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Strings... $$$... OUCH!
Anyone Else Feeling The Pain?
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (21 votes) 
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ELCBK
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September 7, 2023 - 3:57 pm
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I certainly didn't mean to imply Fiddlershop charges too much - I know they don't! 

...my grumbling stems from the global economic effects of covid. 

 

Hope everyone takes advantage of the Thomastik Sale at Fiddlershop!!!

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AndrewH
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Now, my turn to grumble. Kaplan Amo viola strings suddenly went up in price by 20% within the last month. Oof. To be fair, they still don't have anywhere near the biggest overall price increase over the last 5 years or so... it's just the sudden jump that's a bit of a shock.

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ELCBK
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Has Thomastik started making the Superflexible Ropecore Octave Violin Strings Set available again (at Fiddlershop)?  I don't see a 'sold out' sign!!!  ...kinda pricey.

If folks look to enhance violin tone (beyond how we play), don't we usually look to the quality of strings, or the characteristics of our instruments? 

As strings become more expensive, it might give reason to consider practicing on, switching over to (or even starting with) an Electric violin! 

I splurge on strings for my instruments because they're Acoustic/Electric, and I practice more acoustically.  ...but I would definitely feel good about using cheaper strings if owned Electric Violins. 

We look for certain TONE qualities like 'bright' to 'warm', 'full/broad' to 'focused/narrow', but also qualities of 'projection', 'response', and 'ring' - in both strings AND instruments.  

My E/A instruments (5 & 6-string Violins) have a preamp with TONE controls for treble & bass, plus maybe something more - seems like some EQ is also built in with mid-tones.  Some preamps have MANY tone controls! 

The different amps I have preset on my Mini Spark Amp & thru the Spark app, actually all amps have their own built-in TONE qualities - with at least, 'bass', 'middle' & 'treble' controls.  Mine also have virtual effects pedals in each lineup.  I think 'response' and 'attack' can be adjusted by 'compression', because the slightest touch can be amplified - maybe depends on pickup, too.  'Ring' can be adjusted by 'reverb', echo & delay features.  'Projection' on EV starts with a good pickup & active preamp for signal strength - it's adjusted by a 'gain' control (which can have some effect on tone) and finally, volume.  

I think my pre-amp and Spark Amp/app allow me MANY ways to adjust TONE, as well as other violin characteristics - just like different strings can, but even different violins. 

Any small practice amp will do, MANY have additional controls/features included, that would otherwise be purchased separately as pedals - so VERY cost effective!  

If you add a pickup & preamp to your acoustic violin (plus a couple cables or transmitters), then you are all set to play with an amp!  This does NOT have to be an expensive combination of equipment! 

Check out the Electric Violins, pickups, preamps & amps at Fiddlershop! 

 

The one thing my pre-amp & Spark can NOT do... make a difference in what my fingers  'feel' on different brands of strings. 

 

Btw, I'm not an expert, so appreciate if anyone offers up some additional or better info. 😊 

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Mouse
February 1, 2024 - 10:26 pm
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I had a hard time following the point above. I find all the fonts and font styling to be very distracting, it read like a rant, and I just could not make out exactly what the point is that you wanted comments about, 😁. What I got from the above is that you don't like the prices of strings, want everyone to switch to EV, etc, 

But what went through my mind was that everyone has their own preferences, and desires from their instruments, and their own price points as to what they consider pricey. 

Personally, strings last a while. I don't consider pricey what most here consider pricey, given how long they last. Nothing is free, workers need a decent wage, sellers need their share to pay their employees and get their profit to pay their bills, on and on.

I have an EV, I prefer the acoustic. You have an amp to buy, $$, have to be where you can plug it all in, pretty much cannot outside because of the power requirement, etc. This may vary depending on the violin, most likely, not that into the fine details. Just pointing out, everything has their costs, depends on where a person wants to apply those costs.

It is all personal preference and what is considered expensive by that person.

These may not have been your points, but it is what I was thinking as I was trying to follow it. Sorry, if I misunderstood.

🐭

The Bumblebee Flies!

Please ignore any typos. My typing ability on a real typewriter did not transfer to these device key pads.

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ELCBK
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February 2, 2024 - 12:19 am
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Only one font. 

 

I'm just as animated in person.  

 

My point

 

was many violinists buy increasingly more expensive

 

instruments, bows & strings

in search of a different 'tone'

 

(+ a few other qualities).

 

My suggested alternative is

an electric violin,

along with some simple gear,

'if' you happen to be into exploring tone. 

 

I pointed out some common ways

'tone' can be modified

using controls on preamps & practice amps,

 

plus a few other ways to adjust sound

 

when playing

 

electric violin. 

 

Btw, many practice amps are NOT expensive 

AND

can have a rechargeable 

BATTERY!
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ABitRusty
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Ive enjoyed reading about your pursuit with the amp and all the learning youve invested time in.  Fun stuff.  I know its been a ride, but it seems like youre settling in and have learned enough to really start using the gear to get what you are wanting out of your instrument and playing.  I think thats what we all are trying to do.  Maybe not with amps..or in my case other stuff..but it is enjoyable and make the most of it!

