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New Strings . . . OOOHHHHH!!!!

Posted by bj on Friday, October 30, 2009

Jane had mentioned, last I used the little french fiddle when we played, that the strings sounded really dead. Funny what you can get used to gradually! Every time since, when I picked up that fiddle, I noticed that the strings were not all that responsive and had lost a lot of volume. But while playing this fiddle at the jam Tuesday night I was barely able to hear the A string (with the others being just a slight bit better!) That finally prompted me to think about changing out the strings.

I have a jam I'm going to this Sunday, and I wanted the strings to have a bit of settle in time prior to that, so I had to do something yesterday (Thursday) if I was going to bring this french fiddle on Sunday! I don't have any new Prims laying around at the mo (frenchie LOVES her prims!) and I didn't want to use the $4.35 ebay cheapies again, since that's what was on there, at least the G and D. They were fine, actually, but I do like to try different strings. So I dug in the fiddle junk drawer and lo and behold, there's a new set of Red Labels in there, and a wrapped E. Hot Damn! Not exactly my first choice, but I've never tried Red Labels on this fiddle. Someone had given these to me quite awhile ago, and I'd tossed them in the drawer to use on a fiddle for sale sometime in the future. Well, why not try them?

I've heard good and bad about Red Labels. Many folks on the forum hate 'em, but Jane has 'em on at least one of her fiddles and likes them a lot on that one, and I've played that one and it sounded fine to me. And lets face it, there are a lot of people who judge things solely by pricetags. I'm not one of them. Neither is Jane.

I had tried 'em awhile back on the Missouri fiddle and wasn't impressed, but that fiddle is ** super finicky ** about strings. The frenchie isn't. She likes new strings and isn't too fussy about what kind. Even the dominants that came on her sounded great (though in a violinny way, they did NOT sound OT so they came off in short order!) Frenchie's sounded great with Prims, chromcors, and even the ebay cheapies (except the A, which was squirrelly.) And though she so far sounds best with Prims, the differences between strings were slight on this fiddle, compared to my other fiddles. She just loves new strings. So I thought she just might do fine with the Red Labels.

Wow. MORE than fine. She sounds fabulous! These strings sound warm and round and clear and LOUD on this fiddle! More complex than the Prims, which is really surprising, more oldtimey than the chromcors. And that's only after a day of settling in. If they sound any better after settling in, these might actually sound better than the Prims!

I just hope they're okay with the crosstuning. I seem to remember them being fine on the Missouri fiddle, and I know Jane crosstunes, but I also remember reading about Super Sensitives not holding up to crosstuning well (but that might have been the premiums, I don't remember.)

I'll keep you posted . . .

12 comments on “New Strings . . . OOOHHHHH!!!!”

Cyndy Says:
Friday, October 30, 2009 @9:39:54 AM

My new fiddle came with Super Sensitives and they seem to be okay on it. I'll probably experiment with something else come the new year, though. I tried Helicore and Zyex on my old fiddle and I liked both for different reasons. I find it's really hard to choose because I don't have enough experience to know what they'll sound like until I try them. C

bj Says:
Friday, October 30, 2009 @11:45:04 AM

Experimenting can be costly. But now I know that two different types of strings that are READILY AVAILABLE ALMOST EVERYWHERE sound good on her. That's a great bit of knowledge to have. Prims sound good on both the Missouri and the German fiddles. I'll probably just stick with Prims on Missouri since that one is so fussy. I might experiment a bit with the German fiddle though. I don't know if it's fussy or not yet, since I've only ever had prims on it.

Mandogryl Says:
Friday, October 30, 2009 @4:05:29 PM

I put Red Labels on my old German fiddle after the neck-set, since I had been doing alot of business with Stew-Mac and they were inexpensive. They sounded good to my admittedly un-trained ear. Since then, I changed to Doms and the notes don't sound as right if my bow hair is more than an inch away from the bridge, especially the E. Of course, much of this is probably my fault as a newbie, but I would not hesitate to go back to Red Labels on that fiddle one bit, but there are so darned MANY brands out there, just begging to be tried.
Have a good time at the jam!

