Strings for the fiddle

Strings for the fiddle

What a good site this is. I’ve managed to get hold of the dots for a tune I’ve been working on, I’ve found the discussion on rosin most interesting and helpful. Although I’ve played guitar since I was in my teens I mostly stick to the fiddle these days. I use dominant strings usually. I’ve tried other strings but keep comming back to the dominants as they seem to suit me and the fiddle I play. What other strings do people use, how often are they changed. I always wipe off the rosin from the strings after playing using a cloth reseved for this,. I use a separate cloth for cleaning the rosin from the fiddle.

Daver

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Re: Strings for the fiddle

Daver, I used Thomastik Dominants strings for years, then switched to medium gauge D’Addario Helicore (metal core) and found they last longer, give more volume, and are just as warm in tone. After two years on the Helicore, I’ve recently been playing on Pirastro’s, both their Evah Pirazzi strings, and Obligato’s, both synthetic cores like the Dominants (and all medium gauge).

You’re right, of course, that you have to go with the brand that best suits your fiddle and your playing style (bow attack, pressure, etc). If you like the Dominants, try the Pirazzi’s or Obligato’s…you may be pleasantly surprised. The Pirazzi’s take a week to settle in (they sound good during this period) before sounding as lush as they’re capable of. I’ve never liked the Dominant E string—but the Pirazzi and Obligato sets are terrific, without having to mix and match individual strings.

Will

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Has anyone tried the D’Addario Zyex? We started out with the dominants, tried the Corelli Crystal and are now on the Zyex. These strings take less than a day to settle and seem to hold their tuning in all types of conditions (outside, inside, winter and summer). We have 3 fiddles that are played constantly, so the strings are a major expense in this household. One of our fiddlers uses a strong bow attack etc. and when he gets into one of those tunes you are guaranteed that an E string will break. The Zyex E seems to be stronger than some of the other E’s out there but he still broke 4 strings between July and September. Any suggestions for this problem.

Suggestions

(1) switch to the whistle.
(2) learn to love the sound you can get out of the other 3 strings.
🙂

Re: Strings for the fiddle

Switching to the whistle would certainly be cheaper.

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That’s one of the reasons i picked up the flute (i used to play guitar back then): no strings, no reeds.

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I’m dying to try the Zyex. Scott led a whole big discussion on strings not too long ago on one of the other lists (that I used to be on! *grin*). I haven’t been able to afford to try them recently though, having been unemployed and trying to catch up, but it looks like this may be the month I get to try them!

Um. Fiddlers3 — has he tried letting up a little on the bow attack? Heh. He could attach a little sign to his bridge facing him with a dollar sign on it to remind him…hehehe

Did anyone get the e-mail that went round not too terribly long ago about the violinist — was it Stern? — who broke an E string in the first few measures of a performance and played the entire thing without it? It sounds like it was an amazing performance. My e-mail has been down (if any of you have been trying to get hold of me, you’ll note that it bounces) and I’m working at getting it back, I’m pretty sure I archived that e-mail, I’ll try to find it.

Zina

Re: Strings for the fiddle

Paganini used to break strings on purpose as part of his show - he’d end up with only the G string, wailing away. But then, he WAS the Eddy Van Halen of the violin. 🙂

Hmm, G-string, huh?

Are we still talking music? 🙂

Re: Strings for the fiddle

fiddlers3: where are the strings breaking? If they always break at the nut, then it is a good indication that the groove in the nut needs attention; likewise at the bridge.

I am a little overwhelmed with fiddly things at the momemt, and will get back on this thread in the next day or so. Zina, can’t say that I arrived at anything definitive on the string thing, but will post on that later.

Best,
Scott

Re: Strings for the fiddle

Used Dominants for about 15 years, and every once in a while, I would get a set of strings that were ‘dead’. They lacked the usual brightness (I like a bright string), sometimes had visible corrosion on the g-string. Check out the g-string when you take it out of the package. Music stores are very reluctant to replace strings once the package has been opened. They tend to want to offer a replacement set of a much cheaper brand. The only defense against a tarnished string is to open the strings in the store, in front of the clerk, before paying for them! Well….. I just don’t have the patience for that kind of thing. (I am getting old and cranky, remember?) I have had tarnished g strings from almost every store in my city, so it is a widespread problem, but I only run inot it occasionally.

Last June, I got two sets that were very bad, so bad in fact, that I noticed a drop in repeat business. I changed to Zyex, and business returned to normal, but I didn’t like the tone of the Zyex. They are dark, and they are not as responsive as a good set of Dominants. They do stay in tune extremely well. Even though I swore that I would never use Dominants again, I have them back on my fiddle.

One brand that I will try in the near future is Helicore. A lot of people like them, and get a great sound with them. So, I am going try them to see if I can get good results on my fiddle.

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scotty: The string is breaking between the bridge and the nut. The problem is in all likelyhood too much pressure on a thin string. But if anyone knows of any stronger strings please pass it on. The suggestion of less pressure when playing is fine but - is in the same league of dancing fine ballet steps to the tune "Suicide Polka" - can"t be done with this fiddler when he gets into the music.

Scotty - why don’t you get your strings from Shar’s or Sound Post in Toronto. They mail them to you either cheap or no charge (I believe that its free with orders over $50.00 - not hard for strings). They replace them should there be a problem with them.

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Scott, if you switch to the Helicore, you’ll want fine tuners on every string if you don’t have the malready. The metal core is much more sensitive, so it takes only a little tweak to jump around in pitch. Tuning with pegs quickly becomes frustrating.

