What kind of violin strings do you use?

February 19, 2013 at 03:55 AM · Currently, I use Evah Pirazzi strings (all 4) on my violin. I like the tone they give off, but sometimes I think they're just a little too soft, and not quite bright enough. On the other hand, if the E string is more than a couple weeks old, it begins to squeak.

What kind of violin strings do you use? Would you recommend them to me? Why?

Another thing: I have read that certain violin strings (gut strings, I think) don't work well on violins that have fine-tuners on the G, D, and A strings. I have never bought these strings for this reason (my violin has all 4 fine-tuners). I've never actually experimented on gut strings, even though I've heard that certain brands give off beautiful tone. $100 is a lot to spend on a string experiment!

What do you think about this? Would gut strings work on my violin? For those of you who use them, do you like them?

Replies (33)

February 19, 2013 at 04:47 AM · Why not just change the brand of E string ? Doing this can change the sound of the other strings as well so it is worth trying. You might get the sound you want by this simple change. E strings are cheap.

I use D'Addario Pro Arte strings on my violins but I do have a set of Tonicas I will be trying soon.

February 19, 2013 at 09:07 AM · Regular medium gauge Dominant has been reliable for me for the years on my primary violin.

String can only add so much to the sound, large part of the sound is determined by the violin itself if we exclude bow and personal touch.

If Evah is too soft or not bright enough, something is wrong with your violin as Evah is notorious for its high power and more towards brilliant sound.

February 19, 2013 at 09:43 AM · I would like to explain the matter of tension.

The higher tension, the louder sound, but the less overtones (duller sound) at the same time.

If we disregard the ideal tension, with its well warm/brilliant balanced sound, the less tension the weaker and brighter sound.

February 19, 2013 at 10:31 AM · Emma, you must be some kind of iron woman or something to experience the EP's as 'soft'.

AS you will be told over and over, different strings are different on different violins. I like the sound of all the Warchal strings i have used (all except the vintage), and I've liked that no matter if they are higher or lower tension, they feel nice. But my current violin just doesn't like them for long enough, and I have been using thomastic vision, just the common ones not the solo's or titaniums which last for about 5 months. the violin also liked eudoxa and passione in gutty strings, eudoxa are a lot cheaper than passione's but on my violin not as sparkly.

February 19, 2013 at 11:17 AM · I am afraid, it seem to be a misunderstanding, which seem to be quite common in "musical" English. Emma wrote "soft, and not quite bright enough" so in my opinion she minded dull sound caused by fact, that the tension may be too high for her particular instrument.

This is what we face daily. People describe the same sound or phenomenon quite differently, sometimes even the other way around.

My mother tongue is Slovak, we are one of the smallest nation, just 5 million people concentrated on a few square kilometers speak this language. This is why all musicians are very close to each other and also to the musical terminology. We mostly understand very well each other.

English is spread around the whole world. This is why the meanings seems to be not so unequivocal. Maybe we should create a lexicon of "standard vocabulary" for the communication on violinist.com :-)

February 19, 2013 at 01:33 PM · @Mr. Warchal and others who may benefit from better defining the timbre descriptors in English:

Click on: "Investigating English Violin Timbre Descriptors."

@Sharelle,

it may as well be that Emma's violin's timbre attributes are inclining toward "soft" and there is nothing that even EP can do.

Evah Pirazzi are more tense than "Obligato" (medium gauge) which are in turn more tense than "Violinos". So she has already hit the top of the tension in this (synthetic) product line.

@Emma,

First things first:

1. rosin: are you using Pirastro Oliv-Evah (dark) rosin? If not, try it! It may solve your problem. Use just a little, for it is very sticky.

2. your bow: try other bows from your peers to see how the sound changes; when was the last time it got re-haired?

3. the setup of your violin: check with the luthier that everything is setup properly (the bridge, sound post, string after-length, etc)

4. strings: There are quite a few posts regarding the choice of strings on this site. Please use the search engine and read them.

As already mentioned, each violin is different and what works for one may not work for another. If, and only if, your violin is setup properly you may want to start with the Dominants G, D and A and a number of different tension of the same E string brand (for example Westminster). This inexpensive experiential approach will show you what your violin prefers as far as the TENSION is concerned. (alternatively you can buy all 3 gauges of Dominants; the higher the gauge, the more tension there is). The Dominants are, per Thomastik, right in the middle of their 2 dimensional chart "Make a sound choice" (dimensions, "Brilliant vs Warm" and "Rich harmonic content vs Focused harmonic content", are unfortunately not defined and should not to be confused with the links above and below) .

Once you experience the sound with Dominants, and find out about the tension (gauge) preference, the following poster may help you to go toward a desired direction:

"Sharmusic: Choosing the Right Set of Strings."

