Beginner and Strings.

May 8, 2010 at 04:30 PM ·

 I have been told by my violin teacher that my violin needs new strings. I'm going to take it to my Luthier so he can show me how to do it, but how do I know what kind of strings are best for my violin? Should I ask him his opinion? Or should I go in with something in mind? Should I change all the strings at once or start with one and work my way to all four? How much should I be paying for strings? (I'm sure it varies...) I'm really quite confused, but I don't want to put terrible cheap strings on my darling by accident. I'm not entirely sure I could tell on my own, especially since you have to break in new strings.... 

 

Could some one please help me out? I have tried to look up some topics previously on this matter, but most of them just confuse me further, could you write your responses in a "Violin Strings for Dummies" sort of way? 

 

Thanks!

Replies (44)

May 8, 2010 at 05:12 PM ·

 A good starting-off point for strings are Dominants.   However, the e-string tends to suck, to I suggest you get either the wound e-string or experiment w/ diff. e strings.  I use Goldbrokat e.  They are quite cheap and DON'T  suck.  Good luck. !

May 8, 2010 at 05:18 PM ·

Put on a set of Thomastik-Infeld Dominant strings (with a silver wound D) with a Pirastro Gold Label E string or a Lenzner Goldbrokat E string. You really can't go wrong with this set, I've seen more people (including Itzhak Perlman, Hilary Hahn, and Isaac Stern) using it than any other set.  If you buy it from a reasonably-priced source (I usually recommend Stringmall.com as being the most reasonable online dealer) this will cost you about $40, and will last you approximately six months, depending on how much you play. These are pretty much the default string - they have similar tension to gut strings, and give your violin a "neutral" sound - it will not make your violin's sound any brighter or darker.

Another good choice is Pirastro Tonica, many people find them similar to (or superior to) Dominant, though they are not as popular. I think they produce better overtones, but their tone is not as strong. They are cheaper, they cost about $25.

The other most popular choice besides Dominant strings these days is Pirastro's Evah Pirazzi strings. If you want more projection and overtones than Dominants can offer, these are a good choice - many soloists are turning to them (such as Joshua Bell, Maxim Vengerov, Vadim Repin). They are expensive, however, costing around $60 a set, usually more, and their best sound quality does not last as long. I alternate between using these and Dominants, depending on how much playing I have to do at the time.

May 8, 2010 at 05:22 PM ·

What Michael said!!!!!! Dominants but ditch the E string and go with another.

You'll just have to try different strings and see which sounds & performs the best according to your tastes.  It may be best, since you are starting out, to try sets before going the route of having a different brand for each string (Oliv. G, Obbligato D, Dominant A, wonder tone E).  That can be a more expensive way to string your violin, but also it maybe best to get to know each brand in proportion to themselves before venturing out to match them with other brands.

@ Brian Lee. great suggestions, but if she goes with Tonica's she might would want to try Visions afterwards and compare the two.

May 8, 2010 at 05:22 PM ·

 I think it depends on your level.. If you're beginner, a Pirastro is good and not too expensive. A dominant has is way better though, but the price is way higher than the Pirastro..

May 8, 2010 at 06:27 PM ·

Kristen-

When you ask about changing them one at a time or all at once, the answer is "Both".  You most likely need a whole new set, especially if the ones you started with were crummy before they wore out.  So, buy all four at once, but put them on one at a time.  If you take off all four at once, your soundpost will most likely fall, the bridge will shift, and you'll end up with a whole raft of problems!

If your luthier sells strings ask him/her for a recommendation.  He or she should be willing to show you how to change them.  You'll probably pay a bit more than mail-order, but the service involved will be well worth it.

