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steel vs gut


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I feel lucky that you saw this topic and took the time to answer, Mr. Warchal. This is all such a thorough answer to whatever it is I was asking about, and I appreciate that you explained in such a clear way, particularly you pointing out that your research shows a different result from the tension chart that is referred to frequently. So thanks very much. Really interesting! Thanks!

La Folia, please do not be too hard on me. I hardly know what my question was myself, obviously, let alone the difference between Evahs and Helicores but please don't hassle me so much about that. The question never matters much on MN anyway. Hopefully those with more knowledge and experience than I have to inform my question asking will check out Mr. Warchal's research and discuss that instead. Again, sorry for my bad wording or misinterpretation earlier. :)

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Maybe you strill trust the chats, but whenever I measure any metal violin G string, I get at least 6 kp, whilst a gut G, I found recently forgotten in very old violin case (still decent sound) was 3,5. Quite huge difference.

 

Without more specific information, it's hard to comment.  But I have to say, those are some strings.  Those numbers translate to 13 pounds and 7.7 pounds.

 

Yes I do believe the charts until I see hard evidence to the contrary.  I looked up some more strings.

 

Thomastik Spirocore G (multistrand steel) light - heavy:  8.8 - 11 pounds

Thomastik Dominant G (synthetic) light - heavy:  8.6 - 10.8 pounds

Warchal Karneol G (synthetic):   9.7 pounds

Warchal Brilliant VINTAGE:  10.3 pounds

 

I didn't find any numbers for Eudoxa or anything like that, but some steel strings have weight similar to synthetic strings.

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I'm kidding, I don't actually think you are being hard on me. However, I'm very seriously pointing out that I am often kind of a doofus. Luckily there's already a lot here to look over later to help me get a basic understanding of low and higher tension strings and materials used, although the idea of strings being capable of permanently altering an instrument's future performance seems only an idea now, as "good" tone might be more a qualitative study at this point than able to be proven with numbers...

As I hoped, I could pose a question (with my knowledge in this area being just enough to ask), and get hugely in-depth, informative, authoritative answers. Maestronet is great for that and as always, I appreciate that posters here put up with me. I definitely would like links to any charts or information posters are referring to, if possible.

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I think that while srting tension is important, it's the nature of the materials themselves that matter most.

 

Steel is very rigid, and resists stretching compared to gut or even nylon. When the instrument flexes and moves with the weather, the gut will tend to go with it, whereas the steel strings will be a more unyielding force around which everything else must move.

I agree.  Steel strings stretch very little. 

 

A long time ago I made a large viola that was badly damaged by using steel strings.  It was tuned up during a dry winter and I forgot about it.  Next summer, when the humidity was real high, the wood expanded and the viola pulled itself apart because the strings didn't stretch any.

 

I learned a lot from that so now I put steel strings on all of my violas.

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Oh, & I should clarify. Steel strings for Bowed stringed instruments are not exactly like Steel Flatwound Guitar strings. Even though they're basically flatwound strings, Steel strings for Bowed stringed instruments (in the 1660s and 1670s they actually made Strings that were Iron wound in Brass very much like Harpsichord strings so they were able to come up w/ metal core wound strings for almost every string, Steel E Strings came as Early as 1860 & Flatwound Strings came around 1874 by a guy named Hamilton, not to be confused w/ Alexander Hamilton) are actually gauged in a way to have a very similar Tension to Gut strings but are more durable, & respond faster (so they're easier to bow) due to them being thinner (mechanical pegs should help w/ tuning it up to pitch). It even alludes to that in Dogal's Strings (for example Green Tag, Red Tag, & Blue Tag). The one thing that really separates Steel Strings for Bowed stringed instruments from Flatwound Guitar strings of the same Material is that they have Damping materials between the Core & the Wrap Wire. The Damping materials cut out some of the higher overtones so that they're not too bright sounding.

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On 11/19/2015 at 4:07 AM, jezzupe said:

an edit I would make is that 432 "Scientific pitch" may or may not have been the exact pitch that was tuned to, but for the most part, based on much of my reading it was considerably lower than 440, sometimes as low as 383, bottom line a lower standard tuning is better for stringed instruments

When violin was invented, pitch was mostly higher than 440. Read Bruce Haynes book History of performing Pitch. 

 

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12 hours ago, mathieu valde said:

When violin was invented, pitch was mostly higher than 440. Read Bruce Haynes book History of performing Pitch. 

 

Not only when the violin was invented in the 16th century. Even in the 18th century many churches had organs around 460Hz and sometimes violins tuned at this pitch and sometimes a tone lower than the organ which was required to transpose. So there is no knowing for what pitch Stradivari instruments were designed, specially if we don't know where his customers were performing.

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12 hours ago, Mark Caudle said:

Not only when the violin was invented in the 16th century. Even in the 18th century many churches had organs around 460Hz and sometimes violins tuned at this pitch and sometimes a tone lower than the organ which was required to transpose. So there is no knowing for what pitch Stradivari instruments were designed, specially if we don't know where his customers were performing.

