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Cross Tuning on the Fiddle
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Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (39 votes) 
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ELCBK
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April 4, 2022 - 12:27 pm
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...mentioned I haven't done any cross-tuning with Edgar. 

I don't want to rush into changing this string out - if the notch width is actually the culprit. 

I'm thinking the carbon composite material may not be as forgiving as a wood bridge is for the strings - it may just need a little polishing with fine emery cloth, but I'm hesitant to make any changes, without first reading up more on potential pitfalls. 

These strings are not cheap and I don't want a repeat of the problem.

Bridge string notch effect on tone - Maestronet

 

Mentioned all this, because I was thinking it's probably a good idea, for anyone cross-tuning or retuning often, to keep an eye out for any changes to synthetic core strings.  

 

🤔... what if something else could be done to help synthetic-core strings weather more cross-tuning?

Maybe another rabbit hole... but if there is an overall general problem at the bridge, caused by multiple cross-tunings/changing tunings, I was wondering if a product Saddle Rider carries could help - while using synthetic-core strings. 

They make an adjustable saddle for violins & violas. 

Saddle Rider’s adjustable saddles allow players to adjust the amount of string downforce on the bridge without releasing the tension on the strings. This is particularly convenient while traveling between climates, or when adapting an instrument to different styles of playing. If you have ever changed the height of a bridge, you have a sense of how an instrument’s playability changes by adjusting this parameter. But unlike changing bridges, using a Saddle Rider allows this adjustability without altering the playing “action” (i.e. the height of the strings off the fingerboard.)

https://saddleridermusicllc.files.wordpress.com/2020/11/violin-saddle-rider-4-resized-and-fixed.jpg?w=300

...Fiddlershop already carries some Saddle Rider products - I read about the adjustable saddle as prep for the interview with John Haines-Eitzen. 😊

- Emily 

 

Well now, I just noticed more problems with the winding on my D string.  This time it's right in the area of my bow path, so guess I just have to break in another string (sigh) - just as all the strings were staying in tune. 🙄

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Fiddlerman
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April 6, 2022 - 10:25 am
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ELCBK said

OUTSTANDING LINK!

THANX! 

Before I mess more with cross-tuning, I'm going to have to take a closer look at my carbon bridge on 'Edgar'. 

Noticed my 'D' string is showing issues with the winding separating at the nut, but much worse at the bridge! 

In all fairness to the Larson Virtuoso strings, the Virtuoso D is thicker than the Original Larson D. 

I used graphite when I changed the strings, but didn't seem to help.  I hate to make a wrong move - especially because I don't see that the nut can be replaced (part of the carbon composite fingerboard?) if I mess it up. 

It's also still fresh in my mind that I waited a long time to get this Viola... 🤔 if I'm careful, think it won't hurt to slightly widen the notch on the bridge a hair & make sure it's smooth... still stressful. 😖 

@Fiddlerman -

Any pointers, for me?

The nut can surely be changed but in a different way. We may have to cut it away and make a new one. Not as quick and easy as replacing a traditional nut but not impossible. I'm also fairly certain that we can fill it with superglue and ebony saw dust.
I realize that we'd be mixing materials which is why I say "fairly" certain. But there might be a better filler.

More than using graphite and making sure there are no sharp edges I don't know that there was anything else you can do. We could send the string back and try to get you an exchange. The worse that can happen is that they say no.

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

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ELCBK
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July 10, 2022 - 11:48 am
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@Fiddlerman -

Thank you!

Sorry, I missed your reply! 

Had already sent a photo to Clare at that time & I received another string (thank you!). 

I did try to smooth the edge of the notch before installing a new string, but the winding right at the bridge is still not happy, not quite as bad, but it's still a little scary - so I'll have to try to smooth it more next string change. 

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ELCBK
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July 10, 2022 - 12:07 pm
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I LOVE THIS THREAD! 

Found a new tune with an unusual tuning! 

"Port na bPúcaí" (song of the spirits) is a slow air that's tuned down 3 half steps (E,B,F#,C#).  The tune is from the Blasket Islands off the West coast of Ireland - played by Ashley & Daniel Horn. 

 

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/26/2b/8a/262b8a923b0d14731b06bf834cf3ab42.jpg

 

Ashley plays a "Mezzo Violin", so I had to find out what that was.  It's a longer bodied Violin, with up to 7 strings, but it still has standard string length! 

- Emily

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Fiddlerman
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July 20, 2022 - 2:46 pm
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ELCBK said
@Fiddlerman -

Thank you!

Sorry, I missed your reply! 

Had already sent a photo to Clare at that time & I received another string (thank you!). 

