Violin string tension for gamakas

Ideas and innovations in Indian classical music
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violin_balan
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#1 Violin string tension for gamakas

Post by violin_balan » 22 Jul 2016, 07:34

Hi All,

I have a student grade violin that sounds okay on plain notes. Gamakas, I feel, are choking the violin (yes, my technique may not be that refined). I was wondering if lighter tension strings would make the gamakas sound better. I would appreciate any suggestions on what type of strings/tension, etc work best for carnatic music.

Thank you!
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SrinathK
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#2 Re: Violin string tension for gamakas

Post by SrinathK » 22 Jul 2016, 07:52

How high are the strings above the fingerboard? For steel ones, 4.5 mm over the G and 3 mm at the E are standard. https://apollolutherie.files.wordpress. ... g_7887.jpg (That's how it's measured, and the G string is too high)

Also a tip, get your fingerboard polished and use some oil to lubricate your fingers.

Make sure that your bowing is not too light and that you are bowing in between the bridge and the fingerboard.

What pitch do you tune your violin to and what strings do you use?
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violin_balan
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#3 Re: Violin string tension for gamakas

Post by violin_balan » 22 Jul 2016, 10:23

Hi Srinath,

The fingerboard height seems to be in the range that you mention. I could still shave a little bit off the bridge to bring it down a little more.
I'm using medium tension Corelli Crystal strings -- syntehtic core aluminum wound. I didn't like the E steel core, so I replaced that with a Helicore aluminum wound heavy tension string.
I'm doing a B-E-B-E tuning with A string set to 4E.

I'm definitely bowing at the right spot although I could definitely be faltering on my bowing pressure. Also, I use an expensive bow (more expensive than the violin :) ).. I played a friend's high-end violin and it definitely sounded better with my technique

The violin seems to be choke when moving on the continuous frequency range. I'm wondering whether low tension strings will get the instrument to resonate better for carnatic style of playing.

Thanks again for your advice
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SrinathK
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#4 Re: Violin string tension for gamakas

Post by SrinathK » 22 Jul 2016, 14:28

I'm doing a B-E-B-E tuning with A string set to 4E.
I didn't get that part exactly. Are you tuning to what I would say is even below viola pitch -- B2-E3-B3-E4 (then your A string is nearly 6 tones below it's recommended pitch!) Or are you tuning the D string up to E and the A string to B -- which is a step above concert pitch. If it's the 2nd case, I think the tension might be too much. Or have you given the order of tuning from E-string to G? If yes, then probably your tension is too low.

For reference, I tune mine to E3-B3-E4-B4 (order is from G string to E string) with the A string tuned down from A4 to E4 (which is what I think you're doing), which works well for Pirastro Piranito Steel strings or the much cheaper local Karuna Steel Strings.

I have found the hard way that tuning below concert pitch is really bad for synthetic strings -- the tension is too low. I tried the same tuning with Dominants once and they just bit and choked and sounded nasal -- I had to raise the tuning to G3-D4-G4-D5 and stretch them out for a few days and then they worked very well. It is likely right now that your strings are probably too loose and they must be making a just passable sound when playing plain notes. At the very least you should have the A string tuned to F#.

The trouble is that once I had those synthetics tuned up to G and stretched, I could never tune them down below that pitch again -- they just went bust when I tried to play in a lower pitch.
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violin_balan
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#5 Re: Violin string tension for gamakas

Post by violin_balan » 22 Jul 2016, 20:09

"For reference, I tune mine to E3-B3-E4-B4 (order is from G string to E string) with the A string tuned down from A4 to E4 (which is what I think you're doing), which works well for Pirastro Piranito Steel strings or the much cheaper local Karuna Steel Strings. "

Yes, this is what I meant. This is the only tuning I could get the strings to actually play on.

No, I haven't stretched the strings. My violin is really low-end. It has a harsh sound that gets worse when sliding around. My choices right now are trying figure if some magic combination of strings and bridge height can make it sound better.

