Strings on “budget”
Hi! I’ve been looking at some new strings for my violin as the inevitable time approacheth.
I’ve been playing on my Eudoxas for a while because the luthier who worked on my violin suggested lower tension strings to combat wolftone, which worked fine. The wolftone, combined with a little more care and effort, is pretty much gone. (Now I have a wolftone eliminator just sitting away in a corner somewhere).
I experimented with strings briefly while I was in school (although I did have a different instrument), and I really liked Olivs and Passiones. I remember Passione being relatively low tension (at least It felt so under my fingers) and having nice volume and fantastic colour on the old instrument. Dominants I didn’t like as much because of the steely tint it had. The reason I switched to EP in high school was because I didn’t like the edgy shade. Of course, Passione would be my first choice on my current instrument as well, except that they are quite expensive.
I don’t think I will be spending $100+ on strings for a while since I do want to save up for a few things before I go back to school, and also maybe come up with ways to not spend so much on strings while I’m in school.
I know my violin can project A LOT if I want it to, because I’ve tried the medium gauge EP with Westminster E when I first installed the strings. I loved how it sounded with EP, but there was that killer wolftone that was impossible to get rid of at that C#5 on G-string (which was unfortunate because I was studying Saint-Saens No. 3 at the time; also, good thing I didn’t get the heavy gauge). What I am looking for are strings that are under $100, can project decently, and sound interesting.
I’ve heard good things about Larsens, both the original and the Tzigane (not so much on the Il Cannone) in terms of colour, projection, AND tension. Does anyone have experience with them?
Are there any other brands I should take into consideration?
Unfortunately I don’t really have the concept of dark vs bright sound, but I to describe the sound of my instrument, it resonates quite a lot in a good way, rings for a good while which makes the sound flashy, and is much stronger in the lower register than the higher register. The best string on the instrument (in terms of range) is the D string, which is where I can get the most colour out of it.
D'addario's Zyex are an excellent budget option and they last for a rather long time.
1. Corelli Cantiga; might have issues with consistency / QA; the 1st set was beyond any expectations, the 2nd like it was not the same brand / type. This was, by coincidence, mentioned by a guitar specialist in the 12th Fret in regards to their guitar strings...
I also love passiones. I bought Tzigane in Dec to try. They are now my second favorite and project very well. I would say a little less colour than passiones. I would recommend trying them. They're holding up well so far too. I have hands that sweat and eat through strings like crazy. I'm thrilled if a string lasts 3 months. :)
Gold Label, Eudoxa (I know, same you used), Tricolore (from "cheaper" to more expensive); they are all under $100.00, and you don't need to spend that much to have top-notch, "professional", working strings (as much as I like and have used Oliv, the Tricolore have IME a more open and "alive" tone for much less). There are other gut options out there that may be more affordable (Supersolo?), but I have no familiarity with the others.
Neither Olivs nor Passiones are actually low-tension. They *feel* low-tension, but the actual tension metrics given by Pirastro make it clear that they're definitely not -- they actually have rather high tension. And they're both really expensive.
I've used all strings you mentioned except EP. I play on three fiddles daily, and each has a string combo costing me less than $100. Current 1883 instrument combo at $88.97:
I don't have in depth insights but I recently had to replace my e string and after research, decided to try Larsens. The previous string was an Evah Pirazzi and I do like them. The Larsen E string has pretty much the same sound and projection, it blends well, but also an almost ethereal quality that I'm definitely in love with. Gonna replace my A string soon with Larsen as well because it is unraveling but I've read that the Larsen D string doesn't hold up.
Thank you all for your amazing and insightful replies!
I'm currently in love with Warchal Brilliant, and I think it's a good start if you want to try them. I always get the silver D, haven't tried their hydronalium ones yet. Do keep in mind they take about 3 days to fully settle so what you hear on the first day isn't necessarily what will be there once they settle (for better or for worst), you need to give it a few days before you know what they truly sound like. ;)
Studying music is expensive, and takes a lot of time, and life is too short for playing with bad or old strings. Find a string combination that fits your instrument and playing style and just pay for it. Change it as soon as they start sounding dull.
Zyex budget strings?