Do you have a favorite preset you find yourself using more than others?  I know on recordings i have saved an eq curve that seems to fit my room the best.  at least to what i feel like.  If i move mics or anything sometimes i adjust it a little.   most of the time i use the same reverb preset.  depending on the tune and whatever else im playing i may adjust it.   where i do most of the eq or tone type stuff is downstream of the imdividual tracks once theyre mixed together.  mad amature scientist stuff.. 🙂  it makes me happy.

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ELCBK
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February 2, 2024 - 7:51 pm
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@ABitRusty -

Thanks! 

I have a few combinations I'm current using, but I play so many different kinds of music & I feel differently about each one - so it's really nice to have so many options to explore for expression!  I'm sure it will be a different story when I get more serious about recording and editing - then I may have specifics I'll use more often & save.

 

Last couple things I wanted to mention, since I was trying to make an earlier point of 'cost', Fiddlershop carries a very low cost Tower Strings EV plus more, and AN AMP IS NOT A NECESSITY to explore 'tone' with an electric violin!  Consider just a pair of headphones and an interface (some are portable) - there are still tone controls on an EV, plug into a tablet to record & edit!  An interface is not even necessary if connecting to a PC, but can make a difference in audio quality - especially if you want to add a mic for vocals/speaking, add an additional instrument, or if using a tablet to record.

Many folks know much can be done with recording & free versions of software - all coupled with more reasonably priced strings like Fiddlerman Violin String Set and a whole new World of possibilities opens up for playing and exploring 'tone'! 

Gibbles did a good video showing ways to enjoy an EV, know we've shared it elsewhere. 

Electric Violins - Will it Work or Is it Wack? 

Tower Strings Electric Violin from Fiddlershop 

 

Cost does NOT have to be the limiting factor for Violin exploration and creativity.

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ELCBK
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February 24, 2024 - 4:07 pm
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Okay, I got carried away/sidetracked suggesting folks could save $ on strings (but still have the benefit of great tone) by going electric. 😔 

@Strabo -

I remember the 1st time I ever heard the term 'damping' about violin strings (couple years ago)... I thought that was CRAZY - thought we all wanted our strings to RING!  ...well, no.   I think bowed strings are different from plucked strings in many ways, but you don't hear of wanting 'damping' properties in guitar strings, though I have seen a video using rubber gaskets & a dampening tailpiece for mandolin.

Truth is, I've tried to keep my eye out (since I started playing) for info on what makes violin strings so special, but I barely found little snippets here & there.  Well, maybe my search efforts are better now, but it is still hard to find good info on this subject. 

First, what D'Addario says at their site:

Why are [violin] strings so expensive? 

A string is far more than a thread of sound. Strings must meet the highest demands of playability, projection and resilience. A vast range of sound colors at all volumes, assertiveness when playing in an orchestra and an increased response are just some of the requirements to be satisfied. Intricate designs, complex manufacturing processes, high-quality materials and absolute precision are needed to achieve this. On average, it takes us two years to develop a string.

 

"How Strings are made: a tour of D'Addario Strings Plant" - Laurie Niles, editor of Violinist.com.  This is the best article I've found (so far), but it is dated (2011) - before D'Addario did a huge upgrade in equipment & process in 2013.  

D'Addario Strings Factory Tour Video  This video tour deals with some basics of manufacturing strings by D'Addario (which is an eye opener in itself!) and it does make some reference Violin strings, but doesn't get into any details of dealing with the MUCH finer scale of tiny core strands & windings pertaining to ALL the different properties we look for in Violin play-ability & string sound. 

 

...to me, the terrible problems of logistics & inflation, caused by covid (& the way it's been handled) are a big reason for the high cost of bowed instrument strings - and a lot of companies might still be struggling to make up for losses of trained personnel, but the innate features we look for in Violin/Viola & Cello strings might also keep prices at a premium. 

I do think the area of 'research & development' chews up a lot of funds in violin string manufacturing, just because there can be such a variety of qualities demanded.  New innovations in metallurgy, maybe sustainable polymers & higher standards of precision calibration - mean not only change in materials but also change in equipment & training. 

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AndrewH
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February 24, 2024 - 6:39 pm
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The rapid rise in string prices started more than a decade ago, though. The pandemic and general inflation may have accelerated it, but I think the rapid proliferation of string brands might be the most important change in the market. As I mentioned before, the majority of the string brands in the Fiddlershop comparison chart didn't exist as recently as 2010. Thomastik went from offering just one synthetic string (Dominant) for three decades, to introducing one or two new brands every year. The R&D and marketing expenses must be far higher today than they were 20 years ago. And the mainstay brands get more expensive because there's less production capacity allocated to them, while demand stays high because many string players (the vast majority in my experience) are slow to adopt newly introduced brands.

Of course, strings for bowed string instruments have always been much more expensive than strings for plucked string instruments, for all the reasons discussed by D'Addario and others.

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ELCBK
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February 25, 2024 - 1:12 am
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@AndrewH -

I was wondering (from the D'Addario tour video) if the changes/upgrades in equip & processes that took place in D'Addario manufacturing back in 2013 was just a sign of what was happening throughout the industry. 

