V.com weekend vote: Do you prefer warmer or brighter strings?

January 19, 2020, 6:41 PM · What kind of sound to you like from your strings?

Different strings can definitely affect the sound you are getting from your violin, viola, cello or bass. A "warmer" string creates a more rich or "dark" sound, with more overtones. A "brighter" string will be more penetrating, and usually a bit louder.

strings

A string player's taste in strings is tied closely with his or her instrument. If you have a violin that naturally sounds rather dark and warm, you actually might want to balance that with "brighter" strings. Conversely, if your fiddle tends to already be loud and penetrating, the "warmer" strings might be just the thing. In my own experience, I was very attracted to Eudoxa strings when I was younger and had a violin that had a rather thin voice. The Eudoxas have a gut core, and gut strings tend to produces a thicker sound, with overtones. At the time I didn't realize it, but I was going for a "warmer" string to compensate for the voice of my violin.

But different violins call for different kinds of strings. An electric fiddle might serve better with a straightforward, non-complex, bright string, since it has the built-in option to change the sound with the way it is amplified. A very "dark"-sounding instrument might need the clarity and power of a brighter string. Or maybe you just want to go as warm as possible, or as bright.

As the saying (sort of) goes: Beauty is in the ear of the beholder!

How do you get what you want from your strings? Do you opt for warmer strings, or brighter strings? Or something halfway in between? Please participate in the vote, choosing the option that is closest to what you use for your most-used instrument, and then tell us all about it in the comments. What strings do you use? What is your aim in using them? How do your strings relate to the natural sound of your violin, and what are you trying to accomplish with your string choice? Or have you always used the same kind of strings and have not done much experimenting?

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Replies

January 20, 2020 at 01:45 AM · I have some trouble with this question because it is so dependent on the charaterstics of the individual instrument. My violin needs warmer strings because it sounds very harsh with bright strings. My viola does fine with warm strings or bright strings, and I tend to choose warmer strings for it.

January 20, 2020 at 05:43 AM · I've used warm synthetics or gut strings on my violin. I've found out that dominants and such

synthetics get pretty muddy after a month because my fiddle isn't really that high-end but for the few weeks I like them!

Gut strings last much better tonally but I hate tuning them.

Now I'm trying Rondo's to see if they can keep a clearer tone longer, they seem really stable and have bright but balanced tone. I think it helps my double stop intonation. I plan to try EP next :)

January 20, 2020 at 06:07 AM · Like Tom, I think it depends more on the instrument than on personal preferences. I've mostly used brighter-than-average strings on both violin and viola in order to balance my instruments, with the exception of the relatively warm Larsen A on my viola, which is also for balance.

January 20, 2020 at 07:20 AM · My violin gets overly bright and harsh with bright strings and doesn't respond favouribly to too much tension, either.

After some trial I am now very happy with Warchal Ambers which wonderfully enhance my violin's warmth and colours of sound. I can imagine that gut strings would serve my violin well, but for now I am quite content.

January 20, 2020 at 09:15 AM · My violin, apparently, calls for brighter strings. I used Dominant for a long time and it worked well. I took to JarGar E string and loved it - it goes well with the Dominant. However, when I put on a complete Jargar set (medium) I was in for a disappointment: the violin was made to sound rather dull. I then decided to be adventurous and put on D'addario Ascente. Well... now I feel like I am miked: the strings are very sensitive to touch and have a wealth of overtones. Which makes the sound a bit messy, you know. I mean, this might work well in certain settings, loud, the sound carries... but there is no sophistication in it, Dominant in this case allows for more nuances and moods. I can do a lot more with Diminants on my violin. I just do not feel at home with Ascente, despite that they allow for less bow pressure to give out lots of sound.

January 20, 2020 at 01:42 PM · I use Thomastic Pi (warm),and I love them for their tonal balance and their longevity. I would disagree that the sting choice is less important if you are plugging in.

The tonal character of the strings is the basis for everything that come after .

January 20, 2020 at 01:49 PM · I wonder if we drift towards brighter strings when our aging ears lose the highest frequencies?

January 20, 2020 at 02:00 PM · I prefer the greater range of tonal colors and general physical feel of gut strings to any form of synthetic string.

January 20, 2020 at 03:31 PM · MY 1886 'Strad' likes a full set of Medium Jargar strings and sound very rich on G and D then very clear on the A and E strings for playing Irish Fiddle tunes.

However I am on Book 2 of the Maia Bang Violin Method and am still pleased with the sound.

