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Stringtoad

Silver or Aluminum Wound D Strings

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Thanks, Trent! I will look into the "search" function for more details, but your summation has helped me to understand more clearly how to judge the next set of strings!

I have recently bought a used German Knilling violin which came with "Pirastro synthetic" strings (according to the literature that came with it), but it did not tell me WHICH Pirastro synthetic strings! Shortly after I purchased it, I had a string break. I then had it re-strung with a set of D'Addario Pro Arte strings, but to me (even though they are supposedly somewhat the same in description) they don't have the warmth of sound that the original strings had.

So, I am looking to order some new strings...it seems to me that the Pirastros that were on the violin when I bought it were Pirastro Tonicas, but I am also interested in the Obligatos.

Anyway, as I began to read up on the various string sets I realized I had some decisions to make about Silver or Aluminum wound D's and a whole plethora of E string choices! I got really confused and though,What's a beginner to do??? So, I came here to all of you Wise Ones! laugh.gif

So, thanks for the tips!

Stringtoad

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The string area of the SHAR catalog gives brief but useful descriptions of the effects of different string cores and windings. Their website may have similar information.

They say that a silver winding will be darker sounding while an aluminum winding on the same core will be brighter. I just tried this yesterday with Zyex medium strings and found the description to be accurate.

The problem is not really whether you WANT a bright or dark sound, but what suits your instrument. For me, yesterday, on this particular instrument, there was no contest. Although I wanted a darker sound, the silver D string was less responsive and somewhat muddier - the aluminum string had the sound and response I was looking for.

On other instruments, I've tended to go with silver wound D strings. Silver is a more dense metal and therefore will result in a thinner string to achieve the same mass per unit length.

Those who have followed my posts over the years may recall that D'Addario's Zyex strings were not among my favorites when they first entered the marketplace. However, with Zyex strings on both sides of me in orchestra (on both a modern Cremona instrument and an early 20th Century Enrico Rocca) I thought it might be time to try them once again on an instrument that I had out on loan before and did not try them on, especially based on what I perceived as tonal similarities to the Rocca. It seems like the Zyex strings are both powerful and resonant on this instrument, a good choice. Within one day they stay in tune through hard playing.

The "aluminum" E strings are just steel with an aluminum winding. Personally I prefer not to use them. Aluminum is softer and less durable than steel. A winding is thinner and more likely to break and shred sooner. However, if your sweat tends to rust steel strings, you might want to use the Al wound ones. It has been my impression (limited anectotal evidence only) that the Al-wound E strings sound a little duller than the steel-wire ones - but it could just be the instruments I tried them on.

As a newbie, I think you should avoid gold-plated E strings like Pirastro Olive Goldstahl, Pirastro Obligato Goldstahl, or Thomastik Infeld Red. These are wonderful sounding strings. They can be hard to mount on Hill-style tuners without breaking them (although once mounted they seem to last well), and they tend to whistle - even for expert players. A new student has enough troubles without having to learn to counteract a contrary string. Try something else - like the Pirastro Gold Label, or Hill, or Westminster, or Tonica, or Infeld Blue, or Zyex E strings. None of these seem to have the whistle problem (All you other strings without whistles, but too numerous to mention, sorry I left you out!) If you insist on using a gold-plated string, the little tube that comes on the E string will suppress the whistle somewhat if it is place on the string where it is in contact with the bridge, but it also suppresses the strings sound a little.

E-string whistle is a subject you can find at Maestronet in the search function.

Andy

[This message has been edited by Andrew Victor (edited 03-26-2001).]

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I'm fairly new at this violin thing, and I will be ordering a set of new strings shortly...and I've noticed that several kinds come with a choice of a silver or aluminum wound D string.

What is the difference in how it sounds? Which would be the best choice?

AND, on the other hand: what is the difference in the steel or aluminum E strings soundwise? And the gold E's?

Thanks for any advice you can give a newbie!

Stringtoad

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quote:

Originally posted by Stringtoad:

I'm fairly new at this violin thing, and I will be ordering a set of new strings shortly...and I've noticed that several kinds come with a choice of a silver or aluminum wound D string.

What is the difference in how it sounds? Which would be the best choice?

It all depends on your instrument. Silver-wrapped strings tend to have a smaller diameter than aluminum strings and therefore feel slightly different under your fingers; they also tend to be a little clearer and more focused than aluminum strings. This does not mean that they're better. On my instrument, aluminum Ds sound wonderful, while the silvers sound kinda shrill.

quote:

AND, on the other hand: what is the difference in the steel or aluminum E strings soundwise? And the gold E's?

Try doing a search on "E string" in the archives--there's been a lot of discussion of that issue. In sum: Gold Es tend to sound warm and full but are prone to whistle; steel Es sound a little less warm (and balance well with a lot of strings as a result), but can be prone to whistle as well; aluminum-wound Es don't whistle, but sometimes don't project as powerfully as the others.

Hope this helps,

Trent

[This message has been edited by Trent_Hill (edited 03-26-2001).]