janepaints Says:
Friday, October 30, 2009 @7:44:22 PM

The thing about crosstuning is, if yer ALWAYS (or almost always) in one crosstuning (like me), seems there's no logical reason ANY strings would sound bad...maybe the trouble with red labels that some've had are due to a lot of re-tuning, using all kinda tunings....but then again, the longer i've fiddled the less any one physical component (bow/rosin/strings/pegs/bridge etc.) seems to matter, as long as they aren't total rubbish (black diamond strings, shoelace-haired bows, formica bridges, pegs 'converted' from old pliers etc.) I don't know whether this is due to More Technical Nimbleness, Growing Deafness, Lessening Of Discernment or Secret Downhome Mind-Control Fiddle Zombiehood. Whatever the reasons, it sure makes things more affordable and less mind-consuming. I haven't changed strings on my main fiddle for almost two years now, I rosin-up 4 times a year (once for each change of season) and that's gotten me through a LOT of busking-gigs. However, only knowing about three notes (while only playing two of 'em unless I wanna show off) also helps make things less prone to mishap and purchasing stuff.

janepaints Says:
Friday, October 30, 2009 @7:52:57 PM

I also have a kinda-supersitious-intuitive theory: You've become a bonafide Aw Shucks Fiddler when Red Labels sound swell to you. Once upon a time they sounded funky to me too. Was always trying new pricey sets. "Wow these new Super Klunkers oughta really help--they're made of space-age Yucklon! With a genuine core of authentic Platinumette!" and I'd put 'em on the fiddle and sound exactly the same kind of poopy awful as when the prevous set, (Dominance & Submission 'Streppen Troat' Symphonic Uber-Specials made of rare uranium alloys) were on the fiddle. One day I hadda buy new strings for my $95 fiddle and realized my bank account was down to $12.37, since I'd spent $8,546 on six pricier sets in the last year. So it was Red Labels due to Dire $traits. And I ain't looked back none since.

bj Says:
Friday, October 30, 2009 @7:58:25 PM

I've been getting 6-8 months out of a set of strings. I think that's fairly reasonable.

I do tend to leave my fiddles in a tuning, for the most part. But whatever fiddle I take out to a jam with me does get retuned. It's probably why strings on the frenchie don't last as long, since I play it often and that's the one I usually jam with, and change tunings on when I do jam.

bj Says:
Friday, October 30, 2009 @8:01:19 PM

Oh, and there's only around a three buck difference in price between Red Labels and Prims. It's not like I stepped down from Evahs or anything. And I've tried Evahs (though they weren't on my fiddle!) and though they do sound good, I really didn't think they sounded anywhere near almost 4 times as good!

mudbug Says:
Saturday, October 31, 2009 @2:46:07 AM

Where do I go to find out more about "secret downhome mind-control fiddle zombiehood"? I'm assuming that this is a "good" thing and I need to "get a leg up" as opposed to "get the wind up"!

janepaints Says:
Saturday, October 31, 2009 @8:05:52 AM

Secret Downhome Mind-Control Zombiehood seems natural side effect of playing fiddle. Best guess is that THEY are putting something in the rosin dust. If you don't want this to happen to you, only fiddle while wearing an Underwriter Laboratory-Certified Industrial-Strength Gas Mask. And ear plugs.

Andah1andah2 Says:
Saturday, October 31, 2009 @10:39:31 AM

Sounds like your gonna have a good time jamming on Sunday. Glad to hear. I look forward to the day when I can hear the differences between types of strings!

bj Says:
Saturday, October 31, 2009 @4:17:29 PM

Stew, get yourself out to a jam ASAP! I know that's counterintuitive since you probably still sound awful (I did for the first 18 months, so it isn't a hard call.) Anyway, I have beginners at my jam find all the open notes to every tune they don't yet know. They're usually getting at least some of them by the end of the tune, even if they can't really play the tune. That's the beginning of fiddler ear training. It's easier to do at an OT jam, btw, since you can more easily hide in the noise.

fiddlepogo Says:
Monday, November 2, 2009 @10:33:38 PM

I have a different theory.
During my fairly recent time as an electric guitarist, I came to the conclusion that EVERYTHING in the signal chain or that's a vibrating part of the instrument has an EQ factor- it enhances or substracts SOMETHING from some frequency or another of the sound spectrum.
This is also true of strings.
One guitar string manufacturer (GHS) even places their different types of guitar strings in different positions on a chart based on how bright vs. how "warm" they are.

Anyway, I'm convinced that Red Labels enhance a part of the sound spectrum that SO FAR no fiddle I've owned has liked. That doesn't mean it's not possible that I would get a fiddle that would like them... it just hasn't happened yet.
On the basis of hearing Red Label Premiums on a couple of fiddles, I'd say they're heavy in the midrange... which on a fiddle that is already strong on the midrange, could make the fiddle sound honky and nasal.
But I'm glad that SOMEONE has found a good use for 'em!!!

Wait... that's a French fiddle- I think I remember reading that French violins often DO have a unique tone quality... I think I read they tend towards brightness...
maybe that brightness and the strings' midrange are complementing each other.

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