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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Best Strings for Fiddle tone?


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bcbeak - Posted - 07/07/2016:  10:18:39


 



I'm sure this has been covered a zillion times .. but wanted to ask what are the most popular strings for fiddle. I am most interested in good tone for country. bluegrass.  What do players prefer?  I have only ever used Thomastik Dominants and Red Label strings. The TDs were more forgiving and comfortable .. but sound more violin than fiddle to my ears.  What do country fiddlers use most?



 



 



 


Edited by - Mandogryl on 02/10/2017 16:32:01

Mitch Reed - Posted - 07/07/2016:  10:45:56


quote:

Originally posted by bcbeak

 

 




I'm sure this has been covered a zillion times .. but wanted to ask what are the most popular strings for fiddle. I am most interested in good tone for country. bluegrass.  What do players prefer?  I have only ever used Thomastik Dominants and Red Label strings. The TDs were more forgiving and comfortable .. but sound more violin than fiddle to my ears.  What do country fiddlers use most?







I use Dr. Tomastik Dominants and I recommend them to my students because they're bright yet warm with a kind and pleasant tone. I don't play Country as much as I play Cajun & Creole but that's my 2 cents! 


Edited by - Mitch Reed on 07/07/2016 10:46:21

Swing - Posted - 07/07/2016:  11:28:54


I use Dominants, but have tried others.... you simply have to try different strings on your fiddle as each fiddle will sound different with different strings, the problem is that you will spend money, take lots of time and more than likely end up where you started.... I forgot to ad, that you may just want to take your fiddle to a luthier and have he/she adjust a few things like the sound post etc. before you spend money on strings to see/hear what the potential of your instrument is.



Play Happy



Swing


Edited by - Swing on 07/07/2016 11:30:57

Fiddler - Posted - 07/07/2016:  11:53:00


I use Prims - both medium and heavy (orchestra) on my fiddles. They are steel strings. Good response and volume and durability. Moderate price. 



Swing has good advice - yes, each fiddle will sound different with different strings!! A good starting point is to have your set-up checked by a luthier who may also recommend strings for the sound you are seeking.

UsuallyPickin - Posted - 07/07/2016:  12:24:41


Swing is right. Fiddler makes a good point about a violin luthier and your setup. You will have to try different makers and materials to determine what your fiddle and your ear and your fingers like best. I and my most played instrument decided we like Prim mediums with a Peter Infield Platinum "E" string, go figure. The first thing to determine is if you want fiber or metal core strings. Enjoy the search, record your findings so you can backtrack. R/

JHDuncan - Posted - 07/07/2016:  12:58:09


I think the standard bluegrass string is Ddaddario Helicores. I love em. Bobby Hicks loves em and helped Ddaddario develop them. 



Also Prims are great and so are Thomastik Superflexibles. Vassar and Byron used Dominants in the 80's. 



Kenny Baker used Rope cores which is what the Thomastik Superflexibles are. 

Dick Hauser - Posted - 07/07/2016:  13:52:03


Some time back, a employee of  violin store in Australia demonstrated and discussed the tonal qualities of violin strings.  All the strings were "wound" strings.   But after a lot of discussion, it "boiled down" to the fact strings sound differently on different violins.  Generally speaking, fiddlers don't use that many brands of steel strings.  Unlike "wound" strings, the prices of Prim and Heliocore strings seem modest compared to Evah Parazzi, Obligato's, etc., so I don't worry about price.  I think Prim's sound best on my instruments.  Many people like Heliocore strings.  



If price was not a concern, I would try the better quality steel strings and stay with the brand I liked best.  Prim and Heliocore strings are popular strings, so I would start out comparing those 2 brands.  They seem to be the more popular steel strings.



I used to use Obligato's and Evah Parazzi.  I really liked the strings.  But I am not talented enough to recognize a $40+ difference in sound between the expensive "wound" strings and the steel Prim strings.  The steel strings are very durable.

fujers - Posted - 07/07/2016:  14:22:02


I like what Swing said and nicely put to sir. There might be a perfectly good set of strings on your fiddle right now.



Now I'm not talking about some cheap string you find everywhere but a good sting.



