Alternative to Dominants?

December 6, 2010 at 10:05 PM ·

Just a few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to muster up the courage (and funds) to buy a new violin so that I could finally stick that Chinese VSO that I've been playing on for seven years in the closet and never touch it again. What was really cool was that Daniel Lewin was the one manning the shop, so he was the one who sold me the violin and gave me some tips and suggestions. It was a really nice Guarneri-like one with a café varnish and a nice one-piece back. And it's voice was so elegant, too. It had a good strong volume to it with a thick yet mellow voice almost like a higher-pitched viola. It's just really hard to explain, but if you're into subtler, but still somewhat rich voices like violas, then you'd really be fond of it.

Originally, it was strung with D'Addario Helicores and a Pirastro Gold Label E. It was a decent match in my opinion, and it gave the violin a warmer, albeit less rich and less powerful tone if you understand what I'm trying to convey, here. I decided to immediately restring it with medium Dominants and a Jargar E, which was the combination I used with my VSO that made it so much less VSO-sounding. I am pretty satisfied with the Jargar E. If I had to choose between the Gold Label and the Jargar, I would be torn. What I'm really annoyed about is the A and the D. The A literally screams at me once I play anything past an E flat, and the D is just annoying-sounding at G and beyond. I know that they've settled in because they're pretty much completely pitch stable and actually sound BETTER than they did when I first strung them.

Now what I need, are the opinions of all you esteemed and highly experienced players/luthiers/hobbyists here. What should my next step be in terms of strings? Should I go back to the D'Addario Helicores, or is there a G-D-A combo that would seem perfect for the warmth and mellowness, but still rich, sound that I'm trying to find?

Replies (26)

December 7, 2010 at 06:43 AM ·


since you say you would like a mellower sound then I gsuggest you go for infled red set of strings they are much much much warmer than visions as well as the dominants. 


Normally, I like my A string to to brighter tone so i used infled red on G D and infled blue on A E they are great to work with.


Other than that, every violin has its own unique character so experiment it awhile and see what really suits your violin best. So for I got my violin for 6 years but I've been experimenting then with vision,dominant,cheap china strings and now infled(RED). So far i;ve been loving the infled red because its giving my violin a very complex tone... the thing is my violin is towards the brilliance side so with the warmer strings the match is really unique.


Hope you find you perfect match soon :D


December 7, 2010 at 08:56 AM ·

 Dominantas are know for their weird metallic sound at first, but they settle after a while. What is not clear to me is if you like or dislike your combination of Dominants and Jargar E.

You could try a different E, that could change the overal sound. Goldbrokat E is an inexpensive and exceptional string that matches very well with the Dominants.

You could try Pirastro Tonicas. Actually I set up my violins with Tonicas rather than with Dominants. They sound well right from the start. And are cheaper than Dominants, at least here in Spain.

If you decide to go to the more expensive side, Everyone I know speaks wonders of the new Thomastik PI.

Regards from the sunny Southern Europe.

December 7, 2010 at 12:07 PM ·

@Sherman Thanks for the advice. I'm wondering, have you ever tried using a blue G + D, red A + E? Is the E in both sets good enough to use instead of replacing with a different E string?

@Nicolas On my violin and even my old one, the Jargar Forte E + Dominants combo was great. As is the Pirastro Gold E + Dominants combo is, however I still prefer the Jargar because it whistles less on me than the Gold E. I've heard of those new PI strings, too. They seem really interesting.

