String Intrigue

June 29, 2008 at 02:54 PM · I'm about to purchase a c.1880 British instrument (no label) and I've tried old sets of Dominants, Infeld Blue, Larsen G, Vision Titanium, and Obligato. So far, Obligatos are the winners. I like their playability and numerous colors.

However, I'm curious if there's a synthethetic string I haven't tried, or perhaps a gut string, that sounds particularly good on older instruments in general? I always found that Pirazzis sounded better on older instruments, for example (even though I myself haven't owned one until now!). I'm hesitant to try those due to their higher level of tension. I feel like I could get more "boom" out of my Guarneri-like violin than I'm getting with the Obligatos.

Any thoughts?

Replies (34)

June 29, 2008 at 04:32 PM · Well... when I met the fantastically friendly and approachable guys of the Tokyo String Quartet with their amazing "Paganini" Stradivarius instruments, one of my questions was: "What strings do you use?" - the answer... Dominants. Nothing wrong with the sound they got either!

June 29, 2008 at 06:51 PM · Rosalind,

Yes, I'm wondering if I should try a new set of Dominants. The ones I experimented with are "well-used" and probably not a perfect representation. I've just put some old Infeld Blues on, and the boom certainly has increased!


June 29, 2008 at 10:48 PM · Any other nominations besides Dominant?

June 30, 2008 at 02:13 PM · How about Tonica? I think you said you tried those already?

June 30, 2008 at 04:21 PM · Yes, I forgot to list Tonicas! I tried them, but they were too metallic for this violin. Sound amazing on a Juzek Violin, though.

June 30, 2008 at 05:28 PM · There really isn't a way to know what string will sound good on a fiddle to another persons ears--it depends on the fiddle and the judges ears. It really depends on what tone your after and what you have.

Dominants are the universal try all. If an instrument doesn't sound at least decent with Ye Olde Dominants--there is usually something wrong with the instrument. IMHO.

June 30, 2008 at 05:35 PM · Marc,

Dominants (and everything else) sound good on this instrument. It's dark, loud, sweet, rich, colorful, easy to play. I'm going for strings that accentuate color, ease of playing, projection, sweetness and smooth sound.

Perhaps it's because they've just been put on, but the Dominants I have on now seem a bit edgy. They aren't new strings, so I wouldn't have thought they'd be this edgy.

Or perhaps I'm just in the "must find ideal strings" rut. =P

I really appreciate your input, everybody. I know it's impossible for anyone to know, without playing my actual instrument and knowing exactly what I'm going for to recommend the "magic string solution." I also am aware of the zillions of other threads on this topic, and apologize for adding one more variant. Thanks again!

June 30, 2008 at 05:49 PM · " It's dark, loud, sweet, rich, colorful, easy to play. I'm going for strings that accentuate color, ease of playing, projection, sweetness and smooth sound."


You merely want everything, I take it? (<:

Dominants tend to be that for the most part--my only gripe with them IME, has been that they don't have a large color palette, also they don't project well enough for my fiddle and tastes. Dominants are my metric, and thing to compare back to---they don't sound bad in and of themselves (usually a poor fiddle is at fault) and they aren't spectacular either usually--they're a nice compromise all things considered.

Of course, I've been corrupted by gut-core strings. I went to the Dark Side--they're the ones that have most all the cookies.

June 30, 2008 at 05:47 PM · Tasha, I think you also said awhile that you tend to find darker strings too quiet. I see what you mean, but in some circumstances, e.g. on some very powerful instruments, I don't find that to be the case. I was surprised with how beautiful (and still powerful) Violinos sounded on my French violin.

June 30, 2008 at 06:40 PM · Tasha - the basic problem with your question is the implicit assumption that there is a particular type or types of string that sound uniformly good on some type of violin. All strings sound different on different violins. It is very individual. Your best bet is to go to your luthier, let him/her have a listen to your violin with Obligatos and see if s/he can suggest anything that will give you more of the tone you want. While there may be some types of strings that do not work at all on older violins (metal core?), the odds are that most strings will work well on at least some older violins.

June 30, 2008 at 07:36 PM · Marc, yes, I want everything! Only child here, don't I deserve it? ;) Nah, I'm just really inspired by my amazing instrument and I am so interested to see what all I can get out of it. Gut strings, eh? Mind if I ask which brand?

