In the third installment of ‘Ackerman Music Amateur Acoustics’ we test how much difference there is between a metal violin string and its synthetic counterpart.
Synthetic gut strings are usually a bit more expensive, and are supposed to give a more mellow, rich tone. Metal strings are cheaper and are generally regarded as ‘brighter.’
To give a good baseline we used the same instrument for both test: a Hidersine Melodioso: a hand crafted instrument following a Guarneri design. It’s a new instrument but uses aged tonewood so it has a nice rich tone already, and should give us a good reading to differentiate between the string sets.
On to measuring. Part of the challenge of this endeavor is getting a signal clear enough to analyse (using our usual very scientific methods) so we decided to play the lowest fundamental note, the open G.
Firstly the metal string:
Now the Synthetic:
Just from looking side by side it’s very hard to tell the difference. In this test let’s superimpose the waveforms to get a more direct comparison:
In the following images, the metal string is in white, and the synthetic is in red. Even with a direct comparison the differences seem minor, but there are three main areas we can look at.
The fundamental note is the note we hear (G3, around 196hz) and it created by the entire string vibrating as one. In this case the metal string is clearly resonating more at the lowest note that its synthetic counterpart.
With these initial harmonics the synthetic string seems to have a slight edge, and noticeably so at G5 (784hz.) This may partly explain why synthetic strings are describes as being more mellow.
The upper harmonics:
It is clear that the higher frequencies are must more apparent in the metal string. It seems that the combination of the quieter mid-tone harmonics and louder upper harmonics gives the metal string it’s characteristic ‘bright’ sound.
So it does seem to make a difference. With this knowledge it makes it somewhat easier to pick a mellower or brighter sound when you chose your strings. There are some other things to consider too:
String choice also depends on how the different strings will suit the natural resonance of your violin (or indeed any string instrument.) In general (and we might be able to test this at a later date) the older the instrument the less bright it will become. The theory goes that as wood ages it generally mellows. Because of this, we find that using synthetic strings on a new instrument gives a more rounded sound, and greatly improves many student instruments.
The other consideration is what style and setting of music you will be playing. Will you be playing as a soloist? Will you be playing Pop, Folk or Classical? What sound appeals to you most as you play? These are all very individual choices and because of that it’s usually best to try a few strings before settling on your favourite.
For many people the cost of learning a new instrument alone is enough to put them off. There are many cheap instruments available but a huge number of pitfalls you can encounter. Surely there has to be a better way? We think we have offered the best of both worlds with our “Pure Rental” scheme.
Too often we come across people who have bought cheap instruments online which simply are not fit for purpose. Sometimes these ‘budget’ instruments are hard for a professional to play, let alone a young beginner. I can’t help but think this is the perfect way to discourage a child from learning music, as those early experiences with instrumental playing can be vital for building confidence. A lot of the time these cheap instruments are offered to us as the learner has given up after a couple of months, which is little surprise.
Our rental scheme is designed to promote instrumental playing as much as possible, so we offer a low-cost, flexible way to try out an instrument. If you’re interested in starting the violin you can spend just £8 a month to take away a Stentor I violin outfit (a good quality student instrument that we set up and maintain in our in-house workshop.)
You then have 3 months to try it out: most people will know if it’s something they want to pursue within that time. If it turns out you’re not finding it as enjoyable as you thought, it’s just a case of returning it to us, without the expense of purchasing an instrument and the hassle of finding somewhere to store it or sell it on.
On the other hand if your 3 months are promising and you know this is something you’ll enjoy you can purchase the instrument and get your first rental payment off the purchase price (e.g. £24 off a violin.) This is the most cost effective way of buying an instrument from us.
If you’re undecided that’s not a problem either, the rental scheme runs on a rolling monthly contract with a 2 week notice period. You can return the instrument at any time, or if you want to purchase later you can claim 50% of what you have paid on the rental against the price of any upgrade instrument of the same type. If you rent a student flute, clarinet or trumpet for a year you’d build up £72 of rental credit against purchase.
We’ve had several success stories of children starting on small size instruments (1/10 size cello for example) and sticking with our rental scheme, swapping over each different size when required, and building up enough in rental credit to upgrade to a hand-crafted German made instrument once they reached full size. At Ackerman Music we’re proud to promote this scheme, to give as many people as possible a chance to try a musical instrument.
We run the scheme nationwide* and are always overjoyed when we can be a part of starting someone’s musical journey.For more information please visit: http://www.ackermanmusic.co.uk/instrument-rental where you can see all the instruments we have on offer, and fill in a rental application form.
*except for Cellos and Digital Pianos
This August we hosted a ‘Piano Day’ in our Hove shop. We were delighted to welcome some guest speakers to talk about piano learning and teaching. The aim of the day was to showcase some new tools in the landscape of piano tuition, as well as bring pianists together to discuss and share ideas.
We had a full house for our recent Piano workshop with Melanie Spanswick, author of the wonderful Play It Again: Piano books and Samantha Ward who presented the very popular Piano Junior series on behalf of Hans-Gunter Heumann.
Despite a wet day in Hove, all attendees arrived promptly and were greeted with hot drinks, biscuits and goody bags. Melanie then spoke in depth about her books and had a question and answer session with the teachers. A hearty lunch followed, after which staff members Kirsten Lloyd Leach and Miles Vernon Ward presented the Casio Grand Hybrid Range, ably assisted by Andy Brown and Jack Terroni from Casio. They spoke about the teacher incentive scheme which launched recently as the ‘Grand Hybrid Teacher Network.” For more information go to info.casio.co.uk/pianoteachernetwork
Kirsten’s presentation on the Grand Hybrid range was excellent, and well worth reading through for anyone interested. The presentation can be found here.
The afternoon session continued with Samantha Ward demonstrating a lot of the exercises from the Piano Junior series. Three of her pupils had kindly offered to come along and play from the books and a lot of the attending teachers joined in as well! The afternoon ended with teachers topping up their sheet music collections thanks too our extra in store discount, and most of them left with signed copies of Melanie’s Play it Again books.
It was a lovely day enjoyed by everyone present and we are hopeful for plenty more events like this in our branches. You’ll next see the Ackerman Team at the ABRSM Conference in London on Saturday 3rd November.