I might end up just buying the string sets that people recommend that I can afford at one time and go through them all and taking all these notes about them. XD

December 7, 2010 at 02:39 PM ·

Tonicas!  : )

December 7, 2010 at 03:22 PM ·


frist thing first. The infled RED e string is a gold string therefore from what i can hear it gives a very powerful focused tone when you go towards the higerh positions 5th and above, meaning you need less bow strength to get the tone out, however i feel that it lacks riches and the overtones are just okay. Maybe its just because its a gold string. currently i have my evah and piratso gold E waiting to be used once the string breaks :)

I'vent used the blue E yet so no comments on that. Also I havent try Blue G D and RED A E because i think whats the point... i wouldn't like a brighter G or D string. I'm fine with using all RED or just change to the combi i stated RED G D and BLUE A E but now I use the RED E for the GOLDEN appeal hehe^^


as for the pricing, i suggest you can try tonica i heard they're cheaper than dominant and the sound is close to the dominants, however my second violin(the one my profile) doesn't blend really well with the dominant A it gives off this semi - gut metalic tone.i'm still looking for an A-string to match the violin. I've tried vision and one china string. seems like the China string is the winner so far.

if you're really on budget then go for Zyex. They're one of the cheapest in the market of synetic core strings and they're really nice on the fingers as well as on making your violin sound warm :D

Let us know what you get ya! :D

December 7, 2010 at 04:05 PM ·

If you can't bear the sound of your violin strung  with Dominants, most probably you have a problem with your violin, not with the strings. But I may be wrong.

It may be that you need sometime to get used to sound of your new violin, you may take time to get used even when you upgrade because your sound reference is your old violin. But I may be wrong also.

December 7, 2010 at 04:46 PM ·

dominants will sound harsh at first. Darnton prefers pirastro over thomastik and I have come to agree. in fact MR. Darnton has even said that over distance tonica and dominant sound the same (hopefully with out the any bad sounds lol). but My suggestion would be is ask if the shop you purchased it from has worked in strings that you can test and then buy a set of what you like best. you might also see if you need the instrument adjusted. now I am not for getting your instrument adjusted every week but it is needed once in a while

December 7, 2010 at 10:59 PM ·

About a year ago I went on the search for something to replace Dominants. If you want a warm tone, then Infeld Reds are a good choice as the others mentioned. However, if your new violin already has complex harmonics on its own (like mine does) the open strings on the Infeld Reds may sound out of tune even when they are perfectly in tune because the harmonics become insanely complex. I now use Obligatos with their gold E. They also have a darker and warmer sound, but don't have the complex harmonic problems that I had with Infelds. Also, the Obligato gold E is the ONLY gold E string I have ever found that I like - they don't seem to whistle as much as some of the other gold E's on the market.

December 9, 2010 at 04:46 AM ·

@Sherman Thanks so much for telling me. That considered, I guess I'd have to try the E, because being focused is a good thing, but I'm not sure if I'd be too keen with a "plain-sounding" E string. And about that string combination, I was just curious about the kind of effect it would have, or whether it would make much of a difference when used in such a different combination.

I think you understand what I'm trying to say about my A string, though. It does have this "gut-metallic" sound to it that I'm not very fond of, but I do know some people who actually find it appealing. Heh, sometimes the things that work the best for our violins are the ones that are just so simple, like a China-made string. I thought about getting Zyex strings for a while, but I decided against it because I've heard that you don't really have to work with it too much to get a big sound, but you have to exaggerate to get a moderately quiet one, and for me specifically, articulation is more of a weak point than intonation, so I'd like a more dynamic string in terms of volume.

@Luis Actually, since I started the discussion, my A and D have gotten somewhat better. My D string sounds okayish now. My G string always has been fine. My A string isn't much of a pain to listen to anymore, but I'm still not a fan of its specific voice/tone. So it seems like I have a similar issue with Sherman where my violin just doesn't work well with a Dominant A. I think it's just more of each violin's individuality rather than a problem with the violin itself.

@Wayne If I had to rank my violin's harmonics, it would probably be in between "balanced" and complex, leaning more towards the "balanced" side, for lack of a better word. I would like them to be a little more complex, so I guess that means another point for the Infeld Reds. As for Obligatos, I think I'll look into those, mostly for the E string because I like the focus and strength of gold E strings, but whistling is one of the annoyances that comes with that, and I know I should really improve my bow technique first and foremost, but that E string is tempting to try. In regards to pricing, is it really around $130 USD because Amazon sells them for $60ish, but they claim they're cutting the price in half, and I myself like to buy strings from my local luthier to support the local economy and such. (And to make sure he doesn't go out of business, because without him, I would be lost in terms of repairs and parts.)

