Viola solo strings

August 30, 2008 at 11:21 PM · I have seen a number of discussions here about which violinists use which strings. Does anyone know which the top violists use?

Replies (27)

August 31, 2008 at 12:51 AM · Most of the violists I know use either Evah Pirazzi, Obligato or if you want to save a few bucks, Thomastik Vision.

The pickier people often have a tendency to pair any one of these sets with a Larsen A string.

Dominants tend to be far less common on violas than on violin. I just think that most violists need the better projection that these newer strings offer. If you're really trying to save money you could check out Helicore strings. Good projection but questionable build quality.

You can pick up any one of these types of strings at for less than anywhere else.

I would say that overall there is much less variance in what strings violists use than violinists. But it's nothing like cellists and their Spirocore/Larsen combination. Probably 90% of serious cellists use it.

August 31, 2008 at 01:27 AM · I use Evahs with a Larsen A on the violas I make. But one of my clients used Visions to play Harold in Italy, there is a sound sample of it on my site, here:

August 31, 2008 at 03:05 AM · evah pirazzi with larsen or jargar A

August 31, 2008 at 12:04 PM · I think Josh Bell uses Evah Pirazzis, and I heard that he uses a gold label E from Pirastro. However, I don't know if that's true.

I'm not calling myself famous, by any means, but I used to use Evahs, and they sounded terrible on my instrument. Visions sounded better, but too soft (sound cracks easily, etc.), so don't base your strings off of what famous people use-your violin may be different.

I tried out a new set and found that Dominants are pure gems for my instrument, paired with a medium gauge Hill E.

August 31, 2008 at 02:53 PM · I heard that Yuri Bashmet uses Spirocores, and noted in a photo that he seemed to use them on G and C (and I think he also had Larsen A and D in that photo). He also had a Thomastik tailpiece on that viola.

I tried using Thomastik viola strings and found that they were very good (best) on one of my violas but were inferior on the other. However, I had decided to try an experiment with the Thomastik viola strings and instead of selecting a set matched by gauge, I matched them by tension, selecting strings as closely matched in tension as possible (I forget which is which - but there is only one way to do this), so they ranged from thick to thin. On that one instrument, it was a good choice.

Obligatos had worked well on both instruments.


August 31, 2008 at 03:39 PM · The violist in my quartet and my viola-player student teacher favor Helicores. I have Obbligatos on my new big viola, and Dominants on the 14" I often play when teaching, but I haven't done much experimenting yet. Sue

August 31, 2008 at 08:30 PM · There are three violists in my area playing on Warchal's brilliant viola strings, one of them uses a Kaplan A with them. They all sound fantastic on them.

September 1, 2008 at 07:58 AM ·

Very nice sounding viola here. It sounds very responsive, and resonant, with the C string speaking very easily. I hope there might be a chance to hear it live one day.

If you have more webspace available could you put up the same recording at a higher bitrate mp3 perhaps? The Ogg Vorbis format will reproduce the recording at a better quality for the same file size - they can be played back with the VLC media player.

September 1, 2008 at 06:35 PM · For my taste, depends on the viola...I like a lot of the popular synthetics in different circumstances.

From what I see both here in the NYC area and in Philadelphia, Dominants are still very popular with violists, and I do think they can sometimes work very well - as can others.

September 1, 2008 at 07:39 PM · This recording here of the second movement of my Viola Concerto was done with Zyex C, G & D and a Kaplan A on my instrument which is a modern French instrument made in 2000. Bow is also modern French. When I first switched to this combination of strings (all mediums) I found the C string really light after the Spirocore, but I've gotten quite used to it now.

September 1, 2008 at 09:43 PM · Thanks everyone for the replies so far. I have for a long time used Helicores on my instrument, but as an experiment have just ordered some Eudoxas - just out of interest really. Anyone any idea what Tabea Zimmermann or Kim Kashkashian use?

September 2, 2008 at 03:23 PM · Hi Nigel! Thank you for your kind words about the sound of my viola, the soloist is Alberto Lepage, with the Cordoba Orchestra.

I'll talk with the guy who made me the site to see if we can offer sound samples with better quality.

If you e.mail me ( I can send you more sound samples, perhaps with a better quality (I'm a computer nerd...). Ciao!

September 2, 2008 at 06:56 PM · Kim Kashkashian was using all Tonicas - not sure if she still does.

