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Seeking Advice RE: Tone Richness, String Gauge/Tension, and Wolf Notes

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Jun 9, 2020 - 12:31:47 PM



3 posts since 6/9/2020

Hello All,
First post here... I have a nice Horner fiddle with a clear and projecting tone but lacking a bit in tone richness and resonance. As it is, it's ideal for playing in larger group sessions and dances, but I'd like to have a richer tone for more intimate settings - even if it sacrifices clarity & projection a bit. I currently use medium steel core strings (Primm), which I realize are contributing to the narrow tone; however, when I've tried more flexible strings (Helicores and Tonicas so far), I get several bad wolf notes in unavoidable locations on the fingerboard. I'm guessing that the lower string tension is what triggers this (?) - but if that's the case, I don't understand why I don't get wolf notes when I tune down my regular strings. I find tuning down the Primms just shy of a half step results in a very rich and warm tone - exactly what I'm trying to get. Would this not be due to lower string tension? Alas, my friends don't like tuning down, so I'm trying to figure out how to get this tone at regular pitch. Any advice would be appreciated!


Jun 9, 2020 - 1:42:50 PM
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1411 posts since 4/6/2014

i like the sound of fiddles tuned down about a semitone as well, i think that "Baroque" tuning ar A=432 Hz sounds good on a fiddle. But like you say go to go with whatever other folk are tuned to. The only way i can approximate the sound is to use one of those wire mutes set back from the bridge about 1/8", i think that this was fairly common amongst fiddlers (And maybe still is), they dont reduce the volume much, but with experiment all sorts of tonal changes happen with them.

Jun 9, 2020 - 3:25:18 PM

964 posts since 6/26/2007

Light gauge strings?

Jun 9, 2020 - 7:35:16 PM

195 posts since 3/1/2020

If you’re looking for richness, try synthetic core strings. Helicore and Tonica are not warm sets. As you said, steel will give you that narrow, edgy sound that cuts through the sound of other instruments in a band, but you lose complexity.

As far as the wolf notes, there may be other things in play. Typically high tension strings wolf more.

I’ve really been liking TI lately. They can do everything you want without being too bright and pointed.

Jun 9, 2020 - 8:56:26 PM
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192 posts since 1/3/2019

Knowing what tone and feel you want i s a big step in the right direction. Many don't get past an abstract idea, so you're on your way. The rest is difficult because each instrument is different and each type of string will react differently to each instrument. That's where experimentation comes in and that takes patience because buying strings can be expensive. But based on what's been described, I would suggest trying Jargar medium or orchestra gauge. For me they were never the loudest string, but a darker, rounder toned steel string that I used for years.

Jun 10, 2020 - 7:02:36 AM
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3 posts since 6/9/2020

Thanks all for the input! I do suspect there is more going on in terms of the wolf notes, and maybe a professional setup is in order. I'm not specifically wanting a darker tone, but a more complex tone (with pleasant overtones). On my fiddle, the Primms have a very narrow, almost pure tone, but I don't find them to be over bright or piercing (the E is marginal). It's hard to describe sound with words. I have a friend who uses Jargars for specific strings (A and E, I think) and really likes them, so maybe I'll give those a try.

Jun 10, 2020 - 7:25:17 AM



9767 posts since 12/2/2007

I was thinking of Jargar too. I've read about wolf tones but never heard one, so I can't be much help, but you might check the fingerboard for flatness, and the action. Is it possible that its too low for synthetic strings, and something is buzzing?

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