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 Post subject: Re: Fiddle strings?
PostPosted: Thu Jun 13, 2013 7:49 pm 
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Speaking as a luthier, who sells strings, re-strings instruments daily, and has tried most strings on the market, I have a few suggestions. As with all things, string choice is personal and highly subjective, and what I (or anyone) likes may not be universal. **And to clarify, I am talking here about strings I'd recommend for someone doing fiddle style music, be it folk, Irish, bluegrass, etc.**

I recommend Thomastic Dominant strings or Thomastic Vision for a great mid-range price set (my shop sells them for about $60 a set). They don't 'stretch' as much as other strings, and are pretty stable. They provide a really nice, even tone with good projection, and respond well to complex bow strokes and articulations. They last a good long time (as far as strings go), and even after they start to go 'dull' they still provide decent tone. All in all: not too bright, not too dark, they hold tuning well, have a longer than average lifespan, and don't break the bank.

For something more expensive, I'd steer you towards Priastro Obligato strings. They're pricy (about $100 a set), but worth it in my opinion. Pirastro strings (in my experience) take longer to settle and stretch than many other brands, and will need to be fine tuned more than some brands, but it's a worth-it payoff, and learning to tune and fine tune is good for you :) Obligatos offer a nice big, round tone without being 'tinny' or obnoxious. They're refined in sound, and for fiddle style seem (to my ear) to replicate that nice old warm fiddle sound (not the 'swarm of bees' effect). If you're looking to splurge, give 'em a try.

The most inexpensive type I'd put my name behind are Pirastro Tonicas, at about $45 a set. I've currently got my favorite fiddle strung with these. Again, they take time to settle and don't hold tuning forever, but offer good ballance across the treble and bass. For fiddle music, I find it important to have a set of strings that doesn't sound whiney on the E and like farts on the G, but it ballanced across the range. This is especially true when recording, and in a session setting, your fellow players will enjoy this as well as yourself, as it's easier to hear the group and predict your own ballance within it. Great utilitarian strings with a really nice tone and longevity. I've had this set on my fiddle for 3 months, and play at least an hour a day (more sometimes, certainly more at gigs) and they are just now starting to lose some of their luster.

I'd steer away from anything Super-Sensitive brand, Chinese 'brand-x' mass=produced strings that come on a lot of outfits purchased from Amazon or Ebay or similar, and Helicores. Super-Sensitive has never produced a string I've liked playing, and although they have a decent life-span, I couldn't stand to have that sound coming from my fiddle for more than a few seconds anyway. Helicore strings are fine strings, but are very low tension, so they are very suceptible to humidity changes and even the slightest whisper across a fine-tuner on the tailpiece can make a jump in pitch of more than 10 cents as they age. They're nice for cello and viola (I used them on my viola in college) but not for fiddling.

One other thing to always keep in mind is the fiddle itself. If the pegs are creaky or improperly fitting, tuning is always going ot be a bear, no matter what strings you use. Similarly, fine tuners or no fine tuners tailpiece side can help tuning, but also dull the tone of a fiddle noticably, and are a hot bed of rattling noises if not installed well. The position of the soundpost is a huge factor in sound, one I could talk about for days, as is the position of the bridge relative to it and it's height, etc. If you're having troubles with your sound, it may not be the strings alone. Pop in to your local luthier, and they (should) be able to offer advice about how to tweak the sound of your instrument.

Anyway, that's just my $.02. I'd be happy to give my impressions about specific brands and labels if anyone's curious, or different adjustments.

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 Post subject: Re: Fiddle strings?
PostPosted: Fri Jun 14, 2013 7:47 pm 
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Im with ben here, get the best quality string you can afford . I stick with Pirastro Eudoxa with the aluminium wound top E . Its really the best string I have found, I tried a few gold plated strings but Eudoxa are my first choice, I buy a wad of them at a time so I never run out. Good strings will make a cheap fiddle sound good and poor strings will make a good instrument sound.. poor.
Gut strings have a tone and richness of quality that is unequalled IMO. Ive tried various pirastro synthetics and theyre not for me. The Tonica , as mentioned, are a good choice If Eudoxa are out of yr price range. i get mine from go-strings. Id still use the wound top E though whatever else I have on. At a pinch any quality gut string will do me.