An alternative to the Eudoxa G is the Chorda G, a gut-cored wound G by Pirastro. It has, to my ear, a brighter and more robust tone than the Eudoxa, lasts a little longer, and is less expensive. I find it partners well with the plain gut Chorda D and a steel A and E, a trio of strings that lasts well. If a high tension G wakes up those wolves, then a Chorda G may well send them to sleep again.
Oddly enough, sometimes high tension by itself does not awaken the wolf. I can't explain it-I once asked here if anyone had an inkling whether it's the core or the tension, and no one was able to chime in. My last "high tension" gut combo was Oliv Stiff G&D, a pure gut, "heavy" Tricolore A, and a medium (goldbrokat (7.8 kp.) Granted it was not very heavy like a full set of EP medium or higher, but the wolf was fast asleep.
Pirastro Tonica are very similar to Dominants, but half the price, so worth considering. However, PI strings although pricey, last a very long time, so may not be more expensive in the long term. I have these on half the collection. Very clear at the top of each string.
Zyex $65.00? I've been paying around $45.00, and they're available at that price from many sources. And yes, they are a favorite of mine too. The Warchal's I've tried are Karneol's, and I was initially disappointed but it took a few days for them to settle in. Since then I've like them a lot, and they are proving to be long lived like Zyex, and are also very reasonably priced. Warchal's Amber E's are very interesting, if you're ever having problems with E string whistling.
As much as I love experimenting with different strings, I don't really have the money to change my string every two weeks just because I don't like the sound of them (hence the reason for keeping Eudoxas on my instrument, even though the D string keeps going awfully out of tune every time).
I read somewhere (don't remember where) that the bridge is part of the wolf problem - something to do with vibrations of the bridge interacting with other vibrations in the system. Seems feasible, but I don't know any more.
If you experiment with different brands of strings you might consider keeping a string journal. I have one for the last 6 years and note the brand, date installed, the date I re-string. Most importantly I note any perceived issues, durability of the "A" string at the contact points, how fast the strings degrade and a grade at the end for sound, clarity and the overall condition. You can also note the string brands you nix and the ones that work the best for you.
Lydia, I don't really see what you mean about the Passione and Olive strings being high in tension.
I think it would be an excellent idea to keep a string journal! I may start keeping track of my strings in my practice journal so I know the context and maybe even keep track of what happens daily!
If you prefer gut on a budget, Pirastro Wondertone Gold label are going to be about the cheapest wound gut strings.
Cassio, you could definitely try a heavier-tension G string, but my guess is that it will make your wolf on the G string worse, not better.
I’ve actually found that can work usefully - I and a few others on here have talked about being successful with medium Dominant D and A, light Dominant G on certain violins. The lighter gauge on just the G string doesn’t seem to take away too much power, we commented, and it can help with wolves and also make the G string more responsive.
I am really puzzled. Your violin sounded awful with a nasty Wolf. Your Luthier worked hard and with the Eudoxa's your violin sounds wonderful, yet you now want to step into the unknown and start messing with your strings. It would seem smarter to put a small amount away each week and buy replacement strings that you know will work rather than messing around with a bunch of strings that probably won't and then buying more Eudoxa's later
As I mentioned in another post, I have found that Helicore Medium Strings are the finest I have found. A very reasonable price too. $27.00 a set. They break in fast, and are very long lasting. Put a Brokat E String on with them, and I think you will be pleased.
I find Helicores very responsive, but not as full or complex sounding as most synthetics.
I don't know why so many people are recommending synthetics, when the OP clearly prefers gut core.
Well - the OP did ask about Larsen strings....
The tonal difference between Passiones and Warchal Brilliant Vintage on my violin is almost imperceptible, interestingly enough.
My problem with Passione is not that they sound like synthetics, but that their price puts them above and beyond "budget" strings. They definitely do not sound bad BUT considering Pirastro's own alternatives, I would go to Gold Label or Eudoxa myself for something more affordable while being top-notch tone-wise. Do agree that they are more "like synthetics", playing a sort of "transitional role" for musicians used to synthetics, or another option for gut users who want to take advantage of their stability features. Since I use gut strings that are stable and don't have that technology, I prefer to stick with the other more affordable options that are "true gut" (for lack of a better term-Passione are also gut.) Compared to other gut strings, they indeed are the "less gutty" choice, but do have a nice tone, and would they be cheaper, would be an easier recommendation.
