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What strings do makers use?


DougP
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Just curious....what strings do you master violin makers put on your new violins when you want to show it off at it's best for potential sale? Do you try to match the violin with a particular maker's strings, or do you try different makers to see what sounds best?

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It may be presumptuous of me to assume I’m included as a “master violin maker”………but……...because I build predominantly to order the string choice is very often already made by the client. I have sometimes found what they thought they wanted (usually based on what they where playing on prior to my instrument) isn’t ideal for the instrument I have just made, then we have to work out what suits them and the instrument best.

For violins I often end up using Pirastro Obligatos to start with which seem not to require much playing in. On violas I find dominants with a Larson A work well to get things working and on Cellos, strings seem to make such a difference in the way things work that I usually spend quite some time (and money!) messing around till both the client and myself are happy.

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I'm obviously not a master maker, but I'll gatecrash this poll anyway:

For violins I've at various times tried Dominants, Pro Arte, Tonica, Obligato - all are nice in various ways, but none of them come even close to John Pearse "Artiste" on my new violins.

On violas I've used Pro Arte and Dominants in the past, but a whole new world opened up with Helicores - that's what I use now.

Over here most people prefer Jargar on cello. I hate them - on a new, properly set-up instrument I find the tension too high. I (and a lot of my customers) like Prim ORCHESTRA (with the maroon winding)- the Prim MEDIUM (green winding) is too lightweight.

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I haven't favourit brand strings and experimentalize with few of well known for violin Dominants,Corelly Crystal,Infeld blue and red and for viola again Dominants ,Corelly Crystal or Tomastik Spirocore.

Bye the way , I met Bernard Maillot from Savarez on the international gutar festival tonight here in Plovdiv . Savarez are among the sponsors since the beginning ,ten years ago.

I was tald that a new brand based on carbon-fibre core strings are developed and we will find them on the market soon with the name Alliance Vivace or so...This will be a kind of improved Corelly Alliance

I will see him tommorow again on the concert so if you have some questions about their products of Aubert Bridges, Savarez,Gustav Bernardel ,I may ask him for you . Just post your questions here or in priate message.

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Dominants.

Let me add that I'm neither a master nor an amature violin maker, but a professional repairman and bow rehairer who works mainly on repairing school instruments and fiddles (because of my location), and then in whatever spare time I can find, making. (I'm working on #'s 35 & 36 currently)

It drives me around the bend when I sell a new violin (I'm speaking about one of mine here) to a fiddler, and the first thing he insists on (well, after lowering and flattening the bridge, that is) is replacing the Dominants with Red Labels...!!!

I've succeeded in weening a couple of fiddlers off of their treasured Red Lables, and they've made the switch to Dominants, but most of them want that high pitched metalic twang associated with their trusty RL's. To each his own.

I find that one can only concentrate on so many variables at a time, so, I'm currently (still) concentrating on perfecting my thicknessing, arching, edgework and varnishing.

Looking into the possibilities offered by different strings IS one of my eventual goals, slated for "some time in the near future".

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I wish I hadn't put that "master" in front of maker in my original post. I really wanted to know what the makers use to get their pride and joy singing like it ought to. In my book, anyone who has made a few good violins is a "master", but that doesn't make it official.

Note to Craig: Ouch! I am one of those fiddlers who put Red Labels on my fiddles. I have Dominants on one that I play when I am in a mood for some pretty music. I know that the Red Label is considered a "student" string, but they can really make some beautiful music when they play in for an hour or so after being installed. They are also indestructable. I have seen some that are five years old that still sound pretty good, years after they should have been dead. Seems like the Dominants get a bit too much vibration going when using double stops and double shuffle bowing, and get a little raspy. We fiddlers want a string that screams over the banjos and guitars and still can make some pretty music playing waltzes. If I was a violinist, I would use Dominants on everything.

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I am an amature player/collector. Here's my opinion:

aside from poeple's personal preferrences, most normal and healthy violins sound great with medium gauge dominant strings. I have been to several "Contemperary Cremona violin exhibition" where they show some new violins from cremona. Most violins come with Dominant strings. Every time I see a new violin that come with a difference set of string (other than Dominant), it usually means that the maker is trying to get a difference sound. For example, they would use the Abligato if the violin sound too bright, or the Eva Pirrazi if the violin sound too dull...So, if I see an new instrument that come with a set of string other than Dominant, it may be because of something is different on the sound of this particular instrument.

On the last Cremona exhibition, I bought a violin by a fairly well known maker. It had a most beautiful sound that I was looking for, rich and powerful. Later on I had noticed that it hurts my left hand fingers after everytime I played. It turned out that the maker was using a heavy gauge set of Dominant string. After I replaced the strings with a new set of medium Dominant strings (and other brand medium string) , the violin still maintained the good quality sounding but much smaller. Now I know why the maker was using the heavy gauge Dominant strings. I feel cheated for being stuck with a small sounding (slow respond)

violin.

