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Oct 19, 2023 - 2:51:43 PM
6 posts since 9/19/2023

Is there a preferred type or brand of strings for fiddling (vs violin playing)? I know that there's more to fiddle vs violin then the repetoire but i'm just getting into it and would appreciate some guidance or suggestions.

Oct 19, 2023 - 3:12:45 PM
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837 posts since 8/10/2017

I just put on some $90 fancy schmancy violin strings and they are great. And the local violin maker/Swedish, Irish and American fiddler friend of mine noticed and said they're the same strings he uses.

Oct 19, 2023 - 4:07:18 PM

2576 posts since 10/1/2008

Well…. It’s about tone. A metal core string is brighter tonally than a fiber core string. Then the windings are composed of different metal alloys. What music you wish to play will influence which type of string and which gauge you decide to use. Each fiddle will have it’s own characteristics in tone and touch. D’Addario Helicore strings for a metal core string or Thomastic Dominant for a fiber core string are two good places to begin your string search. Enjoy the journey. R/

Oct 19, 2023 - 5:58:54 PM
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1356 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by MikeWillner

Is there a preferred type or brand of strings for fiddling (vs violin playing)? I know that there's more to fiddle vs violin then the repetoire but i'm just getting into it and would appreciate some guidance or suggestions.


There isn't really a preferred brand. A lot of fiddlers use Helicores, Prims, or Chromcores, but just as many use other sets. Some steel sets are marketed to fiddlers, but that doesn't really mean very much.

Strings provide the easiest change in sound, because they allow one to make changes without having to risk messing up the setup. You get what you pay for--the higher quality (and therefore more expensive sets) offer a much wider range of colors and a much better projection, as they are designed to carry unamplified in huge concert halls. There are decent quality sets that aren't expensive, but the cheap sets can really make an instrument sound like a tin can. 

Oct 20, 2023 - 6:01:15 AM
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10 posts since 3/3/2023

I mean there is really no difference. Strings are strings and like people have said it's more about preferred tone. I use Thomastik Dominates on all strings except my E on which I use a Pirastro Oliv because it isn't as harsh. I like strings with a warmer tone, and I have observed that's what most fiddlers prefer- as opposed to the classical violinists who tend to prefer a brighter, louder sound. It also depends on your fiddle, some strings sound better on other fiddles and worse on others.

Oct 20, 2023 - 6:33:35 AM
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Earworm

USA

522 posts since 1/30/2018

Well for starters, you're about as likely to get everyone to agree on what car to drive. People use different strings for different reasons on different instruments to play different music for different ears. Find something you like well enough, and stick with it while your skills develop. Then you'll be more tuned into precisely what you need.

If you change tunings with any regularity, you will likely find that steel core strings are your best bet. Steel strings also have faster response for faster playing, and they last longer. Synthetic core strings have their advantages too, but they don't stand up well to retuning.  Also don't believe everything you hear. If you really want to know, you just have to try stuff out.

Edited by - Earworm on 10/20/2023 06:35:13

Oct 20, 2023 - 8:05:05 AM
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boxbow

USA

2774 posts since 2/3/2011

I liked Prims. They're a good price. They sound good. They last. They're steel, so they handle changes a little better. As a beginner those were all pretty big priorities. I'm now willing to indulge myself a bit. I've just gone to synthetics and I haven't had any issues. I doubt that I sound all that much better.

Oct 20, 2023 - 8:17:12 AM
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DougD

USA

11721 posts since 12/2/2007

Might mention that synthetic core strings were not available until about 1970 (Dominant were the first, one reason for their continued popularity). Before that the choices were gut (how I started) or steel core. Between the two, steel are much more manageable and affordable for the average "folk" fiddle player. Consequently, most of the "classic" "old time" music was played and recorded on steel strings. There are many more choices today, but I'm not sure that the expensive synthetic strings are so well suited for that style of music, or the instruments used.

Oct 20, 2023 - 9:52:19 AM
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1356 posts since 3/1/2020

It’s a complete myth that fiddles and violins are different instruments, and therefore, the selection of strings should be based on sound quality, not necessarily the genre. Steel is less elastic than perlon, so it can hold pitch a little better, but it requires much higher tension. As a result, steel and steel core sets are significantly brighter than synthetic sets, and astronomically more so than gut or wound gut.

Fiddlers often do like the sound of darker instruments, but this may be the result of using strings that are so overly bright that it takes a very dark instrument to counteract that excess. Violin shops tend to reject violins that are over 360 mm in length because they sound too bass-heavy when set up with synthetic strings.

It’s also a myth that steel strings are longer lasting, a claim I see made frequently. Helicores have the highest failure rate of any strings I’ve ever seen. At a shop where I once worked, Helicores and preludes were the standard strings for the rental instruments because they were so cheap. The problem was that the rental program covered strings in their maintenance plan, and the shop was bleeding money constantly by using strings that failed all the time. I convinced the owner to switch to Alphayue, a synthetic set developed by Thomastik for student instruments, and the replacement issues evaporated overnight. Cheap strings are a false economy.

Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 10/20/2023 09:59:20

Oct 20, 2023 - 11:46:22 AM

2536 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

It’s a complete myth that fiddles and violins are different instruments, and therefore, the selection of strings should be based on sound quality, not necessarily the genre. Steel is less elastic than perlon, so it can hold pitch a little better, but it requires much higher tension. As a result, steel and steel core sets are significantly brighter than synthetic sets, and astronomically more so than gut or wound gut.

