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Wow, this time it wasn't my playing that was the problem!

Posted by bj on Friday, July 4, 2008

I just put a set of new strings on this 2nd fiddle a couple few weeks back, since the ones on it were dead and old and awful. I'd picked the new ones up just to try perlon strings, and hadn't spent a lot of dough for them, since I was just curious to see how perlons sounded. Apparently that was a mistake.

"Super-Sensitive Octava Violin Strings"  were the ones I bought. I snagged those strings when I bought my bow.

Well, I was having a heckuva time with rosin buildup on these, and as the weeks progressed, it was even more of a problem with the A string than the others, with no amount of rubbing making it sound better. Finally I ran my nail over it to try to get the buildup off . . . and discovered a gap in the wrap, right where I usually bow! I ran my bow over that spot, and sure enough, I got a scratchy and awful sound there no matter what I did with the bow right there, and no matter how clean the string was!

Well, this is something. My scratchy A wasn't my fault!

I've spent the last hour or so reading over the forum posts about strings, and gotten quite the education. And apparently this problem with the A string is not unusual with a certain maker, so I suspect these off brand strings may be "related" in some way, though I also noted that there are apparent problems with certain wraps, and that there's also the occasional faulty string in any set.

It's frustrating that I found this out today. I'd throw the old string back on if I hadn't thrown the old strings in my old case (which is at my luthier's shop with my good fiddle.) And it being the 4th and all, I'll just have to suffer with this one more day, rather than being able to walk to Twin Rivers Music to remedy the situation today.

At least the awful sound on that string isn't my fault.

4 comments on “Wow, this time it wasn't my playing that was the problem!”

fiddlepogo Says:
Friday, July 4, 2008 @2:05:22 PM

Check to see what the wrap on that A string was made of.
I bet it was aluminum.  Aluminum is used a lot on A strings because
it makes them sound mellow, but as anyone who has crunched
or mangled an aluminum can can tell you, aluminum is not a very durable material.
I've had aluminum wrapped A string fail several times, usual under my 3rd finger, though.
Go chrome-steel on steel (Thomastik Precision Lights, available at and and you won't have that problem again.

bj Says:
Friday, July 4, 2008 @2:25:08 PM

Well, ya got me! Based on this description I have no clue what the wrap was. And the string wrappers are now in the old case with the old strings in them, so I can't even read the wrapper.

Kinda sucks since they did sound very nice at first. I surely don't feel like I got my money's worth though, and if the A string went like this, I don't feel like I can trust the whole set. I'm trying to decide now whether to just replace them all.

Thanks for the recommendation. I'll consider them and the Prims everyone talks about. The Prims are reasonably priced and this is, after all, my second fiddle. I'd rather try out pricier ones on the good fiddle (which is currently sporting Dominants, which sound very nice on it when it's playable. Well, except the E, which I'm planning on changing.) Hmm, I seem to remember reading in those threads that the Dominants had some A string problems . . .

bon temps Says:
Sunday, July 6, 2008 @6:26:28 AM

I've used Dominants from the start and just plan on unraveling my A from time to time because I tend to slur up to B. And, yes, the wrapper indicates "synthetic core, aluminum wrap." What I don't like though is the Dominant E which I replaced with a Pirastro Oliv several years ago and have been using them since. It seems to be much brighter, but can also be a devilish string at times!

bj Says:
Sunday, July 6, 2008 @6:55:46 AM

A lot of folks use the Dominants, and Twin Rivers Music, my local music shop that caters mostly to stringed instruments, does recommend them (with a Tonica E, actually.) They do have a nice selection and discount to their regulars to roughly internet prices, but they do NOT stock the Prims right now. Not surprising, since the teacher there is a Classical Teacher and the daughter of the owner. I imagine they will if I ask them to though. And I do like buying local whenever I can, though sometimes it's impossible. It is very nice to be able to walk 7 blocks to buy a string when needed, so hopefully they will take my suggestion.

Re your Pirastro Oliv, what do you find "devilish" about it? I know that even with the more forgiving perlons I will draw a screech out of that string quicker than the others.

I'm probably going to slap Prims on this second fiddle though. After doing more reading, the steels stand up to cross tuning better, and that's what I'm planning on doing with this one once I get the Stockdale back (LATER THIS WEEK! YAY!) And since oldtimers love the Prims and do lots of cross tunings, it would seem that they're the way to go for this romanian fiddle.

I do think, that on FiddlePogo's recommendation, the next set going on the Stockdale will be the Thomastik Precision Lights. If I can avoid the wrap unravel problem and still draw a good sound I will be a happy camper. Though I also have to consider that the maker of the Stockdale, who was also its player, kept Dominants on it. There had to be a reason for that, and since the sound from that one is so very fine, one has to wonder if those strings are an essential ingredient in the recipe.

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