May 8, 2010 at 06:37 PM ·

Since you are a beginner, I don't think it's worth spending money on Evah Pirazzi, Oliv, Obligato, or other expensive sets that people mentioned.  Dominant pretty much works with any violin (but don't get the E). If you like more warmth and complexity, the Infeld Red set is also an affordable choice (it costs a little more than Dominant, but don't get the E as it's expensive). Cheaper than Dominant yet good are Pirastro Tonica and Thomastik Vision (not the Solo or Titanium). For the E-string, Pirastro Wondertone Gold Label,  Lenzner Goldbrokat, Kaplan Golden Spiral Solo, and Pirastro Silvery Steel (in Evah Pirazzi/Passione/Wondertone Solo) are all good and inexpensive choices that are compatible with many different sets.

May 8, 2010 at 06:59 PM ·

The two major string producers are Thomastik (Dominant, Vision, Infeld, etc .) and Pirastro (Tonica, Obligato, Eva Pirazzi, Permanent, Eudoxa, Olive, Passionne, etc., etc.). Other European string brands include Larsen*, Dogal, Corelli, and others. At this time all the European string brands are very expensive because of the drop in the value of the U.S. dollar. However all the strings can be purchased on-line for half their list price (a local music store (and some luthiers will also charge list price).

A decent U.S. string maker is d'Addario and their most notable reasonably priced string is Helicore - and they can do quite well on some fiddles. They also have a line of partial sets called "Kaplan Solutions," which includes a decent (non-whistling) violin E-string, a full set of cello strings and some viola strings. I have a set of Helicores on my 5-string violin.

Although Dominant has become the "benchmark" synthetic core string, it is not the best for all fiddles, and there is a whole class of violins that do better with the comparably priced Pirastro-Tonica.

My own personal choice these days has become the Thomastik Vision Solo strings, which I find I can use on quite differently voiced violins and they are actually the first brand of strings of which I've used the entire set (including the E string) in decades.

*(The Larsen Tzigane strings are a premium-priced set with the unique characteristics to make some stubborn violins sound and play well (especially those with hoighly resistant G strings) - but they can be quite bad on other instruments. But Larsen makes other brands as well.)

In your situation I would first find out what kind of strings you have on your violin now and if they are not Dominant or Tonica, I would probably try a seti of Helicore.

You might try loosening your G string (at the peg) yourself and then tightening it and tuning it up and if that works consider actually removing it and reinstalling it.  If you can do that, you will probably save a good bit of money by buying the strings from a good internet dealer yoruself and installing them. If you do the installation yourself, some people recommend removing and replacing one string at a time - but I find it perfectly save to first remove the D and G strings and the same time and replace them in this order G, then D. And then the sae with the A and E strings, replacing the E before the A - for reasons that will be immediately obvious when you do it. Be CERTAIN that you keep the bridge vertical because the top of the bridge will tend to lean toward the fingerboard when you tighten the pegs, so you need to carefully adjust it as you tighten the strings -  AND lubrigate the nut and the bridge grooves with a soft pencil before installing the new strings to reduce friction and bridge motion while tuning the pegs.

Andy

May 8, 2010 at 08:19 PM ·

I recommend staying away from the Natural Gut Strings for now due to the fact that the constant retuning will drive a new player NUTS!!!!

May 8, 2010 at 08:36 PM ·

 Greetings,

even if not completley optimal for everyone Dominant are stil pretty much the bog standard for strating out on one`s exploration of what string one is going to use. Although I think the Vision mentioned are a good choice too.  The dominant e is garbage. Period! No ideawhy. In Japan they give them away free in th other string packets and I have a case full of them (although I don`t use Dominant.)  They are the only string I ave tried o give away and politely been rejected.  The Goldbrokat is an excellent choice. It has been a favorite of greta playyer for decades and is still dirt cheap.  Ironically,  perhaps to be in to Dominants yang, the other brokats are absolutely terrible and you should not go near them.