However those Organs that used to be at 460 were tuned down to 440 when the technology to make lower pipes allowed them to cut the price down.

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It's my impure speculation (pure speculation contaminated with a tiny amount of fact) that the original violin back in the 1500s had only 3 gut strings at 330mm length that were tuned to EAD.  To make the gut E string survive it had to have low enough material stress (string tension T divided by cross sectional area A) that it wouldn't be greater than the gut material's  tensile strength. 

The original violin's 3 string length had been chosen to be 330mm so the only way to have a low enough gut material stress  to prevent breakage was to use a low  A note tuning frequency.  Thus the relatively low 432Hz A turning frequency (producing a 648 Hz E note) became more commonly used as the violin became more and more popular. 

The much later change to an 440Hz A note frequency standard (producing a 660Hz E note) increased the stress on the gut strings and this caused an increase in the incidence of string breakage.  The new steel E strings were stronger and survived much better thus they became popular--much less fuss and cost. 

 

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On 11/4/2022 at 12:09 PM, Mark Caudle said:

Not only when the violin was invented in the 16th century. Even in the 18th century many churches had organs around 460Hz and sometimes violins tuned at this pitch and sometimes a tone lower than the organ which was required to transpose. So there is no knowing for what pitch Stradivari instruments were designed, specially if we don't know where his customers were performing.

Main Instrumental pitch at 18th cent Italy . was not an organ pitch, but  so called instrumental pich (fluctuated from city to city in Europe circa 409-421, each city has different one , but mainly in those limits, except France,where it was lower) but violins  only SOMETIMES tuned up in Chorton (one step up from instrumental pitch). So, we know a lot about pitch Stradivari had in mind. READ HAYNES!

 

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Arguing about pitch seems silly when Mr. Warchal has already told us that string makers design a string for both pitch and tension and that a high tension string tuned to 400 has a higher tension than a low tension string tuned to 443 or whatever.

The only people who argue that we shouldn't tune to 440 or we must tune to 432 are engaging in some extreme pseudoscience.

Within a certain range, it seems to me that the only people who should care are singers singing at the top or bottom of their tessitura.

I saw a neat paper years ago analyzing the pay/budget of string players in Baroque/Classical era.  I've gotten so used to high quality strings being readily available that it never occurred to me how important string technology was.  They spent a  substantial portion of their yearly budget on strings.

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Different string companies use different string tensions for their "light", "medium", and "heavy" strings.  So it is necessary to know what the actual string tension measurement numbers are when comparing the tensioning effects of tuning pitch frequency when using different strings.

 It would be nice if all string companies would agree to standardize their tension definitions.  If they are unwilling to do that maybe they should just list their string tension numbers. 

 

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8 hours ago, mathieu valde said:

Main Instrumental pitch at 18th cent Italy . was not an organ pitch, but  so called instrumental pich (fluctuated from city to city in Europe circa 409-421, each city has different one , but mainly in those limits, except France,where it was lower) but violins  only SOMETIMES tuned up in Chorton (one step up from instrumental pitch). So, we know a lot about pitch Stradivari had in mind. READ HAYNES!

 

The other thing is that alot of those Organs have since been tuned down to Instrumental pitch by extending the length of all the pipes. The technology to allow for lower pitched pipes for less money has since developed that time. 

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6 hours ago, Oscar Stern said:

The other thing is that alot of those Organs have since been tuned down to Instrumental pitch by extending the length of all the pipes. The technology to allow for lower pitched pipes for less money has since developed that time. 

 

Did violins accompany organ playing?  I can envision fiddle playing at my local pub but I can't do that with organ playing.

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1 hour ago, Mark Caudle said:

Rather organs accompanied violin playing.

Oh yeah they were originally made as an Accompaniment for Choir, but around 1793 those Organs were tuned down to match the same Key as other instruments because the technology to make super big pipes for those low notes has advanced to cut the price down. IMHO it sounds like you're more likely comparing Gut Violin strings to Steel Guitar strings (as opposed to Steel Strings for Bowed stringed instruments) & only Steel Guitar strings can damage a Bowed stringed instrument cause (even w/ Mechanical pegs which are easier to use plus you can eliminate fine tuners) they'd be wound too tight:

which would result in damaging the instrument. Steel Strings for Bowed instruments on the other hand are designed in a way to have roughly the same tension as Gut strings but w/ Quicker Response, higher durability, & less expensive.

Edited by Oscar Stern
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On 11/18/2015 at 3:35 PM, La Folia said:

Just so you know, Quartetto Italiano used steel strings.  A violin E string is also steel.  No, steel doesn't ruin violins.

 

You could probably damage a violin with too high tension, but steel strings should have approximately the same tension as any other strings.

I guess Steel Strings would only ruin Violins if they were Guitar strings & not Steel Violin strings. Remember never put Guitar strings on a Violin. But you canBlack Diamond Fiddle Violin Strings 5 Pack N719 Silver Plated Wound | eBayuse Black Diamond Steel Violin Strings. They're Silver Wound so they produce a Special sound. The quick response is the good thing making them useful.

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