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welshman

apparently size does matter

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Hi everyone

 

Just spent a frustration hour with a new client and his new five string baroque cello, he had it shipped to him and when attempting to bring it up to pitch (415) the gut e string kept breaking. The first portion of the visit was smoothing possible sharp edges at the tailpiece and devising the right size of the loop tying it to the tailpiece. the string was ok at the nut and pegbox but it was getting shorter by the attempt. so much so that I ended up having to tie a extension to it to get enough length to wind around the peg shaft.

 

finally was able to bring up to pitch for a sound check for the soundpost position but just as he did a final tuning for stretch the string exploded right in the middle of the string - no sharp edges involved just a weak point in the string. since he was down to last string at that point it brought the session to a halt until new ones arrive - at least we determined the right knot and loop to use and then got down to finding out the root cause of the issue - size of the cello.

 

the owner had ordered a copy of the big Strad model (body length of 790mm) assuming the big body means big sound and the makers (chinese) but on a neck wide enough for the five strings which means also a very thick heavy wedge shape but also made it proportional to the body for a string length of 715mm. the result being, unless the can find a string maker with a miracle e strings, that there is no possible way for a e string to work at a415. the tension is just too much. 

 

His next step is to call around for a miracle string and failing that he has two options (unless any of you have a third option) - revise the set up and use it a a normal four string baroque cello or try revising the set up with a false nut, moving bridge position to reduce the string length to 690 or less and then tune to lower a pitch then it might and i think might work. The other five string I have worked on was able to work because it was shorter string length with a395 tuning. 

 

He just has too big of a cello for a five string - interesting that Cathy Caldwell's book list her collection's five string cello as having a similar problem even with a 709mm body and a 644mm string length

 

any ideas??

 

reese

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Where are you getting your strings? I would contact Gamut and run this past them. They should be able to hook you up with any thickness. A thinner string is probably what you need, but you run into the problem that thinner equals less tension, but also less strength. You may need to just order a variety of thicknesses and test which one doesn't break but is still playable with the rest of the setup. Same problem with coming up with a decent e for a 5 string viola.

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I guess a steel e would be a choice, not historically correct but a 5 string that large probably isn't historically correct either. I like the way a steel e works with plain gut a and d on the violin. It may still sound good on this instrument if not necessarily true to the period.

 

Or how about a gamba style tuning? Maybe even convert it to a 6 string.

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My former teacher has a 5 string baroque cello that is oversize quite a lot, see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tN8-8YAHtws Her oversize 5 string story starts at 3:15. You could contact her to ask her about the string brand. Most definately she uses a gut e string, I suspect from Aquila because thats what she always uses and the lower two string are evidently aquila strings. good luck!

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Try one of those "string calculator", you provide the string length (the section that vibrate), pitch, material, etc., and you get the tension, diameter, etc.

With this data in hand you can order the string that best suit the instrument.

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The problem is that with that string length, at the desired tension and pitch, you end up requiring a string that is too thin and not strong enough given the material (gut). The solutions are to shorten the string length, change the pitch, or switch to a string made from stronger materials. Or find a source of gut that is stronger, which maybe what baroquecello's teacher has. It may be worth trying some strings from Aquila.

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Where are you getting your strings? I would contact Gamut and run this past them. They should be able to hook you up with any thickness. A thinner string is probably what you need, but you run into the problem that thinner equals less tension, but also less strength. You may need to just order a variety of thicknesses and test which one doesn't break but is still playable with the rest of the setup. Same problem with coming up with a decent e for a 5 string viola.

 

I second all of that whole-heartedly. Dan Larsen at Gamut is a very helpful and clued-up guy. He also makes beef gut strings (apart from the normal sheep gut) which are a bit stronger. The thickness and type of twist used may just make this e-string possible. On the other hand, he will be able to tell you definitively if it isn't possible.

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I've just had a look at the Gamut website. There are various thicknesses of custom-gauged strings available with a length of .90m. According to the string calculator on the site, an e-string for that cello would probably have to be no thicker than .9mm

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currently trying aquila .72 but the idea about beef gut was raised, first conversation with Dan Larson the player had wasn't promising but I have him calling back plus other sources to see if any of the makers have any ideas - its his project at the moment.

 

he is waiting on a new shipment of aquila strings to see if the revised knot will work on a new string.

 

thanks for the help, let you know results

 

Reese

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And on top of that, what you may be handling here might have been built with the idea of a bass violin, basse de violon, an oversized cello tuned a whole tone lower than a cello, so imagine this instrument, which was the standard bass instrument in french orchestras until the 1730ies (they didn't have cellos, nor double basses), tuned at 392 (standard french tuning pitch of the day) and a whole tone step lower than usual cellos, and your e string, I beg your pardon, d string, is much more realistic. I'd actually like to have such an instrument, it is the 17th century precedessor for the cello, great for early baroque stuff, not good for Bach suites.

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