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String types for beginners


AMORI
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I am an amateur violin maker and am beginning to learn to play now too. What brand of strings should I use for ease of use and a rich warm tone? I have tried Red Label, Encore and Vision. While the Visions are good strings they tend to be more difficult to play for a beginner.

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I had Dominants. They are the standard put on at my violin store unless something else is requested. But when I switched to Obligatos, it was like a revelation...the whole violin vibrated with them...responsive yes, but as a beginner myself it made me more aware of what I was doing and more focused on the sound.

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I don't understand what would make a premium string more difficult to play. It seems to me that the problem might be that premium strings would show up the deficiencies in beginner level instruments so it might seem like they are harder to play. Tonicas have a smooth sound which might be appealing. At one time there was a lot of enthusiasm on this board for Violino strings for lower lever instruments. The cheap metal strings, like Red Label tend to sound overly bright, even harsh. Sometimes they work well on lower level violins because the instruments themselves lack response.

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AMORI -- as you can see, the bottom line is that if you ask 10 violinists what strings you should use you will get 11 different opinions, all of them good. As I say with respect to all discussions about strings, each violin is different, and what sounds good on my violin will not necessarily sound good on yours, even if we are trying to achieve the same sound effect. You need to go to your luthier, who can hear your violin with whatever strings you have on it and suggest an appropriate next step to achieve the tone you seek. Trial and error are the only real solution, and only someone who can hear your violin can really give solid suggestions.

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AMORI, another thing to keep in mind also. When trying new strings, be sure to give them a couple of days to "settle in". When I first changed the strings on my violin from the Red Label to the Tonicas I was saying, "this is suppose to sound better? . . . this doesn't sound too good." It was after "playing them in" a couple of days later did I notice that they began to improve the tone of the instrument and then sounded very nice! This will be moreso with synthetic core strings as they also have to stretch a bit.

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"What makes a string more difficult to play?"

Some strings, and Obligatos seem to be the extreme example that I know of -- at least with synthetic strings -- show up not so much beginner instruments as beginner technique, especially when paired with a reasonably responsive instrument. If the string (or instrument) is more sensitive to bow movement, then it's more sensitive to small variations in that bow moment.

That's good if those small variations in bow pressure, speed, attack, etc. are intentional and you want the sound to change. That's bad if your variances aren't intentional, particularly at the beginning and end of the bow strokes. Then you wind up with interesting scrunches, screeches, and all sorts of other fun sound-effects .

The same holds true of instruments. Violins made for advanced players are often too responsive and therefore not forgiving enough for a beginner.

That being said, there are plenty of intermediate players and probably a reasonable number of beginners who I'm sure are using Obligatos. They have a great sound. And there's only so much a string can change. If you have a beginner's violins which is reasonably forgiving, then Obligatos could work fine. The resulting combination will likely be less forgiving but if you start out with a very forgiving violin, the resulting combination could still be a good one.

- Ray

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