V.com weekend vote: When is the last time you a tried different kind of string(s)?

June 5, 2021, 1:56 PM · In the last few months, a number of new kinds of strings have arrived on the market, including Thomastik's Dominant Pro in early spring, and more recently, Larsen's Aurora, which comes in fractional sizes and is aimed toward medium-range affordability.

This made me think: Wouldn't it be great to be able to try out all the new strings that arrive on the market? For that matter, it would be great to try out all the dozens of string brands that are already on the market - the many offerings from Pirastro, Thomastik and Larsen, Jargar, Warchal, D'Addario, Fiddlerman...

violin strings

What are the best of the best? What are the subtle differences? What are the ones that work on fractional violins? What are good bargain strings to suggest for school music programs?

Given that most people change their violin strings only a few times a year, it would be rather difficult to try out every string on the market, unless you had a lot of violins, or maybe a violin shop or students to test them! It also depends on your taste and tolerance for risk - do you want to invest in a completely new kind of strings and risk six months of playing on strings you aren't crazy about? Are you willing to go to the trouble of changing them again in just a month or two if you wind up unhappy?

Given these factors, I suspect that a lot of string players stick to the tried-and-true, once they find a set-up they like. Or sometimes they never go much beyond their teachers' original suggestions.

Then again, I think certain players are tinkerers and like to change their string setup frequently - like nearly every time they change their strings!

As for me, I do occasionally try different strings, but it has been a long evolutionary process. As a kid, I simply used Thomastik Dominants, like (seemingly) everyone else. I have not yet tried the Dominant Pros, but I'm curious.

When I bought my current old Italian violin, for a long time I was playing with Evah Pirazzis. Then I tried Evah Pirazzi Golds (expensive, but wow soooo nice...) I did a stint with Jargar Superiors -- Joshua Bell was using them and they are gorgeous - but very loud. At that point, I had a little revelation: I am not a touring soloist and thus do not need something that will project to the back of the Hollywood Bowl. So I sought out something that had the qualities I liked but a bit less volume. So lately I have been playing on Obligatos, which match my violin so well, and I'm really pleased with them. They were actually a pre-cursor to the Evahs, so they have a lot in common with them. Very nice for an orchestral musician/teacher/chamber music player like myself.

Do you often try different strings? What are you playing on these days, and how did you arrive at that decision? Are you still experimenting? Or have you found the setup that works for you and stayed with that for a pretty long time? Please respond to the vote, and then tell us about your string set-up and experiences in the comments.

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Replies

June 5, 2021 at 08:16 PM · This year with just playing alone at home I tried a different set up. My strings were really dull and out of tune but I didnt want to buy the expensive oliv strings to play only at home. So I tried cheaper but also different strings now I have time and opportunity to change and mix. It was fun to do but I still like the oliv strings best. So this summer I change back to them when playing outdoors starts again

June 5, 2021 at 09:40 PM · I last tried a new string in summer 2019 -- Passione regular A. It didn't blend well with the Eudoxa stiff D for double-stops on my 1883 fiddle. The A sounded too hard-edged by comparison -- and then the string gave out at the peg box end after 6 weeks. Haven't tried Passione again since then.

I don't try different strings very often now, but I'm always curious. So far, I've had experience mostly with Pirastro, Thomastik, Jargar, Westminster, and Lenzner.

I split daily practice/play sessions among three fiddles. They all have Goldbrokat Medium E now. Two of them have Infeld Red A-D-G. With this combo, the 1869 fiddle comes nearest to sounding like a viola on D-G. I previously had Eudoxa A + stiff D-G and got a similar sound, but the Reds give me more power and ring, which I really like.

On the 1921 instrument, I tried a different combo about 5 years ago after reading another v-com member's recommendation: E - Westminster Heavy; A - Vision Solo; D-G - Peter Infeld. This really brought the instrument to life, but I found the E too loud and the G too edgy. So, at next string change, I went to Goldbrokat Medium E and Infeld Red G. This combo sounds even better, to me, than the previous setup did.