Michael Darnton,

Do you have any ideas of how to get this violin more responsive and bigger sound?

Thanks,

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I like your observations. When I worked in the shop at Bein and Fushi we were told that if we felt that a violin sounded better with something other than the standard string set (which at the time was Dominants) we should take the instrument back and find out what was wrong with it, and fix it! I also agree with you about Obligato strings being a sign of something strange in the instrument, and also about heavy strings. Mixed gauges or mixed brands on the same violin (with the exception of the E--no one who ever tried any different E uses Dominant E strings!) are an ESPECIALLY bad sign, too.

All that said, without having your violin in my hands I can't make a specific recommendation. Perhaps a thinner bridge, at the bottom, not the top, would be a good start.

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Like many others here I definitely don't consider myself a "master" maker either but I have a few different string sets that I use as a normal or a starting point for new violins which we make or older ones that I am just setting up.

For synthetic core strings, I prefer the Pirastro Tonicas or Synoxas ... for steel core strings on fiddles I prefer Prim (orchestra gauge) or D'Addario Helicores ... and for gut core strings I almost always prefer Pirastro Olives.

My decision will depend on what the customers is use to using, and of course the properties of the violin in question so I kind of base my decision on that and start with any one of the above listed string sets for initial set up. I'm not very fond of Dominants.

Joseph

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Even though I agree that a violin should be perfectly OK with Dominants, and that I am deeply suspicious of most of the newer brands such as Infeld and Obligato, the fact is that a normal violin with a standard setup sounding OK with Dominants, in my experience, sounds better - much better - with John Pearce "Artiste". It is also a nylon-core string with moderate to low tension. If a violin has some weakness or other, it is even more likely to manifest itself using this string than with Dominants.

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Although I'm neither a maker or a master, I certainly have an interest in this subject - and would like to add that the latest issue of the Journal of the Violin Society of America (VSA) is devoted almost entirely to the subject of strings - based upon the lectures (papers) and a round-table discussion at their Nov. 2001 meeting.

The level of parochialism and ignorance of the properties of their competitors' strings among the representatives of the different string-manufacuring companies seemed apparent and amazing to me.

There are those who (as we see here) demand that ALL violins be offered for sale with Dominant strings so that they can be compared on an "even basis."

Well - I am old enough to have been playing before there were any Dominant strings (or any other "perlon" core synthetic string). They were quite terrific when they first were produced - if you were lucky enough to have a fiddle on which they could compete with gut for sound. But there were cetainly some terrific violins around then on which Dominants "sucked." And there still are - in fact far more of them.

One of the most interesting tales told in the JVSA round-table discussion is of Sarah Chang's use of Dominant strings. They say she likes that new sound and will put on a new set of Dominants in the morning for an evening concert. But if she has an afternoon concert, she will put on a new set the previous night. So here we have a great artist who is stuck with someone elses choice of string (I think) and finds it of optimum use for only a couple of hours. HOW MANY OF US COULD AFFORD TO USE SUCH STRINGS? I want my strings to stabilize in a few days (or a few hours if I hve time to play them in) and to sound good for months - and they do - in fact, sometimes for years on some lesee-played instruments.

I have never had a violin that could not sound better with some other choice (or ix) of string(s) than medium Dominants. Not that the Dominants don't sometimes sound pretty terrific on some instruments - but I see no reason why they should be a universal benchmark.

There are just too many other variables in string properties and in the resonance characteristics of violins (becomeing better and better understood) to rely exclusively on the results of some 40 year old string engineering.

Andy

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Michael - what you say about Bein and Fushi ist tre - for sure!. An orchestra/chamber-music collegue of mine bought an Enrico Rocca violin from them a few years ago - complete with the obligatory set of Dominants. I tried it at the time, and found that under the ear it had that nasal quality some violins have with Dominant strings ("Italian sound" some people say, "damped" say I). Over the years he has replaced his strings every few months with different types and often with some improvement in sound (both to himself and his neighbors) - I thought the sound died a bit under the set of Zyex a couple of years back. There is no question in my mind (sitting beside him in orchestra, and as the cellist in a piano quartet) that with its current set of Evah Pirazzi strings, the Rocca sounds more alive than ever.

Andy

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I believe Andrew Victor has echoed my thoughts on this issue. As a player I would far prefer an instrument that sounds really great with some weird string set-up and poorly with dominants, than an instrument that sounds merely good with dominants and about the same with other string set-ups. If it sounds really great then I don't care what strings I have to use But I guess the onus is on the maker or dealer to let the buyer know if the violin has 'special' needs, eheh.

--Alistair

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