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Wound or Gut E String
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Amateur
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May 5, 2019 - 4:17 pm
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The more I play, the more I can't help but notice the significant imbalance between nylon strings and that thin steel E. The E string is a bit too responsive and bright. It's something I'm accustomed to and I don't have any technical difficulties with but I'd prefer it not to be so, especially to this extent.

Though I'm more than satisfied with the FM perlon strings and the quality of their E has been satisfactory, I'm wanting to try something different for the E. I know that many like some of the steel E's from some of the E-only makers such as Westminster or Goldbarat, or like specially-plated E's, I'm wanting to try something considerably different.

It appears the only options for E's are single-stranded steels, wound steels, and gut. I'm aware that gut has the disadvantage of stretching more, climate sensitivity, and shorter longevity. I'm also aware that wound E's also have the reputation of not lasting as long as unwound.

None of these factors put me off as E's are relatively cheap and I'll be satisfied as long as I can get a mellower and tamer E.

The strings I'm considering trying on my FM Apprentice are: Pirastro Chorda, D'addario Kaplan Al wound, and the D'addario Pro Arte Al wound. Which of these should I try first?

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
May 6, 2019 - 12:13 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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If you want less difference between the synthetic core strings and the steel E you would either look at steel strings or perhaps Helicore, which are wound stranded steel strings or as you mentioned, a more mild E.
For more mild E strings you might consider a wound E such as a Kaplan non-whistling aluminum wound E.
https://fiddlershop.com/produc.....d-e-string

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

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Amateur
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May 6, 2019 - 4:51 pm
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I've found the answer I was looking for on youtube of all places.

This baroque player was frustrated with the expense and fragility of gut E strings. Apparently they break constantly and it adds up quickly. He's an archer and thought that B50 darcon is similar enough to gut, it was designed as a stronger synthetic alternative to sinew, why not try it on the violin?

The tone did seem comparable. I thought to myself, I'm an archer too. I've got B50 darcon laying around. Let's see how it goes.

I took a strand of B50 off of an old retired bow string. I tied a ball on the end of it and strung it up. The result was quite surprising. Gut-like, indeed. Well balanced to my synthetics. Very rich tone without any of the shrillness I've come to expect from E strings. I even hear overtones I've never heard on my violin before. It settled in well enough too. It's the first E string I've strung up that I didn't need to use a fine tuner for either.

If this old darcon is good, I imagine virgin darcon would be better.

To those string makers that say a synthetic E string can't be done, I beg to differ. I'll give it time before I make definitive statements. I want to see how it holds out.

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Irv
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May 6, 2019 - 5:23 pm
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I live for posts like this.  Very cool experiment.  Similar to the double bass string players using Kevlar core weed whacker strings, but better.  Are multiple string diameters available or does B50 designate designate the gauge?  Was a specific gauge given in the video, as the narrative seemed to be in a foreign language?

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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Amateur
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May 6, 2019 - 6:25 pm
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I misspelled. Dacron is the name. And yes, B50 is usually standard diameter. .018". It comes in various colors but it's usually the same stuff. There's also a B55 that's slightly thicker and D97 along with others.

It's usually waxed. It's multi-filament and the wax reduces fraying between the strands that make up a bow string. I found that I had to remove the wax from the playing portion to get the best grip. The buildup of the rosin resolved that quickly.

I know where you're going, Irv. I also knew you'd appreciate this finding. I know that uke and classical players will often use fishing monofilament for strings. I suspect the slickness of monofilament wouldn't work well for bowed strings but there are other fibrous synthetic strings out there. I wouldn't know where to start.

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
May 6, 2019 - 7:23 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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@Amateur - Sorry, I was confused when I read your previous comment. Forgot to look at the title. 😁
Sounds like you found a way better solution anyway. 😎

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

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Irv
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May 6, 2019 - 8:15 pm
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@Amateur and others.  One wonders if a larger string diameter would work as an “a” (which I guess I could work out based on the breaking strength comparison of steel and Dacron)?  I would also like to know if Dacron can be soaked in a solvent such as alcohol or acetone to remove the wax without weakening the material?

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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Amateur
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May 6, 2019 - 8:41 pm
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@Irv 

Reading through the comments of that video, it seems that some of them have used tennis and badminton racquet string to their satisfaction. 

If it's something you wanna try and report on, I know I'd be glad to find out if for nothing more than academic purposes. You could also try messaging those commenters under the YouTube video. Sometimes they respond though the video is over 6 years old.

One of the commenters wrote:

Following this suggestion, and after some research and testing of different strings from different brands, I am now using on my baroque violin synthetic, multifilament d, a and e strings designed for racquet sports and liking them quite a lot as substitutes for gut. They all look similar to gut as well. Because they are made to enhance spin they have a great grip on the bow's hair, as good as any violin string. I did search around the gauges of gut strings. They also work nice for violas and cellos. Nevertheless, for a cello D string it is a problem since you cannot find tennis strings around or above 1.5 mm thick.

My guess is to start by getting the average gauges of unwound gut strings and then buying gut-like multifilament racquet strings that correspond to those gauges.

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Irv
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May 6, 2019 - 8:59 pm
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@Amateur .  That Dacron sounded very good to me.  It looks like the string diameters are color coded.  I have no problem with my instruments having clown strings while I test them.  It is likely possible to dye them once the combinations that work.  

I also have several diameters of Kevlar at the homestead.  Might as well try that too.

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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May 6, 2019 - 9:36 pm
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It looks like Dacron (polyester) is resistant to hydrocarbon (hexane), alcohol, and ketones (acetone).  

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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bocaholly
Boca Raton, Florida
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May 7, 2019 - 10:21 am
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Fun stuff, Amateur and Irv!

So if I wanted to march myself off to my nearest tennis pro shop and get a couple of lengths of synthetic gut, I should be looking for .018", like Amateur's Dacron? 

Or maybe I should just get a few different strands and see what happens?

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Irv
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May 7, 2019 - 3:58 pm
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@bocaholly and others.  From reading the video comments, it appears that badminton racket strings may be a good prospect.  Don’t get me going on a new avenue of experimentation or I will never complete your bow!  Last in first out is unfortunately how my brain works.

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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Amateur
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May 11, 2019 - 1:05 pm
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I have a followup almost week long review of the makeshift E string.

Regarding what I was going for: a less responsive string, I got a lot more than I expected. I needed to apply more force to get it to ring true compared to the synthetic, aluminum wound A string. But if given enough force, it still had plenty of projection. It also was quite stable in pitch.

However, this responsiveness wasn't what I was going for. I was trying to make it more equal to the A and it seems to have gone in the opposite direction. I've switched back to one of the standard steel E's I have on hand. I think this string may be paired well with unwound gut strings on the A and D.

The complexity from the dacron was quite amazing. It really makes all steel E's sound very thin. It's also quite strong. I never had to concern myself with snapping it.

I never seem to have whistling issues and that's what wound E's are primarily marketed for. They're not expensive though and I may just give one a try. I used up my set of spares and want another set to have on hand. It's a good time to buy one of these strings with a spare set.

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bocaholly
Boca Raton, Florida
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May 11, 2019 - 4:00 pm
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Thanks for the follow-up, Amateur. That was a really fun experiment but I guess you just explained why string makers can stay in business 🙂

I never did get to the tennis pro shop to try synthetic gut. Best laid plans.

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