Did you know with just a little bit of sound post adjustment can do wonders on your sound with the strings that you already use



So I would heed to what Swing said. Jerry

bandsmcnamar - Posted - 07/07/2016:  14:37:02


This has been posted before as well, but it's a nice chart put together by Shar Music, it will help you get some idea of the performance of a particular string.  It seems each instrument does sound best with a certain type of string and you need to experiment to find the best combination.  To that end, I've kept used sets of several types of strings, and will put them on an instrument just to get an idea of how they might sound, without having to buy a new set every time.  It's worked well and saved me a bunch of money, as I went through quite a few fiddles early on trying to find a couple I really liked.   In my experience, you can usually find a good sound with either Helicores, Prims, or Dominants.  If you want to retune a lot, Helicores and Prims will last much better.  



Here's the chart, good luck with your quest.  





sharmusic.com/Pages/How-To/Str...ng-Chart/



 

DavidM - Posted - 07/07/2016:  17:02:41


Everything is expensive here in Australia except sunshine. And I have never made buck with my fiddle. So, I shop around and look for deals on good strings, and I don't spend over $35US for a set. I have used Prim and I am using Infeld Spirit at the moment. I just got a set of Warchal Amethyst which will probably be my next experiment.



I wanted to see how bad the cheap ones are, so I bought a set of Korean strings for $15. They are so bad that if I could not get anything else, I would give up the fiddle. Any school kid forced to learn on those things would be forgiven for hating the violin.

RinconMtnErnie - Posted - 07/07/2016:  19:14:32


I've mostly used Thomastik Dominants and D'Addario Helicores.  I'm using the Helicores now.  I like the price!

bluesmode - Posted - 07/07/2016:  19:38:20


quote:

Originally posted by UsuallyPickin

 

>> we like Prim mediums with a Peter Infield Platinum "E" string,<<







that PI Platinum E would have cost you almost as much as the set of Prims, No?



I really like the whole set of PI's, and I prefer the tin E over the Platinum or Gold. unfortunately, neither of my fiddles like them. I guess that's not entirely true. On my old German I've got a PI G, Evah Gold D, Violino A, Prelude E.


Edited by - bluesmode on 07/07/2016 19:44:23

Slolearner - Posted - 07/08/2016:  05:27:54


If You are mainly interested in Country and Bluegrass, I would say that the Helicores are the most popular strings used in these genres. Prims are probably more popular for Old Time, but my first trial strings would be Helicore mediums.

EricBluegrassFiddle - Posted - 07/08/2016:  07:02:36


I use DAddario Helicores but I get alot of bad A strings that wear out quick with some sets

DougD - Posted - 07/08/2016:  09:58:52


Dick Hauser - Whatever do you mean by "wound" strings? All violin strings are wound, except for the E, and some of them are wound too. What distinction are you trying to make here?

robinja - Posted - 07/08/2016:  12:47:31


Man, I am in the minority in that I absolutely hate D'addario Helicores.  I can't get a clean tone out of them to save my life.  One of my fiddles loves Pirastro Chromcors, and I am still experimenting with my other fiddle.  So far I have tried the Chromcors, Pirastro Tonica, Dominants, Prims, Helicore, and Spirocores.  I haven't found a clear winner yet.

ChickenMan - Posted - 07/08/2016:  13:43:28


quote:
Originally posted by robinja

Man, I am in the minority in that I absolutely hate D'addario Helicores.  I can't get a clean tone out of them to save my life.  One of my fiddles loves Pirastro Chromcors, and I am still experimenting with my other fiddle.  So far I have tried the Chromcors, Pirastro Tonica, Dominants, Prims, Helicore, and Spirocores.  I haven't found a clear winner yet.

I'm not a fan either, or maybe it's my fiddles that aren't fans. Never cared for the feel of them and the two sets I tried both had crappy A strings that lasted about a month. I'm just now getting around to trying Prims after 20 years.


Edited by - ChickenMan on 07/08/2016 13:44:29

fujers - Posted - 07/08/2016:  14:53:23


Now, I like Prim for my own reasons I guess. Prim on my fiddle gives me a strong presence. In my line of work you have to have strong presence. I have been useing Prim for avery long time. The other strings I have tried ain't much really. I tried Dominant strings but thet fill like rubber bands to my fingers. I've tried others but can't remember there names.



I know that your fiddle might have something to do with it as well as your sound post and how you place your bridge. Sometimes just a little bit of movement to these things can make the string you have sound better.