I did try to smooth the edge of the notch before installing a new string, but the winding right at the bridge is still not happy, not quite as bad, but it's still a little scary - so I'll have to try to smooth it more next string change.

OK, let me know!

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

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ELCBK
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July 20, 2022 - 4:49 pm
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@Fiddlerman -

Shoot, forgot to mention that I changed my D, G & C strings last week - as I removed each string, I sanded each section of the bridge well with 800 wet/dry sandpaper, then 2000 to polish it up a bit. 

NO signs of the winding separating at the bridge, now... so far! 🤗

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Gordon Shumway
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July 20, 2022 - 5:11 pm
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Whenever I change strings, I use a 4B (or softer) pencil on the bridge and nut slots for the graphite (lubrication). I also have some pure graphite somewhere, but I think it's a slab, and soft pencils are easier to use.

Andrew

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ELCBK
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July 21, 2022 - 11:28 pm
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@Gordon Shumway -

Thank you.  I did that 1st, didn't help.

Don't forget, I have a Carbon Composite Bridge. 

This material doesn't have any give like wood does (maple is not that hard) - I think extra care must be taken anywhere the strings touch on the bridge, everything needs to be rounded slightly & polished smooth. 

So, my issue is solved for now. 

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ELCBK
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July 21, 2022 - 11:34 pm
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Even though I've been talking about strings & bridges - it's ALL more prep for - Cross Tuning! 

I've done it on my violin & I want to do it on my Viola! 

But... I'm still VERY leary about changing tunings while using expensive synthetic core strings!  I have read somewhere that they don't handle it very well. 

I don't want to use steel strings, and I really have too much stuff to be adding a bunch more fiddles - all tuned differently!  If anything, I still might be tempted to tune down only my C string, or tune everything down a half step... forever.  

My recent focus on my D string, sitting at the pinnacle of my Viola bridge, does make me want to seriously consider testing a Saddle Rider (post #61).  

My big question would be, might I have to worry about not having enough downward string pressure to keep the sound post from moving? 

 https://i.pinimg.com/originals/c0/a4/6f/c0a46f4a2d6370d2ed9512536ce19823.jpg

 

I'm probably opening a can of worms, but maybe it's worth it - if something like the Saddle Rider helps make it easier for more people to enjoy Cross Tuning or Altered Tunings!  

- Emily

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Gordon Shumway
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As for cross-tuning, I suspect I'd find it too confusing, although the music is rewritten to make it easier isnt it? Err, hmm, I guess if I were listening too closely, the discrepancy between the pitch as written and the pitch as sounded would confuse the bejeesus out of me.

We were playing Richard Strauss's something or other a while ago and my part required me to tune my G string to F#. I practised it for a while like that, but it was too risky - muscle memory can take over and then you are in trouble, so I kept it on G and ignored the couple of F#s in the music.

Andrew

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ELCBK
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July 22, 2022 - 2:08 pm
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I imagine it would be confusing if you have only trained your fingers to react automatically to reading Classical Sheet Music. 

Pretty sure I'm just repeating myself, but maybe it's used so much more for fiddle tunes because of traditionally learning by ear. 

There's something to be said about ear-training...  might make what you hear slightly more important than what you see.

Once you hear how it sounds cross-tuned, I think a lot makes sense to our ears, and again - many times a tune is still played the same on both higher/lower string pairs.  I'm not as good at playing as I will be someday, but I still found it fairly easy to get used to playing with even just 1 string de-tuned. 

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/46/48/56/464856dee2aabac12966f2aa46e468c3.jpg

 

My decision to make my ears more of a priority, to help me judge where my fingers need to go, leaves me with no regrets.  I believe it allows me freedom to adapt, but others will argue more benefits to the contrary.

...many generations have played great music - learned by ear. 

- Emily

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Fiddlerman
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July 25, 2022 - 3:30 pm
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ELCBK said
@Fiddlerman -

Shoot, forgot to mention that I changed my D, G & C strings last week - as I removed each string, I sanded each section of the bridge well with 800 wet/dry sandpaper, then 2000 to polish it up a bit. 

NO signs of the winding separating at the bridge, now... so far! 🤗

I'm very glad to hear it. Is that on the Glasser? We don't do much with the Glasser but the composite bridge might be the issue. Not as soft as the wooden bridges. I'll let the guys know.

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

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ELCBK
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@Fiddlerman -

Yes, unfortunately I think the top edge of a Carbon Composite bridge needs much more attention than wood, for that reason. 

