This week’s visiting musician was violist Johan Korsfeldt

Johan Korsfeldt came by this week to test some strings with us. He brought a very old friend of mine with him: A viola from the Canadian violinmaker Ivo Johannes Loerakker, which I had the pleasure of playing from 1990 to 2011. When talking about strings Johan said:

“I want strings that give me something to work with, rather than boring compact sounding strings… Rather a Rolls-Royce than a BMW…”

Thank you for the visit and enjoy the strings!

jk

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Musik Messe Frankfurt 2015: It’s all about people

A long time ago, when I was still a viola student living in Hannover Germany, I used to dream of one day going to the music fair in Frankfurt. Some busy people told me, though, that it was only about business and not for musicians.

This year, I finally got the opportunity to visit the music fair, and strangely enough, I no longer work as a professional musician. I was visiting the fair with the Larsen Strings’ team. Was it a coincidence? The case called for an investigation.

My first impression of the exhibition

We started our fair activities with a round in the section attributed to string instruments. Visiting the music fair is more or less like window-shopping. You go through small streets all covered with booths. In every second booth, people are playing (anything from Sibelius Violin concerto to some ukulele tune). The hall is full of chaotic sounds from individual playing (I was secretly happy that I did not have to spend much time in the hall exhibiting trumpets and percussions).

Would all these people playing be an indication that the music fair is for musicians?

Meeting people

The rest of my visit was occupied with meetings. To sell and increase awareness of our strings we need dedicated distributors with a solid network of music-shops, violin-makers and musicians. It’s all about reducing the distance between us and the Larsen players: Because we couldn’t do it without you, the musicians, the violin-makers, the music-shops…

Is the fair for musicians or for business?

After a couple of days at the fair and even though I met many musicians, I soon understood the real nature of the fair: It is not only about music, and it is not only about businesses. For us the Musik Messe is all about people: Building on new relationships and strengthening others; meeting partners and friends.

It’s all about people

Attending meetings almost non-stop for two days, I still look forward to the opportunity of actually exploring the fair, e.g. looking into instruments, music-sheets, cases and other accessories. Maybe next year – and hope to see everyone again!

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What is the gauge – and how to choose between soft, medium and strong tension strings?

Did you ever wonder what the difference between soft, medium and strong strings is? Did you ever chose a medium string because it is the easy choice (as I have done for many years before being more acquainted with string technology)?

What is the gauge and the tension?

The gauge is a historical designation showing the thickness of a gut string. By measuring the diameter of a gut string with an instrument (see the following image of a gauge-meter), it is possible to define its weight. The weight defines the tension of the string and affects the bridge pressure on the instrument. As the construction of modern strings includes many different materials, it is no longer possible to just measure the thickness of a string to know its tension level.

Gauge-meter

To define the tension level of a modern string, we at Larsen Strings use an instrument called a Monochord (see the following image) where the string is mounted hanging, carrying a weight. For a violin A string, the measured weight at a frequency of 440 Hz for a vibrating length of 32.5 cm will define the tension level.

tension test

How does the tension affect my instrument?

In combination with frequency, vibrating length (from the bridge to the upper-nut) and the height of the bridge, the tension of the string defines the pressure on the bridge (see the following picture. N: Pressure on the bridge; P: Tension of the string; α: Angle of the string at the bridge). The higher the bridge and the smaller the angle of the string at the bridge, the more pressure there is on the bridge.

tension violin

Tension is essential to enabling the transmission of the vibrations from the string to the instrument. The more tension on an instrument, the clearer the vibration is transmitted to the resonating box. However, there is a limit to how much tension an instrument can support. An instrument loaded with too much tension get a highly forced vibration; its ability to freely vibrate is reduced.

It is all about achieving the right balance: To find the tension level that suits best your particular instrument and playing style and will ensure a long life of the instrument. It is important to remember that an instrument can be damaged by exceeding bridge pressure. I believe that like me, most musicians care for their instruments and want them to be in perfect shape when times come to pass them on to a next generation of players.

What to choose: Soft, medium or strong?

It all depends on the instrument you have and the sound quality you are seeking. High tension strings (strong) tend to provide a greater volume and improved projection. They amplify the ground tone of the sound, to the detriment of the higher harmonics.

On the opposite, medium and soft strings are often used for instruments in need of a broader harmonic spectrum. Medium and soft strings enable the instrument to breath and will often bring a richer spectrum of colours. They lend more variation possibility to the instrument.

As for me, I still prefer medium strings. It brings more charm out of my viola and I like the feeling of them.

Do all medium strings have the same tension level?

When searching for the perfect match between strings and instrument it is important to remember that not all strings have the same tension level. The tension of the strings varies from string model to string model. It is thus possible to find a string called medium having approximately the tension of a strong string from a different brand or model.

Can I rely on the tension charts of the producers?

The sad answer is: Not entirely.

As string producers do not have to follow an internationally accepted standard, they can measure the tension according to a frequency and a vibrating length of their choice and do not have to inform about it. In lack of an available standard, Larsen Strings has chosen to measure the tension of its strings under the very same conditions as the world’s two largest string manufacturers. Furthermore, to increase transparency Larsen Strings informs of the vibrating length and pitch frequency under the measurements. However, some independent websites offer tension charts, which compare strings on the market.

Does low tension necessarily mean low volume?

It is possible to choose strings with only moderate tension, which due to their vibrating propensity provide great volume and projection. Larsen Strings has explored the possibility of reducing the string tension to the lowest level while still providing enough sound volume. These strings lend particular benefit to older instruments by providing a tension level that respects the inner balance of the instrument. On this point, Larsen Strings is especially proud of its Virtuoso® strings. The Virtuoso® offers a hitherto impossible blend of extraordinary sound volume with only moderate string tension. For more information, please explore our factsheets for violin, viola and cello strings.

Marie Girard – String advisor at Larsen Strings A/S

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Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume

 

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Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume passed away on March 19th 1875, leaving many fantastic instruments. This particular violin ex-Alard, ex-Grumiaux bears the serial number 2012. According to the list in Roger Millant’s book “J. B. Vuillaume” (1972), the violin was built in 1855. The following citation is written in the violin’s certificate by Caressa and Français: “One of the most beautiful works made by the hands of J. B. Vuillaume” (Une des plus belles oeuvres sortie de la main de J. B. Vuillaume).

 

Vuillaume certificat

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