To all fellow strings enthusiasts in our Itasca music community, we at Music and Arts are happy to announce the first in a series of ongoing bulletins designed to educate, inform, and excite string players at every stage of playing!
As your local strings specialist, I am excited to be able to offer you a forum of creative and practical knowledge that will hopefully enlighten and enrich your own musical experience. From violin and viola to cello and bass, we invite all string lovers to stay tuned to our monthly blog for practical tips as well as up to date information on our string products!
We will begin our first official string blog by taking on the topic of strings. One of the most crucial aspects of music playing, regardless of whether you are a novice or a seasoned player, is achieving a good tone. As string players, we must recognize and appreciate the technical impact that selecting the right type of string makes in relation to achieving the kind of sound you want. Each type of string has its own distinctive characteristics, which can influence the quality, playability, volume, and responsiveness of the instrument. The three main types include, gut, steel, and synthetic core strings:
Gut Core Strings
-Traditional material of choice for classical string instruments
-Derived from natural fibers of animal intestines, primarily that of sheep
-Preferred for warm sound, full of complexity and rich in overtones
-Response is slower than synthetic core strings and lower in tension
-Unstable pitch, goes out of tune more frequently
-More sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity
-Popular brands include Pirastro Olive, Pirastro Eudoxa, and Pirastro Gold Label
Steel Core Strings
-Popularized during 20th century as an alternative to gut strings
-Consist of roped steel wrapped in metals (e.g., aluminum, chrome steel, tungsten)
-Sound is clear, direct, pure with fewer overtones and less complexity
-Noted for stability in pitch despite temperature and humidity changes
-Tendency to sound bright, even thin-sounding
-Preferred by non-classical players, especially fiddlers and jazz musicians
-Popular brands include D’Addario Helicore, D’Addario Prelude, and Larsen
Synthetic Core Strings
-Also known as Dominant strings, developed in 1970’s as middle road between gut and steel core
-Produced from perlon, a type of nylon, and other composite materials
-Boast the warm qualities of gut, but more stable in pitch
-More difficult to tune than steel strings and have shorter life span
-Constitute the majority of strings currently on market today
-Most popular among advancing students and classical string players
-Popular brands include Pirastro Evah Pirazzi, Thomastik Dominant, and D’Addario Pro Arte
Strings vary in thickness and tension. Thicker strings allow greater volume and a more central tone but a slower response, while thin strings produce a brighter sound and a faster response but with less carrying power. The majority of string players use medium gauges, and the gauge string you select will depend on the particular instrument you are playing.
Remember that each instrument is unique and will respond differently to different strings. The best way to figure out which string is optimum for you is to experiment with a variety of strings on your instrument! If you are interested in checking out the different strings for yourself and learning more, stop in at Music and Arts today. As your local strings specialist, I am always happy to help!
Check back in with us for February’s post, where we will next cover tips for how to select the right bow for you. We will also be hosting a strings studies event February 10th-make sure to check it out: http://stores.musicarts.com/itasca---retail/events/violin--viola-string-studies.
Until then, Happy Playing!
Angeline De Leon
Music and Arts Itasca