Without going into too much detail, I have been trying several sets of strings since I starting playing again in January. I started with Dominants then moved to Obligatos, Passione and last Tricolore.
At first I was on a search for warm sounding strings (thus the obvious progression).But, in the process I have been experiencing some things that I am unable to fully explain. Two phenomenon I have experienced. When playing the harmonic notes in Meditation, some strings enable me to play it clearly and then release it so I can play the open A. Other strings seem to hold the harmonic for a longer time period than is called for.
When playing Mozart’s Third Violin Concerto third movement, some of the short runs seem more difficult with certain strings. It’s as if my right and left hands aren’t “in sync” as well with some strings.
Question, are these examples of differences in string responsiveness? Is this something else? Could someone provide me a real life example of string responsiveness when playing?
As usual, thanks!
Well, the easiest thing to rule out first is if your right and left hands are out of sync. You can use dotted rhythms (dotted eighth sixteenth and then sixteenth dotted eighth) to troubleshoot left and right-hand being out of snyc. Once you do those a couple of times play the passage like normal. If the problem is gone then you know it was your right and left hands being out of sync. If the problem persists then perhaps it could indeed be your strings.
Christian- Thanks for the response. I’m asking about more about comparing this issue with two different sets of strings and whether the strings are causing the issue. I can play the pieces better with Obligato strings. Next best is Passione strings and the worse is with the Tricolore. What I’m trying to understand is whether this is a what is called string “responsiveness” and whether my experience with these different types (brands) are typical.
I can't speak to the harmonics issue, but the second is a matter of adjustment vs humidity and this time of summer is a bad time in that regard. Unless you are in Australia. So bear in mind that the changing strings aren't the only variable involved.
Perhaps try a narrower gauge of string (when choices within a brand permit)?
Stephen, what would that do for me? I’ve seen all the gauge choices. I’ve never been very clear on why.
In that case, yes I'd say it's a response thing if you can already play the passage better with the obligatos. Part of the reason is that Passiones and Tricolore are gut strings. More accurately gut/synthetic hybrid and plain gut respectively. Gut strings can be known to have a slower response than their steel and synthetic counterparts. You're probably experiencing that the obligatos are the easiest to play because they are synthetic core. The passiones are second because they are a hybrid. They have the sound characteristics of normal gut strings but are more stable in pitch due to having modern materials found in synthetic strings. You could figure out how to play on gut strings if you like the sound enough because there are plenty of people who play or have played on gut strings professionally and don't seem to have problems with response. One that comes to mind is the very well know Heifetz. he used plain gut strings with a goldbrokat E.
Okay, I couldn't resist and looked further into the difference in tensions between obligato and passione.
Christian- Thank you so much for your very well thought out response. I have been wanting to try pure gut since January because that is what I played when I was younger in the 60s and early 70s. But after having the gut on for only 3-4 days, I’m finding that I’m fighting them. I don’t just mean the constant tuning. That will go away. I spoke to my violin teacher this morning and told him I feel like I’m playing the Mozart worse than I was when I first started it. He assured me that I wasn’t, that I am gaining a more critical ear. I’d like to think that. After I got off the phone I realized that I tried three sets of strings in the last month (generally not a good idea) and that some of the difficulty is based on string responsiveness. The gut are far worse, I’m surprised. When I was a teenager I never worried much about any of this. You broke a string? Go down to the music store and buy another. If I had gone to my parents telling them that I need a new set of super duper strings I would have been met with, “You want to sound better? Practice more!” And of course, they would have been right!
Stick with the Tricolore, they are great strings with lots of colour. Depends of course on what you like, the Passione are more like synthetic strings. Ultimately strings matter little if you can't bring out your best playing with them.
JI- The Tricolore are the only strings that I had on for only 3-4 days. I went through two sets of Obligato. Then switched to Passione for 3-4 weeks Then this week tried the Tricolore. Tonight I put the last set of Obligatos back on and played for 10-15 minutes. All of a sudden the problems seemed lessened. I think I’m finally understanding response time. I’m not saying I will stick with Obligatos, I think I will test these a few more days-week and then decide whether to buy a new set of Obligatos (I was only saving this old set for emergency purposes) or go back to the fairly new Passione.
String responsiveness to the bow is a complex function of the string mass (basically thickness), and string damping (basically core material (steel, synthetic, gut) and construction (solid, filament, wound cladding)).
I know what you mean about the harmonic "continuing" after you lift your finger. I guess it could be string-dependent, but I don't know. You'd need to have pretty good control of your bow to test that systematically.
No one here EVER takes my advice to spend 25 bucks getting the instrument fixed before pouring hundreds of dollars into throwing strings at a fundamental instrument problem :-(
OK-- modified wording. See a good luthier and ask if s/he has advice on string tension, in addition to any of the obvious things to set up properly.
I can assure you the strings were ok, but you had to get used to them once again after playing the Obligatos for a while. Certainly pure gut do require more exacting bowing technique. Back then it was easier because it was all you played. However, you do not need to play pure gut if it becomes too challenging. Wound gut is still excellent, though not exactly the same tone of course as pure gut. Passione are fine, but expensive. Even Gold Label can sound good (I love Eudoxa.)
I got my violin set up before diving into the never-ending cycle of trying different strings on my current violin. It was sounding a little subdued in projection. I was looking for essentially the same sound profile that it currently had, but with more projection and depth. The luthier cut a new bridge and soundpost and when I played on it it was perfect. Exactly what I was looking for. He asked if there was any adjusting I wanted to do, but I told him there was none needed. I was able to keep the same set of strings that were on there. Of course, what was on there were rondos which have worked on every violin I've tried them on, so that was a plus as I had already bought a backup set of rondos.
In the current situation, a post tightness adjustment, by moving it outwards slightly, should go a long way, assuming a quality setup in the first place.
I second Michael's recommendation to see a luthier, the biggest changes in response can come from adjustments to the instrument instead of the strings.
I recently acquired my first set of Pirastro PERPETUAL CADENZA violin strings.
It seems that Concordmusic has them, although it says "please inquire." I guess they may be low on stock or they might be giving the strings a test drive with their customers before fully stocking on them.
I bought my Perpetual Cadenza set from concordmusic.com my usual string seller.
I just got 3 sets of Rondo for my higher end violins, really impressed, really warm sound without that obnoxious brightness of Evahs.