Recomendations for strings: artificial harmonics on G

Edited: November 15, 2021, 11:35 AM · My daughter is preparing a piece for a performance that has some phrasing all played as artificial harmonics on the G-string. I listened to it and don't care for the way they ring (or rather do not ring). Her strings are Dominants and are close to the end of their expected life-span. I'm wondering if for this piece the sound will benefit from some other stirngs - I am getting her strings anyway, but want to know about going with something other than the Dominants. Any opinions from players ... or physicists on what the increase in string mass (e.g., something like Pirazzi Gold wound G) is likely to do to the quality of the harmonics? Her instrument is a Shar fiddle from the 1990's that is quite serviceable and has good projection but has nothing particularly remarkable about it's sound.

Replies (13)

November 15, 2021, 12:39 PM · I have recently "discovered" Pirastro Perpetual Cadenza violin strings.

Right now I have only tried them on the violin I have used for the longest time (since 1952) and they are the best strings I have ever used on this violin.

However should warn you that different instruments seem to do their best with different strings. But these really are GOOD!

November 15, 2021, 1:09 PM · In general thinner (and maybe lighter) strings will produce and allow higher harmonics.
November 15, 2021, 1:19 PM · My kid likes Rondos her luthier uses. Can't speak to the specifics, but she has no problem with harmonics
November 16, 2021, 12:13 AM · To get those fingered harmonics to sound; play almost ponticello, and Loud. A soft touch won't work very well on the very short vibrating string length.
November 16, 2021, 1:47 AM · If the instrument doesn’t seem to be ringing very well at harmonics, it may be more of an adjustment issue. The sound post could be in the wrong spot or too tight. Have your luthier check it out. That being done, I would recommend using Rondos. They just seem to sound great on everything—to the point that the shop where I work has stopped ordering other string sets.
November 17, 2021, 7:28 PM · As Andrew puts it so well, different strings sound different on different instruments. I second the recommendation to see your luthier. S/he can hear the problem and suggest possible adjustments and maybe recommend strings that would work. Unfortunately, we cannot hear your instrument with the current strings, so it is difficult to make more than educated guesses. Rondos or Perpetual Cadenzas may work great for you, or maybe not. Good luck!
Edited: November 18, 2021, 6:40 AM · I can't help noticing that there's a tendency on this site to reach for a hardware solution to most problems. If a different brand of strings doesn't work, maybe the sound post has mysteriously shifted position?

In this instance I'm more inclined to suspect a software issue, in other words your daughter isn't doing it quite right. I think Joel put his finger on it when he suggested bowing closer to the bridge, but her teacher is surely the one to ask.

November 18, 2021, 7:37 AM · Steve has a good point... Harmonics require a very exact placement of the finger, and fingered harmonics require two fingers to be placed in exactly the right position. Bowing is more difficult- usually a very fast, very light bow very close to the bridge. Dominants work fine for harmonics. Ask her teacher to play the passage on your daughter's violin- that's a good way to test it. Hope your daughter learns a good worker doesn't blame the tools; good life lesson.
Edited: November 18, 2021, 7:56 AM · I'm with Steve and Tom. I have found that ANYTHING involving something above the middle of the G string, whether the placement of the finger or the pitch (as in the case of a false harmonic) requires a LOT of tinkering with contact point. Non-pro-level violins are typically weak in that range. That doesn't mean you won't realize an improvement with different strings -- but the "hardware solution" is a crap shoot, and an expensive one. Getting a better sound (even if only marginally better) on the strings one already has -- that's a matter of grim determination and expert tutelage.
November 18, 2021, 11:13 AM · Paul is right about the "LOT" of tinkering. I found it can take what seems like forever to find just the right way to sound certain harmonics, then all of a sudden it pops out. It's also a 3D placement, since the finger must be on the right place for the note, and also the exact right pressure on the string. The intonation spot can be slightly different from the fingered note because of the angle. They are much quieter than fingered notes, so you have to listen carefully or you can miss it. Good thing is once you find it, it's pretty easy to repeat for some reason.
Edited: November 19, 2021, 1:15 PM · The reason why adjustment comes up as a suggestion so often when someone posts about issues with sound is that instruments are extremely sensitive to minute changes, so a small tap to the soundpost will change the way a violin performs vastly.

Some players like to adjust imbalances by experimenting with different string combinations. Although this may (or may not) accomplish some kind of evenness, it does not address any underlying issues and has much more limited scope. When adjusted well, an instrument ought to speak well on all strings, at least as well as the instrument itself will allow.

It’s no accident that the French word for soundpost is “l’ame.”

November 21, 2021, 9:33 AM · I wouldn’t change strings just for harmonics unless they were worn out, as the OP suggests.
The answer is technique: she must play closer to the bridge and with more pressure. In my teaching experience, few students are good at controlling the bow very close to the bridge, and I wouldn’t be surprised if her bow drifts away from the bridge even if she is able to start there. That’s what it does naturally for students. It’s an essential skill for mastering tone in the high positions as well.
I haven’t seen her play; maybe she already does it. I doubt it though.
November 21, 2021, 10:49 AM · continued- I read somewhere that the optimum point of contact for the bow hair is 1/9 of the vibrating string length from the bridge, for both harmonics and stopped notes. The construction of the string modifies that somewhat. Be closer to the bridge on the E string, farther from the bridge on the thick G-string.

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