 

🤔... ya know, Fiddlershop was started in 2012. 

Did they start a stampede on fiddling & high demand for better strings?

 

😁

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Strabo
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@ELCBK, 

Very interesting links, thanks. I learned a lot. And I think I now understand why our violin strings are so much more expensive than strings for plucked instruments.

So, after all, maybe it’s not my goofball idea about the wraps!

The videos also cause me to think about the physics of the plucked string vs the bowed string, how the string reacts. Maybe I won’t jump down into this rabbit hole right now, but it is worth further thought.

And I’d like to have a better understanding of exactly why tone color changes depending on where the string is struck or bowed -- pul tasto vs sul ponticello.

So many things to think about! Gosh, I thought this instrument was gonna make me crazy all by itself but now there’s even more to befuddle me!

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ELCBK
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February 26, 2024 - 10:42 pm
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There's been something buggin' me for quite a while now... the adding of damping qualities to violin strings. 

Personally, I think string manufacturers have taken this TOO FAR! 

Geez, they made bowed string instruments with sympathetic strings so more would ring!  ...no one likes to tune a bunch of extra strings, but I don't know of anyone who doesn't like the sound sympathetic strings produce, the effect of ringing strings & the extra harmonics! 

Who doesn't like reverb on their fiddle?   

I realize it's important to have control over where & when you might want 'reverb' on an acoustic violin, but other types of string instrumentalists have gotten used to dealing with strings that don't have all this damping - and have developed different methods to control it. 

I'd MUCH rather deal with playing techniques and/or devices for damping myself - than the opposite... trying to make my strings ring more when the potential is limited by the manufacturer!   

Thought about the complex qualities we enjoy from strings - would we really lose them if some of the damping qualities are removed? 

Maybe I just prefer to believe this is NOT true... but I'm always willing to look at good proof for otherwise. 

Okay, I could buy an instrument with sympathetic strings... yeah, I'd LOVE to pay for more strings. 🤣

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ABitRusty
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February 27, 2024 - 8:50 am
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i shared this somewhere, but theres a 2 part interview of Fan Tao HERE .

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ELCBK
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February 27, 2024 - 12:00 pm
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@ABitRusty -

FABULOUS INTERVIEW! 

I either missed where you previously shared this, or forgot - maybe didn't appreciate it's significance earlier. 🥴

Amazing amount of string information - basically ANYTHING I could want to know about strings... (edit) finished 1st part, looking fwd to the 2nd Part

🤔... the metal windings, by nature, adds damping - be interesting if more is said about this. (*edit) low damping = very bright strings(?)  Damping compound added - "...actually a very sticky, gooey material"!  Maybe understandable why cleaning with alcohol is not recommended.

Interesting that Fan Tao designed the 'non-whistling' Kaplan E string - it needs to be bowed differently than a regular E.  🤔... wonder how many folks are aware of that. 

Looking forward to listening to the rest of it! 

THANK YOU! 

 

🤔... silver & silver alloys have been choice materials for string windings - I'm sure silver cost has effected string prices.  Unfortunately, silver alloys are in high demand for a broad range of industries, because of many desirable properties. 

I remembered when I got so disgusted with the rise in silver prices (& it's alloys) for jewelry making, I started designing jewelry without it.  Silver Price History - 2010 is when silver started a ridiculously fast & high climb in price, peaked fairly early in 2011.  Interestingly, silver returned to pre-peak prices, but rose sharply again in 2020 (but no where near as bad) & has remained fairly constant. 

Anyone interested is some amazing ways silver is used?  The Silver Institute

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ELCBK
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Okay, decided I'm not going to complain about the 'damping' qualities of strings anymore. 😑 

Got to thinking... if my open strings rang out as much as really want, I'm sure I'd play a lot more drones - but it probably would be just too much of a contrast to fingered notes (even for me). 

As it is right now, I feel I have the option to play either 4th finger or open string most of the time, depending on which happens to be more convenient for me - and if I need vibrato on that note, or if I need that note as part of some ornamentation. 

AND, I'm certainly not going to complain when my strings feel like they are broken in when BRAND NEW & hold their tuning - like they do! 🤗

 

🤔... wonder how much the ban on chromic acid/hexavalent chromium for plating has/or will effect the music string industry?  Any substitute for strengthening steel has got to cost more. 

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Strabo
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After listening to Fan Tao’s interview, I checked out some of the other podcasts in the “Rosin the Bow” series. The interview with Darol Anger was also quite interesting. Good stuff here.

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ABitRusty
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Darol Anger..yeah that was one of the best interviews Joe had.   Darol started anf it seemed lime an hour later finished and it was all interesting information and thoughts.  really liked that one.

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Strabo
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Darol quote: “You can’t be thinking when you’re playing."

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ABitRusty
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@Strabo i believe its titled or has in the description orcas island woods.. something like that.. another one thats good.   has alot to do with violin making and the connection with the wood and where the tree was harvested.  its been a while but the interview pulled me in to the whole process and story.

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