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Mar 15, 2017 - 6:24:35 PM
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9 posts
Joined Mar 15, 2017

I've been playing the fiddle for almost two years.  Only owned one fiddle.  It still has the strings that came with it...  I play the guitar - and I can tell when my guitar stings are dead - but I'm questioning the fiddle...

1.  I'm learning/playing Old-time.

2.  I think my fiddle is already pretty bright and loud.  I often feel like I'm playing too loudly at jams and have to play as quietly as I'm capable of doing.

Any recommendations for strings?  I think I'd like something with a mellower, darker tone.  I read a lot about Helicores, but everyone kept saying they were awesome because they were bright.  My strings haven't broken - does that mean I should hold out and not change them?

Mar 15, 2017 - 6:40:01 PM
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545 posts
Joined Feb 28, 2012

Do you know what kind of strings are on it now? That would give an idea of a starting place.

Do you have a teacher, or is this an autodidact exercise? If you have a teacher, ask the teacher for a recommendation. I know a few to steer clear of, but there are so many different kinds that virtually all of them have someone who says they are their favorite.

I put Helicores on an old fiddle I sold last year, simply because that was what that particular customer wanted. I played the fiddle somewhat before it went away, and I did not feel it was too bright, but, as you pointed out, that varies with the fiddle, too. Usually I put Dominants on the violins I make, or Evah Pirazzis, but for the five-string fiddles I build, I sell them with a set of Helicores. I have never had a customer complain about them. But, to be quite honest, at the time I began using them, it was simply because I could buy them as a five-string set, which wasn't always easy to find. At any rate, I have been pleased with them.

Mar 15, 2017 - 8:50:13 PM

37 posts
Joined Jul 24, 2012

quote:
Originally posted by BrainTree56
 

I've been playing the fiddle for almost two years.  Only owned one fiddle.  It still has the strings that came with it...  I play the guitar - and I can tell when my guitar stings are dead - but I'm questioning the fiddle...

1.  I'm learning/playing Old-time.

2.  I think my fiddle is already pretty bright and loud.  I often feel like I'm playing too loudly at jams and have to play as quietly as I'm capable of doing.

Any recommendations for strings?  I think I'd like something with a mellower, darker tone.  I read a lot about Helicores, but everyone kept saying they were awesome because they were bright.  My strings haven't broken - does that mean I should hold out and not change them?

 

 


I recommend changing your strings once a year, maybe every two if you hardly play. Your fiddle will sound better, just like when you change your guitar strings. I like Dr. Thomastik Dominants.

By the way, it's not unusual to feel self-conscious at jams. Just remember the chances of you sticking out over all the other instruments is small. I actually think jams are a great time to play around and experiment because you're likely to blend right in...having fun is most important, though...so do what you need to have fun!

Mar 15, 2017 - 9:11:35 PM

1750 posts
Joined Oct 1, 2008

Keep in mind also that the fiddle you are playing is within a few inches of your ear and much louder to you than the person sitting across the circle from you. Also buying a mute if you don't have one already can lower the volume of your instrument. I change strings twice a year on my main fiddle. If you are playing Oldtime fiddle mostly you may eventually , if you haven't , start cross tuning. Metal core rather than fiber core strings are a bit easier to hold tunings when switching back and forth. Prim and Helicore are two makes of strings OT players use. R/

Mar 15, 2017 - 10:51:37 PM

mswlogo

USA

3465 posts
Joined Apr 15, 2009

If you want warmer and mellower you need to go with synthetic. Like Obligato's. Problem is they will go bad fast and are expensive. There are cheaper ones that have similar sound qualities. Strings going bad can sneak up on you. You'll know what was wrong with old ones when you put the new ones on :) Helicores are one the warmest steel core strings. Not outrageously expensive and last a good while. If you read Bios on some fiddler websites you'll see Helicore come up a lot. Also steel core is better for cross tuning that lots of old time players do. They settle fast. One other thing is a fiddler likes fast response and steel cores are better at that too. 