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Andy, a quick question about the Zyex strings: When they first came out, most of the people who reviewed them on the board felt that the string sets were much higher-tensioned than comparable string sets, so much so that the mediums felt like heavies and the heavies were practically unplayable. My teacher had much the same experience with them, so I never gave them a try. Does it seem that D'Addario has sorted that out yet? (I.e. do your mediums feel like mediums?)

Thanks,

Trent

[This message has been edited by Trent_Hill (edited 03-27-2001).]

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Well, in my very limited experience, Dominants are better than Zyexs. (actually I think Dominants are the standard by which other strings should be measured -- not that others cannot be better on certain instruments, but 80% of major orchestral players are not likely to be wrong, at least in providing a standard.) The Zyexes are loud, and very forgiving for beginners. In addition, you never have to tune them. (and I mean NEVER). And they last a very long time. (So actually, for beginners, I think they are better than Dominants -- see, I already contradicted myself.)

But they lack the complexity and the dynamic range and the edginess of NEW Dominants. With Zyexs, I always used the Aluminum D -- I found the silver used to fade away in sound too quickly.

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I'm reasonably convinced that the market dominance of Dominants is based not on the strings being the best available you can buy today, but based on their historical position as the first good synthetic strings. Most of the better strings are very recent -- out on the market for two years or less. If you've used Dominants all your life and don't hate them, chances are you're not going to bother to try something else out -- why bother? (And why run the risk of unpredictable results?)

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Shantinik,

In order to ascertain that "80% of major orchestral players" believe Dominants to be "the standard by which other strings should be measured," it would first be necessary to find out if all 80% have in fact tested Dominants against other strings, and if they have not, then they cannot rationally say that Dominants are the standard by which other strings should be measured.

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I have to say that locally the professional players/chamber music friends who have tried out other strings are rapidly switching. I'd say 90% are now playing Obligatos, Zyex, Heliocore, Enfelds, etc. instead of Dominants. Suprisingly more freelancers are using them than symphony players - frankly the symphony players don't have much energy or inclination to surf Maestronet or try new stuff. Students are still sticking with Dominants since they're cheaper than most of the newer strings and a huge step up from the SuperSensitive steel strings. I have also noticed that some major shops are no longer going exclusively with dominants - I have tried out several fiddles with a variety of strings. I agree with Lydia that Dominants owe their preeminence to being first out of the box so to speak. I think their market share will decline considerably as more players venture to try other strings.

[This message has been edited by Ray Weaver (edited 03-28-2001).]

[This message has been edited by Ray Weaver (edited 03-28-2001).]

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quote:

Originally posted by andy989:

Shantinik,

In order to ascertain that "80% of major orchestral players" believe Dominants to be "the standard by which other strings should be measured," it would first be necessary to find out if all 80% have in fact tested Dominants against other strings, and if they have not, then they cannot rationally say that Dominants are the standard by which other strings should be measured.

There was nothing in my comment about what orchestral players "believe", only what they DO. Some may have tried other strings and found them wanting, some may have tried other strings and found them better (but didn't like the expense), some may have found them better but inappropriate for orchestral play; some may not have tested other strings because they are perfectly happy; some may believe that testing other strings is an inappropriate shortcut to improving their sound, some may believe in faeries.... etc., etc. I have no idea what they believe, and frankly, don't care much.

Dominants are the standard not because of anyone's "beliefs", nor because they are better or worse than any other strings. They are the standard because they are what are actually played.

[This message has been edited by shantinik (edited 03-29-2001).]

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Actually, if we're going to split hairs here, a belief requires no testing whatsoever; in fact in some categories those who believe something are rabidly *against* any testing or questioning because it might provide evidence against the belief. Believing something and being rational are essentially enemies, not part of the same process.

quote:

Originally posted by andy989:

Shantinik,

In order to ascertain that "80% of major orchestral players" believe Dominants to be "the standard by which other strings should be measured," it would first be necessary to find out if all 80% have in fact tested Dominants against other strings, and if they have not, then they cannot rationally say that Dominants are the standard by which other strings should be measured.

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quote:

Originally posted by andy989:

Shantik,

Dominants may have a dominant (haha ironic) market share, but what about them sets a "standard?"

Because of their dominant market share, people compare other strings against them to decide whether they are better or worse. Some are sometimes better, some are sometimes worse, but Dominants are used most of the time as the basis for comparison.

I am not saying it should be that way. I am not saying that Dominants are particularly good (I'll leave that to Itzhak Perlman and Hilary Hahn), or particular bad (I'll leave that to some folks on this list), but I am saying they are used as the standard.

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Trent,

If you go to the D'Addario website you will see that they claim that the Zyex tension is as low as 1/3 less than other strings. I think this is true for the light gauge strings. The medium-gauge seem to be about the same as for other strings I can find. http://www.quinnviolins.com gives tension for a number of string types and brands below their price listings, but not all.

I remember looking up these numbers after Zyex first came out and I had trouble with them, and I think they had greater tension then other strings at that time, but I could be wrong.

ALl I know now is that they seme to have similar characteristics - plus they do seem to stay in tune well, and don't take so long to get to that state.

I have not yet tried them on other instruments - just the one violin. They have lots of power to the player's ears, that's for sure. Still experimenting!

Andy

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