From your responses, I take it that you haven't experimented with string tension. The internet advises to use light tension strings on cheap student violins as they cut out the harshness. Intuitively, it seems like a light tension that may help with smoother finger work when sliding around - not true?
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SrinathK
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#6 Re: Violin string tension for gamakas

Post by SrinathK » 22 Jul 2016, 20:29

Didn't have too many of those synthetics to experiment with. But that's the result. The Dominants I used on my violin would only sound well in the pitch they were meant to be played in, their tensions were too low below F. And that was the last time I used them. I switched over to steel instead.

I had the misfortune of playing one of my uncle's student violins -- the bridge was blunter than an eraser, the fingerboard too shallow and the nut setup horrible -- it turned the strings into steel bars. My bow could simply not make the strings bend enough to produce any sound if I played gamakas, never mind that I couldn't press the strings down. I cannot say if your violin was set up that badly, but even as a student you need a good, well set up instrument.

I can't help further regarding how tension may impact your playing. I played on my violin teacher's instrument once with the same strings and same pitch and wow, it was just so much easier to play on, with my own violin I had to work much harder. His violin was a far superior instrument with an excellent set up.

Did you try changing over to steel strings? By the way where do you live? If you were in the US you could even get some good repairs done and they could even tell you what strings would suit your instrument.
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violin_balan
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#7 Re: Violin string tension for gamakas

Post by violin_balan » 04 Aug 2016, 08:48

Yes, I live in the US. Doing repairs on a cheap instrument will cost more than the instrument. It would only make sense to even do a luthier setup only on a high-end instrument. So, I'm going to continue experimenting on this violin :)

I changed my A string to light tension high-end synthetic string and it seemed to help a lot. The gamakas are articulating much better; the violin does not choke. I'm going to change all my strings to light tension and see what that does. Lowering the bridge height and thinning it should also help. Will post once I'm done with more experiments...
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SrinathK
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#8 Re: Violin string tension for gamakas

Post by SrinathK » 04 Aug 2016, 10:27

Good luck with your experiments with your violin. Keep us posted, your research is interesting. I'd be interested to know which strings work best at our pitches.

Yeah, a good setup costs more, but it's infinitely worth the other inconveniences I have had the misfortune of experiencing. I swear to the Almighty that the next time, I will send my violins only to London or Germany or Italy or the US for any repairs, such is the sad state of affairs in India. My original violin is simply unplayable now and they've ruined the bridge.

I'd suggest you to get a good violin even if you are only a beginner though. You can achieve a lot more musically and avoid purchasing newer violins later. And a good bow, I can never stress that part hard enough (which you do seem to have).

And if any of you are interested in buying good quality, affordable and well set up instruments, I'd recommend a couple of links below :

http://fiddlershop.com/ -- Fiddlerman is known for their good setups. That $800 master violin outfit has a simply unbelievable sound for the price! Despite the high starting price, I swear one could just buy that as a beginner and make a whole career in CM out of it, with the right strings.

Or this also : http://www.gviolins.com/catalog_products/16/Violins -- Starting from the Antonio vivaldi. I would personally pick the Kreisler, pity there aren't videos.

Violinist.com has many other resources of violin makers and repairers worldwide. This link will also be helpful : http://www.violinmakers.biz/naak.php
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raguanu
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#9 Re: Violin string tension for gamakas

Post by raguanu » 29 Aug 2016, 11:24

Steel-core strings are extremely popular in carnatic. IMHO you should try one of the known combinations. If none of them work for you, then it's time for you to troubleshoot other aspects than strings-- may be you need to improve your fingering/bowing technique, may be some bridge/soundpost adjustment needed. You mentioned you've changed the E string to a wound one. If a good quality plain steel E string, tuned down to B in your case, sounds harsh, you should definitely work on your bowing.

So, I would suggest you to try steel-core strings and with winding other than aluminum first. Aluminum wound strings stain my fingers black when I play gamakam on them. (I use a bit of coconut oil to grease my fingers). They also sound a bit harsher. Silver wound strings sound better and stain much lesser.