December 9, 2010 at 09:45 AM ·

 HI Cyril,

i understand what u mean totally with our A string on the violin. Let us know when you're going to change the strings and tell us how it feels :)

As for me Maybe i shall exchange my A strings from my current violins and see how the sounds goes ^.^

Hey what kind of strings have u tried before that can tone down the metalic gut tone of the A string may i ask?

December 9, 2010 at 02:17 PM ·

 hi all again :)

I just tried my to change the strings on respective violins A(the one of my profile picture) and violin B(one that is with me for 4 years).

Violin A : In the end I realised that the infled red A string made the metalic-gut tone more metalic >.< and the dominant seems to be the one much more better :). I tried a A major 8va on the A string and played a little on the 5,6,7 position. Realised that the dominants tend to have a better edge over the infled red haha ^^ so i changed them back to where it used to be.

Violin B : when i fitted the dominants, it sounded great however the tone doesn't match the other D and G string. Oh well. switched it backed.

When my violin A, strings losses it "stringing abilities" I will change them to try on brighter strings. 

Oh i would advice to many not to try this experiment frequently because constant changing causes metal fatigue in your strings(my dominant A is starting to show signs of metal fatigue as the windings are starting to stretch >.<).



December 9, 2010 at 02:50 PM ·

The advice about not changing strings between instruments frequently (more than once, presumably) is particularly important when it comes to the E string, which is usually solid, or has a solid core if wound.  Metal fatigue is more likely to set in with a thin string, and probably on the peg where the string could be crossing over itself, where a kink might develop.  I found this out to my cost when my E string (that I'd changed over just the once) snapped on the peg just as the conductor was raising the baton for a carol concert I was leading. I couldn't do anything about it – our instrument cases were locked in a store room at the top of the building – so I just had to get on without the E (the first violin part for a John Rutter carol is fun in the 12th position on the A!). 

December 9, 2010 at 11:25 PM ·

Cyril - what you heard about Zyex strings may have applied to the old version.  They were revised a couple of years ago and are now less tense (and therefore easier to play softly on) than before. 

December 10, 2010 at 01:34 AM ·

I have found Dominant strings to be a bit harsh on certain instruments.  If you are satisfied with the warmth of your instrument, and are looking for a bigger more focused sound I would consider using Pirastro Eva Pirazzi strings.  If you are looking to play up the warmth of your violin, I am a fan of the Obligato by Pirastro.  They are a great string to really bring out the rich warm qualities an instrument possesses. 

December 10, 2010 at 09:11 AM ·

@Sherman So far, on this violin, the two A strings that don't give it that tone that I don't like are the D'Addario Helicore and this one Chinese string that originally came with the violin(I don't like to throw away strings unless they break). It looks similar to the helicore, but with a green peg end and a more orange yellow on the tailpiece end. It's definitely a metal core, and although it doesn't produce that particular metallic tone, it is definitely more lacking in terms of overtones than the helicore. Time to put it away for safe-keeping/souveniring.

@Trevor Oh gosh, that must've been quite a pain. I just came home from my high school orchestra's annual Winter Pops concert, and I saw the second chair violin II actually put a packet set of strings into his suit coat pocket. I can see why, as we played the Harry Potter Symphonic Suite, and with all of the crazy bowings and strange notes we've been playing, having a safeguard like that would be wise. It's a good thing it was just the E string, as you can always play most of the notes on your A. If it had been a G string, that would've just been trouble.

@Jennifer I'm actually quite satisfied regarding my violin's focus and power. I've always been leaning more towards ensemble playing in orchestras or even quartets rather than solos, and I'm interested more in letting my instrument's warmth just shine, as you said, so it looks like those Obligatos are sounding just as good as those Infelds. Dang.

