String Instruments & Accessories

Blog

October 13, 2017

My peg needs replacement – what do I do?

My peg needs replacement – what do I do?

This comment was occasioned when this week I received two rather tart complaints that the pegs we supplied ‘didn’t fit’ the violin! This is despite the fact that we publicise that replacement pegs come as blanks and have to be properly fitted to the violin. Every violin peg hole, often due to wear, is different and there cannot be an off-the-peg solution (forgive the pun!). This comment also applies to the fine tune pegs by Wittner even though these come in different sizes – some fitting is always needed.

Your peg for some reason has snapped and a replacement is obviously needed. If the instrument is of any value the most sensible option is to get your luthier or your nearest good music shop to match and replace it – it is a craftsman’s job. This is simply down to the fact that not only are there many different designs of pegs, but also the exact fitting to your instrument is beyond the average skill of a do-it-yourselfer. The Luthier has professional tools, such as peg reamers to exactly match up the taper of the peg to the taper of the peg hole. This is the critical part because ill-fitting pegs either slip badly or simply refuse to turn smoothly, which leads once again to a broken peg.

Of equal importance is the hole drilled through the peg which takes the inserted winding end of the string. If the peg is inserted too far into the peghole, the drilled hole will be too close to the pegbox cheek, or even disappear entirely. This renders the correct winding of the string impossible and does also lead to strings snapping.

Still want to try, or perhaps, as I often hear ‘Grandpa knows about woodwork’?  Here are some tips on drilling the hole:

  1. Once the taper is correct, insert the peg in as far as it would nromally go and mark the exact spot you wish to drill
  2. Using a clamp, (not your hand) stabilize the peg and drill the new hole through, using a 1/16” wood bit. Go slowly or you may crack the peg.
  3. Reinsert and check for fit
  4. Some cheaper G strings are quite fat so that the hole may need to be a bit bigger!
  5. Replace the string winding it on correctly in parallel loops without overlapping
Sticky
0
October 06, 2017

Cello floor stops or floor anchors?

Cello floor stops or floor anchors. What’s your preference?

Cello floor stops are an ongoing a problem for many Cellists.

You can, of course, simply insist on the sharp endpin directly onto the carpet or floor – but many venues take a dim view of that and then you also have hard tile or marble floors. Cello ferrules are a handy alternative and Wolf have a superior rubber ball, the Super endpin, that fits over the endpin, but generally something more is needed. So, what is your next best option?

There are a great many designs and models on the market and each has a following. Here are the options:

Free-standing Rock Stop types: These floor stops are small rubber or plastic objects which fit easily into a case or music bag – unfortunately they are also easy to mislay or lose. Most famous and most popular is the Dychem Black hole, a little rubber doughnut shaped stop. These can in time lose their traction or stickiness. An alternative is the very similar ‘Rock stop. More modern designs such as the three-footed spaceship shaped Viva is made from polycarbonate with a metal cup for the endpin, replaceable feet, and a variety of colours, and the ‘Stoppin’. The thing to watch here to prevent your Cello flying off at a tangent is to avoid dirty floors, or at least give the floor stop a good wipe before each performance

Cello anchors that connect to a chair: These anchors have the advantage of not slipping too far away while you are playing. The single-strapped Xeros is popular and consists of a two-inch-wide adjustable strap with a ‘D’ring for the chair leg and a metal cup non-skid base for your endpin. This anchor may not fit all types of chairs, or all heights of players, as it only extends to 32 inches. Variations of this type is the Stentor anchor with two string loops for both chair legs which gives better control, the old fashioned, but still popular wooden ‘T’ ’bar stop. An innovative gadget called ‘Fursland’ has two wire chair leg holders which slide back into a cylindrical aluminium body which makes for easy storage in a Cello case. Another choice is the Muco Cello  Anchor, which has a small cello-shaped endpin rest, and adjustable nylon strap.

