String tensions

Edited: December 29, 2021, 6:59 AM · A vcom member commented on another forum that Dominants are among the lowest tension strings out there. But I'm not worried about what they sound like...
I have discovered the curious phenomenon that on two different violins, Gewa and Breton, Dominants feel completely different.
On the Breton they feel fine, but on the Gewa they do feel slack. The Gewa is a 4/4.
Both violins were set up by the same luthier, but he did have to reduce the action on the Gewa, and its fingerboard height, to match it to the Breton. Could that have reduced the tension even further? I think I'll go back to Tonicas on the Gewa.

Replies (4)

December 29, 2021, 7:20 AM · For a given string, the tension is set by the note it is tuned to, AND the vibrating string length, aka VSL (distance from nut to bridge).

Assuming the distance from nut to bridge is the same on both violins, then the open A on the Gewa would be at the same tension as the open A on the Breton for the same string.

Check the VSL on both violins. If one is shorter than the other, the shorter one would be under less tension for the same open string tuning.

Differences in clearance from string to fingerboard is a non-factor between violins strung with the same string, the same VSL and the same open tuning. In this case, the violin with the smaller clearance would just have you play slightly higher up on the string to hit the same note. The clearance between string and board would be the same when playing the same note.

Sometimes a string will feel too flabby if the wrong string is used. For example, stringing the A string in the D position would give it a flabby feel.

The reverse is also true. Stringing the D string in the A position can make it feel very stiff and increases the possibility of the string breaking.

This can be a problem when selecting strings for violas, which can have wide variations in VSL depending on body/stop length size.

December 29, 2021, 9:40 AM · Carmen is correct, of course, however, if the string height above the fingerboard is higher on one fiddle the fingers will have to apply more force to move a string to touch the fingerboard and the player may sense this as higher string tension.

Since the recommended string height near the nut is only the thickness of a standard business card just 2-business-cards height will feel twice as much (etc.). The "card rule" seems to apply to all the string-quartet instruments - all you need is enough clearance to get clean sound for any pitch you play. The proper string height at the top end of the fingerboard is larger for the larger instruments - but it is not necessary to press the strings all the way down to the fingerboard - as long as your finger pressure gets you the sound you want, you are OK - we want to go easy on bandaids.

December 30, 2021, 11:21 AM · Pressing the string to the board changes two things:

1. The VSL of the string is shortened.
2. The tension in the string increases as the string is stretched to a slightly longer length.

If two violins have the same A string, the same open string tuning and the same open string VSL, but the string clearances are different, then in order to play the same note on each violin you would have to stretch the string on each violin to the same tension.

You would need to slide the finger on one violin to a different position than the other violin so you would have the same effective string clearance when playing the same note.

As you hinted, you could not press the string all the way down when playing the violin with the larger clearance so you could use the same finger position as the violin with the smaller clearance. If one is used to playing that way, then the violin with the smaller clearance might give the impression of being slack.

December 31, 2021, 5:01 PM · I discovered this same phenomenon with my violins. I asked the luthier to set them up exactly the same, same nut height, same bridge height, same string brand. Then they should feel the same to play, yet one fiddle required more effort to press the string down. Of course, it was the fiddle with the deeper fingerboard scoop.


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