when I'd want improvements or differences that come from Warchal Timbre, or maybe some of the gut options-- Eudoxa and Tricolore mostly.
The thing that I really like about the Rondos is that they feel like a
Michael. Thank you.
Over the 20 years that I've been playing my old family heirloom violin I've tried a variety of strings, and always return to plain gut (Chorda) with a steel E. There is no doubt in my mind that these suit the 18th c violin because they bring out the resonance and response the best. Sorry about the steel E instead of gut, but one must be pragmatic when the need arises! Eudoxas come close to the Chordas, but the Chordas bring out the tone and resonance better. I've tried various synthetics, but they seem to strangle the tone to some extent, presumably because of the increased tension over plain gut.
Yeah. My experience has been that when gut works it's great, and when not its disproportionately disappointing. Something synergistic seems to happen when it does work and if that doesn't happen it's a total bust. . . there's no in between.
Chorda are just about the worst gut strings on the market, gut string manufacturing has improved lately, you should try some other brands, like Gamut.
Lyndon, I think the behaviour of gut strings can depend on the violin. A few years ago I tried Chordas on a Jay Haide I had at the time (but which I now no longer have), and the result was rather less than satisfactory. I got far better results on that violin with synthetics (particularly Warchal Amber), and the situation regarding string choice is essentially reversed on my old violin.
With gut, I am finding enough to suspect that gauge/tension matters more than with mainstream synthetics. I tried a set of Tricolore on one fiddle, and it just refused to respond properly. I suppose I could have got a real hatchet for a bow and relearned how to use it, but I found instead that light-weight A and D solved the problem.
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