Sound-Enhancing Endpin Holders: Artino have brought out an end pin anchor with a resonator box and nylon strap to attach it to a chair-leg, There is also a metal option with a resonance hole but without the adjustable nylon strap. The latest model has a chair strap and a larger resonating box, which is fantastic for pupils using basic student Cellos giving an enhanced sound.

Best in class? The Celloboots cello anchor – the most expensive and versatile of them all! It has a removable belt which is optional to use and if the floor is very slippery or dusty it can be anchored around a chair leg – otherwise it can be used without the strap. Made of high quality tough odourless, industrial elastomer and complete with a cotton carry bag.

Celloboots Endpin Anchor

Sticky
1
September 15, 2017

The Pernambuco debate!

Pernambuco wood, from the Caesalpinia echinate tree indigenous to Brasil, has been the wood of choice for fine bows since the 18th century. No other wood or wood-substitute offers the same quality of strength, springiness and workability, although many experiments have been conducted using bamboo, the closely related brazilwood, snakewood, and many others. Many thousands of bows have been made using this beautiful wood – but of recent times the supply of good Pernambuco is rapidly diminishing, and the tree has become endangered.

To ensure a continuous supply of this unique wood several initiatives have been started to educate, research and set on conservation and re-planting initiatives. A few of our foremost bowmakers have actually moved to Brazil and have a programme of renewal whereby as a tree is felled, three saplings are then planted at the site. These are subsequently thinned to select the strongest.

Carbon Fibre as an alternative? This is a synthetic material which is both lightweight, springy and almost unbreakable. Various cores are used but essentially it is made of ultra-thin graphite fibers, which are molded into a permanent shape. Bows made of carbon fibre don’t warp, and don’t react very much to changes in temperature or humidity. This obviously makes it a good choice for players in a humid climate or for outdoor players, for example Morris dancers. Some or the more modern manufacturers actually have a carbon fibre core with a wooded veneer on the outside which does make them appear more traditional.

So which material is best for you? If you are looking for a new bow, the most important thing to do is to try out several bows on your own instrument. The preference between Pernambuco and carbon fiber is ultimately up to you! As a general rule and from feedback we receive from many players both amateur and professional, the following pattern is emerging;

  • For lively bows under £200 the preference is generally Carbon fibre! Cheap wooden bows are always a wood substitute and often weak.
  • From £200 to £800 the choice is yours. Many top players swear by their Carbon fibre bows, but equally the wood sticks are generally Pernambuco and thus very acceptable. The only route is to try a range of bows.
  • Moving up to professional bows, from £1000 and above, the proper Pernambuco sticks are considered still the best for expression, nuance and dynamics. That said some of the most recent Carbon Fibre are superb and used by top musicians. The only answer is to test and try

Some superb makes are Arcus, Codabow and Col legno. We list a fraction of the bows we have on our website as they are constantly changing but do have a browse or better still, give us a call to disucss you needs:

Violin Bows

Viola Bows

Cello Bows

Sticky
0
September 08, 2017

The elusive violin E string

We wrote something previously about the ‘whistling’ problem on the E string of your Violin – and the seemingly endless search for the perfect sound. So, what exactly are we searching for?

Laying aside for the moment the issue of a good or bad Violin, the search for the best sound possible from the E string is the subject of some experimentation until you arrive at the perfect string for you! Let’s look at the options to assist in your search, and remember it is often helpful to have an experienced player standing by.

Firstly, you need power and projection, especially on the upper register – but not shrill or strident.

…which leads to the next point that is most importantly the clarity of sound – call it texture, quality or complexity. A cheap string will have the shrillness without the pleasing ring that you are seeking. Thirdly a string that offers responsiveness all the way up the fingerboard. (This presumes, of course, a well set up violin and fingerboard) Finally a string that will last for a reasonable length of time without breaking or losing its purity of tone –  with constant playing this should be 6 months or more.

