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Good strings for a fiddler?


GalwayGirl

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I'm a fiddler as well, but I just can't get away from Dominant with

a Pirastro Gold E.  

I had thought about trying Helicore, but I was told by multiple

sources that because they don't stretch as much, I would a) require

all four fine tuners, and :) possibly need a lower bridge cut for

me.

Keep in mind that stretch is different that tension.  Evahs

have more "tension" than do Helicores, but Evahs, due to the

material they're made of, also stretch more when tuning or

stopping.

Given that, I've simply stuck with Dominant.  (Though I have a

promo set of Pirastro Wondertone Solo strings sitting here waiting

to be tried...)

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I almost forgot...

Ms. Natalie MacMaster uses Pirastro Chromcor strings.

Her certifiably nuts yet incredibly talented cousin, Mr. Ashley

MacIsaac...doesn't say what strings he uses, save that they are

Thomastik.  Could be Dominant, or Spirocore.  Or

something else entirely.

Though it doesn't relate to fiddle, when I was talking to Mr. Peter

Prier about strings, he said: "if Itzhak Perlman uses Dominant on

his Strad, then it's good enough for me, yes?"

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Helicore's are of course the standard, but last week I recorded a

bluegrass band and the fiddler's sound was incredibly aggressive

and exciting. He was using Vision Titaniums.

I don't think that sound would work at all for a country ballad,

but for instrumental work, competing with a loud banjo,

fawgeddaboudit .....

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I really like the Vision Titaniums for fiddling. They are really responsive and very powerful.

I'm currently playing a violin though that's very fast and very powerful in its own right. On a violin like that, the normal Visions with a Larsen E do well enough with respect to response and power and it seems easier to get a broader tonal pallete from what I can tell. (I'm still getting to know this violin and it's relatively new on top of that so it's still early yet.)

The Vision strings have a fairly focused sound though.

If you want a different sound, you might want to look at Obligatos. They're also very responsive. Somewhat warmer than the VTs. Richer tones.

My personal opinion is that if you have a reasonably fast violin, pairing it with one of these strings will result in a setup that's just as responsive as your typical violin with steel strings -- assuming that the strings work well with your violin. Not all strings work well with all instruments. But assuming you can find a combination that works, you can get the best of both worlds -- the tone of synthetics with the response of steel.

On the other hand, the question I'd ask myself if I were in your position is "What do I want out of the new strings that's not there in my current strings?"

Your ideal string could be very different depending your answer that question.

- Ray

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Well, GalwayGirl hasn't checked back in yet, but I think it's safe

to say that this thread may be of dubious clarity.  For the

record, we have now covered:

Helicore

Prim

Eudoxa (E)

Dominant

Kaplan (E)

Prelude

Wondertone Solo

Obligato

Chromcor

Vision Titanium

Normal Vision

Larsen (E)

Have I left any out?  If someone would like to chime in a vote

for Evahs, that will just about cover everything.

So, the answer Galway Girl, is "it depends."  What do you want

to change, and what do you want out of your violin? You might want

to read this "http://www.stringsmagazine.com/issues/Strings95/coverstory.shtml">review

of 30 different violin strings from Strings magazine.  It may

give you a starting point for something to try.  Obviously

experimentation can get expensive, but some research may help.

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Hey Banzai,  technically no-one recommended Wondertones, you

just said you are waiting to try them.  By that logic, every

string made is on the list!

FWIW, though, I have wondertones on my violin right now, not

specifically because they are my favs but because that's what I'm

up to in my try-out list.  -But I love them.  They have

lots of razz, but not as much as the Vision T's, and a bit more

bottom.  Not NEARLY as dead as the Obligatos.  They break

in super-fast and have "lasted" (meaning zero sonic change) for a

month now.  Today is the first day I heard a change. -I mean

ANY change, so that is remarkable.

Tonight they come off, and I move on to testing heavy guage.

 Should be interesting.  I may well end up using

Wondertones at the end of this Odyssey, they are really fun to play

without being overly aggressive.

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"Dubious clarity" -- I like that. That's about the best one can expect when asking about a sound medium over a silent medium. Not to mention, it's free advice.

Anyway, I doubt many of us would say that Brand X strings work best for any style of music played by any one on any violin-bow combination. I think it's interesting to hear what folks use, and that maybe I'll try a few of these in the future.