Edited by - mswlogo on 03/15/2017 22:53:05

Mar 16, 2017 - 4:31:40 AM

boxbow Players Union Member

USA

2158 posts
Joined Feb 3, 2011

When I started fiddling I tried a lot of strings, including expensive sets.  I changed them pretty often, like every few months.  What brought about the greatest improvement in overall tone and sound was...practice.  I can't begin to name the kinds of strings I tried.  Some were synthetic core, some were steel.  At the time, I couldn't tell the difference between them.  In the end, my budget decided for me and I went to the least horrible cheap steel strings I could find.  And I practiced.  Super Sensitives, Old Fiddlers (also from Super Sensitive), Black Diamond 7207 were all adequate but no more than that.  I now get great results from Prims, a moderately priced steel string that is very popular with OT fiddlers.  I've also had good luck with Jargars.

Don't know nuttin' 'bout no synthetics.

Edited by - boxbow on 03/16/2017 04:33:07

Mar 16, 2017 - 4:52:46 AM

9 posts
Joined Mar 15, 2017

This is all very helpful.  I probably just need to try things out a few times.  I'll jump right in with these suggestions.  I'll probably just start with the helicores because that seems to be what most people like.  I'll try something else next time.

One follow up question - The G string on my fiddle has always sounded totally dead to me.  I can't get it to ring out at all.  I thought it was my playing, so I took a lesson, but the teacher tried it and said that string was dead and changing the strings might help.  Are any of these strings particularly good with the lower strings?  A lot of the reviews talk about the E string...  

Unfortunately, I don't know what's on it now.

I appreciate the input about the Jams.  It never occurred to me that I might be quieter that I think I am because the instrument is right next to my ear...  Duh..  Part of the problem is also that the Jam I've been attending only has a few members and they are all very good!  Usually only one (maybe two) fiddlers.  They are extremely nice and welcoming, but I wonder if I'm ruining everything and they are too nice to tell me...  Ha!  I bring my guitar also so I can let things breath a little bit.

Mar 16, 2017 - 6:23:24 AM

2028 posts
Joined Dec 23, 2007

Tonicas.
Mar 16, 2017 - 6:49:20 AM

456 posts
Joined Jun 12, 2010

Zyex are advertised to be good for brighter sounding fiddles, but may not work for switching between different tunings.

Mar 16, 2017 - 7:11:25 AM
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9 posts
Joined Mar 15, 2017

Thanks. I actually made a last second switch and bought the Prims...

Mar 16, 2017 - 7:34:03 AM
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1750 posts
Joined Oct 1, 2008

Also ... I don't know anything about your instrument. New import , old German workshop make, something in between. Fiddles respond well to a quality setup. A new bridge and sound post expertly placed often makes major differences in tone and playability of an instrument. On the other hand a better quality bow helps draw a better tone from an instrument. But as I am sure you know the most important thing is good technique. Enjoy the journey. R/

Mar 16, 2017 - 8:00:36 AM
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Apltrez

USA

131 posts
Joined Feb 1, 2008

Try Chromcors. My choice if Prims are too harsh or bright.

Mar 16, 2017 - 9:15:36 AM

9 posts
Joined Mar 15, 2017

I bought the fiddle online from Bluegrass Shack: http://www.thebluegrassshack.com/

The contact person said it was made in China. It's a student quality fiddle... I'm pretty happy with it though. I spent about $250. In retrospect I would have gone to a local shop though. I live in Maine and have discovered some great shops since I purchased the instrument. Nothing against the Bluegrass Shack, but it seems all of these shops have trade-up policies. Bluegrass Shack does too, but I'm hesitant to invest in an instrument that I don't have a chance to try. Plus, the additional cost of shipping... Live and learn I guess.

I'll probably upgrade soon, but my current fiddle is definitely adequate for my playing ability. Seems to be set up well. Chris at the bluegrass shack said that she set-up the instrument. (of course it was shipped after that...)

I'll keep Chromcors in mind for next time.

Mar 16, 2017 - 1:37:29 PM

29 posts
Joined Sep 16, 2010

Another string to consider for bright instruments is Spirit. I bought a pair recently for an old German trade fiddle that was too bright for my tastes. Beautiful tone. I've tried most of the strings out there over the last few years and I'd rate Spirit's as have the fundamental tone of Pro Arte's with harmonics/overtones closer to Dominants. I've had them on now for about 6 months with no issues other than it took about two weeks for the them to stretch in. I find myself playing this fiddle more than my other ones now. Price is very reasonable, too.