It has become quite fashionable to start beginners on Evh Pirazzi ere in Japan.  I think this is a disaster for a number of reasons.     They actually take more pressure and energy to playthan many other strings and cause tension in developing bow arms..  They are certainly loud but I have also found this to be rather illusional and much of the loudness is centered around the players vicinity.  Further more I perosnally fele the sound is one dimensional and rather crude.  I would even venture to suggets that the soloists who are now using them have been mislead to some exent by an erroneous desire to produce =more- sound and would actually sound better with other strings.  Maybe this is just a quirk of mine but I find it really depressing that in some violin shops I visit virtually every instrument is strung up with these things.  If you wnat to go with a more expensive and responsive snthetic then Obligato is a good choice for many instruments but I relaly recommend strating with Dominant. After that you may find that cetain strngs don`t sound as bright as oyu would wish or the opposite. From thee you could strat mixing and matching the Dominant with their sister strings: Infeld Red and infeld Blue. Tha is quite standard. But wait until you udnertsand your dminats and what they can/can`t do.

Cheers,

Buri

May 8, 2010 at 11:16 PM ·

If your luthier is good, he will suggest the best strings (for sound) for your violin in your price range.

May 9, 2010 at 05:25 AM ·

Now that Dominants are obscenely expensive, I would also vote for Tonica (I really don't know what Thomasik-Infeld was thinking, online the Dominants are sometimes almost twice the price of Tonica).  I actually like them better, but I think that's a matter of the instrument and of taste. 

D'addario also makes a nylon string (Pro Arte) that are even less expensive.  They're warm and pleasant sounding to a fault (which can be nice if the instrument is too bright).  My experience with them is that they break in FAST and also wear out quite fast. 

If you plan on never changing them though, which some people do steel strings will last longer without suddenly failing on you, though they sound...well metallic.

May 11, 2010 at 08:04 PM ·

 Well I'm going to try to go to my Luthier today, I'll write down what I cannot remember about the names of the strings. The plan though, is to ask him his opinion. I'll post again later and let you know how it went.

May 11, 2010 at 10:05 PM ·

SouthWest strings has a pretty good description of different strings (http://www.swstrings.com). If you go to Violin Strings and select a specific string, it identifies some good information on that string. They are also a Violinist.com advertiser.

May 11, 2010 at 10:41 PM ·

I would not recommend buying from Southwest though, they're pretty expensive. I recommend Stringmall, they have the best prices of any online dealer that I've found, on pretty much anything and everything.

May 12, 2010 at 03:52 AM ·

I've got to side with the couple of people who said Tonicas are a better alternative to Dominants. I just think they have a lot more character than Dominants, a more woody sound as opposed to a metallic sound.

I took the oblagato's off my new fiddle cuz I thought they sounded kinda muddy on it and put on Tonica's which I thought were quite good on it, but I had a set of Violino's and tried them and the fiddle really seems to like them, I think I'll stick with them for now.  I realize Violino's are not for every fiddle for sure, but I like the clean warm focus of them on this fiddle anyways. May I also suggest that strings like Evah's and Vision Solo's reqiure a bit "better" instrument and possibly a bit more difficult to play on. Can't speak for the European brands mentioned because I haven't tried them, but I've pretty much gone thru all of the Pirastro, Thomastik & D'addario lines. In general, I think I'm leaning toward Pirastro currently, wouldn't mind trying some of these European brands mentioned, but I can get a little ridiculous with strings after a while.

I can be somewhat opinionated about strings, so I'll just appologise in advance...but if anybody has a bottle of coniac and wants to spend half the night talking about them, I'm up for it. We can spend the other half talking specifically about E strings. 

May 12, 2010 at 12:26 PM ·

David I find your response facinating. I'm afraid, though, that I over slept yesterday, and couldn't make it to the Luthier before they closed, so I'll have to make sure and go today. I did however post a (poor) video of me playing. I'll try to post another one after I get my new strings, just so I can compare. (I hope.)

 

Sorry for the bleeding ears if you go and watch it. It's posted on a blog on this site.

