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Hillary Hahn's strings


thom
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For those of you out there who care, I just received and email from Shar stating that Hillary Hahn uses regular Dominant A, D, and G and a Pirastro steel E. The email did not discuss her shoulder rest.

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So much for Dominant bashers and string faddists! Dominants are still about the most predictable--read reliable--strings around, and it's no surprise that the 'name' players often prefer them.


Aren't even you tempted to try the new Dominant Vision strings though?

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Yes, I'll probably try them. I try to separate what I think is the most reliable all-around string from my personal preferences. I like Pirastro Violinos for myself. The Dominants have more crispness and bite, and I can see why the pros use them.

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Reliable yes, and sometimes they are also the best sounding. We have a Bissolotti viola that simply sounds best with Dominants. The important factor is try strings with YOUR instrument, and see what works. Also, don't just trust the sound that you hear under your own ear--have someone else listen whose "ears" you trust.

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The link you have posted says Hilary is still in her teens. That is a mighty old site listing. Maybe she did use Dominants in her teens, but what about now? Now I question the original post. Is Shar simply quoting this old information? What is to make us think that she is not using other strings these days?

Just wondering.

Ken

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Having heard Hillary Hahn in concert (Elgar concerto) I can attest to the tremendous quality and projection of her instrument and playing.

In one duet passage her sound so dominated that of the concertmaster that it was quite amazing, especially considering that a month later, hearing the Dvorak cello concerto performed with the same professional symphony orchestra the concertmaster's sound dominated the solo cello in one passage.

Dominant strings were the first synthetic substitute for gut - I recall when I first heard of them many years ago. They did not work well on the violin I played at that time and I stayed with gut until Tonicas became available. Three of my violins acquired since seem to work pretty well with mittle-gauge Dominants, although I prefer some other brands on most of them.

Now I tend to use thin-gauge strings, and find that the weich Dominants work well on some of my violins too, although I may use other brands for either more sound or different tone color depending on what seems to give me the "soul" of the instrument.

A round-table discussion at a Violin Society of America (VSA) meeting last year discussed strings and it seemed to be agreed that Dominant mittle-gauge are the "benchmark" (I hate to use the term "gold standard" becausee of my own experiences with them). But a most interesting story told at that discussion (which I have only read in print in the VSA Journal) is that Sarah Chang uses Dominants and puts on a new set within 24 hours of every performance. Apparently she likes the way they sound when new - but not when they are stretched out - the way most of use would play on them for months. Personally, aside from that intersting story, I thought the whole discussion very parochial, with little attention given the some of the great new synthetic strings that are now available.

Andy

Andy

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A round-table discussion at a Violin Society of America (VSA) meeting last year discussed strings and it seemed to be agreed that Dominant mittle-gauge are the "benchmark" (I hate to use the term "gold standard" becausee of my own experiences with them). But a most interesting story told at that discussion (which I have only read in print in the VSA Journal) is that Sarah Chang uses Dominants and puts on a new set within 24 hours of every performance. Apparently she likes the way they sound when new - but not when they are stretched out - the way most of use would play on them for months. Personally, aside from that intersting story, I thought the whole discussion very parochial, with little attention given the some of the great new synthetic strings that are now available.

Andy

Andy


The marketing of stringed instrument accessories makes for an interesting topic.

How did Thomastic Dominant (apltly named!!) come to be the universally recognised "brand name" (or "benchmark") in a relatively short time (through the 1980's?)?

Customer satisfaction is obviously a factor but so too must volume of production and scale of distribution. Price alone cannot be the issue since competitors offer quality products at a similar price....

I really don't believe high profile celebrity endorsment is a major factor... not to the extent of sports equipment or fashion accessories.

Nor do I think the collective opinion of dealers or luthier's, while perhaps more sighificant, is not the ultimate criterion.

Packaging is also hardly sigificant: - the presentation and graphic work is elasily recognisable, but elementary functional.

Pirastro too commands a good share of the market, Larsen more of a late-comer on the international stage, D'Addario being the major American competitor.

Why is it that companies like Jargar or Corelli, Prim don't appear to be in the same league? Why no English or Italians of note?

I guess if it were motor vehicles it would be the same story. Japanese, American dominating followed by the Europeans.

The standard seems to be Italian instrument, French bow, German/Austrian strings.

Is it more a matter of economics rather than aesthetics? I suspect so.

With real estate it's - location! location! location!

Maybe with strings it's avalability? avalability?

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Part of Thomastik's "dominance" is that Dominants were the first synthetic string and Thomastik did a very good job with them.

