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Jul 28, 2022 - 11:47:28 PM

Quincy

Belgium

519 posts since 1/16/2021

I was just wondering, if I feel already so much difference between the old helicore strings I had on my instrument versus the new chromcors, what can be expected from a switch to synthetic strings?
Is it easier to colour your sound with synthetic strings?
Can you put more emotion in your playing when you have synthetic strings?


I read this online:

"The advantages of synthetic strings is that they have the tuning stability and durability of steel strings, but the warm sound and nice finger tip feeling of gut strings. They have a sound with more depth and rich overtones than steel strings."

What do they mean with a warm sound, as opposed to what exactly? What do they mean with a nice finger tip feeling?

Are there many fiddlers preferring synthetic strings?

Jul 29, 2022 - 4:41:36 AM
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14110 posts since 9/23/2009

I'm guessing by warm they mean not screechy and thin, harsh-sounding.

Fiddle strings are expensive...I get whatever i can afford...lol.

Jul 29, 2022 - 5:38:06 AM
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2869 posts since 10/22/2007

1. Make sure the comments are from an entity selling a given string.
2. Strings are a tiny part of your whole sound. Most of that sound is you.

Also, this could mean synthetic core, or fully synthetic? I don't know about fully synthetic strings. Feel I suspect, would have to do with diameter and/or winding or coating. Play as many types of strings as you can. Once upon a time, I had a violin shop that would let me test strings and any violin in the shop.

Jul 29, 2022 - 5:41:12 AM
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2493 posts since 10/1/2008

Well..... It depends. It takes time, as in a few days, for synthetic strings to "settle in". Steel core strings don't require that. Cross tuning, scordatura, is made slightly more difficult with synthetic core strings. I have noticed that synthetic core strings lose their tone a bit faster than steel core strings.... which is my ear and style, your experience may differ. Warmth, one of those words meaning different things to different players . . . . to me the roundness, another one, of the tone ... not as direct ie. focused, more full. There are so many types, gauges, materials and makers that doing a true test would take a decade at least. I settled on silver Dominant brand with a gold E. Have fun wandering through the different types. Concord Musical Supplies has a good cross section of brands and reasonable pricing. R/

Jul 29, 2022 - 5:45:12 AM
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538 posts since 9/1/2010

My opinion is that there is a small percentage of fiddlers that use synthetic. In the old-time community it seems a large percentage use Helicore or Prim. Steel strings simply last longer and withstand the rigors of cross-tuning better. There probably are more using some sort of hybrid vs. straight synthetic. I haven't used synthetic, but I suppose that with them having a softer composition that would also make them easier on the fingers. However, I have never had sore finger tips from playing fiddle all day on steel strings either.

Jul 29, 2022 - 6:10:37 AM
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208 posts since 4/2/2019

I suspect one factor with all the concern about choices of violin strings is that a lot of us are mostly playing at home, alone, and we’re endlessly analyzing the sounds of our strings and violins in that quiet environment. If we were out playing fiddle with old-time groups more often (and I’m not addressing those folks who are in group playing all the time, lol), the harshness or warmth or other impressions of our strings would be less of an issue and instead we'd mostly be concerned about the ability of our sound to fit in with the other instruments and not be drowned out. If you’re playing with a group using steel strings, you would probably gravitate toward that sound. If you were playing with more classical players who are all using synthetics or gut, you'd probably gravitate toward that sound.

When I'm playing with other people, all those tiny differences I hear in my strings sort of disappear and then I'm just worried about how my violin fits in with the overall sound and that my sound is loud enough and doesn't sound too thin.

In the end, your questions about different strings can only be answered by your trying them out yourself. Warning: the search for the "perfect" string can be endless, and the synthetic strings can be quite pricey and generally need to be replaced relatively often.

Edited by - DougBrock on 07/29/2022 06:23:57

Jul 29, 2022 - 7:05:02 AM
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Old Scratch

Canada

1087 posts since 6/22/2016

Quincy "What do they mean with a warm sound" - The trouble with that question is that all these terms such as 'warm', 'round', 'colour', 'flavour', 'fat', 'thin', 'dry', 'wet', applied to sound, are done so because there don't seem to be any more fitting words to use, and that's the best we can do - so we've reached the limits of our vocabulary when we come to 'a warm sound' - from there on, you're on your own, I'm afraid ... !