The options then narrow down to a single steel or precious metal string, or a wound string with various core materials. In general, the single string will have more brilliance, focus and power, whilst the wound string will be warmer and more complex – but this is a very general statement, because every string will react differently on different violins. Which brings us back to experiment and trial and error. We have extensive feedback from many players and you can search online and find a thousand differing opinions. The answer is to get a pack of different E strings (they are usually inexpensive) and experiment until you achieve the perfect sound, ease of playing and longevity

Popular single strand E strings. (This is far from an exhaustive list; just our most popular)

  • Warchal Amber – Spiral Flexible and warm
  • Kaplan ‘non-whistling’ – Old favourite
  • Pirastro #1 E – Still the preferred E for many players
  • Eva Pirazzi Silvery Steel E – Rich complex and powerful
  • Obligato steel E

Wound and plated strings

  • Olive gold plated E – warm and flexible vision titanium solo
  • Infeld Red E Gold plated
  • Larsen virtuoso E – Modern professional string
  • Jargar E – Sweet and projecting
  • Obligato Gold plated
  • Peter infeld platinum plated
  • Spirocore chrome wound
  • Eudoxa wound

The question of the various precious metals will be the subject of another article

The advent, or rather the evolution of the steel violin e-string over a century ago brought violinists to new heights in their playing. The stability and thinness of a steel wire allowed for greater brilliance, intonation, and speed. However, with the loss of gut’s sweetness and warmth, further refining and improving the capabilities and characteristics of steel E strings is still an endless pursuit of string makers today. More than just a simple steel wire, the full composition and manufacturing method of steel strings involves trade secrets, precious metals, and very high tolerances! The nuances of response, feel, tension, and volume make choosing the right E-string an advantageous feat for musicians today.

Of the four strings on the violin, the E-string is unique. With the exception of baroque violin E-strings, which are generally made from plain gut, the violin E-string is made from steel, offering very different characteristics than the other three strings. However, that’s just for starters – the type of steel, the alloys used, plating materials, windings – all contribute to the vast variety that allows violinists to choose their preferred string, for whatever reasons they wish.

Some strings are plated with different metals, most commonly chrome and tin. Chrome offers a brilliant sound, while tin helps to produce a warm sound. Some strings are plated with precious metals. These metals augment the sound and playing qualities of the underlying steel core. This enables the player to choose the playing and tonal characteristics they want.

Next week we will discuss the differences between Gold, Platinum and Titanium plated strings

Sticky
In Blog
0
August 25, 2017

Larsen Cello strings – where do they fit on the sound spectrum?

Have you ever wondered what the difference in sound would be if, for example, you went for a Larsen Arioso Cello string as opposed to the Standard Larsen Cello string?

Or put the other way around – which Larsen Cello string do I have to buy to get the warmest sound?

Larsen soundcompass is very useful in guiding you to your perfect sound – click here to view: Soundcompass-Cello

magnacore-header1

cello-original-head1

larsen-crown-strings

magnacore-ariooso-4

 

Sticky
0
August 25, 2017

String tensions and choice

In a previous article we briefly discussed the subject of String tensions and gauge.  Cellists appear to be constantly searching for the perfect combination of strings, and for good reason. Every Cello is different and to maximise the tonal quality and projection of your Cello you need to settle on the combination that is right for you.

There are many brands available with the most popular – Pirastro, Thomastik, D’Addario, Larsen and Jargar – often used in various combinations.

The subject of string tension is important. One very interesting development is the Larsen Magnacore Arioso set which comes as a low to medium tension giving the tonal qualities of less tension, but not losing the power and projection of a harder string. Worth a try if you have an oldish Cello which may not be able to take a harder string.

 

 

Suggestions that follow are based on medium tension strings. This, however can be a bit tricky as manufacturers do not have a standard for the description ‘Medium’.

Taking the Cello A as a benchmark the tensions vary tremendously. For example Jargar A is 37.4lbs, Larsen A is 39.3lbs, Evah Pirazzi A is 40lbs and Dominant A is only 30lbs, which makes it really a ‘Soft’ string rather than medium.

Best Cello strings?

This is not an exhaustive list and is based purely on our own choice for setting up Cellos and also general popularity.

Larsen cello strings, often combined with Spirocore on the C and G. Very good bright and full toned. The new Magnacore replace the need of Spirocore.