Fiddlers often do like the sound of darker instruments, but this may be the result of using strings that are so overly bright that it takes a very dark instrument to counteract that excess. Violin shops tend to reject violins that are over 360 mm in length because they sound too bass-heavy when set up with synthetic strings.

It’s also a myth that steel strings are longer lasting, a claim I see made frequently. Helicores have the highest failure rate of any strings I’ve ever seen. At a shop where I once worked, Helicores and preludes were the standard strings for the rental instruments because they were so cheap. The problem was that the rental program covered strings in their maintenance plan, and the shop was bleeding money constantly by using strings that failed all the time. I convinced the owner to switch to Alphayue, a synthetic set developed by Thomastik for student instruments, and the replacement issues evaporated overnight. Cheap strings are a false economy.


Steel strings are pretty variable in how long they last in my experience. From what I can tell it has to do with wrappings. I have quite a bit of experience with both Helicores and Prims and the former wear out especially fast, especially the aluminum A string. On the other hand I've never had a Prim string break that I recall. Some fiddlers do like "dark" sounding fiddles, but most fiddlers like the power of steel strings, so your notion that fiddlers like darker instruments to balance the brighter steel strings might be right for some fiddlers. Could be the harsh sound next to your ear that fiddlers try to avoid by choosing "darker" sounding instruments.

Oct 20, 2023 - 11:52:24 AM

6 posts since 9/19/2023

So if I'm looking for that darker sound what strings should I consider?

Oct 20, 2023 - 12:09:37 PM
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2536 posts since 8/27/2008

I only have experience with steel strings. And I vote for Prims.

Oct 20, 2023 - 5:18:38 PM
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1356 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by MikeWillner

So if I'm looking for that darker sound what strings should I consider?

In increasing darkness:

Warchal Amber

Dominant

Obligato

Gut (Eudoxa, Passione, Gamut, Aquila, etc.)

Oct 20, 2023 - 7:54:48 PM

856 posts since 6/11/2019

I'm not sure if "dark" = "warm" but for either adjective I vote for Pro Arte'.

Need to play a little deeper into the string, but for a loud or harsh instrument you can't beat the price to tame it. More economical than Obligato, which I can't really justify, unless it's my birthday, or something.

Oct 21, 2023 - 6:05:01 AM
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RobBob

USA

2974 posts since 6/26/2007

I've tried a wide variety of strings over the decades. I am a fiddler and I want strings that sound good and last. So it is Jargar or Prim strings.

Oct 21, 2023 - 6:43:22 AM

1356 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Flat_the_3rd_n7th

I'm not sure if "dark" = "warm" but for either adjective I vote for Pro Arte'.

Need to play a little deeper into the string, but for a loud or harsh instrument you can't beat the price to tame it. More economical than Obligato, which I can't really justify, unless it's my birthday, or something.


Pro-Arte is a fairly high-tension string (even higher than Vision Solo Ti and PI), and I would put it in the "bright" category.

Obligatos are pricey. I'm not a huge fan of the violin set because they don't carry at all, but they do provide a good amount of color if you're in a small room and don't need to project. For viola they're hard to beat, but the violin set disappoints. 

Oct 21, 2023 - 10:09:44 AM

6 posts since 9/19/2023

Looks like I'll be trying Prim and Pro Arte. Thanks for all the input.

Oct 21, 2023 - 10:27:34 AM
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34 posts since 9/20/2007

Steel strings are way more easy to work with if you change tunings during a session.
Also, my 2 cents, they seem to take multiple cross tunings better.
Anytime you do a drastic tuning change to, for example, sawmill tuning, everything goes out of tune. Steel strings come back to intonation easier.

Oct 21, 2023 - 12:48:32 PM

2404 posts since 12/11/2008

I've found that, though I like the sound of synthetic strings a whole lot more, if I got to tune the G and D strings up to A and E I gotta go with steel strings. After you've broken a couple of synthetic strings in your quest to twist 'em to higher pitches, you just give up on it.

Oct 21, 2023 - 1:05:29 PM
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DougD

USA

11721 posts since 12/2/2007

Another string that's sometimes considered "warmer" are Helicore. I think the titanium A string lasts longer than the aluminum.
I see that you're looking for a teacher. You might want to wait till you find one and see what strings they might recommend.

Oct 21, 2023 - 8:43:34 PM
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3555 posts since 9/13/2009

Besides materiel/wrapping, tension plays a role. There are some charts such as this from from Shar that help consider different qualities... Direct vs subtle, smooth vs textured, warm vs brilliant.  There are also aspects of responsiveness, quickness, attack, transients bite, cut, mid-forward vs scooped; how fit within the mix of other instruments. Many fiddling styles, is as a lead instrument; might bit of direct, aggressiveness; tight lows; cut; that steel core provide... that steel core provide... as opposed to the blending, texture and dynamic nuances that an orchestral player would.

or this one

Oct 22, 2023 - 1:13:11 AM
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1356 posts since 3/1/2020

Helicores are higher in tension than Evah Pirazzi, which is about the brightest synthetic set you can get, so they’re anything but warm. Helicores are quick to respond and have a flatter sound, so they have a sharp edge without being quite as strident as the other steel sets that are even higher tension.

There’s a bit of a misconception about orchestral musicians that they all want neutral strings that don’t have a lot of power. That’s certainly NOT the case. Professional orchestral musicians quite often use “soloist” sets on their instruments even if they aren’t playing any solos. Projection is vital for orchestral musicians to be able to be heard in concert halls without amplification.

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