Octavivo Forums

Octavivo Forums (http://www.octavivo.org/forums/index.php)
-   Various and Sundry (http://www.octavivo.org/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=3)
-   -   The quest for a Tenor E-string (http://www.octavivo.org/forums/showthread.php?t=65)

tenorino 08-22-2017 02:09 AM

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!


rjspear 08-22-2017 01:20 PM


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

tenorino 08-22-2017 11:17 PM

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 ...

rjspear 08-23-2017 01:04 PM

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

tenorino 05-15-2018 02:54 AM

An update on strings ...

I didn't hear back from Gamut in the end, but I did manage to get in touch with Gerold Genssler from Sonores strings. This is the string maker who makes the strings for Silvio dalla Torre's bassetto. Gerold was happy to make a synthetic set for the tenor. The price for a single set is 420 euros. I haven't tried these, but have have let him know I would post here to let other Tenor players know about this option.

In the meantime, I'm still on a quest for an ideal commercially-available set. I've been thinking that a string from the Super Sensitive Sensicore set for viola da gamba might work. These are overwound synthetic strings (like Dominant, etc.), unlike all other gamba strings which are gut. The good news is that the string length of the tenor viola da gamba is almost the same as that of our tenor violin; would the high G (sounding F-♯ since the gamba is tuned at A=415) work as a top E-string, I wonder? Or perhaps the tenor viol's D string, tuned up to E? As an alternative, the D string on the bass viol (sounding C-♯, and of the same length as a modern cello string) would be the right pitch, except too long. Has anyone tried any of these three options? Are there other solutions beyond using a cello high E-string (too long, and too slack tuned to E on the tenor) or the standard Super Sensitive steel E for tenor (somewhat harsh and bright)?

All times are GMT. The time now is 06:44 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.2
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Copyright 2010 by Robert J. Spear