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Following up from my earlier tone hunt regarding bows, I ended up changing the strings on my violin. The violin is a new-to-me instrument that came set up with Thomastik Reds. I assumed that because the strings were an expensive sort that they were probably optimal for the instrument. After all, why would someone bother putting on expensive strings if they didn't make an improvement?
Well, I've now installed a set of plain ol' Tonicas (changed to the wound E, actually). This has changed the instrument's sound so radically that the wooden bow hunt is now on hold.
I could seldom afford new strings as a student, so I always stuck with Dominants until they were ruined and got a new set of the same. I figured that the Reds were like Dominants on steroids, and perhaps they are, but there are so many other options nowadays!
I'm glad that my instrument "likes" an inexpensive set. The jury is still out on how long they'll last....
I play a 5 string Dahlia and they put Helicore strings on them, so I assumed they were a good fit. And they do sound good, mediums, except for the C string, which is a heavy. I am going to try Fiddler Man's recommendation on the Dominants and see what they are like. I'll leave the C string alone but just change the other four. I don't know much about strings so am reluctant to experiment without a testimonial from someone who's tried them. There are so many possibilities out there (and so little time and money!).
Yeah, the downside of strings is the sheer variety, but you can learn something without going overboard.
I found some of the YouTube comparison videos helpful. It turns out a lot of shops default to Tonicas or Dominants on new instruments and swap only when a particular instrument doesn't come alive. The Zyex is another good all-purpose string. I put a set of those on my previous violin to give it more warmth. This time, I wanted the opposite, and the Tonicas have a very clear fundamental. What I wasn't expecting was a better bow response, but I got it! I think it's because of the lower tension, so I won't be tempted to switch for higher-tension strings like Zyex.
Helicores are often recommended for cellos and the viola's C string. I guess you could try a different gauge of Helicores. What's also amazing is how different E strings can affect all of the other strings because the E sits so close to the soundpost. I greatly prefer the Tonica wound E over the plain one. In future, I may try different E's like the Prim stainless steel Lisa, which is supposed to be very long lasting and have a sweet voice.
I wish I had studied piano or had one around the home. It has been difficult for me to adapt to a chordal instrument (guitar) from a melodic one (violin).
Oh, and how do you like that 5-string ptrckmcconn? I've had my eye on Al Carruth's folk violas for about a decade but haven't mustered the courage and resources to have one made. He is a great luthier and has given a lot to the instrument making community.
I like the 5 string very much. Of course, the body is larger, and so the sound is fuller, with a deeper tone. I did find that having the strings closer together are a challenge, and take some getting used to, especially given the fact that I have short, stubby fingers. But, with practice...And I find I am able to play double stops easier. I play a lot of bluegrass (Kenny Baker) material, etc., and doubles are the thing. All in all, I have nothing but good things to say. I would like to have a 5 string made by John Silakowski, but it is not in my future. I am just an amateur and don't see myself springing for an $8,000 or more fiddle.
As I posted in another topic area, I got out my old 4 string and it just didn't do anything for me. Of course, the Dahlia is a better instrument than my 4 string, and I may be spoiled because of it's good sound. I know many people look askance at them, but I like them, and it is probably because of the (in my opinion) deeper, mellower tone.
Hey, thanks for the comments about your Dahlia! Maybe we should start a new thread, but since we're here.... I checked out the Dahlia website, and it is a lovely instrument. Does yours have the electronics?
I've only ever played classical music, although I'm wanting to branch out into celtic. For now, I'm just dusting out the ol' cobwebs and reacclimating to the instrument.
Alan uses simplified construction to keep costs down for his 5-strings. You can view some of his instruments at his website. They're definitely not for everyone, given the styling, but I like them. They're unconventional but still beautiful to me.
I guess I'm worried about the string spacing too, but like so many things in music it probably just takes practice to adapt to. There's not much that's natural or intuitive about playing an instrument!