I agree that these discussions are "parochial." Almost all discussions of different strings (or shoulder rests) are somewhat beside the point. Aside from getting a very general idea of the qualities in different strings, nothing brought up in these discussions will tell you if any particular strings will work on your violin. Only trial and error will.

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Parochial, indeed. We all have preferences, and like to think we're on the cutting edge of tools and equipment. In the end, it's a matter of what works. Established violinists have little incentive to change what they're already recognized and highly paid for. If there is another technical innovation equal to that of the synthetic-gut string, we will all hear about it soon enough. The same is true of violins. Two of the better players I know couldn't care less about tinkering with soundpost position, and they've probably only heard of the names of a few violinmakers. To them, this is in the realm of amateur tinkering. They change strings, not brands, because a good set of fresh strings with known and predictable response is more important than all the experimentation in the world. I used to change guitar strings every 8 to 10 days, and soon found out that brand-hopping was mostly a waste of time.

Dominants don't work on every violin, but they're a great benchmark, as has been said.

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OK. Maybe my point is not valid and Thomastik Dominant is objectively the superior string.....

Naturally some strings will suit some instruments better than others.

I'm just saying that if, for argument's sake,

Corelli Alliance (just to pick one brand) had the same exposure and universal availability and competitive pricing, maybe it would be that string rather than Dominant that might have become the so-called "benchmark"? Dominant may have been the first good synthetic string (if that is true?) but if you couldn't buy it except by directly writing the manufacturer would it be touted as the 'golden standard'?

If you flood the market and gain prominance by sheer dint of being on sale at every outlet (let's take the soft drink or cigarette market as examples) naturally everyone will recongise and come to appreciate the particular characteristics your product offers. And were Dominant not so readily available and were they priced significantly higher might we not be thinking that it was rather Dominant that was an interesting alternative string?

Is this a case a self-fulfilling prophesy?

A product can hardly become the benchmark if nobody knows about it.

I'm happy to be contradicted....

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If it were simply a matter of a marketing and availability advantage, Dominants would be favorites across the board (violin, cello, etc.). As it is, Larsen and Jargar and Spirocore and a few others are more popular among cellists than Dominants. When it comes down to it, I think Dominants are simply a good product that work well for many violinists. If they don't work for you or your instrument, don't buy them... problem solved.

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parochial - limited in range or scope (of interests, opinions, or views) - Webster's Dictionary.

That's how I used the word.


That's how I used it too. I would not criticize either your, or thom's use of the word. I just don't believe it is a form of parochialism when top professionals stick to what they know. We are lucky to have such a variety of strings available, VSA roundtables notwithstanding.

In one sense it is rather idle to pump one string or another in discussion, precisely because it is so personal to the user and his particular needs. Perhaps that was thom's point.

For myself, I'm not good enough to judge how a string might appeal to a professional, because the pro needs to get so much more out of a string. I hate Zyex strings, for example. Are they bad strings? I doubt it; they just don't work on any of the several violins on which I've tried them. Dominants seem to work on most, if not all.

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You have captured my point precisely. Thank you. Whether I (or someone else) use Dominants, Zyexs, Evahs or something else is completely irrelevant to anyone else's choice of strings. If someone asks about the relative warmth, brilliance, or responsiveness of various brands of strings, that issue can be addressed, although there is no guarantee that any particular recommendation in that vein will work on any particular violin (e.g., you may think you need more brilliant strings, but a recommendation as to a brand that is more brilliant than your current brand may still leave you dissatisfied).

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Yet I think (from a shop viewpoint) it is good to have a standard. The best luthier in these parts, when called upon to do a violin set-up, puts Evahs on every violin--whether or not new strings have been requested. I guess the cost of the strings is factored in to the setup fee. I would think that this eliminates one sonic variable and helps him ascertain the instrument's needs more clearly, in terms of adjustment.

I think his choice of Evahs reflects a shift in the industry, away from the dominance of Dominants. But the same idea of a standard applies.

As for most of the pros, their instruments are so great that it probably doesn't much matter what they use on the instrument. I imagine their string choice is largely determined by advertising contract rather than sound. (One thinks of Rubenstein's contract with Knabe.) String selection is probably much more important to those of us with lesser instruments, who need to compensate for poor response, a weak string, inadequate volume, or whatever. My brother-in-law, as a pro, is notorious. He plays A LOT. His viola will have mismatched, discolored strings of uncertain age (some several years old)--he usually doesn't even know what strings he's using. But his violas always sound great and play wonderfully well.

J.

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