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Fiddlerman
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July 26, 2022 - 11:19 am
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ELCBK said @Fiddlerman -

Yes, unfortunately I think the top edge of a Carbon Composite bridge needs much more attention than wood, for that reason.

Makes sense.

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

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Strabo
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February 16, 2023 - 10:47 am
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I just now tuned into the Cross Tuning thread. As usual, I’m a little late to the party, haha. But gosh, ya gotta start somewhere...

I have stayed away from cross tuning because I’ve been afraid it would mess with my intonation. But after two years my intonation is clearly getting stronger and I’m feeling some confidence -- though of course I have a long way to go.

The Peakfiddler video posted above made me think that there might be significant benefit to be gained from playing in an alternative tuning, so I have decided to be brave and give it a rip. I do have two fiddles so I can take this on with minimal hassle.

I’m gonna work on one tune (Big Scioty) in standard and GDGD tunings for a week and see what happens. First, I want to evaluate the GDGD benefits: overall resonance, drones, double stops, possibly ease of playing the tune.

Second, I’m interested to know how well my brain can accommodate playing with two parallel maps. It’s essentially a question of how much GDGD interferes with GDAE performance. I do speak three languages and I can move back and forth more or less effortlessly, so I’m hopeful that everything might work out easily. 

There remain some additional questions: If cross tuning proves beneficial, will I want to carry two fiddles to an OT jam? Or will I just retune when the jam changes keys? One of my fiddles is 100+ years old and I’m a little concerned about cranking it up to AEAE.

Also, will I want to be limited to playing a given tune in a a specific tuning in one tuning (e.g. Big Scioty always in GDGD) or will I want the versatility of playing in either tuning? So many questions!

I’ll be interested in others’ experiences! 

Strabo

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ELCBK
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@Strabo -

I'm really happy you are poking around in the Genre topics & think it's GREAT you are starting to experiment with cross-tuning! 

There are people who keep one fiddle cross-tuned a specific way because you'll find there are quite a few tunes you can add to your repertoire played in each tuning - maybe you'll find one particular tuning is your favorite to keep handy.  Some wonderful Nordic music is played cross-tuned!

Also, consider trying tuned 'down' a half step!  Great Cajun, Baroque, and even Scottish piper music can be played easier & sounds fabulous this way. 

I read somewhere that synthetic core strings may not take kindly to repeated retuning - earlier people, who freely changed their tuning, used steel strings.  Personally, if I was constantly changing my tuning, I would still rather suffer any consequences and keep using synthetic core strings, but I'd keep an eye on them. 

Keep us apprised of what you discover & like! 

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ABitRusty
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@Strabo I dont think id worry about damaging your fiddle.   I did too at first and anyone i asked confirmed it wouldnt cause a problem.  talking about AEAE. GDGD..  just remember to go back to standard when done for the day.

I think if you know the tune well or are learning it by ear helps when playing cross tuned.  dont use sheet music and try yo play cross tuned ..thats when it gets confusing.

 

ive cross tuned synthetic strings no problem.. but i dont cross tune alot so that may be why.   cross tuned helicore heavies AEAE no problems.   

 

checkout rayna gelerts website for some great cross tuned play along type videos that you can slow down on the webpage.  suggest if you like maybe leave a tip.. that goes for thesession too..we use so much may be good to support.   and buy some strings and a new fiddle from the fiddlershop wink

 

EDIT

THIS Is a direct link to the tune lesson part of her site.  she plays through with no talking.. fast then slower then slower.   Theres also a speed adjust i think or couldve just slowed it down myself.  several cross tuned lesso s all play by ear

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Strabo
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Thanks Rusty. Rayna Gallery is of course a very good fiddler and her videos may help me unravel the mysteries of cross tuning. 

Lurking in the back of my mind is this question: Is it a better use of my limited time and brainpower to:

A. Develop cross-tuning facility and be able to take easy advantage of all those glorious drones, or

B. Stick to GDAE and do it with double stops? 

I do plan to carry through with my experiment of playing Big Scioty in GDAE and GDGD for a week. That should give me an improved GDAE version and also illuminate the potential benefits of cross-tuning.

Strabo

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ABitRusty
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know what you mean @Strabo... idk the answer.   maybe do both?  Im not sure its just hitting drone strings that give the greats that sound and feel to their playing.  looking forward to what you discover with big sciota.

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Strabo
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You’re right of course, Rusty. The drone tones are perhaps best thought of as a cheap way to make hackers like me sound “good”, haha. 

And that raises the question of: Relative to what? Sometimes when I hear myself play I’m impressed with how good I sound. Then I go and listen to a really good fiddler and, gosh, I don’t feel so accomplished any more!

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