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Strings and things
Learning the quirks of your fiddle friend
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NewFiddlerGirl
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April 29, 2014 - 4:25 am
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When my violin was restored to playable, the shop put on Dominant strings. After about 6 months of play they sounded a bit flat. I had bought several sets of strings from Fiddlershop to play with - a replacement set of Dominants, Prelude, and Pro-Arte. Put on the set of Pro-Arte and I'm not sure if it's the strings, the fiddle or a combination of both but they don't seem to want to settle in and stay in tune. The Dominants took about a two weeks to settle in and stay in tune (note: I was also a newbie at the time so some of the lack of staying in tune during the first two weeks was probably due to inexperience). These have been on for over two months and still don't seem to hold a tune.

I have been struggling with humidity issues during the winter. Or so I think. The humidity was around 30% in the case and with the Dominants the pegs didn't slip. With the Pro-Arte strings and the same 30% humidity, the pegs slip a lot and the violin loses tune as I play. Can strings do this? I upped the humidity to 40-50% and the violin pegs didn't slip - sometimes they were too difficult to turn, so I lowered the humidity back to the 30's. The Pro-Arte strings just don't seem to hold tune.

I also changed strings in February - a very cold and dry month in Vegas. I changed to the Pro-Arte's because the Dominants are very loud and the E string seemed a bit harsh or screechy. I wanted to see if I liked the Pro Arte better. The sound is good when they stay in tune, but that just doesn't seem to be happening. I played for any hour and change tonight and had to retune every 20 minutes of play time.

I was thinking about the Zyex strings as something between the Dominant and Pro-Arte for the sound and for the tuning issues. Are there any other strings that will help tone down a loud violin? What about my other problems - slipping, humidity? I'd like to make one order with a couple of different string sets to save shipping and have spares if I don't like one set or the other.

Also is there an optimum humidity for a fiddle? It seems that the "issues" with humidity showed up about the time I changed strings. There was no change in humidity and the slipping started with the new strings. Is it better to not over humidify the violin and use peg drops? I noticed that a couple of times the pegs were so tight I had to leave the violin out of the case before attempting to tune. Our air is so dry in about an hour the violin had lost enough moisture to tune more easily.

The funny part about this is I put Pro-Arte strings on my viola and they work and sound great. The viola stays in tune and does just fine with a cheaper case and no constant monitoring of humidity. Go figure...

Any advice would help.I don't want to keep pounding my head against a wall in frustration lumpy-2134 I just started learning the new project and want to get a good sound.

'Tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free
'Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right, 
  'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

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Barry
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April 29, 2014 - 7:27 am
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I tried a set of Pro-Arte sometime ago and didnt care for them. But keep in mind what works on violin A sounds like crap on violin B

There is no shame in playing twinkle, youre playing Mozart

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Uzi
Georgia
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April 29, 2014 - 10:09 pm
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I think you have a clue right here:

The funny part about this is I put Pro-Arte strings on my viola and they work and sound great. The viola stays in tune and does just fine with a cheaper case and no constant monitoring of humidity. Go figure

A change in humidity and/or temperature will change the tuning of the violin. Being that you are in such a dry climate a room humidifier might be in order.

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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OldOgre
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April 30, 2014 - 12:04 am
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I have Pro-Arte strings on my mv-650 and have no trouble with them staying in tune.
I do use Knilling Pegs. so no slip.

With violins there is no fretting over the music.

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
April 30, 2014 - 7:48 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 11717

NewFiddlerGirl said
..........I have been struggling with humidity issues during the winter. Or so I think. The humidity was around 30% in the case and with the Dominants the pegs didn't slip. With the Pro-Arte strings and the same 30% humidity, the pegs slip a lot and the violin loses tune as I play. Can strings do this?.......

Different types of strings don't have a bearing on how much the pegs slip or stick. Strings do have slightly different tensions and that can have a bearing but most likely not. If you compared high tension steel strings to light tension synthetic core strings I might see it.

.......The sound is good when they stay in tune, but that just doesn't seem to be happening. I played for any hour and change tonight and had to retune every 20 minutes of play time.

The strings that change intonation the most when playing are steel strings because they are not as flexible. Intonations changes with strings is normal and pro's tune constantly. When you perform and your instrument changes intonation a bit you adjust with your fingers (except for open strings of course :)). How out of tune do your strings get?

I was thinking about the Zyex strings as something between the Dominant and Pro-Arte for the sound and for the tuning issues. Are there any other strings that will help tone down a loud violin? What about my other problems - slipping, humidity? I'd like to make one order with a couple of different string sets to save shipping and have spares if I don't like one set or the other.