Edited by - Old Scratch on 07/29/2022 07:06:07

Jul 29, 2022 - 7:38:23 AM
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686 posts since 6/11/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Old Scratch

Quincy "What do they mean with a warm sound" - The trouble with that question is that all these terms such as 'warm', 'round', 'colour', 'flavour', 'fat', 'thin', 'dry', 'wet', applied to sound, are done so because there don't seem to be any more fitting words to use, and that's the best we can do - so we've reached the limits of our vocabulary when we come to 'a warm sound' - from there on, you're on your own, I'm afraid ... !


Yes--I'm still searching for a string set that is bold enough to stand up to a steak, yet has a good nose with a hint of raspberry and finishes well

Jul 29, 2022 - 7:46:33 AM
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108 posts since 9/4/2007

The biggest difference for me is in the use of multiple tunings. When I retune (i.e. from standard to cross-A, and then to drop-D, etc. etc.) steel strings are easier and set in quicker. With synthetics I would retune and then have to keep tuning over a much longer period than I liked until the synthetic strings stabilized. Steel strings do not have that stabilization issue. Since I use at least two tunings every time I pick up the fiddle it was a problem for me so I stay with Prim or Helicore Heavy strings. Synthetics are possibly a bit mellower sounding if that's what you want but tone is always subjective. Go with the sound you like. And if you don't use multiple tunings synthetics should be fine.

Jul 29, 2022 - 2:02:25 PM

Quincy

Belgium

519 posts since 1/16/2021

I like all of these answers. But: I was not planning to use synthetic strings for other tunings than just GDAE, I understood steel strings are my best option when I want to use different tunings.
Between the lines I read somewhere : strings are fun to experiment with, but your sound will always in the first place stay your own sound, whether this is on steel versus synthetic strings. Am I correct? "Most of that sound is you", as farmerjones puts it.

Maybe I expected some kind of magic from synthetic strings. It's good I asked here about synthetic strings.

Jul 29, 2022 - 2:13:50 PM

Quincy

Belgium

519 posts since 1/16/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Old Scratch

Quincy "What do they mean with a warm sound" - The trouble with that question is that all these terms such as 'warm', 'round', 'colour', 'flavour', 'fat', 'thin', 'dry', 'wet', applied to sound, are done so because there don't seem to be any more fitting words to use, and that's the best we can do - so we've reached the limits of our vocabulary when we come to 'a warm sound' - from there on, you're on your own, I'm afraid ... !


So when I tell you I seek a rather hoarse side effect on my sound, you don't understand me?  

I understand fat sound or thin sound, I can imagine this :-)

Jul 29, 2022 - 2:48:10 PM
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Old Scratch

Canada

1087 posts since 6/22/2016

Quincy That's different: 'hoarse' is a word that indicates a sound quality, with no other meaning - same with 'whispery' or 'a growl' ... or 'shrill' or 'squeak'. For 'warm', which is metaphorical - compare the sound of a piccolo with that of an acoustic guitar: the acoustic guitar has a 'warmer' sound, usually. If that helps .......

Jul 29, 2022 - 5:52:52 PM
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DougD

USA

10964 posts since 12/2/2007

Anja - In answer to your questions, they mean "warm" compared to steel strings. Peggy's description is about right - a string with good lows and mids, and not "screechy." However sometimes the same strings are also described as "bright," and I don't see how they can be both, so I just ignore all those descriptions. Nylon is softer and more flexible than steel, so they feel softer under your fingers - kind of like the difference between classical and steel string guitars.
All the different strings out there fall into just four categories, and if you know this it will be easier to experiment.
1. Gut - For hundreds of years, violin strings were made of gut (and some still are) gradually adding metal windings over time. I've bought violins at auction that still had plain gut (unwound) D strings, and when I started playing in the early 1970's I used Pirastro Gold label gut strings. Top classical violinists still prize the sound, but they are very sensitive to temperature and humidity variations, and are very expensive.
2. Solid steel core - Although I think Thomastik claims to have introduced this type in the 1920's I've seen them in catalogs from the 1890's. For a long time these were the only two choices, and many fiddlers preferred steel because they have a quick response, their loud, direct sound carries well at a dance, and they're durable and inexpensive. Examples would be Prim, D'Addario Prelude, Thomastik Precision and your Chromcors.
3. Stranded steel core. Instead of a single wire core, these have several small wires, woven or wrapped in various ways (sometimes called "rope core), resulting in a more flexible feel and maybe a more complex sound than a solid core. Examples would be Thomastik Superflexible and Spirocore, and Pirastro Flexocor-Permanent. Helicore are like this, and are popular because of their relatively warm, complex sound, easy feel under the fingers, and relatively low cost. So from switching from Helicore to Chromcor you went from a more complex to a simpler string, at least in construction.
4. Synthetic core - These usually have a nylon (aka "perlon") core, with metal windings of various kinds. They are supposed to combne the more nuanced sound of gut with the tuning stability of steel. I'd say they are actualky different from either. Thomastik Dominants were the first "plastic" string, introduced c. 1970, which is one reason they are so popular - and also a favorite of teachers, since they are available in fractional sizes. Tonicas are another synthetic string, and they are available from most manufacturers in a wide price range.
One advantage of steel strings is that the action can be set quite low, because the excursion of the string is less than gut or synthetic, which benefit from a little higher action. So to take full advantage of the two types the instrument really should have a little different setup. I think a lot of people ignore this though.
Hope this helps.

