It is just hard to describe how much a seemingly unimportant string-holder (as the Germans called it for centuries), could impact the sound quality and playability of an instrument. My main beef with doubters and indeed closed-minded cynics is their unwillingness to try something that is a bit unusual. True, $ can be an issue, but perhaps some kinks can be worked out where there could be a “tester” sent out for a nominal fee, then returned to Mr. Kuo (the patent owner), who would be likely consider customizing one with a particular instrument in mind. I’m definitely in the “very emotionally enthusiastic camp” when it comes to innovations (just ask Brinton), but the things I have stuck with over the ages were once brand new IN MY LIFETIME, and this is one such creation that is of such importance that it merits attention and bears individual scrutiny. This is a wonderful thing. Mine is painted, has a special, engraved, brass shield (whittled from over 5 grams to less than 2 grams), attached with simple trophy-quality double-sided tape. I suppose it could be epoxied, but I may decide to remove the embellishment at some point. The Kevlar tailcord has proven itself to also be a terrific innovation, so let’s take a leap of faith on the carbon-fiber tailpiece, shall we? It’s fantastic. Whether on a Stradivari or a reworked Chinese factory instrument, I cannot imagine it would have a detrimental effect on the sound or ease of playability.
On the 1684 General Kyd Stradivarius
My experience has been, so far, that the instrument is much more even, has more growl in the bass (both C and even G), and is easier to play purely in tune and not over-vibrate. It’s easier on the left hand. It is easier to get to the bridge without harshness, and trickier bow strokes are somehow magically easier (except for staccato – which it seems you either have it or you don’t, but it’s no big whoop). Spiccato/sautillé is far more important, anyway. Détaché is a breeze, and the device encourages you to stay on the string, where you should BE ANYWAY 99% of the time!
Anyway, I’m not a “paid shill” for Kenneth Kuo, but I believe in his product and I like it so much that I want to shout it from the rooftops. I don’t imagine I’ll be going back to my Wittner again. One caveat: I don’t use the fine tuners anymore. I’m an old-school, former Wondertone Gold-Label (hand-me-downs from my sister and first teacher), and then Eudoxas, and I grew up playing raw gut A-strings, too. That was very good training, especially for the bow, as you have to “cut” the string a certain way to get it to sing and articulate correctly. So, I’m doing away with fine tuners altogether and having the strings attached to the new tailpiece by a simple, drilled, round hole that easily accommodates steel strings. So, there’s no “medium” between the string and the tailpiece, minimizing any physical interruption in the vibration in the afterlength from back of bridge to point of contact with the tailpiece. Just like gut. So, if one opts for that setup, you must have well-functioning pegs which need a specific chalk, peg dope, and even soap if there is difficulty in turning them. Again, if you’re less “old-school” than I, then you might opt for pegheds or those weird things that do the fine tuning up top, but what a gigantic pain in the ass to restring a cello, eh?! It worked for countless cellists for many years.
Last thing: I really like Rostanvo Strings a lot. My cello likes Spirocores and Versums, though, and I will always use them (full disclosure: I am a Thomastik-Infeld artist and intend to stay with them). I was in London giving a class at Guildhall a couple weeks ago when Stefan Popov (longtime professor there) came up to me and gave me a set of his strings and wanted to see what I thought. Well, I tried them, fell in love, and then fell out of love like I almost always do. Spirocores are my standbys. They are, in my opinion, the best string out there, and worth the money. I hope I’m not going to get in trouble with Thomastik by being honest, but I can’t “NOT” try other things from time to time.
A word to the wise: do not change too many things in the paradigm — don’t change too many variables at once. You’ll be chasing your tail, wondering what caused the A to sound great but the C to start sounding like Chewbacca, the D to sound like Almighty God made it Himself but the G is from somewhere far south of there. You know what I mean. Go stepwise; don’t screw around and change everything at once because you’re excited. Like me.
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