Low tension strings might help toning down the instrument but medium tension is the idea strings for a properly adjusted violin. There are other things that you might have done to your instrument that could warm up the sound a bit. Finding new positions and tensions on your sound-post can make a big difference providing it's a good post. It might not even be cut properly. Usually they are not. The bridge could be too thick but that would usually not make the instrument too loud.....

Also is there an optimum humidity for a fiddle? It seems that the "issues" with humidity showed up about the time I changed strings. There was no change in humidity and the slipping started with the new strings. Is it better to not over humidify the violin and use peg drops? I noticed that a couple of times the pegs were so tight I had to leave the violin out of the case before attempting to tune. Our air is so dry in about an hour the violin had lost enough moisture to tune more easily.

Off the top of my head between 40-60% would be great.

The funny part about this is I put Pro-Arte strings on my viola and they work and sound great. The viola stays in tune and does just fine with a cheaper case and no constant monitoring of humidity. Go figure...

Any advice would help.I don't want to keep pounding my head against a wall in frustration http://fiddlerman.com/wp-content/forum-smileys/lumpy-2134.gif I just started learning the new project and want to get a good sound.

When you say that your strings don't stay in tune, do they detune a lot of just a slight bit? Do you think the pegs are slipping slowly? Do they always go down in tune? That would be an indication that it is only the pegs slipping. Are your pegs very smooth to turn or are they clicking a lot while turning?

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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NewFiddlerGirl
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May 1, 2014 - 12:13 am
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@fiddlerguy
Thanks for the help.
So I can rule out the string change for the cause of slippage. I only started playing in October and the problem didn't show until February. Coincidentally, I changed the strings at the same time because the A and D sounded dead and I had them on about 5 months. I'm probably experiencing the normal seasonal changes in the humidity and it's effects on the fiddle. We have four seasons in Nevada - pleasant, cold, hot and hellish. October is pleasant, February is cold. We are now moving into hot. By July we'll be in hellish. so I guess I'll just learn how the fiddle reacts to each.

The change in tune while playing is not what you demo'ed in a video about steel strings pulling up in pitch. I experienced that with the viola my hubby got me for Christmas, changed to the pro-arte and it doesn't do that any more. The strings on my violin actually go flat in pitch. I notice it because my fingers are "chasing" the right sound and as a beginner that doesn't help develop a feel for where the notes are supposed to be. Sometimes it's a slight amount, other times its nearly a half to full flat from the open string note. Since they always go down, it may be the slipping. As to the "smoothness" of the pegs turning, it depends. Sometimes they are smooth and if the humidity is too high they seem to stick and click when turning. It's like goldilocks - too humid can't turn pegs or they click, too dry and they don't hold. I need to find and maintain the "just right". The pegs are the original pegs from the violin and it is 100 plus years old.

My luthier is very good so I don't think the sound post is the issue as the "over-loudness". My fiddle is not who I thought it was though. Originally, I was told the fiddle was made by my husband's great grandfather. It had been in disrepair in his shop and we assumed it was because he didn't have time to fix it. Well the fiddle is actually a Francois Guillmont violin. I did some history and family research. We think this fiddle and the jig came from the Guillmont factory that was destroyed in WWI. Guillmont's from what I read are notoriously loud and powerful. As a beginner, I don't really like to broadcast every screech and off key note at 120 decibels. Other than a mute, I was experimenting with other strings to see if I could bring down the power until I can play a bit better.

I'll also have to update the history on my family fiddle - it got more interesting with the new discovery.

Thanks for the detailed help. I'm glad to be back.

'Tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free
'Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right, 
  'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

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Uzi
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May 1, 2014 - 1:08 pm
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I'm intrigued about the history of this instrument and would like to hear more about it.

To the topic at hand, wood absorbs moisture and when it does it expands, which would make your pegs stick and click. When exposed to dry air, the moisture in the wood evaporates and the wood shrinks, which will cause your pegs to become looser and possibly slip. Even if the pegs don't slip, a fairly rapid change in humidity will change the tuning of any wooden instrument.

I recently read an article written by a conductor, who was perplexed when his normally good sounding orchestra, sounded horribly out of tune during a concert. Investigating the cause (and eliminating the possibility that they had all been drinking jello shots before the concert) he discovered that the building manager had not turned the air conditioning on until right before the concert. After tuning up and beginning to play, the air conditioning was continuing to change the temperature and humidity of the venue, resulting in all of the stringed instruments becoming detuned.

