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Helicore / Obligato string tensions


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While I'm thinking about strings: I've been using medium Obligatos, and while I like their sound and love their playability, they normally last three good months (if I'm lucky) and aren't quite as responsive nor as tonally focused as I'd like for them to be. I'm thinking about trying out a set of Helicores and would like to match their tension as closely as I can to the Obligatos. Could I get away with using heavy gauge Helicores (they're very light strings to the touch), or would mediums be better?

Mucho thanko,


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Trent- some string manufacturers' websites list string tensions. This is true of D'Addario (http://www.daddario.com); I'm not sure about Pirastro (http://www.pirastro.com). If the information is not available, my feeling would be that you'd be happier with the medium Helicores (which I swear by on my viola and have also used successfully on one of my violins).

My impression is that most of the newer composite synthetics like Obligatos have relatively low tension (Zyex being the glaring exception). Certainly medium Obligatos (which I tried on my current violin and didn't care for) don't feel very tight to me.

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Steve, because I respect your opinion so much: Would you recommend all Helicore strings, or a mixture? If you prefer a mixture, with WHAT strings and on WHICH strings?? Obligato? I've heard some good things about Spirocore (from Bernd), but haven't ordered them yet.

As it currently stands, I have a larsen "A," Helicore "D" and "G," and Tonica "C." The Tonica is great for Bach, however I am also playing "Der Schwanendreher" (Hindemith, of course [smile]) and am finding that on the last mvt (which flies like the dickens!!!!) my "C" is NOT at all responsive. But, at the same time, I don't want to give up the deep rich sound on my Bach (I'm playing the c minor cello suite, so the darker sound, the better).

Please suggest anything... Sorry to overload you with a million-and-one questions. Thanks!


*side-note: My instrument does NOT take well to gut strings, plus I think they would be even more "muddy" sounding on faster passages.

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Thanks, Viola Girl, but I'm not sure that my opinion is worth all that much- you're a much better player, presumably using a much better isntrument, than I. Anyway, I use either Jargar A and D and Helicore G and C, or Jargar A and the rest Helicores (everything medium gauge in either case) depending on how my instrument is feeling at the moment (tone and response on the D string have always been a problem). (I would use a Larsen A but I'm too cheap! wink.gif )Helicores were a Godsend with this thick-plated German factory fiddle; before they came along I had to use gut strings because Dominants sounded incredibly awful on it.

(Should have gone to medical school- then I could afford a nice viola! wink.gif )

Did you try a Helicore C, dislike it, and switch to the Tonica? I find that the Helicore C gives a good rich sound even on my cruddy viola, and it will certainly respond faster than any synthetic string. By the way there are two factors to experiment with on Helicore viola strings: not only gauge, but also length. They have "medium scale" (15 - 16 inch violas) and "long scale" (16 inches and up); if your viola is right around 16 inches you might experiment with both. My viola is a 16 inch model and I find the medium scale strings give a slightly clearer sound, presumably due to slightly higher tension.

Finding the right string combination for an instrument can be a royal pain! You're lucky that you're really dissatisfied only with the C string. Besides Helicore (assuming you haven't already tried and rejected it), Obligato and Spirocore seem like the obvious ones to try. I haven't tried either, but judging by the Obligato violin strings which I have tried, I would expect either to give quicker response than the Tonica.

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On two 16-inch violas, I've been through Helicore, Tonica, Dominant, Obligato, and Spirocore strings. The last three have been quite good. Dominants did well (better than Helicore or Tonica) on both instruments. Obligatos did better than Dominants. On one of the violas, Spirocore did even better than Obligatos, but the other was definitely better with the Obligatos. (I've also had Larsen A strings around when I don't like what the "set A" does.)

I bought a "mixed" set of Spirocores trying to maintain as close to 15 pounds tension on each of the strings. (I'm not sure why I decided to try that - but I found it works on one viola.) http://www.Quinnviolins.com lists Spirocore string tensions. So my set is Weich A (15.7 lb), Mittle D (15.7 lb) and Stark G (15.9 lb) and C (15.0 lb). On the other viola, this C is not quite responsive enough and a lower tension C might work better. Yuri Bashmet uses Spirocore strings, I'm told (with a Thomastik tailpiece - as on the cover of The STRAD magazine, July 99 - where you can also see what look like Larsen A and D).

I tend to be "all-or-nothing" with viola string sets unless I find a compelling reason to put one of my Larsen A strings on for a little more in the higher overtones.

I'll tell you this, there is every reason to expect that my experience, or anyone elses, will not translate over to your viola.


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Steve, last night I got fed up with my Tonica "C"'s slow response, so I pulled out my Helicore "C" and strung it up. While it is definitely not as satisfying on my Bach, it serves the higher purpose of getting me through the Hindemith. Compromises... [sigh]

Andy, I appreciate your imput, and I realize that my viola will probably respond different to each type of string, as will my ear/tastes. Nonetheless, you have been very helpful!

Thank you both! I will let you know (if you care) what is my final outcome.


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