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String Talk
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (1 votes) 
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Amateur
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December 18, 2018 - 10:04 pm
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I've recently switched my strings in my FM Apprentice from the "old" FM strings after they began to unwind to Helicores and I'm left a little disappointed.

The good: projection is remarkable. I also love the dark tone it brought out of this fiddle. Even though they're steels, they have some complexity and a unique tone.

The bad: wolf tones. I didn't even know what they were until these strings. Happens now and then with pull-offs. Has this very metallic almost boingy tone to it when this happens until it settles. The E string feels quite a bit tighter and takes more work to play well. This also surprised me as I expected it to be similar to FM's. I don't notice ANY difference in responsiveness in these strings either.

I don't have the money to experiment with a lot of different strings. Though ordinarily increased projection is a good thing, it makes me as a novice self-conscious. In the other hand I don't necessarily want something that's muted either.

I'm finding that I prefer nylon strings which I didn't expect.

I also find I prefer a dark tone. The darker the better. I may give the new FM strings a try. I was quite content with the "old" set. D'addario's pro arte interest me as they're supposed to be dark. The issue is that I sometimes read the word "dull" with their reviews.

What it boils down to is that I currently don't have a spare fresh set and I ought to order. Which should I try next?

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intrepidgirl
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December 19, 2018 - 12:37 am
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I have tried a few types and currently have Obligatos on my favourite violin. Darkish and very nice tone, I think. I find I need to tune them often but I dont mind it, should do that anyways.

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AndrewH
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December 19, 2018 - 3:10 am
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Shar Music's violin string chart may be a good reference. It shows where a whole bunch of the more popular string brands stand on the spectrum. Of course it all varies with individual instruments as well.

https://www.sharmusic.com/Page.....ing-Chart/

I have no experience with Fiddlerman strings (I play viola, and I only see them listed for violin) but Fiddlershop says they are comparable to Dominants, which are almost exactly in the center of the chart.

Based on the chart, Vision Solo, Infeld Red, and Kaplan Amo may be good options. Many violists looking for a dark sound use Obligatos, but they're pricey. One violinist I know uses Corelli Crystal strings, which I'm told are also very dark-sounding.

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Gordon Shumway
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December 19, 2018 - 5:37 am
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I didn't think anyone used steel.

There's a big page of soloists and what strings they use somewhere on this forum.

A long time ago, long before I actually got my donkey in gear, my teacher said "Tonicas or Dominants will do you". Since then, I've looked at a lot of the lit. Do I want gut? No. Do I want to spend $100? No. Do I want steels? No. And so on. I find my shortlist boils down to Tonicas and Dominants. What do good students play? Tonicas. What does Perlman play? Dominants.

Guitar strings are far cheaper. I've been on guitar forums where people try a new string every week. They spend so much time changing strings, they don't have time to practise. It's just transferred neurosis. "last week I tried this, but it didn't turn me into Segovia. Maybe I need to upgrade my guitar again as well!" No, they need to practise.

Ironically, Segovia helped develop Augustines, which are about the cheapest strings on the market, and are the only ones I've ever used. Currently I use Tonicas on the fiddle. I am happy that they are too expensive to get neurotic about. When they fall off the fiddle, I'll either replace them or try Dominants, depending on how much money I can find. When they fall off the fiddle I'll buy whichever ones I liked most.

I thought that Shar chart might be informative. Perhaps it is, but think about it - "I want to be subtle" Practise being subtle? I want direct! Why, are you playing Pag 1 in front of the Berlin Phil in Carnegie Hall?

Maybe changing your rosin will have more effect than changing your strings?

That was meant to be a kind of rant, and I'm sorry if it is unwelcome on this forum. More than a rant, it is a warning to beginners not to get hung-up on gear.

Note that Dominants and Tonicas are both in the middle of that chart. That's probably not a coincidence.

Andrew

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AndrewH
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December 19, 2018 - 6:32 am
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It depends. Most of us are looking for what matches our individual instruments better. There are some instruments that really don't like Dominants or Tonicas at all. That said, those two brands should be good for anyone up through intermediate level with only rare exceptions and it's usually not worthwhile to spend too much time thinking about other strings until you're playing with consistently good technique.

Incidentally, I've actually never met anyone (in person) who uses Tonicas on either violin or viola, and none of the shops I've visited stock them at all. It might be a regional preference for Dominants as a default string, because via the internet I know people in other parts of the US who use Tonicas.