September 3, 2008 at 04:06 PM · Hello. Let me preface by stating that I am not a professional. I do, however, own a very nice viola and for the past year I have been experimenting with the strings. The origional owner used Helicores with a Larson A. I love the feel of the Helicores but wasn't sure about the sound wanted to find out what sounded best on the viola. I had Evah's on and liked the D and G but not the A or C. (I agree with Blake (see previous viola string review) that Evahs don't sound good with a Larson A.) So I put on an Obligato A on with it and a Spirocore C. This seemed to be a nice ballance. Currently I have Obligatos on with a Spirocore C and this is nice as well. The Spirocore C is very powerful but give a nice full sound that the Evah failed to do. I've yet to try the other combinations suggested and I think in the end I'll put the Helicores back on just to see if my origional assessment was correct.


June 24, 2009 at 09:14 AM ·

Bashmet uses spirocore Cand G.  He does not use Larsen D and A but Prim.

June 25, 2009 at 03:38 AM · Interesting - Spirocore/Prim sounds like a very bright, maybe even brash-sounding (at least the Prim A and D) combination - I wonder how he and his instrument make it work so well. To respond to an earlier comment - I don't agree that Dominants necessarily project any less than Obligatos, Evahs, or Visions. I think it must really depend on the instrument. I loved the sound of Obligatos on my viola - so warm and refined - but I can get a much bigger sound out of Dominants, and more tone colors too. I don't always like them, but I find they can work terrifically well on at least some violas, and I still see many violists using them.

June 25, 2009 at 10:44 AM ·

I like Dominants also, with a Larsen or Jargar A, but orchestras players don't like them because, according to them, Dominant's life is too short.  So, now, for the violas I make, I use Evahs with a Larsen A.

June 25, 2009 at 02:02 PM ·

I have tried a number of combinations on my viola.   Dominants were too overpowering, Obligatos tended to have a short life, Zyrex didn't speak well on my instrument.  I have found the perfect combination with the new Vision Solo and a Larsen A.  This combination works the best with my viola and bow.

June 26, 2009 at 01:04 AM ·

I received a set of PASSIONEs from Pirastro to test, I'll test them tomorrow on the latest viola I made.

June 26, 2009 at 01:58 PM ·

I use Dominants with Larsen A.

---Ann Marie

June 26, 2009 at 02:05 PM ·

Will be interesting to hear your thoughts on the Passiones, Luis. Having seen the generally positive response to the violin strings, I have high hopes for these...

June 26, 2009 at 03:27 PM ·

most of the violists i know use either evahs or obligatos



June 26, 2009 at 11:48 PM ·

Andrès Lepage, my official viola test driver came here today to test my newest viola that I called "Tullia d"Aragona". We tested the "Tullia" viola and compared the sound with my "Fiammeta", that is 3 months older. Fiammeta had a more open sound.

Then I decided to try the Passiones on my "Tullia" viola.  The D string took sometime to set in tune but, eventually, I liked these strings very much. I found the sound very rich in harmonics. When Andrès played the "Fiammetta" viola strung with EVAHs, I found that the sound was richer with "Tullia" strung with PASSIONEs, wich enhanced the subtleties of the players articulation. I think that these strings may help projection too.

Of course that strings are chosen according to the instrument and player's style, but I really liked the PASSIONEs.  Andrès will test drive the viola with the PASSIONES and will report his impressions to me.


June 30, 2009 at 01:08 AM ·

Well, Andrès Lepage took my viola strung with PASSIONEs to the orchestra. I met him today for the photos of my latest viola and his feedback about PASSIONEs is:  some problems to keep them in tune (wich is a problem for orchestra players), the D string lacked a bit of tension and the strings had some response and clarity problems in quick parts, so I took the PASSIONEs  out  re strung it with  EVAHs and a  LARSEN A. 

June 30, 2009 at 04:19 AM · I guess to each his own! On standard size violas (16+), I generally haven't liked what the high tension of medium Evahs has done to the sound - modulation was difficult. I've only tried a Passione D so far, but I very much enjoyed it. Reminds me very much of Eudoxa, but more brilliant. I guess Andres could try the heavy gauge D (only 1/4 PM thicker, according to Pirastro's website).

June 30, 2009 at 10:46 AM ·

Yes, you are right, I think the Passiones would sound much better with an instrument with thinner plates than mine, my instruments are more for musicians that are willing to "carve" the sound.

June 30, 2009 at 11:43 AM ·

Since I posted above the recording of the movement of my Viola Concerto where I was using Zyex mediums for the C,G ,& D, I've witched to using the Zyex heavy tension for the C string alongside the mediums for the G & D, and that combination seems to work very well for my instrument. I'm using the heavy C in the recording of my Duo for Violin and Viola. At Musicora this year D'adarrio said that a new C string for viola would be coming out in July or August, so I'm looking forward to trying that. 

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