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Heres a few tunes round a table, first three sets;

http://soundcloud.com/fiddlerwill/werty
http://soundcloud.com/fiddlerwill/jigs-willie
http://soundcloud.com/fiddlerwill/jigs


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 Post subject: Re: Fiddle strings?
PostPosted: Sat Jun 22, 2013 11:05 pm 
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lordofthestrings wrote:

Anyway, that's just my $.02. I'd be happy to give my impressions about specific brands and labels if anyone's curious, or different adjustments.


I changed the strings my cheap fiddle (Stentor) came with to Tonicas because it was available when I was looking. Later on I also bought a spare set of Thomastik Dominants as a "spare set" and also just in case any of the strings snap. The Tonicas took a while to settle down .... I haven't tried the Dominants yet, but do you reckon it'll take less time to settle than the Tonicas, or are they about the same?


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 Post subject: Re: Fiddle strings?
PostPosted: Sun Jun 23, 2013 5:15 pm 
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psychih wrote:
lordofthestrings wrote:

Anyway, that's just my $.02. I'd be happy to give my impressions about specific brands and labels if anyone's curious, or different adjustments.


I changed the strings my cheap fiddle (Stentor) came with to Tonicas because it was available when I was looking. Later on I also bought a spare set of Thomastik Dominants as a "spare set" and also just in case any of the strings snap. The Tonicas took a while to settle down .... I haven't tried the Dominants yet, but do you reckon it'll take less time to settle than the Tonicas, or are they about the same?


You'll probably find they take a little less time to 'fall in line' and stop stretching, but I feel they stretch a little more slowly and not as much as Tonicas overall. Tonicas (to me) have seemed to stretch out a good deal, and during an initial 'break-in' of half an hour or so of fairly aggressive playing, I have to re-tune up the Tonicas more than the Dominants. Some of this depends slightly on the instrument as well; some violins may 'sink' a little more when getting strung up, and thus need more adjusting, and some violins (usually older, well played, well maintained and well made) resist 'sinking' or yeilding to new strings of varrying tensions.

To minimize tuning woes when changing strings, I always recommend changing one string at a time. If one must remove all strings at once for some reason (perhaps to clean the instrument), one had better be confident in their ability to re-set the bridge in its proper place and alignment (not as straightforward as it looks) and have full faith that their soundpost is well fit and in its proper place, otherwise one will find oneself out of comission until a knowledgable luthier can get it re-set correctly, again not as straightforward as one may think.

Similarly, strings will resist stretching on the pegs some if you 'cross over' the string on itself around the peg. Thread the tip into the peg hole, and wind it away from the peg head a few turns, then pull the string towards the peg head so it crosses over itself and finishes winding toward the peg head and pegbox wall. The closer you can wind the string toward the pegbox wall on the peg head side, the more evenly it will pull on the peg, easing how the peg turns during tuning, and prolonging the peg life from turning the peg or pegbox holes from going eliptical over time. Finally, rub a tiny bit of no.2 pencil lead in the nut and bridge slots to minimize friction, prolong string life, and help keep the string from pulling the bridge over while tuning up.

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 Post subject: Re: Fiddle strings?
PostPosted: Sun Jun 23, 2013 9:55 pm 
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Thank you very much =) especially on the advice with the pegs.


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 Post subject: Re: Fiddle strings?
PostPosted: Mon Jun 24, 2013 12:44 pm 
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psychih wrote:
Thank you very much =) especially on the advice with the pegs.


No problem! Always happy to share :)

Here's actually a youtube video I recorded about changing strings for the violin shop I work for back in December. There's a few other videos like this I made with them as well about common violin topics as well. I'll throw them up on a seperate thread.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yP65hmy6c7E

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 Post subject: Re: Fiddle strings?
PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2013 1:06 pm 
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Excellent advice from the lord there , :thumbsup: Never take all the strings off at once, you might even dislodge the soundpost if you did :shock: What i would add is that if you leave the old e string on for a couple of days you can use that as your reference point for tuning, then change it a bit later. a bit of Soap, or peg dope helps the pegs turn better for tuning . happy fiddlin!

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Heres a few tunes round a table, first three sets;

http://soundcloud.com/fiddlerwill/werty
http://soundcloud.com/fiddlerwill/jigs-willie
http://soundcloud.com/fiddlerwill/jigs


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