Fiddle strings, bows and rosin questions

Fiddle strings, bows and rosin questions

Hi all, I’ve been doing some practicing for my LC music practical and have to prepare everything myself (my teacher moved and I haven’t gotten a new mentor since). The examiner that usually ends up coming to our school (she’s examined our school’s LC music the past 3 out of 5 years) is a trad player (also fiddle) which means it’ll take more to impress her than the usual examiner who’s clueless abt trad. I have a few questions if you wouldn’t mind giving a hand 🙂

I haven’t changed my strings in abt a year and they sound extremely dull, so I definitely need to get them changed but I have 2 questions. 1) What strings do you recommend (my budget is around the €40-€80 mark I’d prefer a full clean sound but I’m not too picky as long as they’re good strings). And 2) should I restring my fiddle now or closer to my exam date?

My second concern is my bow, I’ve had the same bow for maybe 4 years, never got it restrung as it was a fairly cheap bow (ik ik 4 years is practically criminal). I want to get a new one as it’s very unresponsive and has little to no grip no matter how much rosin I use (probably something to do with the 4 years of playing haha). What should I look for in a new bow? Is €100-ish enough for a good bow? And are the carbon fibre bows any good??

My final question is abt rosin. For the past few years I’ve just been using whatever bits of hidersine have been swimming around the bottom of my case. The last remaining rosin stump is abt the size of 3 10c coins and covered in fluff so I think it’s finally time to buy a new rosin. I’m not sure what differentiates a good rosin from a bad rosin. So my final question is do you have any rosin recommendations???

Any help is appreciated. Thanks so much ☺️

Actually I lied, this is my final question: Do you have any general performance tips? I get very nervous performing on my own, even if it’s just in front of family haha

Re: Fiddle strings, bows and rosin questions

> it’ll take more to impress her

I know this isn’t what you were asking, but honestly, examiners don’t want to be impressed, they just want to see that you have the necessary skills. Don’t be tempted to push the boat out beyond where it needs to be.

> What strings do you recommend

This is an impossible question to answer, but Dominants are probably the safe choice. I use Ascenté which are nicer than the price would suggest.

> should I restring my fiddle now or closer to my exam date?

I’d suggest 7-10 days gives you time to get used to the new sound, lets them stretch, and gives you time should the worst happen and a string breaks (keep your old strings as well, for the same reason!)

> My second concern is my bow

Do you have access to a violin/fiddle place? A better bow does make you a better player but you haven’t got much time, so the first thing I’d do is just go and try bows and see if it makes a difference. It’s also quite likely that a rehair would make a massive difference.

Buying sight unseen is always a risk, but on the advice of someone here (I’ve long forgotten who!) I bought this:

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/CARBON-FIBRE-VIOLIN-BOW-WITH-EBONY-FROG-AND-PARISIAN-EYE-DETAIL-TOP-GRADE-HAIR/184079308654

which is a really decent carbon bow - I have played bows costing ten times that and not noticed a meaningful difference. As for carbon v. wood, lots of carbon bows in orchestras these days, for what its worth.

> What should I look for in a new bow?

If you’re testing them in person, honestly, the best test is - do they make you play better? If you have a terrible bow you might find a really good bow causes you more problems than it solves right now but there will always be an upgrade that magically makes you better (up to a point…)

> I’m not sure what differentiates a good rosin from a bad rosin

It’s a bit personal preference but as a starting point the Hidersine dark rosin is just fine, and a new one would probably help, though if you’ve got enough to last it’s less urgent than the other upgrades you need. A lot of fiddle players like a really grabby rosin, and some use cello rosins instead. You can search the discussions here for "rosin" - it was discussed recently:

https://thesession.org/discussions/45321

> Do you have any general performance tips?

I can sympathise with the getting nervous; I have a heart of stone playing my main instrument in front of a crowd of thousands, or royalty, but if I know someone is hearing me play fiddle the fear kicks in.

The best thing you can do I think is find an audience as often as you can - just grab a family member, pal, teacher, whoever, and just ask them to listen to you play through your programme. And remember the nerves are there to help you, they make you quicker and more perceptive, but you have to learn to ride them, as it were. Good luck!

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Re: Fiddle strings, bows and rosin questions

What Calum says I would agree with completely. The main thing though is it’s an exam. ‘Read the question’ - not a case I would say of trying so much of impressing the examiner as demonstrating you have achieved the level of competency to pass the exam.
Hopefully the examiner should be able to set aside their personal preferences (what ever they maybe) and be able to assess whether you meet the criteria to pass the exam.
So yes, new strings will make a better sound, a good bow will always help - get the best you can afford or save up although it’s not the total answer to playing well,
and, for goodness sake, a block of rosin, really is a no brainer and not expensive. Driving a Ferrari doesn’t make you a better driver….
My advice? Practice, practice, practice, and good luck with the exam.