I tried the above-mentioned Dominants, A-D-G, mittel (medium) gauge, in early 2006. I liked the overall sound on the 1921 fiddle, but the tone broke too easily on sul G notes above 5th position. The Red G works better for me on the same instrument.

June 5, 2021 at 10:17 PM · In my string experimentation over the years I’ve often bought more than one set of any particular type. A little while ago I did a bit of inventory and found that I had twelve unopened sets. There’s various types from D’Addario, Larsen, Pirastro, Thomastic and Warchal. I realized that there’s nothing wrong with any of them, and I decided then that I’m not going to buy another set until I use these up, which will take a while. So yes, I switch to different sets, but for no other reason now than just because I have them.

June 5, 2021 at 10:31 PM · I don't try new strings all that often, but I do get curious about strings that other people have recommended for smaller violas. I tend to try new strings only when I know I have at least a month off from rehearsing and performing. I happened to be due for a string change right at the beginning of the pandemic, which was a great opportunity to try something new, so I switched from my usual Vision Solo + Larsen A to a full set of Kaplan Amos. I like them enough that I stuck with them for another string change.

June 6, 2021 at 12:20 AM · For synthetics, I've been using Timbre, currently with a gold PI E. Before I had my bridge lowered, this set worked best with an Amber E...but not anymore. The variables on a violin can be maddening...

June 6, 2021 at 01:22 AM · Dealing with gauges rather than brands. Gut strings for D and A, steel wire at E and synthetic at G. So far settling at 4,5; 4,3; 5,5 and 7,8-8,0 lbs. That’s it. Not enough money nor professional career justifying spending on fancy strings.

June 6, 2021 at 03:36 AM · I voted for the 3rd option.

Here's my current string setup:

Italian bench-made early 1900s violin - always used Oliv G,D,A and Evah Pirrazi E (goldstahl)

21st century contemporary maker bench-made violin - I use Obligato G,D,A and Evan Pirazzi E

19th century Vogtland violin made by a 5th generation violin maker - Thomastik Infeld PI which I installed just 2 months ago, and I love it on this violin.

I have 2 other violins (Chinese intermediate level) where I have Evah Pirrazi green sets on.

The only violin I recently changed to a different string on is my Vogtland violin. Before I changed to PIs, I had Evah Pirazzi green on them.

I was actually surprised that I like the PIs. I might try installing PIs on my other violin(s) when the time comes to change strings.

I am not a professional violinist, so I do not have any concern, nor care about whether the strings I'm using will fit a specific type of environment (orchestra, chamber, etc.). I just chose/choose what strings my ears perceive as the best fit for a specific violin.

June 6, 2021 at 08:46 AM · Disregarding a random collection of E strings - residuals of former days - from where I sometimes serve myself to use them up, it was 2019 when I last time switched to Thomastik Infeld PI GDA.

Unfortunately, it's still that very same set of strings I'm currently using. Daytime job still didn't allow me to practice on a regular basis, and that way I also lost my motivation. It's a shame... But things are changing slowly.

I lately acquired a viola and a violin, both with a set of (old and really worn) guts, so I guess it's time for experiments again. Not sure yet if I'm a gut guy, and even not sure yet if I'm going to keep both instruments, but I'll have to get them to optimal playing condition anyway.

June 6, 2021 at 03:28 PM · I kind of miss the old days when the choices were either cheap, awful steel strings or one of the Pirastro gut. Dominants never worked on my fiddles. Finding the optimum set of strings can be an expensive hobby, not worth it for my low-end instruments. I will not be buying any synthetic set that costs more than Pirastro Gold label. Two things can confuse us. New strings will sound better than our half-worn out old strings. The gauge is just as important as the brand. For the E-string we can start by trying all three gauges of the Goldbrokat.

I like the two Warchal sets that I have tried: Amber and Karneol. Thanks for the tip about Jargar Superior. As a Mariachi violinist competing with trumpets I need to be as loud as possible.