June 30, 2008 at 07:37 PM · Andrew, I have been curious about Violinos for a while. What type of instrument would you say yours is? I know you said it's French and powerful. What do the Violinos do for you?

June 30, 2008 at 07:38 PM · Tom, yes, I'm gathering that strings are a trial-and-error business, regardless of the stereotype the instrument fits into (dark, bright, brilliant, focused, nasal, "cold", etc.). My luthier from whom I'm purchasing this instrument is out of town for 2 weeks.

June 30, 2008 at 08:08 PM · Hi Tasha,

They feel and respond very much like Obligatos, but they're warmer and on some instruments, maybe not as powerful. Probably a bit less edgy in terms of response, too. I wouldn't say they are "darker" than Obligatos; just warmer, and they have a 'softer' sound quality on my violin. It's a workshop French violin from JB Colin's shop from early last century. It's very bright, powerful, even, and smooth, but lacks the maturity and 'texture' (for lack of a better term) that many old violins have. I have an old German violin that has a lot of texture, maybe too much, but isn't quite as powerful, and I enjoy each of them (Dominants happen to work very, very well on that one...there was a problem with every other string I tried on there).

June 30, 2008 at 08:30 PM · Contact Warchal Strings, they have a new string just for older instruments.

June 30, 2008 at 08:09 PM · Marc, yes, I want everything! Only child here, don't I deserve it? ;) Nah, I'm just really inspired by my amazing instrument and I am so interested to see what all I can get out of it. Gut strings, eh? Mind if I ask which brand?


Who is more deserving? ;)

Well Tasha,

Be forewarned that gut-core strings are far more sensitive in just about every way than any synthetic cores.

There are a few distinct trade-offs to be aware of:

-Something like Dominants are care-free strings in that you can use just about any bow pressure/angle/speed/contact point you please and you'll get a predictable good sound, gut-cores are far more sensitive to all the above-you have far more possibilities for tone and color but you need to be much more precise about how you play in order to get what you want. If you're careless or spaced out you can get sqeeks or other sound effects you don't want (I've done it before, and gotten strange looks from colleagues who just don't get it).

-Also with gut the tone is much more complex than any synthetic.

-The tension is also much lower so when you need to retune, it is far easier to move and set a peg than any synthetic.

-The other notable catch to be wary of is shifts in humidity. If you keep your living/practice space at a fairly constant humidity, and whatever music school is at a fairly constant humidity---you can get along fine. You need to check tuning a bit more often--but with a steel e that is fairly constant isn't much of a bugger--h*ll players for 250 years before Dominants played on gut cores professionally, so it is possible.

-Lastly they aren't cheap--usually about as expensive as high-end synthetics.

Having said the above--I'm using Passiones ( has them the cheapest you'll ever find-there are lots of questions about these on this board). They settle in quickly, and work fantastically on my own fiddle-the larger gauges are better, but much more difficult to get ahold of. They might not seem that loud under the ear, but I've gotten compliments from percussionists on the other sides of my uni symphony and chamber orchestra--because the tone is warm and complex and carries over all the Evah/Dominant users in a violin section :>)

June 30, 2008 at 08:44 PM · A bit off topic. My Dominant G string is buzzing. The ball at the end seems to rattle against the tail piece. Is it common? How can I fix it so that it doesn't buzz? Thank you.

June 30, 2008 at 08:57 PM · Marc,

I tried Passiones before on my previous violin. I liked them a lot, but for that violin, I found them to warm up too much. Thank you for all your tips regarding gut strings! So much to consider...

Regarding the tailpiece query... Do you have a Wittner tailpiece? (black metal/plastic tailpiece with built in fine tuners) If so, upgrade to a tailpiece that's wooden. Have fine tuners installed if needed. If it's a wooden tailpiece with fine tuners installed, change that fine tuner, or try pulling the prongs apart a bit more. You can also just remove the fine tuners (most pros use only an E fine tuner). If it's a d'Bois Harmonie, make a post, because while they're lovely, I have no experience with them. ;)

June 30, 2008 at 09:06 PM · Ray,

What's that string called? Is there a place to see any reviews on it? I just checked the Warchal website, and they don't say anything about older instruments specifically.