If you are humidifying the instrument and then playing it in a very dry environment, it will detune as the wood dries and shrinks. A very old instrument, that has long ago lost any moisture in the wood, will do so even more than wood that has not aged as long.

My 2 cents worth has now been added, for what it's worth.

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
May 1, 2014 - 2:51 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 11717

All true stories. http://fiddlerman.com/wp-includes/images/smilies/icon_smile.gif
Alright. The luthier should have sealed the pegs to avoid moisture being absorbed by them but it can still happen. Also, both the hole and the peg are exposed to the same moisture. I find that pegs that are optionally coated with peg compound are far less affected by humidity than otherwise. The peg compound helps in several ways. It kind of seals the pegs and holes, plus it lubricates for smoother turning. Too much compound can make the pegs slip without a lot of added inward pressure. Remember that pegs are conical and must be pushed in while turning to stay put. http://fiddlerman.com/wp-includes/images/smilies/icon_smile.gif
Peg Compound

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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NewFiddlerGirl
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May 2, 2014 - 12:53 am
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@fiddlerguy When I first got the fiddle fixed up I ordered some accessories from Fiddlershop to include peg drops and the peg compound you linked to. Since I'm a DIY person, I figured that at some point I would have an issue and didn't want to be stuck searching for something common like peg compound or spare strings late at night when I want to play.

Any instructions on the peg compound or just put some on the pegs where they touch the holes and turn and push while tuning as normal?

BTW - I can't thank you enough for all the personal help. It is sooo cool that you really take the time with everyone on this site and care so much.

'Tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free
'Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right, 
  'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

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NewFiddlerGirl
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May 2, 2014 - 1:17 am
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@Uzi
http://fiddlerman.com/forum/in.....las-vegas/

Links to the beginning of my fiddle story. My husband's great grandfather was a fiddler maker. Uncle Don has one of his fiddles and I thought I had another one. About a month after I got the fiddle repaired, I looked inside the f-hole for his label. I was shocked to find it was not Ezra Tungate but a Francois Guillmont made in Aix-la-Chapelle. I contacted Uncle Don for pictures of his fiddle because I couldn't find any records of an Ezra Tungate violin maker. He corrected me, the name was Elza not Ezra. I did a search and found a woman in Canada that had one of his violins.
https://suzukiassociation.org/discuss/21859/
I started digging into genealogy and found some interesting information on Elza and how he probably acquired the fiddle and possibly the jig.

The Francois Guillmont violin shop made violins between 1900 and 1920. So that rules out Elza’s father or grandfather working/studying there. But Elza served in WWI and his unit served in the Lorraine region. The Francois Guillmont violin label lists Aix-la-Chapelle as the city of origin. Aix-la-Chapelle is in the Lorraine region and the German name for this town is Aachen. The unit Elza served with in WWI was in the Lorraine province from 1918 until 1930 as part of the occupying ally forces. When Elza signed up for the draft in 1917, his occupation was listed as a farm laborer. Although he may have tinkered with making violins, my new theory is that he may have brought home the Guillmont and possibly the jig as a war souvenir and that started his journey.

The Guillmont factory was damaged in both WWI and WWII and ceased to exist after the Second World War when it was completely destroyed. So it is possible this was plucked from the wreckage of the violin shop during the war or occupation period.

So my violin was in his shop in a state of disrepair at the time of his death. My guess is it was his template so there was no need to have it in working order. I'm surprised it survived. It has been in a non-climate controlled work shed in Baker, CA, closets, attics and even the uninsulated crawl space above my mother-in-laws garage in Las Vegas. I'm amazed the dang thing survived let alone sounds as good as it does. It only had a small crack on the front and some glue that let go on the top about a one inch section near the lower portion of the c-bout by the G string. The sound post didn't fall even without strings, it did get reset to the correct position though.

Amazing!!!!!

'Tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free
'Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right, 
  'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

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MrYikes
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May 2, 2014 - 8:03 am
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WOW, thank you for sharing the story.

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Uzi
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That is an amazing story and I'm very glad that someone that cares has resurrected it from its many years of neglect and brought it back to life so that it can sing again.

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
May 2, 2014 - 2:39 pm
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Very cool story.
One peg at a time, loosen and remove the peg from the hole. It will be apparent where the peg makes contact with the peg. Apply the compound to the shaft at those spots while turning the peg in your hand then reinstall and test by turning and pressing inward. You can always easily apply more before reinstalling the string. Tune that string and do the next.... Make sure from time to time that your bridge is straight.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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