Strings to replace PI G, D, A and a Pirazzi E?

April 4, 2013 at 02:21 AM · Hi everyone. Just last week I bought a lovely Italian violin, made in 1832 and possibly made by Giovanni Dollenz. It's got a beautiful open, soloistic bright sound and is very sweet particularly in the higher registers. The dynamic range is very big. All the strings have good clarity as you ascend and don't lose power either. All in all I'm very happy with the purchase.

I bought through auction, which can be a bit of a gamble especially with regards to setup. Thankfully the bridge on the violin is extremely well crafted - no additional excess wood, curved very nicely for string crossing and double stops, and strings sit well in the grooves. I also lucked out with regards to the strings - it was set up with Peter Infeld G, D and A and a steel Pirazzi E. I don't know how old they are but I think they have a good 4 weeks left in them. This is the first time I've played on PIs and I'm quite happy with them but I have one or two niggles.

It may be because they're a little older but they seem to lack a bit of colour and character. I played the instrument for a good 3 hours the day after I bought it and discovered a whole range of different colour possibilities but playing it today I felt that even in just 5 days the G seemed less characterful and the D and A had lost some volume. The E is fine really but I think I will be changing the strings in 3 to 4 weeks' time.

I know there's no such thing as one size fits all with strings. Ideally though I'd like to find a combination of strings that suits solo and chamber playing mostly but can be used in an orchestra without sounding too offensively soloistic! I'm pretty sure that no string will cause the violin to lose its brilliance and clarity but I would like something that has a bit more depth and complexity on the bottom two strings and a bit more volume in the middle. On my old violin I used steel As almost exclusively because it was really unclear so switching to a synthetic A I did feel a difference in thickness under my fingers which I didn't mind in low positions but got a bit messy in higher positions for rapid fingerwork. I like the feel of the G and D just fine and generally am quite sensitive to tension on the thicker strings so don't want anything too stiff. I'm open to any suggestions!

Thanks

Aditya

Replies (50)

April 4, 2013 at 04:00 AM · Sounds like you will need to experiment some. But if you want more depth and possibly volume...maybe Dominants?

April 4, 2013 at 07:40 AM · I agree with Andrew, try Dominants. Another alternative would be Pirastro-Evahs (cost a little more though!) You might like a Wondertone e.

April 4, 2013 at 09:02 AM · If you want more complexity to the sound you should consider gut strings. Pirastro oliv G "stiff" is my all time favorite. It may seem really expensive, but to me it lasts much longer than the synthetics I have tried (Evah papparazzi, obligato, dominant). For the D string I am split between Oliv "stiff", regular Oliv silver and Passione Solo which is also silver wound. I think I prefer the Passione Solo, but the jury is still out on that one. For the A string I use Passione Solo, but am going to try a few alternatives soon. Just received a Warchal Russian Style A in the mail yesterday. My favorite E after trying almost everything available (more than 10) is Lenzner Goldbrokat. It does not last very long, but it is dirt cheap, so I just order a handfull when I order a set of the other strings. Changing the E seems to revive the rest of the instrument somehow.

I have not had problems with tuning instability, which is often an argument against gut core strings. They do take quite some time to stretch, but once they do they are very stable.

April 4, 2013 at 10:29 AM · Thanks everyone for your messages. Ahmed, I tried almost every synthetic string possible on my old instrument and found that the Evah Pirazzis hurt my fingers after playing on them for an hour or so, so I probably won't be trying them this time.

Andrew and Ahmed, I will buy a set of Dominants but I won't put them on as the first new set after the PIs because I am interested in trying gut at least on the bottom two strings before going back to synthetic. Eudoxas worked quite nicely on my old instrument but were a little muddy sounding and didn't last all that long - having said that I don't think my old instrument was suited to particularly rich or warm sounding strings. I might try some Obligatos on this Italian instrument, probably with the chromesteel A and the gold E.

Bo, I have been considering Oliv and Passione (not solo; is there much difference between that and regular Passione?) for the bottom two strings especially - would you be able to outline the differences you have found between them? I will probably try Oliv first anyway because they are more established than Passione, but I assume that they are probably both suited to the sort of playing I outlined. On my old old violin, which I still have, I have an Oliv A which sounds pretty bad so I was thinking a steel A would be better. I will probably try the Warchal Russian A or the Obligato chromesteel A but if funds prevent me then I will probably get a Chromcor or Piranito A for the time being. I second the Lenzner Goldbrokat Es because I use them time and time again and they have never failed me!