(note that the Dominants are again in the middle of the 2 dimensional chart)

Good luck!

February 19, 2013 at 07:38 PM · Emma - what Rocky said. The only alternative I can think of is to go to your luthier. We can recommend the strings that sound good on our violins, but there is no guarantee any of them will work for you. However, if you take your violin with its current string setup to your luthier, s/he can hear what it sounds like with those strings. Then, when you describe why you are not satisfied with that sound, the luthier, based on professional expertise, can recommend strings that will likely produce a sound closer to that you seek. Good luck!

February 19, 2013 at 09:58 PM · Ah, I see now she was probably referring to volume / projection. I thought she was referring to 'feel'. Giggle.

February 19, 2013 at 11:59 PM · mine is a scratchy/screechy, german/chinese-made fiddle. i've had two successful string changes recently - the first were "prazion" strings from thomastik (solid steel core, chrome wound) and the second are "zyex" synthetic core strings from d'addario. both were medium tension. the metal "prazion" strings boosted the projection quite a bit and smoothed out the scratchiness (very pleased with those) but the "zyex" strings take the cake. a more restrained, warm, well balanced tone that (to me) sound very much like gut but without the fuss. the guy who recommended them said "there's no best string, only what works best for a particular player and instrument" and i'll agree with that.

February 20, 2013 at 03:41 AM · Thanks for the responses, everyone. It may be my bow that's causing some of the problem, since it's somewhat cheap quality compared to what other violinists of my level are using (although its hairs are only about half a year old). It's probably a good thing some of you mentioned that - my strings may not be the whole problem. I know I have a good quality violin, so that's not the problem.

@ Rocky - Thanks for the rosin suggestion. I actually use this rosin, and noticed a HUGE difference in sound when I first started using it.

What kind of E string do you use (anyone)? Based on these replies, I think it may be a large part of my problem since I feel that the Evah E isn't quite warm enough on my violin. It's strange, since I know they are supposed to have very warm tone, but my violin is a little different than most. (Too bad violins have to be so different than each other!)

February 20, 2013 at 09:33 AM · Trying out different E strings is a relatively cheap and very interesting exercise. Changing the E can hugely change the sound of the rest of the violin. I found that for my violin (and taste) the Goldbrokat gives the best sound. This was also by far the cheapest of the lot I tried.

I played Evah Papparazzi strings for some years, but found them lacking somehow. Also when listening to others playing I often thought that the Papparazzis were uninteresting to listen to. For the past years I have been going back to gut strings. I avoided them for too long thinking that they are all trouble with constant retuning etc., but that is not such a big problem once they settle. And they sound so much better (on my violin, to my taste) Currently my setup is Oliv Stiff G and D, Passione solo A and Goldbrokat E. I really love that G string. Recently I thought that the instrument was sounding a bit dull and was in need of a string change. Changing the E only really brought the whole instrument back to life. I am going to try alternatives for D and A, so next on my violin will be a Passione Solo D and a Warchal russian style A.

February 20, 2013 at 11:32 AM · Hi Emma,

Everyone will come up with a different answer about the E and it doesn't really matter. If you want to try different Es, one option since you live in the USA is to order the sample pack of various E strings from Quinn violins (you can find their website for their online store). It includes all the standbys together at an attractive price. If that is not possible, the most standard choice of Es are Goldbrokat (medium or heavy), Pirastro GoldLabel (medium); Jargar (medium or forte); Westminster (medium or heavy); Hill (medium). As each violin and each type of string reacts differently to a different E, one has to try on his own instrument.

Cheers!

February 20, 2013 at 12:46 PM · Some good advice here.

I would like to ask the string experts here about Dominants. I've put on a set for the first time (in years) recently (five days ago) and I find on my rather bright fiddle that have have a metallic fizzle and they have even had this effect on the Goldbrokat E. The strings have been played in for over 24 hours of playing.

Is this common?

February 20, 2013 at 01:17 PM · ├Źn my experience dominant will sound metallic for the first couple of days.

February 20, 2013 at 04:53 PM · Yes, Dominants always sound metallic for a few days depending on how much they are played. That is why I do not use them any more...and the price !

I often wonder how professionals who use them go about changing strings. Surely they cannot go on stage and perform in public with a new set of Dominants ? And what do they do if a string breaks ?

February 20, 2013 at 05:10 PM · Well, I've had them on for five + days and have played on them for a total of over 24 hours and they still have a fizzy sound which is picked up by my mics. If I use a filter it gets rid of it on the computer file (Low Pass Filter set at about 9KHz). I never had this problem with PI's.