Re: Fiddle strings, bows and rosin questions

Definitely install the string allowing a few weeks for them to settle. I currently prefer Warshal Amber string, but I experiment all the time. Helicore or Dominants are also a good choice.

I prefer Jade rosin. But its what I’ve always used and see no reason to change.

I play exclusively carbon fiber bows. The latest being a Codabow Luma. I have had good experiences purchasing online from the fiddlershop.com and from johnsonstrings.com

Re: Fiddle strings, bows and rosin questions

@Róisín G

In addition to the good advice from others, might I suggest Corelli Crystal strings, if you are on a budget.

They can sweeten up an otherwise harsh-sounding instrument.

Re: Fiddle strings, bows and rosin questions

With your bow, if it was a cheap bow of the sort that comes with a student violin ‘outfit’ then you can buy a new bow of similar quality for less than the price of a re-hair, and if you get it re-haired it will still be a cheap bow. So my advice would be to think about upgrading to a carbon bow if you can afford it (avoid fibreglass bows), or else get on Ebay for a £20 wooden bow to keep you going until you can afford something better. "No matter how much rosin I use" makes me think the slippiness may be down to using too much rosin rather than too little. Try wiping off as much as you can with a microfibre cloth or bit of old towel, then start again with a dark, or cello rosin.

If you need strings on a budget go to Warchal.com. They will sell you your first set of any of their strings for half price as a trial. Their Karneol are a warm sounding string very similar to Dominants, Ametyst are brighter and more responsive, and if you can afford a bit more Brilliants work very well on almost any fiddle.

Re: Fiddle strings, bows and rosin questions

>> I get very nervous performing on my own

That’s natural, and just means that you care about your craft. It can certainly be a difficult thing to overcome!

I struggled with performance nerves for a long time. Playing in front of people, like at a festival, doesn’t usually bother me too much. For me, it’s performing in front of nothing but other musicians that gets to me, like at camps, etc.

The best way to overcome performance anxiety is to get lots of practice performing in front of people. Busking is one way to do that. But in this case, you probably don’t have time to garner much more experience playing in front of people, so here the one thing that can maybe help. Relax. I know that’s hard, but find ways to center yourself. A few very deep breaths can help. You may not want to do this during the exam, but closing your eyes and focusing directly on the sound coming out of your instrument can help. People will say that you need to shut out all of the distraction, but that’s nearly impossible to do forcibly. It’s like if I say "try not to think of a purple elephant", you’re basically going to think of one. But if you’re focused on your music, there’s less room for the distractions to manifest themselves and affect your performance. Listen to the flow and the rhythm, and be thinking forward instead of backward. If you make a mistake, the common thing to do is fixate on it, but that can lead to a downward spiral. So if you make a mistake, immediately think about what’s coming next in the tune, and try to let go of the past, since there’s nothing you can do about it… This process has taken me years of work, but it does get better! Best of luck!

Re: Fiddle strings, bows and rosin questions

Strings are tricky, because it depends on what you like and what suits your fiddle. I like a reasonably clean, bright, focused sort of sound. I usually go for alphayues near the bottom of your price range. (Maybe a bit below even). Or infeld blues near the top, if I’ve got some extra money or important gigs coming up or something. Sometimes I’ll go for tonicas as well if I can find them.
If you want a richer, darker sound, avoid all the ones I’ve mentioned. Maybe buy infeld reds or Larsen tziganes or something at the top of your price range. At the bottom, I don’t know -like I said I’m not usually looking for that sound. I’ve heard good things about Corelli crystals, mentioned further up in the thread. Preludes are supposed to be in that direction, but I’ve heard they don’t project too well. Never tried them though.
There are good carbon fiber bows out there. No doubt about that. Coda have a good reputation, and I tried one a friend had, and it seemed to work pretty nicely, but I think they’re more expensive than the price range you’re talking about.
A hundred, or a hundred and fifty maybe, should be enough to get you a decent bow. Nothing amazing maybe, but definitely something that works. The best thing is to go to a shop and try lots and lots and see what speaks to you. I like a lighter feeling, and hair that really grabs the string, but not everybody does. Bring rosin to the shop. New bows have usually never been rosined before, so they all feel slippery and crap and don’t pull any sound out of the instrument till they’ve been rosined and played a bit.