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A New Experiment Succeeds- "Carthy" is Amazing With Steel Strings! BUT a NEW Fiddle at a Gig is BAD!

Posted by fiddlepogo on Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A couple of days ago I bought another Wittner Ultra tailpiece... I'm just too used to doing fine tuning that way.

The thought occurred to me that I should experiment with some old used steel strings before I put the Zyex back on... IF they go back on.

Since "Carthy" wasn't broken, part of me didn't want to do this, but I forced myself to do it a little bit ago.

I really want to know what "Carthy" is capable of sonically, and part of that is trying out the usual gang of suspects as far as strings.

I left the Zyex E string on for now, and for the rest chose some old Thomastik Precision Lights which were my favorite strings before I went to Prims... I tuned them up, and stroked them GENTLY with the bow... cause it was 1:45 AM!!!  Somehow I always do the big projects at night... well, I know why- both the wife and the cat are in bed and hopefully sleeping! So no interruptions.

The little brush with the bow sounded promising, but we will see tomorrow morning how well they REALLY work, and for what kinds of music.  Who knows.... there IS the possibility that it will excel at Old Time and Booker will get the Zyexes and become the Irish fiddle... and then I'll have to change their names!

Or maybe Carthy will do even better on Irish with the steel Precision Lights- after all it was an Irish fiddler who recommended them to me!

(The next morning)

Got it tuned up with itself, played a little, sounded promising, tuned it up to pitch with my new Snark.

Definitely a comfort factor for me to have the Ultra with the fine tuners on it... "Can't teach and old dog...."

Old Time was definitely now playable... Irish was too.... played some more, and some more and suddenly,

I noticed something happening in the lows.... they snapped into focus as Carthy got used to being played with the Precision Light Thomastiks.  The bow feel is now much closer to Booker with it's Prims, making it easier for me to play there.

The stiffness of the steels makes it a little harder for the left hand, but not too bad, I guess the action is still a bit higher than Booker's.

But now, instead of doing a good job on Irish tunes, and only passable on Old Time and klezmerish tunes, Carthy is good at everything I play.  It's as good or better at klezmerish and Eastern European tunes than the Eastman with the mystery Eastern European strings- the focus and power is as good or better for that dramatic music, but without the annoying edge.  It still has the flute-like quality when I do Irish tunes.  It's great on airs.  And it sounds very nice on Old Time!

I took out Booker for contrast- still a good sounding fiddle, still very nice on Old Time... with maybe a slight edge in fiddle tunes due to the lower action. Booker was great when I was leading an Old Time jam because it cut through so well, and I think it still would.  The E string is still it's forte.

Carthy has a good sounding E (currently the Zyex E), not quite as clear as Booker's but nothing to complain about.  But all the other strings are richer, making it much more suitable for slow airs, waltzes, klezmery tunes, and quasi-classical noodling, which is what I do instead of scales.

This is amazing... I hadn't expected Carthy to sound this good, this quickly with relatively SO FEW tweaks!

And this is with a THRASHED set of Precision Lights!

I also tried it with several bows, including my carbon-fiber, which is nimble but bright, and it's just perfect with them. With my darker Holtz F.G, it's gets really dark and sweet and sounds like it would be perfect for accompanying singers.

Only drawback I can see is that, after putting the steel strings on,  Carthy is now maybe as loud as Booker-

I DEFINITELY need an earplug in the left ear now.

Looks like Carthy is going to be the top choice for gigs now- sorry Booker!!!

In fact, I have to go get ready for one now- LATER!!!

And this may call all further string experiments to a halt... as least with the ones I have.

(Later that evening...)

Hmmmm.....  the gig with Carthy the new Knilling didn't go as well as hoped....

lots of things took me out of my comfort zone:

Setup was hard, because a piano had been moved into the place where I normally set up, creating a frustrating puzzle challenge of how to fit my P.A. and myself into as small a place as possible, so that when I started playing I wasn't a happy camper.

I should've used a lighter bow- I used a bow known to be difficult on Irish tunes for a gig that was mostly St Patrick's themed- (Yeah, I know, but the decorations were still up, and the audience doesn't necessarily know what day it is anyway.)  Also, I didn't notice it playing at home with that bow today, but now it's clear Carthy has a problem with bows over a certain weight EVEN with steel strings... not sure why this is... it doesn't seem like the weight is overwhelming the strings, rather, it's producing more sound which is overwhelming the fiddle's capacity to handle it musically... it's like the fiddle itself is distorting!  Weird!

Also, it occurred to me that it's really a bad idea to use BOTH a less familiar bow and an unfamiliar fiddle at a gig... especially when doing fairly unfamiliar material.

So maybe Booker WILL be the first choice for gigs until Carthy gets so familar that I'm more comfortable with IT than with Booker- which may be a while!

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