I chose passione for the A since I had problems with the Oliv A. Unlike the D and G it never became stable. I liked the sound, though. On the viola I have liked the aricore-eudoxa A, so I will be trying that on the violin next time around. And several other A strings as well.
@rocky: I use cantigas in my fiddle, and I have no problems with consistency. The thing is that they come in different tensions and the sellers dont really differentiate when selling.
Sorry everyone for ghosting for a week! I was a little busy with work and other family stuff.
@Lydia Leong: I believe you are a Warchal fan. Could you please describe the difference between Brilliants and Brilliant vintage...tone, volume, tension. also, easy on the fingers is getting more important to me as I get older and busking with them for 3 1/2 hours per day.
I asked a seasoned player friend of mine what he uses. He has played probably 40 plus years in all styles. He uses Thomastik Rope Core strings.They seem to be his favorite on multiple violins. I'm guessing these might exhibit some of the characteristics of gut?
I recently tried a set of the new composite Zyex with both the silver and aluminum D's. IMO, the E is no good, the A is ok, the silver G is too much (1 lb higher tension than the aluminium) I preferred the aluminum. but over all, I didn't like the feel of them (a bit hard on the fingers) and I gave them away.
I've never used Brilliants on my own violin, only the Brilliant Vintage. Vintage is at a lower tension, and I've got a highly-responsive, antique, heavily-restored violin that seems to sound best without a lot of tension, so they work very well for me.
I have also not used the original Brilliant set, only Brilliant Vintage. They were really impressive back then. My opinion is that if a violin sounds good with the Vintage set, there's no need to try the regular version for more "oomph" or whathaveyou. Even when my violin is only 126 years old, it sounds so much better and open with low tension strings or gut-it doesn't "choke" with "regular", "composite-core" sets, but the tone is more open, clearer, and brighter (good type of bright) with low tension. There would be no point in trying something like stark EPs (even if they were easy to play, which they are not at that extreme), and some mediums can darken it more than I nowadays like. But perhaps one should heed Mr. Warchal's advice and try the regular Brilliant on a more modern instrument first.
right now I'm leaning toward the Vintage for my next try out. Simply because I think a bit lower tension might work better for both me and my fiddle. Thank you Lydia and Adalberto for the input.
I probably wouldn't recommend Brilliant Vintage for fiddling, though. It's not the right kind of sound. I'd probably suggest Larsen Virtuoso for lower-tension fiddler strings.
Lydia: I don't (can't) fiddle. I play blues violin. maybe I could use the Brilliants without the Vintage.
I am surprised that in the low cost arena, no one mentioned Thomastik's Alphayue. But I think they sound too much like Dominants, which I do not like. My favorite low cost strings are either Pirastro Tonicas (higher tension I think) or Corelli's New Crystal, which are even lower tension than Crystal, to answer the OP's original concern. Light gauge Corelli Mew Crystal are even lower tension. I always swap out the E in any set I try, usually preferring Jargar.
For someone used to gut or any quality string, I doubt they'll like Helicore, which is a boring, unmusical string with little elasticity. They're like a better version of Red Label. Which is not a compliment...
I think when you take into account the longevity of genuine gut, you're not really paying more to get genuine gut strings, as they last longer than cheaper synthetics.
A few days ago I mentioned on the "The under rated D string" discussion that "I change a plain gut D every year - when I think of it". That wasn't a joke; I have little doubt that a plain gut D will last quite a bit longer than a year.
Scott, I’m guessing you’d feel the same way about other steel strings, too, and not just Helicores.
In my later years as a cellist I went over to steel strings - Thomastik Spirocores - and was much happier with them. Many years before, my cello teacher regularly used steel strings, Thomastik Ropecore I believe.
How long (and hard) did you play in the Eudoxa heavys? It takes a decent amount of playing to break them in. It helps in the beginning (not later) to tune them high and play them down as they drop in pitch and repeat until the string stops stretching tremendously. Then play, really play on them for at least few hours a day for a week and the string will stabilize. If you are a light player, it will take longer to break them in. The heavy gauge may not suit you any way as they take considerably more finger strength to play well IMO. (When I was younger, they helped make me a better player by improving my finger strength quite a bit.) They also do wear on the finger pads more, so you develop hefty calluses. But if you can play them well, they can sound quite rich.
In my limited experience with violin strings I have realized there is no real standard. More of a preference for certain strings heavily based on the violin itself.