Pirastro Eva Pirazzi. Full toned and projecting. Pirastro Gold series is warmer but still bright

Pirastro Obligato for the warmer sound of the synthetic core.

D’Addario Kaplan cello strings produce a rich and complex tone.

Jargar cello strings very popular for their warm clear projection – overall best value for money.

And the end of the day it is an individual choice finding the best combination of strings to suit you, your Cello and your playing technique.

Sticky
In Blog
0
August 18, 2017

String tension and gauge

There is often some confusion surrounding string gauge and tension for bowed stringed instruments. For this article, I will concentrate on Violin strings, but the same principles apply to Viola, Cello and Bass.

The gauge of a string is the measurement of its diameter or in other words, its thickness. This was easily measured in the old Gut string era. The string was simply slotted a v-shaped tool which indicated the thickness – from which the weight was calculated and hence the downward pressure on the bridge.

With modern wound strings, this is not possible as thicknesses vary – thus the measurement is one of ‘tension’ from which again the downward pressure on the violin bridge can be calculated.   The tension of the strings thus defines the pressure on the bridge – the higher the bridge and smaller the angle of the strings at the bridge, the greater will be the pressure on the bridge.

With modern strings, some manufacturers will list the actual tension, while others just offer a description such as, Hard, forte, stark or heavy – medium, mittel – or soft, thin, dolce, light etc.

In principle, the harder or stronger the string, it will result in a louder, fuller, and more powerful sound, but may also result in a slower response time. But also bear in mind that the violin must be robust, with a strong bridge and soundpost, otherwise you could damage your instrument. Generally, for older more delicate violins, the hard strings should be avoided.

Medium tension strings are the most popular today because they have been designed by the manufacturer to give an even, balanced tone and response. Once again the right string for you will be arrived at by some trail and experimentation, but I recommend that you try medium tension strings first when experimenting with new strings.

Thin or soft strings, require less tension to bring them up to pitch. They are used to soften up the tone of an instrument. These are less commonly used except in specific circumstances. Some professional players will mix their strings to achieve the right balance and sound for the instrument they are using, and it is not uncommon to fit a soft string to achieve this. I well remember a lovely old Cello which had a unusually thin table, to the extent that an overly tight soundpost actually dented upward. A set of soft Jargars was the only answer and resulted in a sweet, focused sound.

All this is important, but it is simply one of achieving the right balance between you, your instrument and the sound you wish to achieve.

Next week we will discuss actual strings.

Lance

Sticky
In Blog
1
August 11, 2017

When should I change my strings?

It’s a question we’re often asked:

When should I change my strings?

How long do strings last?

It’s a good question to which there isn’t really a correct answer. As a consumer it wouldn’t be uncommon to think ‘they just want to sell me more strings’ but let’s look at it another way:

  • Can you imagine a Formula 1 driver taking to a track on worn tyres?
  • Can you imagine a tennis player entering centre court with a racket that is badly strung and worn out?

These are just two examples of professionals relying on their equipment for a top performance – how much more essential when your equipment is producing sound, not only for your personal satisfaction, but for all those around you to hear. The strings are of utmost importance if the best sound is going to be created. The potential of the best instrument is severely dampened when it is badly strung or played with old and worn out strings.

Let’s consider a motor vehicle that isn’t serviced for many years. It doesn’t stop going but the performance, the fuel consumption, the accelaration steadily declines. A string may not snap but the component materials will eventually become fatigued. This is particularly true for the inner core. The richness and the fullness of tone becomes degraded. This does depend on the intensity and frequency of playing but almost certainly in all cases over time.

To avoid sound quality loss we strongly advise changing strings at appropriate regular intervals. This is not an interval we can stipulate because clearly it depends on the type of string you’re using, the type of music you’re playing and how much use the strings have. You would know after 2 or 3 string changes just what the optimum time is to keep your performance at its best.

Changing single strings instead of the whole set at once i.e. mixing old and new strings is common practice, especially when one breaks, as it is obviously most cost effective. This will however jeopardise the entire tonal balance of the instrument as the new string will always sound fuller and louder than the older strings.