May 12, 2010 at 02:53 PM ·

Kristen; I guess I have to do more than just click on that link, my computer skills are pathetic, I'll keep trying. But if I'm allowed a few more comments....After bashing Dominants in my last post...I agree with Stephan about possibly using Dominants as "base camp" or a point of referance for other strings. I think this is sound advice, excuse the pun.

Also re: Andrew's Vision Solo's, I think these are good strings, and I used them on my barcus berry for quite a while for busking. The bb, being a quiet accoustic electric, really liked the power of the Solo's and the tone was very good. But when it came time to amplify it, I went back to ViolinO's cuz they were nice and mellow amplified. So now I've got ViolinO's on both the bb and my new Simon Jozsef. Kinda strange I know. I feel that I have to almost appologise for the ViolinO's on the Simon, but they really work no kidding. Normally VO's may be considered under powered, but the Simon seems to have enough power in itself to take them. I would much appreciate and be very interested in anyone's comments about ViolinO's.

Kristen, please let us know what you end up doing. I'm hooked on this story now.

May 12, 2010 at 02:59 PM ·

My impression of Vision-Solos (from other people & their instrument) is that they seem a bit more focused than say, Dominants, and so are not as forgiving.  Accuracy in your left hand is a must. And good bowing tecnique as well.

But as I said it is just my impression.

May 12, 2010 at 05:02 PM ·

Hi Royce. I would maybe say a fair bit more focused than Dominants, otherwise bang on. Even the string package lists them as higher difficulty in playability. I used them on my quiet barcus berry acoustic/electric for quite a while, for more power, good tone also I thought. Stangely enough, a lot of other sets seemed mushy for tension on the bb, but the solo's seemed good and solid. Powerful strings, but the bb seemed to forgive them for playability difficulty.

Have you ever tried ViolinO's on anything?

May 12, 2010 at 07:47 PM ·

I tried the VIsion Solo A string a few months back, and a friend of mine uses it regularly (with Dominants and a Goldbrokat E). I only had it on for a few hours, but the sound on my violin was just too round and focused, and I couldn't get it to sound any other way, so I switched back to a steel A string.

May 12, 2010 at 09:16 PM ·

@ Dave- No I haven't!  With what you describe about you BB I bet the Vision solos sounded great!  I really like how regular visions sounds on my violin, and also my teacher's and the Mantegazza that we got to play! Vision G,D,A, with a Wondertone E.

May 12, 2010 at 10:20 PM ·

Brian; yes I can see a solo A being too round and focused. think all those vision lines could be described as round and focused, perhaps orchestra's to the lesser degree. But when you say you kept it on for a few hours, heck, I've put on whole sets, let alone single strings, that within 2 minutes I knew weren't gonna work and ripped 'em right back off. That can be very dissapointing not to mention expensive. But if you want to play the string game you gotta "buy 'em & try 'em"  I say...  haha

Royce; yup, tried a set of vision regulars on the Czeck before I traded it in on the Simon. Regulars are listed on the pack back toward brilliant and they were too bright for the already brightish Czech. (the Solos & Orchestra's are listed around the middle between warm and brilliant) So I gave the regular visions away to a guy who had a darker fiddle and he said they worked very well. He normally likes Evah's but was looking for something to use when he couldn't afford Evah's. So he thought the brighter rated regulars were closer to Evah's but cheaper.

Anyways. I am NOT going to start experimenting with strings on the Simon for the foreseeable future, or I will wind up at meetings saying "hello, my name is dave and ima stringaholic". The ViolinO's are working.

May 12, 2010 at 11:26 PM ·

I'm going to try those ViolinO's one of these days.  The Visions work great on my personal violin and it leans toward dark, but sweet and with good strings it has a remarkable warmth with bottom end and sings quite well on the top end!