Stewart

January 20, 2020 at 03:52 PM · My "Mittenwald Strad" came alive when I first put Dominants on. A huge difference that I really like. Prior to that he had a mediocre voice and little power.

January 20, 2020 at 04:05 PM · I love my Larsen Tzigane strings. I’ve tried many other brands..good ones like Obligatos and for my violin the best sound are the Larsen’s.

January 20, 2020 at 04:43 PM · I am not adventurous when it comes to strings. My violin came with Obs and I keep those (although I've become disenchanted with my violin's tone and may try something different if I decide to play it again.) My viola came with Dominants. When I went to replace them, my luthier said noone uses the Dominant A and gave me a Jargar Medium A. Shar's string matrix puts it more on the bright side and I really like how it has affected the sound of my other strings. So even though I like a darker sound for a viola, I might try brighter strings on it next time.

January 20, 2020 at 05:45 PM · It all depends if I'm playing with a brighter or warmer bow.

January 20, 2020 at 05:49 PM · I didn't try many different strings. I have settled with Infeld Red, but I'm open to future experimentation.

Right now I'm using Infeld Blue with my best violin, Reds were ou of stock. The sound is too harsh for my ears.

January 20, 2020 at 06:04 PM · I believe that is a trick question! I have noticed that the quality of the strings depends on the instrument, bow, and even the rosin that I am using. I have been learning the violin for about 11 years now (half my life), and have been self taught until about a year ago when I started studying it in college.

In my experience, the Strings respond differently from changing bows, rosin, angle of contact, shoulder rest, and sometimes it feels like the phases of the moon. I have also experienced differences in the same bow using dark rosin v.s. light rosin. I have found that I struggle with giving a sense of confidence and power to my music (probably based on my timid personality) and the dark rosin helps me develop that, but it was a learning experience as the bow, and strings responses are different than what I had used for about 10 years. Switching over to a new instrument, it came with Evah Pirazzi Gold strings which were lovely, but I had to switch to light rosin because of the way the strings responded. Those strings wore out very quickly, and I traded for a new set I have never tried before recently (Obligato). I have since switched back to my dark rosin. The new strings are on the warmer side and they have an excellent tone with my violin. They have also lasted me three times as long as the Evah Pirazzi strings lasted and have a better sound quality with the instrument.

I think there are many factors in every aspect of playing such a complex and layered instrument. I also believe it is important to try different things in different ways to see what works for you because everyone is different and needs to realize their differences in the way they form their posture and instrument set up.

-A young violin/music lover

January 20, 2020 at 06:33 PM · My violin is on the bright side. I started with Dominants but found them to brighten with time. I changed to INFELD reds. These have worked well with their consistently warmer tone. My bow is due for a rehair about every 6 months. This is when I also replace my strings. Am very happy with the INFELD reds.

Glad for the weekend vote question because it generates some very interesting replies. Laurie, thank you for the interesting website.

January 20, 2020 at 06:46 PM · It depends mostly on what I'm playing. In my usual country/folk/rock context I'm the fiddle. There, my current go-to is an early 20th-century Stainer knockoff which, right now, is strung with the Preludes that came on it. These work shockingly well on that fiddle, considering they're probably the cheapest name-brand strings in the solar system. I have another fiddle, a Strad copy made in 1982 by a literal retired cowboy; it's strung with Prims, which I'll probably also try on the Stainer when I change its strings.

When I exercise my classical or classical-ish pretensions it's usually in a trio with piano and clarinet; about 70% of the time I'll be on viola in that context. My main viola, a Hiroshi Kono 15.5" that's surprisingly dark for its size, wears Evas; my 16" backup is strung with Dominants. The violin I take into that setting is a Guarneri-pattern Frederich Wyss. Right now I have Olivs on it, but will be going back to PIs; they seem more in its sweet zone for this ad hoc ensemble.

So yeah, I guess my string choices tend to fall into the middling-bright to crazy-bright part of the spectrum.

January 20, 2020 at 08:29 PM · This is a great topic, and I am reading the comments with interest. I learn so much from hearing about other player's personal experience, and there is a wealth of knowledge among your readers.

I want my violin to sound sweet, so I guess prefer a warmer tone? In my mind, I equate "bright" with "harsh", and I don't particularly want to stand out when I play in a group.

There are also so many variables. I have read that our violins sound different to our ears than they do from someone listening some feet away from us. Do we choose strings based on what sounds pleasant to us, or based on what our audience hears??