February 20, 2013 at 05:33 PM · Hi,

Peter: In my personal experience, I find that the metallic quality of Dominants leaves after 3 to 4 days (20 hours of playing), but it depends on the E string that you use. Combined with some E strings, that metallic edge stays. I found that when I was using a Jargar medium at some point. I noticed that you mention using a Goldbrokat E. Have you tried the Dominants on your violin with a different E? Again, in my experience, I have noticed that Dominants have quite different qualities when combined with different E strings. I have not tried the PI, so I could not compare.

Brian: If I have to change strings, I usually do a few days before a performance. I have had to change a string due to problems right before a performance. In that case you just deal with it. However, that metallic edge is not as big a problem from far away as it is under the ear. Having this experience however before a recording session, would be a different matter, but luckily, I have not had it (knock on wood!).

Cheers!

February 20, 2013 at 05:45 PM · We are now developing a new synthetic set, which should not have any metallic edge even in recording studios. The result is prommising so far. I hope in a few months time we will be able to offer you an ultimate warm string set.

Violinists playing shrill instruments could become first testers...

February 20, 2013 at 07:13 PM · Thanks Christian for your considered comments and experience of strings. I think it must be my instrument.

I would not describe my violin as shrill but it is on the bright side - a big sound with lots of overtones, and often things in the room will vibrate in sympathy. A bit like the soprano and the wine glass. That was the reason I bought the instrument - it needs taming but with PI's it sounded very good.

Obviously the Dominant strings are not right for it, although my wife thinks it sounds fine and it does not bother her. I must admit I was taken with Dominants as a first fiddle in a very good quartet had the loan of a Guadanini just before a London concert and it had Doms on it, and it sounded great. But then Guadanini's probably sound great with chicken wire!!

February 20, 2013 at 11:13 PM · Peter,

One of my violins primarily uses Dominants, and I have always been very happy with them on that particular instrument. I have, however, acquired a new instrument a few weeks ago, which came with Dominants from the store which they had put on after I tested the instrument for the sake of putting new strings on, and they sounded thin and "metallic", did not really have any body in the sound... not pleasant at all. I would describe it as a clear and bright sounding violin itself.

I now use Obligato G and D, Larsen Tzigane A and, after testing many differerent E strings with that setup, I ended up on a Jargar Forte E. It just adds this pleasant openness in the higher frequency ranges to all the other strings, it is very great. Maybe give those strings a try, they definitely are working very well on bright sounding instruments for me.

February 21, 2013 at 12:13 AM · "But then Guadanini's probably sound great with chicken wire!!

LOL! That just cracked me up!

Some of those Guadagninis are indeed pretty amazing violins!

Cheers!

February 21, 2013 at 05:24 AM · Bohdan, a certain metallic edge seems to be in the nature of synthetic strings, perhaps due to their double windings. Have you ever tried a solid synthetic core with a single winding, in other words with the same structure as a gut string? It's such an obvious thing that I imagine there must be good reasons not to do this (probably sounds terrible).

February 21, 2013 at 08:02 AM · I have tried Obligatos which sound good on another violin but on this instrument they sound a little dull, on the G and D.

Maybe I have to go back to PI's which have always sounded pretty good and were also on the instrument when I first got it 15 months ago.

But perhaps the answer is to get a Guadanini ...

February 21, 2013 at 08:43 AM · Martin, you are right, using (mostly) just one winding is one of the differences between gut and synthetic core strings. Making such rigid synthetic core is not possible so far. However we learned that it is not necessary. We made another invention, we are now able to make even warmer tone than a typical gut strings creates. Now, the only problem is to adjust the level of "warmness" in order to be just enough for most bright sounding instruments.

February 21, 2013 at 09:40 AM · I am currently using the new Larsen Virtuosos with a westminster medium e. Usually I had a different string combo wich worked fine on my violin: G-Larsen Tzigane, D/A-Evah, E-Westminster or Jargar medium.

But I still like to experiment with strings. They are all so different in sound and more important in playability.

I like the sound of the Evahs, wich I also don't find too bright and more on the dark side. But the playability is quite limited. The sound is onedimensional "on or off" and the response to different kind of vibrato is very little.

I generally like strings with less tension, like most wound gut strings. And also thats why I am often trying out Larsen Strings products. The problem is, that less tension sometimes brings less focus aswell and a slightly worse response, wich can be annoying in fast passages or big chord sections.

I would suggest to you to use the searchengine to review the numerous threads about nearly every string and brand here. But in the end there is nothing more valuable as experience different string for yourself.

Because the Larsen Strings are a little special I would suggest you to try out some established products, like the visions or zyex strings.

But start with experimenting with different E strings. Its much cheaper and very beneficial. The Jargar medium E is a very fine and brilliant string, some here prefer the strong/forte version, I think its too brilliant and screamy on my violin at least. Westminster E strings are also concidered as bright sounding. I find Westminster medium have less overtones but more core to the sound, a little bit in between jargar forte and medium.