We all have the same problem of sorts... I think I have settled mine. But we don't want to change strings just because they don't sound good..besides who has the money to do it. If it were me I would give the string a chance to breath....what you don't like now... might change into something you like later.



 Strings are funny ain't they. Like I already said..the sound of your string just might be adjusted with a little bit of sound bar adjustment and bridge placement. These two things alone can do wonders for your fiddle.



Think about it. Jerry

Dan Gellert - Posted - 07/08/2016:  15:11:11


quote:

Originally posted by EricBluegrassFiddle

 

I use DAddario Helicores but I get alot of bad A strings that wear out quick with some sets







 



Try the heavy gauge set.  They aren't that much heavier than the mediums, but the A is WAY more durable in my experience.



Re. the OP,  it's completely subjective.   There's plenty of disagreement on what constitutes good "fiddle tone" (and whether that is something other than good "violin tone").  What a given set of strings will sound like all depends on your instrument, setup, bow, and most of all how you play.



 



 



fiddlehangout.com/forum/post.a...RUM_ID=12" id="link64_adl_tabid" style="display:none;">106

fujers - Posted - 07/08/2016:  15:35:22


I agree Dan, You have to walk before you play. In other woods practice....sends chills up your spine doesn't it.



Actually, I enjoy practicing but thats another time. Good point Dan. Jerry


Edited by - fujers on 07/08/2016 15:35:57

graeme - Posted - 07/09/2016:  18:31:43


Obligato



Loud, dark, versatile, durable.



.



 



 

DavidM - Posted - 07/10/2016:  15:13:23


The regular retail price of a set of Obligato violin strings in Australia is $200.00.

boxbow - Posted - 07/10/2016:  15:39:23


I'm liking Prims.  Neither of my fiddles are remarkable, but the Prims sound purty good.

tonyelder - Posted - 07/10/2016:  17:29:06


 



I'm using Jargar mediums on 2 fiddles, Prims on another, and Helicore Heavies on another. I don't know that if really makes that much difference. I seem to like the Jargars best for tone (supposed to be a little darker by comparison) and the Helicores for volume - and the Prims are just good all around. Don't like the Helicore E string. And always had trouble wearing out the Helicore A string when I used a medium set.





...and I did swap around those sets on different fiddles until I was satisfied that they were the best for that fiddle. I don't know just how successful I was - or if that really made that big of a difference - but I went through the exercise.


Edited by - tonyelder on 07/10/2016 17:32:48

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 07/10/2016:  19:25:37


I wore out the G and A strings on my set of Dominants.  I reached into my case and installed a pair of used Obligatos in their place.  Hey, they sound great.  They blend surprisingly well with the Dominants.  Maybe the A doesn't sustain quite as well as the other strings when I just let it ring but I was kind of shocked how little the mixing of the brands mattered.  It's on my good fiddle, too -- the Dimbath #88..

pete_fiddle - Posted - 07/12/2016:  00:13:30


still using the first set of cheap Chinese ebay strings, i bought 5 more sets after trying them, wound nylon, £4 a set and have had good comments about my tone, (i think the steel E string is a bit thin though)



the 60p/set steel ones where ok as well  but a little too high tension

martynspeck - Posted - 07/12/2016:  07:19:39


quote:

Originally posted by graeme

 

Obligato




Loud, dark, versatile, durable.




.




 




 







I've got Helicore Lights and a Larsen E. Bright and easy to get tone out of.



I like your description of Obligatos I might try them next.



I can see they're pricey though. Link for Obligato at Shar




Edited by - martynspeck on 07/12/2016 07:23:21

Loup - Posted - 07/19/2016:  16:38:36


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quote


: I think that the only strings that are not wound are Prim. I am now testing Tonic strings and waiting to see if they unwind as helicores do. Can't figure out why.


Originally posted by DougD

 

Dick Hauser - Whatever do you mean by "wound" strings? All violin strings are wound, except for the E, and some of them are wound too. What distinction are you trying to make here?







 

DougD - Posted - 07/19/2016:  17:25:22


Loup - Prim strings are wound (with "chromesteel") like most all strings. I should have excluded strings for Baroque playing, like Pirastro Chorda, which are unwound gut, or if they're wound, may be wound in a different way from most strings.