Edited by - DougD on 07/29/2022 18:05:11

Jul 29, 2022 - 7:07:13 PM
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686 posts since 6/11/2019

Doug--very well said.

If the subject comes up again, I intend to copy/paste you from the archives, if it's not there already.  With full credit, of course.

Jul 29, 2022 - 7:12:31 PM
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rcc

USA

505 posts since 8/5/2008

I've been fiddling for 17 years now (this time) and I've used synthetic strings the entire time. I've also tried quite a few because I cross-tune a lot so I need synthetic strings that do well in multiple tunings and that settle in quickly when I change tunings.

Yes, you will generally find it easier to produce a wider range of color and sound from synthetic strings. That's why classical players use them instead of steel strings. I say "generally" because fiddles can be picky and some strings will sound wonderful on fiddle A and sound like garbage on fiddle B.

Like steel strings, synthetic strings are different. Dominants will sound and play differently on most fiddles than Obligatos or Visions or Vision Titanium Solos, etc.

Chromcors should give you a more brilliant tone than Helicores, especially old Helicores. A lot of school orchestras use Helicores because they have a warm enough tone and they last.

Classical soloists tend to want a synthetic because they need the broader range of color.

I stuck with synthetics because I like the richer tone they give you.

If I were going to stay in one tuning, I'd definitely look into Obligatos. Unless your fiddle hates them, they're a wonderful string for fiddling. Warm dark tone with a nice sound on the E string.

Synthetic strings typically don't respond to the bow as quickly as steel strings so your bowing may have to change a bit. You also need to play deeper into the string with synthetics to get a good tone. But these are things that you should easily get used to if you switch.

If you want a really fast string, try the Vision Titanium Solos. They're expensive but if your fiddle likes them, they're worth it. And if you ever decide to cross-tune, they're the one synthetic string I've found that stabilizes as quickly as a steel string once you've given them a few days to settle in when you first put them on.

Jul 30, 2022 - 10:19:01 AM
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DougD

USA

10964 posts since 12/2/2007

Anja - Some good advice there from Ray, based on practical experience. I maybe should have included "composite" as another category, but I don't know what that really means, except that a lot of newer synthetic strings have achieved greater volume, projection and brilliance by increasing tension using "composite" materials, which enable you to "dig in" more.
I think there are really two things to consider when choosing strings 1) What matches your instrument best and 2) What suits your own playing style. Some violins "choke" under higher tension strings, and your own bowing and left hand technique might prefer a certain "feel," although as Ray said (and I agree) you can probably adapt.
Not suggesting you should buy strings from this store, but their website is easy to navigate and the descriptions are clear and concise: quinnviolins.com/strings-violin.html
There is also a "string tech" section at the bottom of the page with a lot of useful information.

Edited by - DougD on 07/30/2022 10:24:55

Jul 30, 2022 - 12:25:29 PM
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Quincy

Belgium

519 posts since 1/16/2021

quote:
Originally posted by rcc

I've been fiddling for 17 years now (this time) and I've used synthetic strings the entire time. I've also tried quite a few because I cross-tune a lot so I need synthetic strings that do well in multiple tunings and that settle in quickly when I change tunings.

Yes, you will generally find it easier to produce a wider range of color and sound from synthetic strings. That's why classical players use them instead of steel strings. I say "generally" because fiddles can be picky and some strings will sound wonderful on fiddle A and sound like garbage on fiddle B.

Like steel strings, synthetic strings are different. Dominants will sound and play differently on most fiddles than Obligatos or Visions or Vision Titanium Solos, etc.

Chromcors should give you a more brilliant tone than Helicores, especially old Helicores. A lot of school orchestras use Helicores because they have a warm enough tone and they last.

Classical soloists tend to want a synthetic because they need the broader range of color.