April 4, 2013 at 12:27 PM · For the G string I find that there is more complexity to the sound of the Oliv stiff than that of the Passione Solo. It was long ago I tried the regular passione, but as far as I remember there was not very big difference in how they performed on my violin.

As far as being suitable for different kind of playing - chamber and orchestra - I think these strings are all suitable. I played Evah strings for several years and liked how powerfull they were in comparison to e.g. dominants, but after listening to someone else playing my violin and also listening to other violins with Evahs I decided that I find the sound they make too one-dimentional. They are very loud and "in-your-face" and it is difficult to vary the sound (that is why I often refer to them as "papparazzi").

The few times I tried it I had problems with the oliv A and if you search the archives here you will find that many others have as well. I think the A is the main reason for the tuning instability reputation of oliv strings. The Passione A (solo or regular) seems to be a good match with the oliv D and G but on my violin I still think it is not perfekt. Funny that you should mention the obligato chromstahl A - that was in yesterdays shipment as well for upcoming tests.

Regarding suitability of gut strings in orchestra a friend of mine who is a professional violist told me that the whole viola section in her orchestra switched to passione and that was noted by colleagues and audience as a marked improvement in the sound of the section.

April 4, 2013 at 12:57 PM · I completely agree with Bo. It seems that your are inclining toward gut strings. Here are the coordinates before you get lost:

Choosing the Right Set of Strings

April 4, 2013 at 01:10 PM · Thank you both of you! Rocky - I'd seen the chart before but had lost the link to it so many thanks for reintroducing it to me. Oliv and Passione both lie in the region I was hoping for. I think I'll go for an Oliv G and D, probably stiff.

April 4, 2013 at 01:31 PM · Go for stiff version. That is also Pirastros first recommendation. And don't forget to let us know what you think of them. And which A string you match them with.

April 4, 2013 at 01:54 PM · I find the Thomastik PI string set to be great on a variety of violins with different characteristics. But the most important factor seems to be that you use the PI Platinum E string.

Andy

April 4, 2013 at 01:58 PM · Andrew - maybe that is why I'm less satisfied, though the strings are without a question on their way out. I think I'll try Olivs first before I go back to them.

April 4, 2013 at 08:46 PM · I'd suggest trying a set of Evah Pirazzi Golds, if you don't like the regular EPs. They're lower in tension.

I like the PI platinum E string -- I use it with my EP Golds.

I replaced a set of Passiones with the EP Golds. More volume with the EP Golds and more clarity, but less richness.

April 4, 2013 at 09:05 PM · Hi Lydia. I tried the EP Golds on my old violin and liked them for a bit, but eventually I found the sound a little tiring. There was something about them that didn't feel quite right - while they were less tense than regular EP and did possess a fair amount of colour to the sound the lack of richness compared to some of the previous strings I'd been using was a bit of a shame. Also I found them to deteriorate too fast for me - they began to develop a bit of a surface noise after 3 weeks; cleaning them helped for 2 weeks after this but after 5 weeks I felt like I had to change them.

I ordered my set today - Oliv stiff G and D (medium gauge), Obligato chromesteel A (medium tension) and Goldbrokat E (.26mm). I will update you all with my opinions on these strings in due course!

April 4, 2013 at 09:46 PM · I wonder, that the olivs are considered as less direct than the eudoxas, wich in my experience is the other way around. Oliv stiff D and G are great strings, mybe the nicest I know, but they are sooo expensive and still they need time to stay in tune more or less. Goldbrokat E is not for me, but its cheap, thats true. Also this expensive PI E-string I found it screaming and whistling, not worth its 20 Euros. There are many good e strings with are cheaper and more balanced. But good luck with your choices, let us know how satisfied you are!

April 4, 2013 at 11:51 PM · I didn't notice that - that's a good point Simon. In any case, I think I've picked a combination that should provide me with the sort of sound I want on my violin, so fingers crossed!

April 6, 2013 at 11:13 AM · Right, Olivs are on. I anticipated the beginning would be worse than it is but actually they're pretty fast responding compared to the Eudoxas I used on my old violin. They have a beautiful, round tone right from the start, much more so than the PI, and it's restored some character to the violin's sound. They're staying in tune quite well as well.

Obligato steel A I've got to say is the best A I've tried in a long time. It's very responsive and has a complex tone by steel string standards. All the clarity is there and it complements the richness of the Olivs really well. Goldbrokat is as consistent as ever.

I'll see what happens over the next couple of days as they've only been on an hour but I'm happy so far.

April 6, 2013 at 05:25 PM · Hi Aditya,

The Obligato A that you have on isn't steel. It has a synthetic core but is wound with chromium.