ChickenMan - Posted - 07/20/2016:  04:34:49


Doug, you beat me to it. I just put Prims on and they are definitely wound. Initially I was a bit weirded out by it, but man are they responsive! I'll be interested in how they hold up to cross tuning (good, or so I've been told).

farmerjones - Posted - 07/20/2016:  08:23:05


ima die hard Prim fan. They last at least 5 years for me. But i'm trying a set of D'adario Preludes, now. Because they are closest to how a Prim's are made for cheaper. It's been only 4 months but they seem okay. I'm not a Helicore fan either. Never again. Best strings i ever played were Evah Pirazzi's, but could not afford them. I just want a set of steel strings (solid steel core) .  Very inert.  I'm not playing the Hollywood Bowl. I just want trouble free. I don't want to hafta think about them.



Billy,



Talking about cross-tuning;  I don't know if you bought the wound E or not. I've found the wound E is sort of delicate compared to the solid E.  I just use a solid E. The only time a broke a Prim, it was my fault. It wasn't going straight through the fine tuner claw. I make sure the thimble is centered and square in the fine tuner claw.


Edited by - farmerjones on 07/20/2016 08:33:29

ChickenMan - Posted - 07/20/2016:  09:08:07


I already had the Lisa E on it so I didn't use the one in the set, just left it. So far I am loving them, great response, even tone - along with the Andrea rosin, this has been a big improvement.

fujers - Posted - 07/21/2016:  12:26:21


The thing about prim...is they last a long time. I change my strings about every 2 years no kidding, Now I play on them a lot and I mean a lot. I guess the same with my bow. I'll play that bow till all the hair is gone hehe. Not really, I change bow hair about every six months or so. Reminds me about the bow. Now you don't want no cheap bow that just defeats the purpose of playing. You can get an adequate bow for about $100 as you improve your bow should to. Me I just use a french bow and that ok with me. But cheep...nah I'd stay away from them. Jerry 

cadoll - Posted - 07/22/2016:  22:18:54


Jerry, you say you replace bow hair every 6 mos.? Why?  Are you breaking hair? Or does it loose its ability to produce sound?  I have 18mos. On my bow and have only broke a few hairs at most.  What will new hair do for me in regards to sound.

illinoisfiddler - Posted - 07/22/2016:  22:51:41


My favorite strings right now on my amplified fiddles are Vision. They are synthetic strings, but respond somewhere between synthetic and steel. On my better violins I have Evah Pirazzi. Love them but they are a little pricey.

oldtimer - Posted - 07/31/2016:  23:31:05


On most of my fiddles, I use Prim Orchestra (heavy) on G and D, Jarger A, and a Kaplan E.
I have played 74 years and I never knew an old-time southern fiddler or a bluegrass fiddler to use anything but steel strings. Prim was, by far, the most used string by traditional southern fiddlers.

That seems to have changed in recent years because a lot of aspiring fiddlers take lessons from violinists who have no background in southern fiddling.
Whatever works for you and satisfies your ear is fine. There are no rules in old-time fiddling except one:
"The fiddle is a rhythm instrument!"

stay tooned,
Glenn Godsey

Chris Bacchus - Posted - 08/01/2016:  17:20:11


I have used dominants a long time, but had some trouble getting the A would with Aluminium to last. So I have tried Larsens and vision, [also by Thomastik] My philosophy is that if it stays in tune it is fine. And they usually are. Sao price comes into it then I play a lot and I have trouble with moisture from the fingers corroding the Aluminium. [Aluminum for Americans] Cheers Chris

fiddlinjim - Posted - 08/02/2016:  15:23:00


I've went through a lot of different strings over the years. For a while I favored Dominants but once I tried Prims I was sold on the sound I got.

woodnwire - Posted - 08/03/2016:  14:05:25


I have found on the Heliocore mediums, the windings often break too soon on the third and especially the second string. Usually happens on the first position where most of the fingering takes place. That said I do like the tone and response.

Shawn Craver - Posted - 08/04/2016:  08:49:16




sharmusic.com/Pages/How-To/Str...ng-Chart/



It is interesting that this chart shows Dominants to be warmer than Jargar... Jargar has a darker sound on any fiddle I've used them on than Dominants.



That being said, I think Red Labels sound warmer than Dominants. Though the aluminum wound strings are said to be more mellow than an unwound E.



I have also noticed that musicians I have met who came out of a classical background play instruments that have a less dark sound than traditional fiddlers and their instruments are set up to be brilliant in tone and loudbpossibly for classical technique and application... they most often use synthetic strings like Dominants with aluminum winding. Aluminum wound strings have always sounded horribly minging to my ears.