Honestly, I'm still trying to narrow down the strings I'm going to try out. I'm still just a high schooler without a job, so my budget is tight, and this time around, I don't think I'll be buying strings directly from my luthier for the sake of saving money, and both those Obligatos AND Infelds seem like they're gonna work well, but at $70 and $60 a set, I'm becoming more concerned at how long they'll last me for how much they'll cost me. Of course, that perfect union between string and violin might prove to be worth it, but I can't tell yet.

The concertmaster of the orchestra I'm in said that he likes using Evahs in the winter and spring and Tonicas during the summer because they are very bright. Bright really isn't my thing at all, so I might rule them out. So far, I'm pretty much considering the Infelds(with a red G D E and blue A combo as Sherman suggested, although I might buy both sets to mix and match and play around, each set costing $55-$60), the Obligatos(which I have not read anything bad about yet, although costing $70, it's gonna be tough to even try these), and then the Zyex(which cost only $35). I really don't know what order I will test these in because I don't want to spend much money, and if I can automatically fall in love with the first set I try, I might not even bother trying others. Any suggestions in this regard?

December 10, 2010 at 03:59 PM ·

Believe me, I feel your pain with the prices of strings!  Definitely look around online though, I know many websites offer pretty good discounts on strings, and spending the extra money for good strings can really improve your instrument's playability and tone quality.  It's worth it! 

As far as them lasting, I have a couple tips to help maximize the length of time you can use them.  First, it's very important to make sure you are always tuning up to the pitch you want from a lower note, not down to the pitch you want from a higher note.  (ie: If you are tuning the A string tune from G# up to A, never tune A# to A).  Additionally, sweat and oils from your hands can shorten the length of time the strings last, so its a good idea to wash your hands before you begin playing.  I sometimes recommend that students keep hand wipes in their cases so that they can clean up before orchestra.   

Finally, keep your strings clean.  Wipe them down with a soft cotton cloth whenever you finish playing. 

Good Luck!

December 10, 2010 at 04:42 PM ·

Trevor -- "...the first violin part for a John Rutter carol is fun in the 12th position on the A!"

If that happened to me, they would have found me curled up in a fetal position under my chair by the time we hit Measure 16!!!

P.S. -- Isn't John Rutter just the greatest??!!!  :) 

December 10, 2010 at 05:07 PM ·

I bought a rather nice violin on EBay that came set up with Dominants when it was new. I think they may have outlived their usefulness, the violin having been made six years ago. They made the violin sound bad. I probably should have tried some other strings but I ended up selling the violin instead. I guess my point is, if you want a reason to get rid of your violin, put some dominants on it and play it for a while, then you wont feel so bad when you sell it. 

December 10, 2010 at 08:46 PM ·

All strings eventually wear out and start to sound bad...not just Dominants.

December 10, 2010 at 09:46 PM ·

Dominants are pretty good strings... some people I know in the Metropolitan Philharmonic violin and viola sections use sets of them for up to six months per set.

December 11, 2010 at 04:02 AM ·

Mostly what I know about strings is from what I have read on the internet. For all I know, someone who is used to synthetic core strings could play them. I think all I have used and using now are steel cored strings of one type or another so I should maybe not comment. I have to buy a new set for my other violin and I will be shopping for something that will last a long time. That's just me and I have never played on a gut string and do not have a desire to duplicate the sound of them. If I was playing with other violinists, I would probably use whatever they used. 

December 11, 2010 at 07:05 AM ·

Just a quick note to Cyril, Zyex. Don't go there.  I'm in the same boat, highschool-er, little money and there are always just too many different string options out there.  I currently use Zyexes, I've been meaning to change them for quite a while now but just haven't had the time and funds to get around to that.  They only appealed to me because they were quite cheap at the time and liked the idea of moving away from pirastro's. They were insanely loud and dynamics was soo hard to control, especially in the orchestral setting, and fell flat in under 6 months (I don't practice that much I suppose, certainly not hours everyday!). A shop assistant once told me they were considered the 'cheap man's Obs' .. I suppose you get what you pay for..  I'm going back to Obs once Christmas spending stops breaking my bank, or I'll get Evah's intime for my performance exam next year..

