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19 June 2011

BAROQUE: Equal Tension stringing results in Unequal Feel: things you want to avoid or at least know about (another calculator)

This is the same violin as in the calculation published earlier but this time the violin is strung with Equal Tension strings. See that while the longitudinal tension is equal it results in extremely unequal and unbalanced string pressure and consequently "unequal feel". If the downward pressure of strings is not equal they will not feel equally tense for the bow or the

Mersenne, Mozart, De Colco have probably forgotten to add that Equal Tension - the idea taken from the lute and proportional relationships - can not be applied to instruments with round bridges and this you can see in these two calculators (Feel free to click "Click to Edit" if you want to try other pitches or string gauges - your changes won't be saved). N.B. The e"-string chosen for this calculation is the thinnest you can get with three ribbons of gut - the number of guts used in the Baroque period to make the e"-string, that is minimum ca 0.66

Equal Feel string calculator can be found here.

Modern strings made of plastic or metal and calculated to yield the right tension/pressure at 440Hz and have a very low response latitude: that is, they will not sound right at the pitch much higher or much lower than 440Hz. On the contrary, natural gut strings have a very wide latitude and will sound right and provide reasonable resistance to the pressure of the bow at a variety of pitches: +1 or even +2, or -1 or even -2 semitones. This mean you can use much thicker strings for very low pitches and much thicker strings for high pitches, but the average is the one which had been so common: e"-70-73, a' 85-88, d' 116-120, g - silver wound thin a'-string (for the music from the concerto period or with lots of double and tripple stops, metal powder loaded g-string equivalent of ca220 for the sonata period or just plain gut equivalent 200-220. This will work just fine in 392 or 465, and of course, will be perfect for 400-430Hz.

The point of this calculator is to demonstrate that Equal Tension stringing does not result in Equal Feel. These two things are incompatible on instruments with round bridges. Of course, one can match the angles and gauges in such a manner as to minimize the differences in longitudinal tension and downward pressure between the strings but levelling those differences flat will inevitably result in a more equalized acoustic performance - with rather anti-baroque consequences, something perhaps suitable for the period of "liberté, égalité, fraternité ou la mort" and later.

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