Thought I should mention that I rarely use steel strings anymore. Only have one very mellow instrument strung up with them. Using Black Diamond 7207 on it and it sounds fine with them.

Dave

Mar 16, 2017 - 3:28:11 PM

3959 posts
Joined Jun 23, 2007

Do you play an "old time" style that has you re tuning often ? People who do this usually buy strings like Heliocores or Prims. Those types of strings work better when they undergo frequent re tunings.

Mar 17, 2017 - 4:41:25 AM

9 posts
Joined Aug 8, 2015

My violin didn't respond well to chromcors, they sounded loud but harsh, E string sounded even worse.

Mar 17, 2017 - 9:54:05 AM

kjb

USA

452 posts
Joined Jun 8, 2013

I have been using the helicores 5 string set for almost 4 years , happy with them sometimes I wonder if a c string with more tension would be nice. maybe a 3/4 viola heavy?
 
quote:
Originally posted by Chet Bishop
 

Do you know what kind of strings are on it now? That would give an idea of a starting place.

Do you have a teacher, or is this an autodidact exercise? If you have a teacher, ask the teacher for a recommendation. I know a few to steer clear of, but there are so many different kinds that virtually all of them have someone who says they are their favorite.

I put Helicores on an old fiddle I sold last year, simply because that was what that particular customer wanted. I played the fiddle somewhat before it went away, and I did not feel it was too bright, but, as you pointed out, that varies with the fiddle, too. Usually I put Dominants on the violins I make, or Evah Pirazzis, but for the five-string fiddles I build, I sell them with a set of Helicores. I have never had a customer complain about them. But, to be quite honest, at the time I began using them, it was simply because I could buy them as a five-string set, which wasn't always easy to find. At any rate, I have been pleased with them.


Mar 19, 2017 - 5:48:01 PM
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9 posts
Joined Feb 26, 2015

quote:
Originally posted by BrainTree56
 

Thanks. I actually made a last second switch and bought the Prims...


Prims are my go to strings but I play bluegrass so I like the fiddle to have a cutting sound. If you are looking for a darker sound then Prims may not be ideal, as good as they are.

Mar 19, 2017 - 6:00:45 PM

29 posts
Joined Sep 16, 2010

I agree about Prims not being a good choice for a darker sound. Almost any strings are darker than Prims. I used them for many years on my grandfather's old fiddle, which was a very dark mellow fiddle. Sounded great on it, but all the other fiddles I've had were just too bright for Prims. In the line of steel strings, I like Helicore's, but rarely use steel anymore of any kind. Steel drives my hearing aides bonkers. Use only synthetics (except on grandpa's fiddle) these days, and have been using for around 20 years now. Love their darker tone.

Dave

Edited by - hurdy_gurdyman on 03/19/2017 18:02:31

Mar 23, 2017 - 7:35:34 AM

3374 posts
Joined Dec 8, 2007

quote:
Originally posted by BrainTree56
 

I've been playing the fiddle for almost two years.  Only owned one fiddle.  It still has the strings that came with it...  I play the guitar - and I can tell when my guitar stings are dead - but I'm questioning the fiddle...

1.  I'm learning/playing Old-time.

2.  I think my fiddle is already pretty bright and loud.  I often feel like I'm playing too loudly at jams and have to play as quietly as I'm capable of doing.

Any recommendations for strings?  I think I'd like something with a mellower, darker tone.  I read a lot about Helicores, but everyone kept saying they were awesome because they were bright.  My strings haven't broken - does that mean I should hold out and not change them?

 

 


My two main fiddles have Helicore mediums on them.  Both fiddles sound "earthy and dark."  I've used these strings for fifteen years and like them greatly.  I play mainly OT or "Celtic" influenced OT.   I have never had an A string unravel, but I've had the D break several times though this happened five years or so ago, and now I haven't had that problem since.  