Good luck!

December 11, 2010 at 02:53 PM ·

 Yo people!

Hmm... well regarding budget i know what you guys mean haha :) I'm a college student so not working and playing my violin. hai... i went to audition last year but i didn't make it for the orchestra so sharks going to try again next year.

always, regarding maintaining the strings here are few tips.

1)wash your hands before you play them, you want to get rid of the unwanted oils you have on your fingers to damage your strings.

2)wipe the string off the rosin after every practice or playing.

3)i would use some alcohol to clean my strings once every month or even 20 days to get rid of the thick rosin built up on the strings.(please do not let the alcohol touch the varnish or even the fingerboard as the acohol may damage your varnish and even the painted ebony finger board)


@ Elaine: May I know the Zyex you're refering is the old one or the new ones? however i still find the E string really good to use :)

@ Cyril: Hmm... just narrow down to three of them and see don't stress yourself too much haha :)

Enjoy playing.


December 13, 2010 at 10:32 AM ·

@Jennifer and Sherman Thanks for the cleaning tips. I don't think I'll try that alcohol one with the strings though. I'd be too terrified of damaging my violin's varnish. I actually use hand sanitizer and blow/wipe my hands dry before I play(if I'm in orchestra rehearsal and I have no quick access to a bathroom), but I have a genetic sweaty palms issue, and my mother and I love making fun of each other for it. It has more of an effect on my E string, as you can tell how much of my E string I normally use by how much of it is slightly blackened.

@Jonathan The thing is that every violin is different, even the ones made in run-down factories from China(trust me, my previous violin was made in one). Even if they all had the same strings, they would all sound different, and as I have experienced, even decent-to-good quality strings like Dominants can sound not-so-good on a decent(and by decent, I mean not $5000-worth) violin like mine. Like Sherman said in his initial apply, it's just a matter of experimenting and seeing, or rather hearing, what sounds good with your violin. It's kind of like a marriage, or in violin terms, finding that right bow that just opens up your violin and makes it sound full and loud.

@Elaine Thank you for telling me that about the Zyex strings. That's a good thing to know, and what you said is enhancing my gut-feeling(no pun intended) about staying away from them, which of course, is a good thing. And their really low price is suspicious, although a six month lifespan doesn't seem that bad. I usually get that much out of Dominants with about an hour or two of practice almost every day. I was planning on buying the strings when I finally start earning instead of losing money through Christmas presents. Best of luck to your examination performance, though!

@Sherman I think I do have my threeish sets. Infeld Red, and if I don't like any single strings, I try out a blue for whichever one of them, and then Obligatos. I guess that is technically two and a half sets of strings. I'll start off with the reds, then add in/replace for blues as needed, and if I still don't like them or if I really want a lot in terms of tone and power and dynamic and even straight-out durability, then I'll move on to Obligatos(I'm kind of putting my faith on the Infelds since those Obligatos are $$ex--pen--sive$$).

Does anyone know of any really cheap online violin string dealers where the price including shipping will still be less than if I bought them from my local luthier?

December 14, 2010 at 03:25 AM ·

 If it's not to late to submit info, this link will take you to a classic thread about different strings by Christian Vachon on

well worth reading and re-reading.

December 14, 2010 at 06:09 AM ·

@Cyril thanks for the advice. I play music for my own entertainment and normally not in a public sort of way and never with another violinist to where compatibility may be a question, or where having a certain "sound" would be a factor. The point being, there are enough varieties within the steel cored strings to keep me involved in experimenting for quite a while and to avoid what I perceive as the finicky nature of synthetic core strings.

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