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Strings Playability?
Are newer strings harder on the fingers than older strings?
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julia0
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April 19, 2018 - 12:56 pm
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My son has a violin that he plays at school and one that he keeps at home for practice.  They are different branded violins, but both have been set up by our local luthier, and both are set-up with Pirastro Tonicas.  He says that the one at home (the better branded violin) is the better sounding instrument, but that the strings hurt his fingers more when played.  He plays the one at school more often, and rarely practices at home, so I'm guessing that the strings on the one at home just haven't been "broken in" as well as the strings on the one at school.  Can this be the case?  Or is it more likely that the violins just aren't set up the same?  He doesn't think that the one at home is harder to play, just that the strings hurt his fingers more (feels harder to press down on).   Any info would be greatly appreciated.

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Hermes
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April 19, 2018 - 5:27 pm
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I do not think that strings "not broken in" would hurt anybody's fingers just because they are not broken in.

Two main things come into my mind. The first is that the Tonicas are not the same (maybe those at the instrument at home are higher tension/gauge? ). The other possible explanation is that somehow those two instruments have a different string action (the distance between the strings and the fingerboard) and the one at home could have its strings higher than the other at school.

 

In any case you could visit your local luthier, to address the issue, something could be done (either moving to softer strings or lowering the string height). 

Before visiting the luthier, a few more things. Here is the pirastro tonica data, to determine wether the instruments have different gauges (notice the peg silking colors) https://www.pirastro.com/public_pirastro/pages/en/Tonica-00001/

Regarding the action of the home instrument, please let us know of its exact height. At the edge of the fingerboard, the one near the bridge the distance from the E string to the finderboard should be around 3.5 mm and from the G string to the fingerboard around 5.5 mm. If they are more than 4 and 6 respectively it could be an issue...It could seem as a small and unimportant difference but it has a huge impact.

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Irv
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April 19, 2018 - 5:45 pm
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Hi juliao (and others).  It is likely that the "at home" violin has been "set up" with a higher distance between the strings and the fingerboard.  The clearance of the strings at the nut end is about the thickness of a credit card.  The clearance of the strings at the bridge end is about 3.5 mm on the E string and about 5 mm on the G string for a full sized (4/4) violin.  

On rare instances, the fingerboard can be warped into a banana shape (this has only happened to me once).  

The difficulty of depressing the strings should not materially change from the beginning of string life to the end of string life.  It would matter if the string set was tuned to a different pitch (A-440 Hz would be easier than A=445 Hz).

Synthetic gut core strings are easier to depress than steel core strings.

If he continues to practice on both instruments, it is very important that the distance between the nut and the bridge be exactly the same for both instruments, so that he can rely on consistant finger placement for a given tone.  I hope that the above was of help.

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Fiddlerman
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April 20, 2018 - 9:08 am
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As mentioned above, the greatest likelihood is that the action or projection is higher on the home instrument. It's most likely an easy fix. In the worse case scenario, you may need to reshape the fingerboard as well as lowering the bridge. High projections generally produce more power.

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bluesviolin
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April 21, 2018 - 2:57 am
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julia0 said
 >but both have been set up by our local luthier,<  

did the luthier do any thing to set up these fiddles aside from putting Tonicas on both?

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bluesviolin
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April 21, 2018 - 3:09 am
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Irv said

If he continues to practice on both instruments, it is very important that the distance between the nut and the bridge be exactly the same for both instruments, so that he can rely on consistant finger placement for a given tone.  I hope that the above was of help.  

I agree with this statement. but if not 'exactly' the same, then very close. Was the luthier aware that your son would be practicing on both fiddles? it sounds to me that the problem would be with the string height, and the luthier should have informed you about the problems that may arise because of this. Not the least of which, as Irv said, would be the difference in finger placement for a given tone.  

"Striving to attain Mediocrity"

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julia0
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April 21, 2018 - 10:45 pm
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bluesviolin said

did the luthier do any thing to set up these fiddles aside from putting Tonicas on both?  

Thanks for all the replies, everybody.

I think our luthier took basic measurements of both violins.  Unfortunately, I didn't bring them in at the same time.  He did know that my son would be using both, one at home and one at school.  

My son hasn't complained that finger placements are different, and he doesn't hit other unintended strings when playing (which is what I thought would happen if the action was too high).  The only thing he's complained about is that the strings hurt more on the violin at home.  dunno

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julia0
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April 21, 2018 - 10:55 pm
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Hermes said
I do not think that strings "not broken in" would hurt anybody's fingers just because they are not broken in.

Two main things come into my mind. The first is that the Tonicas are not the same (maybe those at the instrument at home are higher tension/gauge? ). The other possible explanation is that somehow those two instruments have a different string action (the distance between the strings and the fingerboard) and the one at home could have its strings higher than the other at school.

 

In any case you could visit your local luthier, to address the issue, something could be done (either moving to softer strings or lowering the string height). 