Yet another fiddle I own, a very nice custom made one, is too bright for my taste, so I researched the archives here and found that many OT fiddlers put small clothespins on the bridge.  So I went to a fabrics store (I think they're called, Jo Anne's or something) and bought these really small green clothespins.  I put one on each side of the bridge.  Problem solved.  No longer shrill and the volume perfect (for me).   I did try different strings, too, before I tried the clothespins, but didn't get enough of a change; rather, it seemed the strings just changed the timbre I wanted.  I still have Helicores on this fiddle now, too.  

Mar 23, 2017 - 8:55:12 AM

545 posts
Joined Feb 28, 2012

quote:
Originally posted by kjb
 
I have been using the helicores 5 string set for almost 4 years , happy with them sometimes I wonder if a c string with more tension would be nice. maybe a 3/4 viola heavy? 

On one (my first) five-string I did exactly that-- I installed a short-scale viola C string with my Dominant set, and it worked just fine. I liked the idea of being able to get all five together, so I eventually migrated to Helicore, but, yes, the small viola string was successful. I can't recall if it was a heavy tension...it may have been. The biggest thing is getting the sound-post right (after proper arching, adequate bass-bar, rib-height, etc., of course.) Once the instrument opened up, it played great with either set.

Mar 23, 2017 - 9:18:51 AM

1294 posts
Joined Oct 22, 2007

I've kept a set of Prims on for upwards of 6 years. I did find a D'Adario equivalent to Prims for cheaper. But they aren't quite the same. Helicore's are made by D'Adario, but i don't care for them (greatly).

Mar 23, 2017 - 4:17:43 PM

RickM

Canada

2 posts
Joined Mar 20, 2017

You've gotten lots of good advice, from folks with lots more experience than me, but 2 cents worth.

I had the same dilemma that you describe. I tried Dominants and they were an improvement. About 6 months ago I tried a set of Infeld Red by Thomastik. I've been really pleased, sound a lot warmer "under the ear" and my very limited audience says they have a much more mellow sound. I had been swapping out E strings with the other ones that I tried as well, but the Infeld E is just fine.

Down side though is they were NOT cheap.

Mar 31, 2017 - 11:56:49 AM

119 posts
Joined Jun 26, 2007

I've used Prims for years on one of my fiddles, while periodically trying other steel strings such as Helicore, Chromcor, Jargar, etc.  However, I always gravitated back to Prims.  Still, with the Prims, my fiddle still seemed a bit thin, bright and brittle, without the depth and volume that I was used to on another fiddle I have.  I then read here a while back that some people had good luck with Pirastro Flexocore Permanent, so I shelled out the extra bucks for them.  I have to say I think I finally found the right string.  They have more sustain, volume and depth, and it's like I have a whole new fiddle.

Apr 3, 2017 - 4:03:37 AM

2379 posts
Joined Feb 2, 2014

I just sent my bluegrassshack chinese fiddle "Red-Man" to my local Violin shop and had a new bridge cut and placed and wittner tailpiece put on it and it sounds even better than before. The heavy tailpieces they come with will hold the sound down, the wittner frees it up. I'll tell you, if your fiddle is on the "brighter" side, you won't be able to tamp it down to much. Strings will help, but the changes will be subtle. One way to tone it down is to lower your bridge but you may not like the strings being closer to the fingerboard. IMHO fiddles with steel strings on bridges high off the fingerboard tend to sound jangly and brighter than when they are a bit closer. I tried a set of synthetic cores once and they were a bit warmer but they stretched too much and didnt want to stay in tune. I cant remember the brNd now as it escapes me.

Edited by - EricBluegrassFiddle on 04/03/2017 04:04:41

Apr 3, 2017 - 12:29:28 PM

fujers

USA

4532 posts
Joined Feb 14, 2008
Online Now

Every player is different every fiddle is different. What I say is a good fiddle string may not work for you ...we're so fickle aren't we. I say Prim and another per says that..there are many to choose from and they are so expensive. You know maybe just maybe you might want to thing about how you play as to the tone. The further you get away from gives you a certain tone and the closer you get to the bridge another tone...looking for that sweet spot is what we're after. If you can find that sweet spot stay there the rest of your life because that is going to define you as a fiddler. Oh forgot what wee were talking about. Strings..yes everyone needs them. Jerry

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