Another aspect is how frequently one changes strings. To say that Itzhak Perlman uses Dominants is interesting, but I'd also be curious as to how often he changes strings. To me, Dominants tend to sound a bit dead after a couple months of tension. It seems I remember an interview with Vassar Clements, who said he used Superflexibles, and changed them about every two weeks. I'd guess that Perlman doesn't leave the strings on as long as many of us do.

Of course, a big part of the tone is the player, and I think that's my main limitation.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Banzai

Well, GalwayGirl hasn't checked back in yet, but I think it's safe

to say that this thread may be of dubious clarity. For the

record, we have now covered:

Helicore

Prim

Eudoxa (E)

Dominant

Kaplan (E)

Prelude

Wondertone Solo

Obligato

Chromcor

Vision Titanium

Normal Vision

Larsen (E)

Have I left any out? If someone would like to chime in a vote

for Evahs, that will just about cover everything.

So, the answer Galway Girl, is "it depends." What do you want

to change, and what do you want out of your violin? You might want

to read this <a href=

"

of 30 different violin strings from Strings magazine. It may

give you a starting point for something to try. Obviously

experimentation can get expensive, but some research may help.

Note that article is 11 years old and doesn't cover some newer brands. There's an updated version of this on Ifshin Violin's site, but it's still not up to date, and not written from a fiddling perspective--although it still might be useful for info on general characteristics of string brands.

At any rate, while I agree that every violin is different, etc., I think that what you'd normally want for Irish fiddling is a brightish string with fast response. Based on my experience with them, I don't think I'd recommend Obligatos, although I might vote for Evah's (except that they're probably over-priced for this application). Apart from that, I think that most of the brands on the list above might be good possibilities. I'll add Tonicas to this list; I've found them to be a good all-around string for most applications, similar to Dominants but with a little more character and possibly longer life. -Steve

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Allan Speers
Hey Banzai,

 technically no-one recommended Wondertones, you just said you

are waiting to try them.  By that logic, every string made is

on the list!

Alright, you got me on that one.   (Need to be more

logically/semantically careful...)

Still no votes for Evahs either.  So at least that part is

clear...maybe.

My Dominants are only about 3 months old...but your review of the

Wondertones makes me want to try them right now!  I was going

to wait until about the 5 month point, which in my limited

experience is what I've been pushing Dominants to.

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quote:


Steve beat me to recommending Evahs before I hit the "reply"

button.

Well here's another vote.

I've used Dominants and Obligatos, which felt really 'slack'.

Zyex are boring. Simply one-dimensional.

Evahs are wonderful. The higher tension seems to facilitate the crisp bowed triplets that are a feature of Irish music. Other ornaments pop out cleanly. They also stay in tune really well - great in a crowded session.

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muddycreek, or any of you other helicore users...

Any truth to what I had posted about helicores requiring four fine

tuners to tune, and a lower bridge on account of the lower amount

of string stretch?

I received that advice from numerous sources, but honestly I don't

think any of them had ever actually USED helicores.  However,

based on that I went with Dominant.  (My first strings were

Pro-Arte)

Next on the agenda is still the Wondertones.

(By the by, this is a nice discussion, even if the OP hasn't looked

back into it...)

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Banzai,

It should be just the opposite, no?  Steel-core strings are

supposed to hold tune better, and also last longer, than

zynthetics or gut.

Helicores are popular for both these reasons, and because they are

quite warm for a steel string.

The reason most fiddlers (& country music session players) use

4 fine tuners is because they absolutely, positively HAVE to be in

tune.  This is my own little sopabox, but I'll get up on it

again:  Most classical players are never in-tune enough for

pop / country music. They don't really have to be ( a slightly

un-tuned violin section actually sounds better than if then were

all dead on,  etc etc etc)  There is also the

"stigma" od 4 fine-tuners equating to a beginning player.

 (Hear those snoot alarms going off?) This is

(thankfully) starting to change, with the advent of very expensive

(hence "professional" 4-tuner tailpieces.

Whereas- A guy playing bluegrass, or especially pop & country,

must blend with equally-tempered instruments and vocals.