June 6, 2021 at 03:54 PM · The cost of strings has gotten so high now that I feel prohibited from trying anything else.

June 6, 2021 at 04:19 PM · While I said that I have had the same string set up for over 10 years, that is not quite correct, as last year I did try a set of Eudoxas just for old times sake, but I didn't actually like them and quickly switched back to Obligatos.

June 6, 2021 at 06:17 PM · I've used Evah Pirazzi Gold for a few years BUT was constantly trying different E strings. I finally found one that suits me perfectly...Pirastro Universal No 1 soft E string.

June 6, 2021 at 07:18 PM · Helicore is just about the only option for my 5-string acoustic viola. Very hard to find a viola E; the NS seemed more for solid body. For 4-string viola, Obligato is my tried and true: a couple of years ago, I tried Xyex and Tonica and found them very dull. For violin, I like a combo of Infeld red and blue with an Evah E. I don't mind experimenting with budget strings like Spirit, but can't afford to try out the premium offerings.

June 6, 2021 at 07:33 PM · When strings were cheaper about 15-20 years ago (the cost of strings has far outpaced inflation), I would change strings every 3 months or so and would often experiment with sets since I knew that I'd probably have them on the violin for 6 to 12 weeks depending on longevity, and it wasn't a big deal if I didn't love a set.

Now I'm mostly picking and sticking with a brand on changes every 6 months or so, though I probably be changing about three times a year.

June 6, 2021 at 08:52 PM · This is an interesting polling question.

I used to experiment more than I do now - prices have gone up a lot, and it takes some time and patience, which I guess I might have less of these days.

Growing up, I really disliked the grainy metallicness of Dominants, but as an adult, I actually find them to be one of the better-rounded options across a wide variety of instruments, both violin and viola. That they are offered in different gauges helps. I find that the heavier gauge can work better for the lower strings on some violas, adding much-needed power without losing much response.

In spite of my love for experimenting, I’ve only just recently tried Evah Pirazzi (greens) on violin, and find their ability to take lots of weight but also produce a refined sound very interesting. The medium G was too unresponsive and exacerbated a wolf, and I am enjoying the light G instead.

June 6, 2021 at 09:53 PM · I have a mid-century Italian violin that had Eudoxa and Oliv strings when I bought it. I used those for a long time, but they just got to be too expensive. I tried Dominant, and a couple of other "newer" brands when they came out, but they all sounded too bright on my violin. I have been using Aricore, for many years now, although some of the mail order places no longer carry them. I am a little skittish about trying new strings, even when they are advertised as "dark" or "rich" because I have been burned too many times.

June 6, 2021 at 10:01 PM · has anyone tried octave strings?

June 7, 2021 at 01:49 AM · Like many above, I used to experiment a lot upon the suggestions of my violin repairer who I trusted in terms of knowing which new strings were worthwhile and what qualities they had that might suit my fiddle.

I think it was exciting during that period 15-20 years ago or so when all these new strings were coming onto the market, so many players were enjoying trying them out. But rising costs and less experimentation required now, I think, both on the part of players and repairers.

But for the last 10 years or more I've stuck with the ol' reliable Pirastro 'Violino' strings. They're nice and even and fairly bright, not too expensive and they last.

June 7, 2021 at 04:12 AM · @Joan, I wonder if you have tried and liked Obligato?

June 7, 2021 at 10:55 AM · I like that Bohdan Warchal is one of us, and posts on here. So far I only have his Amber E-strings plus, I think, and an Amber D (which seems better on my Maggini copy than the current G and A strings), but I think my future string purchases will be either gut or within the Warchal range.

June 8, 2021 at 02:39 PM · Some five years ago I read a lot about different strings and decided to try Thomastik Infeld Red. I liked them so much that I never tried others after this.

Actually I sometimes use Warchal Amber E strings when the Infeld gets dull before the other strings. I like Warchal very much.

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