I just ordered a set of new strings (Pirastro) which got good reviews and seemed close to the middle ground. The next time I order strings, I'll re-read some of these other comments.

Louise

January 20, 2020 at 09:24 PM · I keep returning to Larsen strings after trying other brands. Within the Larsen brand I am currently trying the Cannone set with their warmer A option. My violin is very bright but when I try warmer strings it sounds a bit dull.

January 20, 2020 at 09:36 PM · So, it seems that the ultimate answer to Laurie's question is "It depends." I am not surprised.

January 20, 2020 at 09:58 PM · The violin I play most often is a 1930 modern Italian. It came with Evah Pirazzi strings but the sound was so strong that I immediately changed to Obligatos, which I quite enjoyed. I keep experimenting, however, so I also have tried Peter Infeld strings on this violin (which I liked) and currently am playing with Warchal Amber strings (which I also like).

I have other violins which I play less often and use other strings on them, so I agree with the comment of several others on this site that the type of strings one uses depends on the instrument one is playing.

January 20, 2020 at 10:52 PM · I have four violins that are around one hundred years old. Two are a little darker two a little brighter. I’ve tried several different strings on them. Darker warmer on the brighter and louder instruments. I also have a modern violin that is very loud full darker toned with some clarity, I’m using D’addario heli-core heavy on that one and wow ! sweet,warm,rich but loud and clear with quick bow response.On the old ones I tend to use warmer synthetic. I must add that if you really want to know what your instrument sounds like, get someone else to play it for you. I guarantee it sounds way different under your ear.

January 20, 2020 at 11:44 PM · Warmer or bright depend on the instrument too. Warm and dark with focus is good. Sometimes a dark sound can be unfocused and that is bad. As a viola maker, I am always playing with Dark X bright. Bright sound may come with a quick response, more clarity and volume under the ear. Too dark sound may cause a slow reponse, lack of focus and clarity. I try to make a dark but focused sound, with a good response.

January 21, 2020 at 08:41 AM · Seems to me there is also contrast between a very smooth sound and a slightly gritty one (which I associate with gut). I prefer the later and have strung all my violins as I make them with Warchal Amber which has that quality.

January 21, 2020 at 12:25 PM · Interesting that most people voted for warmer strings but Evah Pirazzi and Peter Infeld / Visions are still the best selling brands :))

January 21, 2020 at 02:11 PM · My violin prefers warmer strings. I have absolutely no problem with focus and projection. Brighter strings it's way too harsh! And a shout out hello to Louis Manfio!

January 21, 2020 at 08:49 PM · My violin originally came with the Spirit! strings from Thomastik-Infeld, but I felt that the violin lost its brilliance after only wearing those strings for 2 weeks. I switched to Evah Pirazzi after a suggestion from a friend and, except switching to a gold G string, I never went back. My violin has a lot more resonance and projection with these strings (so I guess it is a warmer instrument?).

January 22, 2020 at 12:06 PM · The string choice will depend on the instrument and the players technique and taste. Evah Pirazzis sound dark and warm in my violas.

January 22, 2020 at 08:36 PM · I use Vision Titanium Solo with Wwestminster middle on my newer violin. It’s sound is less defined and it benefits from extra punch of these strings.

My “da salo” is aggressive and loud, so Visions are a bit much on it. I found regular dominants and PI strings very agreeable (both with Westminster E). I recently used Corelli Cantiga strings and they were a perfect set for my violin. The E string was almost as powerful as Westminster, but quite a bit sweeter.

Recently I fitted a full set of Efrano guts (mittel) with gut E. It’s hard to describe the effect.... It sounds gloriously warm and sweet, with great amount of purr and growl. The strings sound very aggressive, but not harsh. They seem quieter in terms of pure DB, but they seem to project just like - perhaps even better than composite strings.

January 27, 2020 at 12:38 AM · I prefer warm for A-D-G on two fiddles. Infeld Reds have worked very well for me. On the third fiddle, I have a bright-to-dark gradation for these strings: Vision Solo A, Peter Infeld aluminum D, Infeld Red G. All three instruments have Goldbrokat medium E to give a brighter sheen in the high tones. This E also helps the lower strings ring more.

My 1869 instrument is the one that most sounds like a viola in the low tones with Reds installed. I've also done well with Eudoxas, mentioned in the blog, for A-D-G; but, for me, the D-G have to be the stiff versions. I tried regular D-G once 14 years ago and didn't like them as well. Intense bow pressure made the tone break or crush too easily. The stiff versions hold up much better and give me a bigger, more robust tone.

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