I played Helicores for about two years and did really like them. They produce a bright, clear tone, stay in tune very well, and push back when you lean on ‘em during those brawls with 15 guitarists and a dozen bodhrans. I used the medium gauge, tried the lights once and did not like them, and suspect that the heavy gauge would be as good or better than the mediums.

And if you want to keep your Dominant synthetic core feel, I can’t recommend the Evah Pirazzi’s enough. After using these, I would never go back to Dominants.

Fiddler3, you might try the Helicore heavies for your string breaker—metal core, heavy-gauge e strings don’t break easily, and the Helicore is a top-notch string. If he’s playing that hard, you may also want to get the fingerboard planed and dressed—if it has grooves or bumps in it (as they all do eventually), this can lead to premature string failure.

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I believe different strings work best on- different fiddles - you just have to experiement around with them. Through the years I have tried many brands in the medium category. About 4 or 5 years ago I had a nice chat with James Price (bluegrass fiddler with Ralph Stanley) about strings. Now this guy plays everyday for a very large part of the day, and his string replacement time is (I forget) something like every 2, 3, or 4 weeks. He indicated that he tried all the brands, but for his $30,000 old french fiddle, and the amount of playing he does, that the D’Addario Helicore (medium) worked best for him. He gave me a set and said to try them to see if they worked for me.
Well, I put those strings on, and I was amazed: hardly any break-in time (within an hour) they have an even, beautiful warm tone (to my ears) on all four strings. Now, they may be lousy on some fiddles, but worked great for me. So, I don’t want to say, If you haven’t tried a set, maybe you should try one, So, I won’t say that.
Cheers Carl

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Just for the record, I use Prim Mediums. A Texas Swing player by the name of Dale Morris (great player) does the setups on many fiddles in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and he recommends them for everybody. Prim’s are steel strings, and have a lot of volume, which I happen to like. Any thoughts on this brand of string (as compared to others)?

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I switched to Prim strings a few years ago now and I like them a lot.
They settle down quickly ,don’t often break and are at the cheaper end of the scale.
If they suit your instrument and the sound you’re looking for, they’re a good buy.
Dave

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I like Prims — I used them as a violist many many years back. I also liked the Helicores. Both sounded nice on my fiddle. I’m still waiting to try the Zyex — I like a darker tone, a throwback to my viola days, I guess.

zls

Re: Strings for the fiddle

I like Prims for a inexpensive steel core string—-they have a surprisingly warm sound, stay in tune and last forever. Even warmer are the D’Addario Helicores….I’ve used the medium guage and like them, but fiddlers rave about the heavy-guage and I haven’t been able to get them through Shar (the fastest cheapest string suppliers in my books). I tend to order my E string separately though—-I really favour the Pirastro Gold E…no squeaks. And then once in a while I’ll go back to the rich dark sound of the Dominants, although I don’t find them as quick and responsive as the steel core. I’m tempted to try the Evah Pirazzi now….Has anybody tried the Pirastro Aricore?

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Re: Strings for the fiddle

Fiddlers3: If your killer player is using Dominants with a wound E the problem might lie in worn windings plus the nut and finger board problems cited by Will Harmon. I would geuss that your man also bears down pretty hard with his fingering,that and a high action might also contribute to the breakage scenario.
I tried the D’Addario Helicore(Heavy Tension) after using Dominants for years and it took me awhile to get used to the sound. I have a very mellow sounding fiddle with a very heavy back plate and the D’Arririo’s were recommended to increase my volume. I ordered two sets and had problems with the peg box end of the G’s unwinding during installation. I swiched to Thomastic Spirocores on the next change and the volume was OK, but the sound is kind of harsh so I might give the Helicores another shot.
I have gotten strings from Southwest Strings in Tuscon,AZ for about ten years and have never found better prices. String only orders over $30 are shipped free.

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Re: Strings for the fiddle

One very solid vote here for the Helicores. I hardly ever need to tune my fiddle since I put those puppies on. In fact, I put them on in a panic the day before a festival, and when I took the fiddle out for the show, they were still perfectly in tune. Likewise at the end of the show. I have the fine tuners on every string, but I hardly ever need to touch them. They still sound as bright as the day I put them on. I have long been a devotee of D’Addario guitar strings as well. Each Helicore string is composed of a different alloy to best resonate the range of notes it is capable of. Because of this, it pays to be extra careful to follow the color code instructions when you put them on, because (I discovered) it’s easy to get the A and E strings confused. (I used to just squish the strings to see which one went where - the A string squishes easier than the E. It’s counter-intuitive.)

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"Squish" the string? Would you care to enlighten us on the technical method you use to "squish" a string? *giggle*

zls

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You know - the time honored squishee method of string placement. Where you take two strings out in their nice, tidy loops, squish them beside one another to see which one goes where? Am I the only person who does this?

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I would really like to find a cheaper steel rope core steel string. I have used Helicores for years. They are great, stay in tune and suit lots of different fiddles. My problem is the A string shredding at the B note in first position. I have loads of spare Ds and Gs, they never seem to wear out. I love Spirocore but the cost is high. I have used Alice 747 synthetic strings and think they are great for classical violin. Easily better than Dominants for about £15 a set but they don’t suit my style. I really like the flexibility of Helicores due to the fact that they are not solid steel core but rope. Any ideas? I hope the Chinese will come up with a rope core but so far I haven’t found any.