I stick with Jargar, but may try Prims next. 


Edited by - Shawn Craver on 08/04/2016 08:51:33

Tbird - Posted - 08/05/2016:  01:19:28


Helicore and Prims are by far the most dominant string on the Opry stage but that doesn't mean they'll sound good on your fiddle. 

Shawn Craver - Posted - 08/05/2016:  12:55:15


I've used Helicore a few times and liked them. I always replaced the A with a Jargar A, even if it was an old Jargar A!

Loup - Posted - 10/17/2016:  14:56:40


I guess I should go visit Specsavers,as I cannot see Prims being wound. But thanks to all for your input.

tougholdbuzzard - Posted - 10/18/2016:  04:39:44


Prims with the Lisa E for me. I think the more you play them the better they sound. Jerry is right they last a long time.

ChickenMan - Posted - 10/18/2016:  10:56:25


I just broke a Lisa E. Was on the fiddle about a year, didn't detune it more than 4 times in that span, and when it broke I was only fine tuning from standard. Not as long lasting as I'd been lead to believe. Had to put the original Prim E (unused) on. Definitely not as sweet sounding - a little edgy.

tougholdbuzzard - Posted - 10/18/2016:  13:44:06


Once you've played with Lisa E... no other E will do!

jon bowman - Posted - 10/25/2016:  12:55:46


quote:


Originally posted by oldtimer

 

On most of my fiddles, I use Prim Orchestra (heavy) on G and D, Jarger A, and a Kaplan E.

I have played 74 years and I never knew an old-time southern fiddler or a bluegrass fiddler to use anything but steel strings. Prim was, by far, the most used string by traditional southern fiddlers.



That seems to have changed in recent years because a lot of aspiring fiddlers take lessons from violinists who have no background in southern fiddling.

Whatever works for you and satisfies your ear is fine. There are no rules in old-time fiddling except one:

"The fiddle is a rhythm instrument!"



stay tooned,

Glenn Godsey







Glen, perhaps you can help answer  a question I've wondered about. Almost all the old-time fiddlers around here use Prims and the guys I know who have been playing since the 60s have always used steel (can we say Black Diamond?).



But when I look at pics of fiddlers from the 1920s and earlier very few have any kind of fine tuners and I wonder if the earlier generations of fiddlers didn't use gut. What do you think? Any idea when fiddlers commonly moved to steel?



Thanks,



Jon

Addie - Posted - 10/25/2016:  18:37:23


In the 1920's the strings were gut, with a silk E or a gut E.  Not sure when the steel E came in.  It was sometime around then.

illinoisfiddler - Posted - 10/25/2016:  19:12:34


quote:

Originally posted by robinja

 

Man, I am in the minority in that I absolutely hate D'addario Helicores.  I can't get a clean tone out of them to save my life.  One of my fiddles loves Pirastro Chromcors, and I am still experimenting with my other fiddle.  So far I have tried the Chromcors, Pirastro Tonica, Dominants, Prims, Helicore, and Spirocores.  I haven't found a clear winner yet.







You are not the only one. I have wanted to like them, just recently "revisited" them on my main amplified fiddle and was sadly dissappointed. They do a kind of clear smoothness really well that some players like, and they are very complex for a steel string, and nice and supple under the fingers. However, amplified I found their tone rather flat, thin, and lacking differentiation between the lower strings. The G on a Helicore Medium set was absolutely thinner, lacking character and bass shy compared to my favored Thomastik Vision strings for my stage fiddles. It is back to Visions, and other synthetics, for me. I have been playing synthetic strings since the mid-80s.

Loup - Posted - 01/06/2017:  17:39:40


Hi Steve



Interesting topic regarding strings and tone,so i decided to put my two bit in.Everyone is after a good tone from his violin,and I have been experimenting for the past six years,and in my view,if you don't setup your bridge correctly and soundpost, you cannot get a good tone from any of the strings that are marketed.



I was given an old crappy Chinese(Lark) fiddle,and after trying different brand strings and without success,I switched to looking at the bridge.Quite a few bridges later,I hit the spot.



My Lark is enjoyable to play now,.I fitted Tonic strings to it,as I can't find Prim over here.Not yet.lol  

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