At the end of the day its all about what you want to get out of your instrument and of course, changing strings can be a very expensive business. We would recommend where possible to keep a consistently full and rich sound that all four strings be changed at regularly intervals, say every 6 months if you’re a frequently practising amateur, retaining the most recent strings just taken off in case of breakages.

Sticky
0
August 01, 2017

PIRASTRO KorfkerRest

The new Pirastro Korfker shoulder rest is now freely available. It certainly looks very light and comfortable but it remains to be seen how players relate to it! A comfortable playing stance is so important and players often struggle to find the perfect shoulder rest/chin rest combination that gives the ultimate support. Pirastro have come up with a new design which takes on the ever-popular brands by Kun, Mach one, Wolf, and Bon Musica plus many others.

Here is what they say:

“Discover the maximum potential of your instrument while playing with absolute comfort

  • Explore the entire sound spectrum of your violin
  • Feel your instrument respond as it was meant to
  • Experience truly individualised comfort
  • Enjoy the calming reliability of perfect stability

… in the quest for the ultimate shoulder rest system. Every part of these unique and patented designs has been painstakingly tested for sound properties, stability and light weight, resulting in an unmatched freedom of sound, expanded projection, and revolutionary comfort and reliability during performance.”

  • The worlds lightest shoulder rest
  • First shoulder rest using bendable tone wood adjustable to the shape of the shoulder
  • Offers extensive and very precise personal modifications of position, height and tilt
  • Brings out a much wider dynamic range from the instrument
  • Allows a unknown diversity in articulation
  • Finer variations in string contact can be felt
  • Minimal use of rubber improves sound characteristics
  • Designed to complement the timeless beauty of the violin

Pirastro Korfker Violin Shoulder rest top

I’d be glad of any feedback from current users of this shoulder rest?

Sticky
0
July 28, 2017

My Violin/Viola has a ‘Buzz’

My Violin/Viola has a ‘Buzz’

So, your violin new or old, has developed a buzz?

From the start let’s distinguish between a buzz or rattle that you can fix yourself, and one which requires attention from your violin shop. Listed following are the steps you can take to fix the problem – but if these don’t work then it’s time for a trip to your friendly luthier.

  1. Check your mute. Most of the Tourte-type mutes are pulled back from the bridge when not in use, and these often rattle. The answer is to remove it when not needed or to fit the Bech type mute which anchors to the tailpiece with a magnet.
  2. Check your Soundpost. This may seem elementary but how often have we observed this problem, which can be dangerous to the instrument if left under tension. The Soundpost should sit firmly a brief distance behind the bridge and approximately under the treble string. If it has dislodged, slacken off the strings immediately and get the instrument to the violin shop
  3. Check your strings. Any strings that are old, or unravelling should be replaced quickly, and probably the whole set if they have been around for any length of time. Also check the E string which often has a tiny plastic tube fitted where it runs over the bridge – this can cause problems if it is running loose
  4. Is your shoulder rest getting tired? Check for screws or worn feet and replace if necessary. Even the best shoulder rests get old and worn, and best upgraded with the newest models. Spares are available for the older brands such as Kun or Wolf.
  5. Chinrests can rattle. Check these and tighten up the clamp using the chinrest key – being careful not to scratch the instrument. Check also the tailgut, as modern screw and nylon type tailons can come adrift.
  6. A fine tuner or string adjuster, if turned down to its limit will not only rattle but also potentially scratch the instruments’ belly – a deep unsightly scratch. The tiny nut that holds the tuner down should be checked and tightened. It you tend to use your fine tuners a lot, consider the brilliant new titanium smooth motion tuners which are elegant and rattle free

So that’s about that which you can do yourself. If the buzz still persists especially on the open strings, then there is something more serious going on. In the workshop, we would check for a bass bar that is loose, purfling coming adrift, ribs parting company or the fingerboard lifting. All these need careful attention and the skill of a luthier.

Sticky
In Blog
0