All that being said, most of the strings on the chart are not really more expensive than Dominants, so I don't think it really hurts to try something different unless you start to obsess over equipment. My current preference, Vision, is actually slightly cheaper on viola. (Something slightly interesting here: on violin, Dominants are average-priced and Visions are significantly more expensive, but on viola Visions are average-priced and Dominants are more expensive than average.)

As for steel strings: as far as I know Helicore is the only full set of steel strings that competes with decent synthetics. Virtually all E strings are steel, and Warchal makes an excellent steel A string designed to mix into other sets as a transition from synthetic lower strings to steel E string.

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AndrewH
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December 19, 2018 - 7:13 am
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Another thought:

Once actively performing, string choices are sometimes based on roles even at amateur level. If you're playing in an orchestral string section, a more subtle string is better for blending. If you're a section leader, a brighter or more direct string might help with solo passages. (These days Evah Pirazzi seems to be increasingly common among soloists, for the same reason.) If you're mainly a fiddler, you probably want a higher-tension string because the bow sinks into softer strings too much and makes many fiddle ornaments more difficult to play. One of the factors in my own string choice is making a compromise between being a section player in one of my orchestras and a section leader the other.

This is, of course, mainly a consideration for people who perform routinely.

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December 19, 2018 - 9:55 am
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Good point on the ornaments. They have been coming easier on these strings. 

I don't know what's meant by "no one uses steel". They wouldn't be making them if that were the case. They're immensely popular amongst fiddlers and electric violin players.

I have no desire to play in an orchestra nor do I have the pedigree for it. It's a point of pride for me to say that I've never worn a tuxedo in my life.

My performance plans will mostly involve casual solo or a guitar or piano/organ accompaniment. Nothing so grand.

I didn't mean to imply that so was on a string buying spree. The windings in my FM strings gave out and I had to buy a set of strings locally from a guitar shop at a heavily inflated price from someone who knows nothing of bowed instruments.

I want to save myself the trouble next time and have a set of spares. The dilemma was which ones.

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Shane "Chicken" Wang
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December 20, 2018 - 1:05 pm
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I like steel strings for the projection and the twang. I don't like Helicore strings. I was given a set and have only had trouble with them. 

Can anyone tell me what the projection is like with Fiddlerman strings. Are they pretty loud?

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Irv
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December 20, 2018 - 3:44 pm
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Hi Chicken.  As much as I love Fiddlerman strings, I would not call them loud (unless you have a very loud violin.  I only have one of that sort).  I have a set of Pirastro Chromcor mediums that have a great sound and are very loud (on a carbon composite violin, which was not very loud to begin with).  I would guess that the same strings in firm would be even louder.

In general, the higher the bridge, the louder the sound so if your hearing gets worse, you might consider putting a wedge under the fingerboard.  Or get an electric violin and wear headphones.  

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.  —Werner von Braun

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

Experience is a difficult teacher, it gives the test first and the lesson after.

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Irv
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December 20, 2018 - 3:54 pm
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Hi again Chicken.  I remembered an auction with a violin having the wedge treatment, so see the dropped photo below.41CEE555-2D8C-4E7F-B617-9BF6055AC282.jpegImage Enlarger

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.  —Werner von Braun

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

Experience is a difficult teacher, it gives the test first and the lesson after.

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Fiddlerman
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December 21, 2018 - 11:08 am
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Amateur said
I've recently switched my strings in my FM Apprentice from the "old" FM strings after they began to unwind to Helicores and I'm left a little disappointed.

Do you know that we have a 3-month guarantee on the strings? Even if it's not your fault, if a string unwinds or breaks we'll replace it for free. 🙂

The good: projection is remarkable. I also love the dark tone it brought out of this fiddle. Even though they're steels, they have some complexity and a unique tone.

The bad: wolf tones. I didn't even know what they were until these strings. Happens now and then with pull-offs. Has this very metallic almost boingy tone to it when this happens until it settles. The E string feels quite a bit tighter and takes more work to play well. This also surprised me as I expected it to be similar to FM's. I don't notice ANY difference in responsiveness in these strings either.

I don't have the money to experiment with a lot of different strings. Though ordinarily increased projection is a good thing, it makes me as a novice self-conscious. In the other hand I don't necessarily want something that's muted either.

I'm finding that I prefer nylon strings which I didn't expect.

Helicore strings are made with a stranded steel core and tend to sound slightly metallic. I also prefer nylon (synthetic core) strings. I think most people do unless they need to tune at the fine tuners and can obviously get more play out of strings that don't stretch. 