I stuck with synthetics because I like the richer tone they give you.

If I were going to stay in one tuning, I'd definitely look into Obligatos. Unless your fiddle hates them, they're a wonderful string for fiddling. Warm dark tone with a nice sound on the E string.

Synthetic strings typically don't respond to the bow as quickly as steel strings so your bowing may have to change a bit. You also need to play deeper into the string with synthetics to get a good tone. But these are things that you should easily get used to if you switch.

If you want a really fast string, try the Vision Titanium Solos. They're expensive but if your fiddle likes them, they're worth it. And if you ever decide to cross-tune, they're the one synthetic string I've found that stabilizes as quickly as a steel string once you've given them a few days to settle in when you first put them on.


Thank you for telling me about your experience. My instrument  is very brilliant I find (what I wanted in the first place and what I like most for my own fiddle)  and for me the difference between the helicores and chromcors is that the chromcors don't have this metallic sound. In the beginning I liked the metallic sound of the helicores but now I am glad I found an alternative.

Based on your answer, which I  really appreciate, I decided to keep on playing the chromcors till they break / wear out and after these strings I want to give the Vision Titanium Solos a try.  Definitely!

Jul 30, 2022 - 12:47:56 PM
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Quincy

Belgium

519 posts since 1/16/2021

quote:
Originally posted by DougD

Anja - Some good advice there from Ray, based on practical experience. I maybe should have included "composite" as another category, but I don't know what that really means, except that a lot of newer synthetic strings have achieved greater volume, projection and brilliance by increasing tension using "composite" materials, which enable you to "dig in" more.
I think there are really two things to consider when choosing strings 1) What matches your instrument best and 2) What suits your own playing style. Some violins "choke" under higher tension strings, and your own bowing and left hand technique might prefer a certain "feel," although as Ray said (and I agree) you can probably adapt.
Not suggesting you should buy strings from this store, but their website is easy to navigate and the descriptions are clear and concise: quinnviolins.com/strings-violin.html
There is also a "string tech" section at the bottom of the page with a lot of useful information.


Thank you Doug, I can hardly believe all the help I get from the many great fiddlers that are part of the FHO community, without you guys I would be nowhere. You have all been so wonderful.

On the Dutch strings forum the atmosphere is totally opposite, it's like everyone wants to be better than the rest and newbies are being criticized for their enthousiasm, mistakes are seen as an unforgivable sin (it seems forbidden even) and people often act as if I will never get anywhere and seem to constantly send the message "Give up. It's too late for you. Stop trying"

Seriously. Hence my feelings towards the classical world. 

Over here I did find some comprehension though, the guys from the local music store are very supportive!  

Edited by - Quincy on 07/30/2022 12:49:16

Jul 31, 2022 - 9:22:45 AM
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rcc

USA

505 posts since 8/5/2008

Anja - I hope not all classical forums are like the Dutch string forum but I haven't gone looking. I recall maestronet being pleasant but I'm not sure if it's purely classical or a blend.

Anyway, back to your fiddle and strings. I second Doug's recommendation to look at the Quinn Violins string page. It's a great shop (I've dealt with them for years) and those are great descriptions of the typical experience with those strings.  Given that you're in Belgium, it's probably not a great place to buy strings for you but they're a great resource.

Again, I say "typical" because each violin is different and some violins just flat-out don't do well with certain strings and you get an atypical sound of them.

I suspect your instrument doesn't like Helicores because a "metallic" sound is not common with those strings. School orchestras often use them because the typical experience is that you have a steel string with a warm sound like a synthetic string. The sound is not as complex as a synthetic string but that's fine for your average elementary, middle and maybe even high school orchestra.

Another example of fiddle preferences - I used Vision Titanium Solos on my previous fiddle. When I first tried them on my current fiddle, it hated them - they sounded terrible. I wound up using the regular Visions on them with a Larsen E. But my current instrument is new (built in 2006, irrc) and a few years back, as it aged, those Vision strings no longer sounded good. But the Titanium Solos with a Pirastro No 1 E sounded great. And this past year, I realized the E string no longer sounded as good - it was too quiet - so after some experimenting, I now use a Peter Infeld tin-plated E.

The morals of the story are:

1) you don't really know how your fiddle is going to sound with strings until you put them on and wait a few days to make sure they're broken in. You will *likely* get the typical experience that people write about but not always. So unfortunately, trying strings is a trial-and-error kind of thing.