February 21, 2013 at 12:15 PM · Simon and others - thanks for the suggestions.

I will have to look into Eva's and other combinations.

I've also had suggested elswhere Thomastic Vision Titanium Solo or even just Solo's.

Maybe I should also try Eudoxa's as a gut covered string.

EDIT: Just adding to this post - the strings are sounding better today - in fact quite a good sound. I'm sure I sounded neurotic - any way I'm now also trying a Russion bow hold - and it's all much better.

May 25, 2013 at 01:38 AM · I just got a new bow today, and my violin sounds AMAZING! That was probably the problem I was having the whole time with the "strings."

May 25, 2013 at 10:51 AM · I am glad to hear that you have solved your problem. This is why I always recommend prefering buing strings at luthiers and violinshops to purchasing on-line. An expert can check all your "tools" and you can be adviced to have your bowhair changed. Or maybe sometimes a slight bridge correction can help a lot... Bad or defective strings (or any string choice, which dosen't match your instrument) is not always the only cause of sound and playability problems.

In my option at least less experienced players can even save a lot of funds buying rather off-line :-) at experts than on-line.

May 25, 2013 at 01:02 PM · That's a good idea, Bohdan. I've always bought my violins and bows at a violin shop, where they often help me to choose a good instrument. But I never thought of asking them to play my violin and tell me if I should get my bow hair changed (or buy a new bow) before complaining about the strings.

May 28, 2013 at 04:35 AM · All I can say is that I have now played with Eudoxas mixed with Obligatos on my violin for a few years (because I heard about their legendary warmness etc. my violin is bright and I'm a fan of old recordings) and the following things are really to take into consideration is you're thinking of gut strings or gut mix with synthetic or metal.

I use these strings because I'm an amateur (have the luxury and time for very fussy strings), an absolute fanatic of sound and perhaps a tad crazy!

Yes the sound is heavenly beautiful... (As if I stole a master's violin but play it very bad lol)

But you must:

LOVE (did I say love?) PASSIONATELY to tune! You'll tune very very often since they really do change with your hands tempeture, the room tempeture, humidity etc. Just had a recital, tuned 3 times! A lot of fun in front of an audience.

You must accept the challenge of playing in tune on a violin not quite in tune. Let's face it, on gut strings, it often untunes as you play and you can't stop!

You must love (or be ready to...) to suffer because as much as they can sound like heaven (when the weather and athmospheric conditions are on your side), as much as they can be a son of a b... to play. Response is slower, needs strong finger attacks, buzz more under bow pression than synthetic strings (so you use speed and other strategies to compensate...) I beleive it would be a real shortcomming in a serious competition nowadays against others who have the ultimate flexible, fast response modern strings.

You must be willing to pay a lot of money. Eudoxas and such are costly and die pretty fast. They are also fragile.

People will tell you that you put yourself in your own trouble for playing with such capricious strings. If you complain about something... well I told you to use other strings! But the sound? They don't care...

I do not play in an orchestra. I think I would die in an orchestra with my strings :)

Know that you might get addicted to that sound and will live in a never ending dilemma : you are crazy of that sound but frankly hate the super fussy nature of gut strings everytime you try synthetics and can play so much better "technically" on them. That doesn't mean that you'll play badly on gut. The greats of the old days did it... but they carried a burden we are lucky to not have nowadays... maybe we could say the reverse for the sound.

It all boils down to which is more important for you (sound vs playability... that is very rudely said since it's not all one or the other!) and if you can afford endless caprices from strings in your musical activities.

Still, some strings like Oligato are a good in between for the sound vs playability thing.

And the player is still the one who produces most of the sound! (that's the most important!)

May 29, 2013 at 02:25 PM · Emma, I am glad that you found the solution.

Anne-Marie, greetings from a fellow gut-string lover:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aNO14wvDr0

May 29, 2013 at 05:37 PM · I use Passione Solo, Evah Pirazzi Gold and Warchal Ametyst reguraly. Warchal Ametyst produces an amazing, resonant sound at one third the price the first two. Price to quality, for me Warchal Ametys and Karneol are first in line. If I only consider the sound without considering the tuning stability, the price and durability, of course it's Oliv, second would be Evah Pirazzi Gold, 3rd is Passione Solo. I don't care about durabitlity. I LOVE to change strings every three weeks to a month.

May 29, 2013 at 09:49 PM · I find that whenever somebody complains about the tuning stability of Olivs, it's usually an issue with the pegs, not with the strings or humidity - after stretching in Olivs (which takes only a couple days of practising and tuning), I find that it doesn't take more than ten to fifteen minutes for them to acclimate to a different room.

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