Pirastro Chromcor strings are a popular choice among many carnatic violinists. They sound good in 2, 2 1/2, 3 shrutis (A string tuned down to D, D# or E. I prefer D#). Piranitos are good too.

Prim comes with wide range of tensions, but they don't have a smooth finish.

Helicore are slightly thinner/lighter than the rest. Helicore Medium is lighter than Pirastro Medium. They also come with different winding options. I've tried heavy gauge D, G strings with silver winding. This is how they sound like in 2 1/2 shruti on my violin https://soundcloud.com/ananth-pattabi/s ... ring-tests

In my trials, Prazision was too stiff and hard to play. Pinnacle was silky, soft but didn't produce uniform sound.

As for the synthetic strings, I've had very good experience with Tonica, only D, and G strings, Silver wound.
I changed my A string to light tension high-end synthetic string and it seemed to help a lot. The gamakas are articulating much better; the violin does not choke.
Which one is that? I'm surprised you went for a light tension string and it worked. Still tuning to 3 Shruti?

Ananth Pattabi
_____________________________________________
Shruti Carnatic Tuner (Android app)
Tune your instruments or voice. Automatic swaram detection!
© Kuyil | Apps Crafted for Carnatic
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violin_balan
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#10 Re: Violin string tension for gamakas

Post by violin_balan » 07 Sep 2016, 00:26

Thanks Raguanu for the various suggestions. I have to give steel strings a try sometime again. Right now, I have moved to this set: http://www.savarez.com/corelli-alliance ... 0ml-violin along with a heicore aluminum wound E string. I'm tuning to B4-E4-B3-E3 (from E to G string).. Is that Shruthi 3?

The tone has improved a lot on the A and G strings. I still get a lot of whistling on the E string. I agree that my technique definitely needs to improve; I'm working on that.

I also concur with Srinath's sentiment about getting a better quality instrument. I think there is only so much you can draw out of a cheap instrument unless you have impeccable technique.
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violin_balan
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#11 Re: Violin string tension for gamakas

Post by violin_balan » 19 Nov 2016, 22:55

Thanks very much for the tips. I feel like after a good amoung of practise and mental training, I'm understanding the gamakas better and my violin playing tone has also improved. I'm comfortable decoding AMS' notations. I'm posting a separate thread on some more questions I have to help with understanding gamakas. I hope to post a "nice" video of my playing sooner or later.
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msakella
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#12 Re: Violin string tension for gamakas

Post by msakella » 26 Nov 2016, 15:38

More than 40 years back, when I was a professional-accompanying-violinist, apart from other inconsistencies of this instrument, I had some problems in regard to this tension of violin-strings also to tune them to different Shrutis while accompanying the artists of Vocal, Veena, Venu, Violin, Nadaswaram, Clarionet etc. At that time I was using mostly many varieties of Pirastro (Germany) and Thomastik (Austria) along with some other local varieties. But as Pirastro and Thomastik strings are made to tune to the western-tuning system their gauges were not so suitable to tune to our Indian-tuning system.

In our country apart from some Aluminium core strings some Electrometal-strings also are available in different gauges which do not stain our fingers black while playing the violin. These strings are available from 18 to 29 BWG (British-wire-gauge). Surprisingly, 3 or 4 kinds of thicknesses are also possible even in each number of gauge. I have brought 6 numbers of strings of each gauge and went on measuring their gauge basing upon a Screw-gauge which is far more sensitive than BWG. Later, I went on changing the strings basing upon their suitable thickness to suit the required Shruti and made lists of gauges for each Shruti. Thus my problem was solved successfully and I was using them to my convenience. I hereby furnish this information for the benefit of the Violin-accompanists of our Karnataka music, in particular. amsharma
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msakella
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#13 Re: Violin string tension for gamakas

Post by msakella » 27 Apr 2017, 15:55

Then why don't you use less tougher strings to your violin. amsharma
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