June 30, 2008 at 09:18 PM · Every fiddle is different, remember. Do a forum search about those Warchals Tasha---I seem to remember a thread somewhere on this board about wanting guinea pigs to try them not too far back.

I was going to suggest that under the g-string would be a perfect place to hide your chewing gum before rehearsal....

June 30, 2008 at 09:37 PM · Wait until September please.

July 1, 2008 at 01:44 AM · Wow, hi, Mr. Warchal! Ok, I'll wait until September, then. Are they not available in any stores? I know I haven't seen them at Shar in Ann Arbor, Mi...

July 1, 2008 at 01:52 AM · So far, Infeld Blues are winning (I keep switching back and forth...)

July 1, 2008 at 01:33 PM · Mr. Warchal, would your new string include a newly designed e string by any chance?

Note the other thread here about what is wrong with Dominant E strings.

July 2, 2008 at 08:49 AM · Our customers mostly like Warchal E strings. On the other hand, any feedback regarding our strings will be appreciated. (

Brillinat Vintage E string will be slightly remodeled Warchal Brilliant E string. In any case we focused mainly on response and playability, which is not common at current "modern" string sets. Especially old instrument face this problem. Many of them are not able to cope with "modern" strings.

July 2, 2008 at 02:24 PM · Mr. Warchal,

Just curious - what do you mean by "modern" strings?

July 2, 2008 at 03:10 PM · Many famous synthetic strings launched into the market in last ten years. But I never mention the particular brands or products of another strings manufacturers I am sorry. If you check more disscusion on the chats, you will find more threads about it.

July 3, 2008 at 09:16 PM · Try Passiones. they worked well on my old violin. when i first put them on i started thinking about cinnamon, because they are spicy in a soft way and i think that matches that old sound if you know what i mean. pirazzis didn't work at all on my violin (my violin is dark sounding) and actually if boom means you want some punch, i wouldn't go for any synthetic from pirastro, so far they haven't worked, but the passiones are different, they have got both punch and that soft feeling. i haven't tried any other gut string from pirastro and maybe they do have good synthetics as well but the obligatos and evahs don't punch.

July 3, 2008 at 09:53 PM · Tasha,

Give Passione strings another try, they might be just the thing for your "new" 1880-vintage violin. I am sure your violin will appreciate them as well. I can just hear it speaking now, "Ahhh, gut strings! How I've missed gut, it's been a long time..." If you're the patient and forgiving sort, you can even step up to Eudoxa and plain gut, something your instrument may appreciate all the more. After all, your 1880-vintage violin was made for gut!

But, if Passione (or other) gut strings are not your flavor, then consider a set of Larsen strings, not Tzigane (sp?), but the standard set. In my opinion, they're the best synthetic strings on the market. I've not tried them all, but I've tried a lot of them and Larsen strings are about as close to gut as one can get when using synthetic.

Have a great 4th of July!


July 4, 2008 at 02:37 AM · Thanks, you two, for the vote towards Passione. I've been thinking about it... I remember that G being delicious... =) If I get a surge of $$, I might just go that route...


July 4, 2008 at 04:53 AM · if you get a surge of what??????!

Sounds like prune abuse to me.

July 4, 2008 at 12:28 PM · Oh, Buri, you caught me! I've been spending that money I should have been spending on strings to get PRUNES all because you are the violin guru and they work for you, and I want to be just like you someday... =P

July 4, 2008 at 12:51 PM · Oh, and are Eudoxas better than Passiones?

July 4, 2008 at 01:25 PM · Yes, Eudoxa strings kick butt over any other gut string I have tried, however I think the ideal combination is a Eudoxa G with a plain gut D and A (or a Eudoxa G and D with a plain gut A). Eudoxa strings are loaded with character, the overtones being intense. They may sound softer under the ear, but you can get a really big sound out of them that will carry forever. However, they are more tempermental, although not as much as some might suggest. I guess the degree to which you can accept this will depend upon the circumstances surrounding their use, and the degree to which you are able to tolerate inconvenience. Another beauty of Eudoxa (and plain gut) strings is their low cost (plain gut strings from Gamut, the best plain gut available, are dirt cheap). Passione and Oliv strings are quite expensive, but they generally last a pretty long time.

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