2) if a violin is young, it may change as it ages and the strings that work well with it may change, too. Most people have instruments that are old enough that this isn't an issue but it can be thing with a brand-new instrument.

Another thing worth noting for those following along that might be interested in changing tunings.

The Vision Titanium Solos, once they've had a few days to fully stretch out, behave like steel strings when changing tunings as long as you don't really loosen them up.

But that doesn't guarantee you won't have to retune for a while. Some fiddles have top and bottom plates that are thin enough that even with those strings, the instrument itself will change shape in tiny ways when the string tensions change. It's not enough to see but enough to throw you out of tune until the instrument finally settles in. The tuning on those instruments is likely tend to be more sensitive to temperature and humidity changes, too.

Again, this is from personal experience. My previous fiddle is built like a tank with really thick plates. With Titanium Solos on it, you tune it and it's done. The other is lighter with thinner plates and it takes a few minutes to stabilize when I change tunings, even with Titanium Solos on it.

Edited by - rcc on 07/31/2022 09:24:42

Jul 31, 2022 - 9:28:26 AM
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rcc

USA

505 posts since 8/5/2008

I should add - I like the Vision Titanium Solos because I change tunings a lot.

That rules out strings that have a wonderful sound for fiddling that are terrible when you change tunings. Obligatos are perhaps the poster-child for this. They have a wonderful sound that many fiddle players like (check out the Quinn Violins description and you'll see what I mean) but they are perhaps the very worst string for someone who changes tunings a lot.

Iirc, they took 15 minutes to stabilize when changing tunings.

So not something that I can use even though I loved how they sounded. But if you only use GDAE tuning, they're worth thinking about.

Jul 31, 2022 - 1:34:45 PM
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667 posts since 7/30/2021

I've got Obligatos on and love the sound (luckily with Irish tunes, changing tuning is not really done). I thought the Dominants already sounded really nice, and would be happy to keep using them though...not sure it was worth the extra $$.
The Obligatos added a startling amount of Volume (!!)  now everybody can hear my mistakes quite clearly.laugh

Aug 3, 2022 - 12:45:20 PM
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39 posts since 9/22/2021

I've been fiddling for 25 years. Almost exclusively on synthetic strings, no cross tuning. There's nothing that says you can't use synthetics for fiddle. I know plenty of other fiddle players who don't use steel.

Aug 10, 2022 - 6:44:53 PM
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2146 posts since 12/11/2008

During my early days of fiddling I followed my teacher David Bragger's lead and used steel strings. Part of it was the intensity steel strings produce. More importantly it was that you could quickly re-tune your instrument to the various OT tunings without worrying if a string would break.

Every week there would be a jam or two where the jam leader would announce a tuning change from say, Standard to Cross-A. All us in-the-know fiddlers would instantly start twiddling our tuning pegs and use our fine tuners to home in on the desired pitches.

It is also easier to get pleasing...or at least decent...tone from steel strings than it is with the synthetics.

Aug 16, 2022 - 7:28:39 AM
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Earworm

USA

423 posts since 1/30/2018

To me, the question about strings is: "is there something wrong, or lacking with the strings you currently have?" If not, sit tight and enjoy what you have.

There are many fiddle / violin strings out there that promise to tie your shoes and polish your car, they have so many features. If you've only recently switched to Chromcor's, at least try them out fully. You have all the years of your life to get it right. You can afford to be patient.

Oct 15, 2022 - 3:31:48 PM
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224 posts since 3/13/2008

I have tried various synthetic strings and they do have a nice tone that is less harsh than steel strings. However synthetic strings generally require more tuning (especially when new) and lack the response of steel strings.
If you play a variety of fiddle styles I would recommend D'addario Helicores (medium). They tune up immediately, have a clear tone, and have a rapid response. I also think you will find they work well for double-stops and cross-tuning. For the money you would be hard-pressed to find a better string.
If you are determined to try a synthetic I would recommend Pirastro Tonica. I tried the pricier ones and liked the Tonicas just as well.
Fiddling Bill

Oct 15, 2022 - 5:50:13 PM

2146 posts since 12/11/2008

I've gone through my share of hardware and I've found that the more inexpensive fiddle/bow combos need the more trebly, intense tone of steel strings in order to sing out, while the more expensive the fiddle-bow combos can better take advantage of the luscious tone that a really good synthetic string can deliver.

By the same token, though, it's significantly easier to get at least decent tone out of a steel string.  Synthetic strings, by contrast, can take genuine coaxing/finesse to produce a sound you crave.

Edited by - Lonesome Fiddler on 10/15/2022 17:58:28

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