May 13, 2010 at 12:01 AM ·

Royce; it sounds like you have a very nice violin. But from your description of it I would caution you against trying the VO's. I wouldn't want to see you just throw your money away. IMHO the VO's and vision regs are close to the opposit ends of the spectrum. Sounds like your fiddle wouldn't benefit much from a string on the mellow side if it likes the vision regs. In fact, I'd probably give the new formula Tonica's a shot if you wanted to try something different. You might find them interesting and they're not that expensive. You may have to fool around with the E but that's a given on any set. My fiddle also likes tonica's and they also sound very good on it, but I like the tension of the VO's a bit better.

Life is a continueous trade off, yes?

 

May 13, 2010 at 01:04 AM ·

Look what I found:

The Violinist.com Guide to Choosing Violin Strings

 

May 13, 2010 at 02:30 AM ·

Well I went to the Luthier today, and he told me I really didn't need new strings. I told him my teacher mentioned getting atleast a new E string, so he put a new one on free of charge.

I asked him what kind of strings were on my violin and he said "D'Addario." He didn't tell me the specifics other than that, but he must like them because that's the type of rosin he sells in his shop aswell. Anyway the whole set is the same brand.

I'm just happy to have an E that will stay in tune. He also remembered me from when I bought the violin, and asked after my husband.

He also trimmed my bow strings, the ones that had come off so I didn't have a bunch of little hairs sticking out anymore.

And tried to sell me a shoulder rest, but I just don't want one, so I politely declined. He is really a nice fellow.

May 13, 2010 at 09:09 PM ·

@ Dave- thanks for the warning!  I'll try Tonica one of these days! right now I am trying the New passione-Solo and soon the new Infeld PI's!

@ Kristen- I bet they are Pro-Arte (spelling... sorry). If so that's interesting!

May 14, 2010 at 06:10 AM ·

 Why is that interesting, if you don't mind my asking? And I can call him and ask what kind specifically, I'm sure he would tell me if I asked.

May 14, 2010 at 01:55 PM ·

I may be way off base in this, but it doesn't sound to me that your Luthier is very forth coming in recomending the best strings. He could have told you what type of D'addario's. Perhaps he thought that as a beginner, you didn't need to know. But how are you going to learn without information. Although Pro-Arte's might work the best with certain fiddles, as they are quite mellow, I just think there are better strings out there than Pro-Arte's as they may be considered to be a "lower end " string. Even if they were Helicore's or Zyex (which are other D'Addario lines) my opinion might be the same.

I still haven't listened to your vid, which is another reason why I may be off base in this.

This is mainly conjecture and I don't want to cast any dispersions on the Luthier.

Just one more thought. Personally, I just can't see playing without a shoulder rest. But that's a whole 'nuther debate, one that I think has been discussed previously and at length, and one that I would not want to get involved with.

May 14, 2010 at 03:15 PM ·

What Dave said!

For country fiddling where the violin has a mic instead of a transducer they work rather well (I think the lady violinist for "Flogging Molly" and the Guy for Dave Matthew's Band uses them and since their sound goes through a mixer with a pro EQ system the quality of sound is not necessarily dependant on the string brand alone) and are also bought in bulk by some public school teachers since they are a bit better than Red Label.

May 14, 2010 at 03:16 PM ·

He wasn't being forthcoming, but I don't think it was necisarily on purpose. I think he's just not used to someone as curious as I am. Most of the students I see are people already fully into the music industry, their parents play, or they are so young that they rely heavily on the teacher for that sort of thing. I don't think he considered the fact that I was curious, and want to know everything I can about my violin.

About the strings, I think he replaced the E without questioning, because I didn't buy the violin very long ago, and he simply replaced the string he knew was already on it. He seems to like the company, so perhaps to him, this was the best type of string. Or rather than ask me if I wanted to buy another brand he simply threw that string on for free. I don't mind right now, especially since it's the type of string I had already been playing on. When my other strings start wearing down, I'll take into account what everyone said here today, and shop around for the strings I would like best, I'm considering buying the domninants (with a different E) and the tonicas, just to fiddle around with them. (No pun intended.)