I also find I prefer a dark tone. The darker the better. I may give the new FM strings a try. I was quite content with the "old" set. D'addario's pro arte interest me as they're supposed to be dark. The issue is that I sometimes read the word "dull" with their reviews.

What it boils down to is that I currently don't have a spare fresh set and I ought to order. Which should I try next?  

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

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Shane "Chicken" Wang
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December 21, 2018 - 3:17 pm
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@Irv 

  My 5th attempt to post. Hope it works.

I will be checking out the Pirastro Chromcor strings as soon as money allows.

Need to ask Pierre if there is a violin that may have the higher fretboard and bridge already in place. I don't want to change my current girlfriend (Pierre's Legend), this girl talks. I don't understand how he sells these violins as cheap as he does, but I wouldn't want to change a thing other than strings. A touch faster reaction time and a bit louder would be nice, but i hope to find that in another instrument. This one is plenty loud for a normal person, but apparently I am of the abnormal sort.

It holds it's own against an acoustic Fender.

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Irv
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December 21, 2018 - 5:42 pm
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On another thread, I came up with the idea of driving an air powered ear plug (think secret agent) from a screwed in aluminum post fixed to the bridge.  The whole gismo would only cost a few bucks.  Easily attached and removed from the bridge.  Might be of use to you.

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.  —Werner von Braun

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

Experience is a difficult teacher, it gives the test first and the lesson after.

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Irv
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December 21, 2018 - 5:55 pm
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Chicken.  You might also want to give the D’Addario Preludes a try.  About half the price of the set I mentioned above.

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.  —Werner von Braun

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

Experience is a difficult teacher, it gives the test first and the lesson after.

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Shane "Chicken" Wang
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December 21, 2018 - 8:00 pm
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Less than 20 bucks at the Fiddlershop. I'm going to try to find a demonstration video on the two. Want to try out the Fiddlerman strings, pretty much everything I have tried from the Fiddlerman line has been way above par.

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Irv
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December 21, 2018 - 8:38 pm
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Act fast because I think they are on sale now.  I like the Fiddlerman strings a lot, but I would not call them loud.

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.  —Werner von Braun

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

Experience is a difficult teacher, it gives the test first and the lesson after.

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AndrewH
Sacramento, California
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December 21, 2018 - 9:21 pm
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Well... the Fiddlershop description of the Fiddlerman strings says they are virtually indistinguishable from Dominants. Those are not loud strings at all... they're average volume and maybe slightly on the dark side of average (whereas almost all steel strings are at the bright end), which is why they're a popular default string to start with on newly acquired instruments. If you prefer steel strings, you may not like the Fiddlerman strings. In general, if you want more volume and a quicker reaction, you'll want higher tension strings. If Fiddlerman strings are like Dominants, you're moving in the opposite direction.

Most classical players avoid steel strings and consider the twang to be a huge negative, while fiddlers often seek out that sound, so they're two very different markets. The Fiddlerman strings, per their description, seem to be designed for the classical market.

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December 21, 2018 - 11:38 pm
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The FM strings are excellent but they don't have massive projection. They're not dull either. They seem to be overall well-rounded which isn't a bad thing at all. Even when they're not "on sale", they're always an excellent value. If you don't need the same projection of steels, you may be content with them.

The input in this thread caused me to reflect on what I liked and disliked about both strings. It seems to me that a high tension set of nylons are more what I'm looking for which I'm going to try with the pro artes when I get around to ordering them(the FM strings are only available as medium tension). I DO like the lower flexibility of steels under my left hand.

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Shane "Chicken" Wang
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December 22, 2018 - 10:34 am
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Thank you, Thank you, and Thank you.

I have a question, What are the differences in high tension versus medium tension strings? Projection, clarity, What is the difference in feel under finger and bow stroke. What changes from one Tension to the next?

If you squint, that is all one question.

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Irv
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Hi Chicken.  Tension refers to the gauge of the strings and metal density of the wrap.  It takes more tension (and causes more downward load on the bridge), to get the string to oscillate at a given frequency with “heavy” strings.  Not good if you have a frail violin body or if your fingers are weak, which should not be a problem for you.

Think in terms of a guitar.  Nylon strings are easy to play and the neck does not need a truss rod, but do not give the same sound volume as steel strings.

You might also want to try (heavens) a set of cheap Cecilio or Opera strings.  

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.  —Werner von Braun

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

Experience is a difficult teacher, it gives the test first and the lesson after.

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