Before visiting the luthier, a few more things. Here is the pirastro tonica data, to determine wether the instruments have different gauges (notice the peg silking colors) https://www.pirastro.com/public_pirastro/pages/en/Tonica-00001/

Regarding the action of the home instrument, please let us know of its exact height. At the edge of the fingerboard, the one near the bridge the distance from the E string to the finderboard should be around 3.5 mm and from the G string to the fingerboard around 5.5 mm. If they are more than 4 and 6 respectively it could be an issue...It could seem as a small and unimportant difference but it has a huge impact.  

 

Thanks for your reply.

The gauges of the strings of both violins are the same.  I measured the string height at the end of the fingerboard (inside the strings) of the violin at home, and they do measure 3.5 at the E and 5.5 at the G.  

I guess I'll will have to take the violins back to the luthier, so he can look at them side by side (unfortunately, I didn't take them in at the same time originally, although he did check for standard measurements).  

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julia0
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April 21, 2018 - 11:03 pm
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Irv said
Hi juliao (and others).  It is likely that the "at home" violin has been "set up" with a higher distance between the strings and the fingerboard.  The clearance of the strings at the nut end is about the thickness of a credit card.  The clearance of the strings at the bridge end is about 3.5 mm on the E string and about 5 mm on the G string for a full sized (4/4) violin.  

On rare instances, the fingerboard can be warped into a banana shape (this has only happened to me once).  

The difficulty of depressing the strings should not materially change from the beginning of string life to the end of string life.  It would matter if the string set was tuned to a different pitch (A-440 Hz would be easier than A=445 Hz).

Synthetic gut core strings are easier to depress than steel core strings.

If he continues to practice on both instruments, it is very important that the distance between the nut and the bridge be exactly the same for both instruments, so that he can rely on consistant finger placement for a given tone.  I hope that the above was of help.  

Thanks for your reply.  

The action at the nut on the violin at home seems pretty low already (I'm not sure I would even be able to fit a business card underneath the strings there).  It's possible the height at the end of the fingerboard could be different (I'll have to check once the school violin comes home).  The strings on both violins are the same brand and gauge, but it is possible that he also has the violins tuned to slightly different pitches (he's a tune by ear guy, a talent I wish I had).  

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julia0
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April 21, 2018 - 11:08 pm
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Fiddlerman said
As mentioned above, the greatest likelihood is that the action or projection is higher on the home instrument. It's most likely an easy fix. In the worse case scenario, you may need to reshape the fingerboard as well as lowering the bridge. High projections generally produce more power.  

Thanks, Pierre.

I guess I won't really know until he brings the violin home from school, and take them both in to the luthier at the same time.  

At this point (towards the end of the school year, when his school violin will be home and he can practice on that), I'm not sure I will be going through the expense of fixing the differences since he'll be (or should be,... he's the smallest kid in his school's orchestra) moving to a full-sized violin soon.  

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Hermes
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April 22, 2018 - 12:51 pm
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julia0  

The figures you measured about the action (3.5 and 5.5mm respectively) are nearly what we could call and average setup, for a 4/4 scale violin. I failed to mentioned that before, and those numbers everybody is talking about in this topic refer to full scale instruments. 

However, in violins smaller than 4/4 it should be definately less than those figures I guess. So it seems as if your son is playing a non 4/4 instrument with an action of 4/4. It is certain that the action is higher than average, so the strings feel harder to press...

Notice that even the 3.5 - 5.5 is considered "higher than normal" for some players with 4/4 instruments, provided that the shape of the fingerboard allows for less action, with no buzzes. 

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julia0
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April 22, 2018 - 7:01 pm
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Hermes said
julia0  

The figures you measured about the action (3.5 and 5.5mm respectively) are nearly what we could call and average setup, for a 4/4 scale violin. I failed to mentioned that before, and those numbers everybody is talking about in this topic refer to full scale instruments. 

However, in violins smaller than 4/4 it should be definately less than those figures I guess. So it seems as if your son is playing a non 4/4 instrument with an action of 4/4. It is certain that the action is higher than average, so the strings feel harder to press...

Notice that even the 3.5 - 5.5 is considered "higher than normal" for some players with 4/4 instruments, provided that the shape of the fingerboard allows for less action, with no buzzes.   

 

Thanks, Hermes.

I hadn't even thought to mention that my son is currently playing a 3/4 sized instrument in my original post.  I will definitely have our luthier look at that.  

Thanks again.

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bluesviolin
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April 22, 2018 - 8:26 pm
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if the nut on one is too high, that can make it hard on the fingers and harder to play. I think that is known as 'back pressure'. correct nut height and curve is very important. but I just looked back and noticed that you said the nut on the one at home is low, so I dunno.

nothing wrong with tuning by ear...as long as the A is 440 on both.

"Striving to attain Mediocrity"

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Hermes
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April 23, 2018 - 4:44 pm
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julia0 said

 

Thanks, Hermes.

I hadn't even thought to mention that my son is currently playing a 3/4 sized instrument in my original post.  I will definitely have our luthier look at that.  

Thanks again.  

 

Don't mention it 🙂

Hopefully it won't be something time consuming or expensive...

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