 He can't be / -  5 cents off. I

have never, in 27 years of high-end recording, seen a studio

violinist who could get in-tune with only 1 fine tuner.  There

have been some pretty hilarious (or painful, you choose) moments

over the years regarding this, with classical players who were

convinced they could do it, or were convinced it didn't matter

because "my fingers will compensate."  Keep dreamin',

pal.

4 tuners is the way to go, no matter what strings you use.

 Today we have options like the Bose Harmonie, the B&C

carbon-fiber mini-tuners, and Pegheads (now available with real

wooden buttons)

rant over.

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I always use a tailpiece with 4 tuners built in. But on fiddles that I have worked on without the 4 fine tuners, they tune just like Dominants or most any other string. The bridge height is standard for any steel string and slightly lower for gut strings. So, as for the strings that we are discussing here the standard bridge height is acceptable.

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Allan,

You're correct, from everything I've read/heard Helicore's are very

stable.  The reason I was told that four fine tuners were

required is because they don't "stretch" the same was as

gut/synthetic strings.  Therefore it would require smaller

incremental adjustments on every string (like most E strings

already do) instead of a more gross movement like a gut/synthetic

requires.  Without the stretchiness, the slack to take up just

isn't there.  I hope I'm making sense, and that's the

information that was conveyed to me.

That's very interesting though about recording artists with bands.

 I had never considered that.  Rant or not, you're

correct, there is a "snob" factor built in.  I suppose by

virtue of the fact that I play violin, even if it is mostly fiddle,

some of that has at least peripherally rubbed off on me.  Of

course, I've never seen those other 4 tuner tailpieces you

mentioned...my only sight exposure was to the Thomastik (?) four

tuner tailpiece, and I simply thought it was U-G-L-Y.

muddy,

That's good to know.  I still don't know if I'll every try

Helicores myself, but the barrier that led me to pick up Dominants

was the fact that is seemed my violin itself would require a deal

of modification just to try Helicores.  Being under the

impression that I would need a new bridge, and either a new

tailpiece or three more fine tuners, it just wasn't worth it to me

just to try a string that I didn't even know if I would like.

Perhaps someday I'll give them a whirl.  Of course, they last

so bloody long that I won't be able to use the excuse of "worn out

strings" to justify to the wife why I'm experimenting with

something different again.

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You can tune Helicores without fine tuners about as easily as synthetic strings. The Wittner tailpiece with four fine tuners has the added advantage of being available with an adjustable tail gut making it easy to tune the after length. Don't turn up your nose at this reasonably priced plastic tailpiece. It's much better than a wooden tailpiece with four long lever fine tuners hanging on the end of it.

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dang...and I always thought that the reason country fiddlers used fine tuners on the tailpiece was because they were too lazy to learn how to use the pegs...goes to show what I know

actually, though, I think , because Helicores are thinner (due to the material they are made out of) it is harder to get the things in tune...hence the fine tuners...same with e-strings...ever try to tune one of those w/o the fine tuner...same principal.

FWIW, I use Eudoxas, and I do a lot of Scottish and Irish fiddling..in fact, this past years (and the year before) national Scottish Fiddle Champ played on Eudoxas, the runner up was on Dominants..others have been on everything in between.

So it goes to show you...the hardest thing about string choice is making up your own mind about what is good for you, and what you like, not what someone else tells you that you should be using.

Of course, to see what other people are using is an ok starting point, but it is not the end-all. I actually think that a bow will make as much difference as the strings, and the contact point, pressure you use, etc.

I don't think that you are going to change the true sound/nature of a violin that much...it may sound a lot different under your ear, but by the time the sound gets to someone elses ear, I don't think they will be able to tell that much what type of string you are using.

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sunnybear...

Do you mean to tell me that a new set of strings will not

compensate for deficiencies in my playing?

I do agree that the bow is VERY important.  When buying my

first "real" (read: not student quality) bow, I was (again) talking

to Peter Prier about it.  My wife asked him how important a

bow really is.  He said, (and I forget which prominent player

it was who told him this); "Music starts here" and he tapped his

chest over his heart.  "From there, it moves to here" he said

as he held out his right hand.  "After that, it must first go

through the bow before it can ever emerge from the violin.

 So, which is more important, the bow...or the violin.

 Well, the bow is the very breath that allows the violin to

sing.  Which do you think might be more important then?"

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