I'll call and ask him either today or next week specifically what kind of strings they are, just so I'll know. And Dave I fixed the link on my blog where you can just click on it, if you'd like to watch the video.

May 14, 2010 at 04:26 PM ·

You may be able to identify the strings from this chart

http://www.jdaddario.com/resources/JDCBOW/Files/BOPR_Silk_Color_Chart.pdf

May 14, 2010 at 05:10 PM ·

I'm not sure by that chart. The colors are as follows:

 

Peg side

E- pale gree, or light turquoise

A- royal blue

D-purple with a blue piece

G- dark green

 

Ball side

E- red

A- orange/gold and black stripes

D- yellow and black stripes

G- same as A.

 

I can take pictures if you want me to.

May 14, 2010 at 06:20 PM ·

That might help.  Those don't sound like any D'Addario strings I know of.

May 14, 2010 at 06:30 PM ·

Quinn Violins has a string guide that may help http://www.quinnviolins.com/qv_stringidsearch.shtml

May 14, 2010 at 06:40 PM ·

May 14, 2010 at 07:19 PM ·

Thanks for fixing that link Kristen, I checked it out. You and I have something in common. We both tend to stick our pinky's up in the air. In fact mine is straight up in the air whenever I'm not using it! I don't think this is supposed to be quite that "kosher" but it hasn't seemed to stop me from flyin' around the fingerboard all these years. Anyways, there's absoloutely nothing I can do about it at this point. No possible way I can get that little finger down.

You might get a bit better sound with somewhat mellower strings, but again, that's also a matter of taste. But I wouldn't know what to suggest, not knowing what's on there now.

You obviously love the violin, keep at it, you'll do well.

May 14, 2010 at 08:18 PM ·

I don't think those are D'Addario strings, or anything from Pirastro, Thomastik, D'Addario, Corelli, Larsen, etc.  I wonder if they're Chinese.

May 15, 2010 at 01:28 AM ·

When I asked he said they were from an American company. I don't know I'll just call him tomorrow and get the specifics from him.

 

Edit: Well I went ahead and called, and he didn't tell me what was on the other strings, but he said the E was definatly a D'Addario, but then didn't specify what kind. I guess I'm just not getting through when I ask what kind of string it is. I guess it doesn't really matter right now. I'm happy with it for now, and it plays well for me. My tone isn't going to be fantastic at this point no matter what considering I'm just beginning.

 

I'll keep an eye out, and perhaps get my husband to buy me some new strings to play around with.

May 15, 2010 at 01:06 PM ·

@ Kristen- If they sound good they'll do for now. But you wont go wrong with Dominants and a Jargar or Pirastro Gold label E.

May 18, 2010 at 10:50 PM ·

Your luthier should be able to make recommendations for your violin, to get the sound you're looking for.   i.e.  bright, warm, deep, rich................tone(s)  Music shops, not so much.   They  don't generally have hands-on experience unless there is someone there that plays.  It will save you money in the long run.

May 19, 2010 at 04:56 PM ·

I go to my luthier for all my violin needs, except sheet music, and for the next couple of months I'll use these strings, and when it comes time to change them, I'll ask him what he recommends, and kindly ask if he thinks that certain strings would sound good on my violin.

For now though, I don't see a point in changing strings, when my violin sound the same as it did before, and I liked it enough to buy it with them on it.

It's a bit of a chipper sounding violin, but mellows out when I get the sound right. (At my lesson I played the A perfectly several times in a row, what a difference!)

August 14, 2010 at 11:23 AM ·

I just want to say thing thread is exceptional helpful to me!!

August 16, 2010 at 02:47 AM ·

I know most violinists dont like them but I love metal strings. My violin came with synthetics that were nice but all metal is brighter, louder, stronger material that might not break as much, and they arent affected by tempature or humidity. I got Daddario Prelude mediums. Hard to get used to though because they are stiffer than nylon core.

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