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Helicores on a cello

Mike Margolis

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the other day, I took my daughter's 3/4 cello to the luthier for a little tweaking.

It is a new instrument to us, I bought it from the son of our music school's director.

Luthier commented, "Huh, I wonder why it has Helicores on it."

Not being familiar with Helicores, I said, "I don't know, but I'll ask."

Former owner replied with a "Why not? It sounds good with them, what does luthier have against Helicores anyway?"

I will pick up the cello tomorrow and ask luthier, who I love dearly and respect tremendously.

In the mean time, can anybody tell me, why that comment?

They are a little less expensive than Dominants, but we are talking $80 vs $100 difference, not half or anything.

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Most modern players prefer cello strings with a solid metal core, or a metal rope wound core, or lately, the composite fibre brands. Nylon core strings such as Dominant (and also gut) generally have a more sluggish response - they are generally at a lower tension, but also with a wider gauge.

There is a great variety of tone to be found in the first three categories - from bright to dark, "plain" to complex, etc. For instance, PRIM cello are quite bright, JARGAR quite dull (on some instruments).

Helicores are rope-core metal-core strings with a fairly narrow gauge. They therefore have a quick response. They also have a complex tone, and also rank amongst the lowest tension strings in their category. They don't have the brand-recognition and -profile of LARSEN, which has a higher tension than Helicores, as does SPIROCORE (by Thomastik, also the manufacturers of DOMINANT), which is another hot favourite.

"Why Helicores?" to me is a bit of a silly question. For the "average" player on an "average" instrument (or a promising student on a fairly decent instrument) Helicores are as good a place to start as any - better than PRIM or JARGAR, as far as I'm concerned, and more affordable than most other big-name brands, but not necessarily inferior.

The local cello wiz-kid in my neck of the woods plays on a high-level Chinese instrument which I supplied and set up - with Helicores.

Forget Dominants, unless you have a malfunctioning cello.

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