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Old 08-22-2017, 02:09 AM
tenorino tenorino is offline
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Default The quest for a Tenor E-string

Greetings fellow Tenorists,

I'm curious as to what strings people are using. For now, I've settled on Helicore 1/4-size strings for the lower three, but am still looking for an ideal E-string. The gut string which came with my instrument was lovely, but didn't blend too well with steel lower strings. I'm now using the Super Sensitive E-string, made for the tenor, but the sound is very bright compared to the Helicores, and the tension is a bit low (I imagine it was designed for the original, large-pattern tenors). I've written to Larsen and D'Addario, both of whom make cello E-strings, and to Warchal, whose synthetic cello strings I use on my cello, to see if any of them would make a custom Tenor E, but all three replied to say they couldn't. I also tried a light Helicore A-string (for full-size cello) tuned up to E; I got it as far as D, and it seemed too tight, and I didn't go any further. So, I'm now considering the following options:
  1. Sticking with the Super-Sensitive string.
  2. Using a light-gauge cello A-string, tuned up to E (are there any which are considerably lighter than the Helicore?).
  3. Switching to all-gut stringing.
  4. Trying to find a manufacturer who will make a custom steel or synthetic string.

I'm curious to know what your thoughts are on this!

Frank
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Old 08-22-2017, 01:20 PM
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rjspear rjspear is offline
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Tenorino--

You have hit one of the few remaining things that tenor lovers and five-string cello players have to contend with. The high E string seems to be universally too bright and harsh-sounding compared to the other strings on the instrument. Violinists also have had to deal with E strings that don't really match the rest of the string set. We are not alone.

There are only a few companies making a cello high E string. Of these, SuperSensitive is the only one that makes one specifically sized for the tenor. All the other strings are intended for full-size cellos. Fortunately, the strings are a single length of music wire and are thin enough to withstand being wrapped around the peg shaft many times. Unfortunately, the strings are a single length of music wire and lack any kind of beneficial damping.

The owner of SuperSensitive is retiring, and the company will be run by his son. This company is the one and only company that has supported the development of the New Family for decades, and it goes without saying that the New Family would not have gotten very far without strings! They have lost money every year, I think, but they have never lost interest.

The new management will doubtless want to initiate some changes, but I expect that they will still support us and that there will be some future research to develop strings such as the tenor high E. We just have to be patient and remember that they need to make money to stay in business.

--RJ (Bob) Spear
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Old 08-22-2017, 11:17 PM
tenorino tenorino is offline
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Thanks, Bob—I had been wondering about the possibility of using a full-size cello E string on the tenor! In particular, I wondered if a Helicore might blend better with my Helicore lower strings. Do you think it would work, or would the tension be too low?

For gut strings, I contacted Gamut, who were very supportive and recommended gut strings at the following gauges:
E-1 - .72mm
A-2 - 1.02mm
D-3 - gimped string =1.52mm
G-4 - Silver wound string =2.26mm
I am planning to try these in the near future, as that gut E you sent the tenor with was certainly lovely!

I've been thinking that a synthetic E would probably be best for more recent music. I contacted one manufacturer who make synthetic cello strings, but received this somewhat puzzling response from them:
As for your question, it is unfortunately extremely complicated to make strings for the New Violin Family, since the inventor did not take into consideration the string making point of view. We have already tried to make viola strings like these for one organization, however, we have never heard back from them, so we we lacking any feedback. The research required for making these strings is very expensive, so we have decided not to attempt to make these strings any more. I am sorry we cannot be of more help to you in this matter – we usually try hard to comply with our customer´s wishes, when any of them is asking us to make somewhat non-standard string.
It's interesting to hear of the developments at SuperSensitive. It's encouraging to hear that they are likely to continue supporting the New Family!!

I'll post here again as the string experiments continue ...

Last edited by tenorino; 08-22-2017 at 11:22 PM.
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Old 08-23-2017, 01:04 PM
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rjspear rjspear is offline
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I'll be interested to hear your opinions of the Gamut strings. As you can see, the small companies are much more likely to risk some R&D time for small orders since that is their area of specialization. Large companies are always looking at their bottom line. They want to come in and take a piece of a large market, but they are not interested in taking a small niche product and doing things that would make it possible for that market to grow.

Ir might be possible to make a tenor E with a synthetic core. The length of a string needed for a cello high E is much longer than needed for a tenor. The synthetics apparently don't hold up over a long span. They stretch out and the winding loosens, causing the string to fail prematurely. With a tenor, though, the story might be different. I'll pursue this when conditions are right.

--RJ (Bob) Spear
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