April 6, 2013 at 05:36 PM · Hi Andrew - is it? I didn't know that. It certainly feels like a thinner, regular steel core string in response and in sound. It wasn't all that clear on Pirastro's website but in any case I'm very satisfied.

April 6, 2013 at 05:58 PM · The obligato A for viola is alumininium-wound steel.

April 6, 2013 at 06:23 PM · Adrian - yes that's true, I've used the viola A on many occasions and been very satisfied by its round tone. Shame it doesn't last as long as a Larsen!

April 9, 2013 at 06:18 PM · It's bit confusing!

Obligato viola A: alumnium on steel;

Aricore viola A: aluminium on synthetic, or, chrome steel on synthetic - new one on me!

Obligato or Aricore violin A; aluminium on synthetic, or, chrome steel on synthetic.

Eudoxa-Aricore violin or viola A: aluminium on synthetic. A super string!

April 9, 2013 at 08:19 PM · Thanks for the clarification. So is the regular Aricore violin A essentially the same as the Obligato A? Or is there a difference in the core? I've heard the Aricore can sound dull on some instruments whereas the Obligato is generally a bit more lively. I've tried the Eudoxa-Aricore A once on my old fiddle and we didn't get on so well but perhaps things will be different on this new one. For now though the Obligato chrome wound A is a treat!

April 9, 2013 at 08:21 PM · I also put the obligato chromesteel on the other day, but didn't like it one bit. My bow couldn't grab it properly unless I really pressed it. PP was out of the question. So it is Passione solo A for me for now. Will try the Warchal russian A soon.

April 9, 2013 at 08:34 PM · That's a shame - I found that dynamics are quite easy on the string. It could just be a matter of adapting bowing technique but I'm not in a position to say! Perhaps the Russian A is "softer" under the fingers and may work better.

April 9, 2013 at 09:14 PM · Aricores have a warm round tone with no "grit".

I wonder how similar they are to the newer Violinos?

I find Obligatos are warm too but with an interesting texture.

April 9, 2013 at 09:14 PM · Oops!

April 9, 2013 at 09:24 PM · I see; the "no grit" thing would be a problem for projection I suppose. Not sure if I'll give Aricores a go just yet but they sound like they could be good for an orchestra situation - have you had any experience with the violin Aricores (with respect to matters other than the sound itself, e.g. response, longevity etc)?

April 9, 2013 at 10:08 PM · I have found Aricores to suit a harsh or over-bright instrument. They last well, play easily and can accept a vigorous bow-stroke without getting nasty.

As with D'Addario's Pro Arte strings, they were the nearest to Eudoxas until Obligatos appeared. Nice in a small studio with youngsters with hyper-sensitive ears!!

April 10, 2013 at 04:57 AM · Adrian, I find Violinos to have far more complexity than Aricores, and they feel more flexible under the bow, I also think - though they sound very warm, I find the sound rather interesting - but I wouldn't call them particularly powerful.

April 12, 2013 at 08:34 AM · Violinos are very nice and worked very well on my Chinese violin. But for this one I'm sticking with the set I've got! It sounds so open on all strings, rich on the bottom and bright on the top... So satisfied. I just hope they last me!

April 27, 2013 at 12:50 PM · Bo, I know you were not satisfied with the Obligato chromewound A, so did you try out the Russian A in the end? And if so, how is it? I showed my violin to my teacher for the first time on Monday and he said that the A is a little problematic at the moment. Personally I don't find much issue with it but when it comes to replacing it I will try something different. I'm won over by Olivs and Goldbrokat for G, D and E but the A may require some experimenting.

April 28, 2013 at 09:52 PM · I did try the Warchal russian A. It is OK - softer to play than I expected but really does require a fine tuner. I found the sound a little too brilliant and direct to my taste. I prefer the Passione Solo A. I also put a Passione solo D on because I wanted to try a silver wound string. The aluminium wound Oliv stiff (not available with silver winding) sounds a bit "muffled" on my instrument. So right now it is Oliv stiff G, Passione solo D and A and Goldbrokat E for me. I keep the russian A in my case as an "emergency string".

May 3, 2013 at 09:16 AM · I have just struggled through the new Pirastro site:

- Aricore: polyester core;

- Tonica and Synoxa; nylon core (like Thomastik's "perlon")

- Violino, Obligato, Wondertone and Evah: "composite core" (??), which seems to stretch less, have more "complex" tone, and maybe deteriorates faster? And very expensive!

A few others:

- Crystal, Pro Arte, Dominant: nylon;

- Alliance, Zyex, Vision, Infeld: composite;

- Larsen, Warchal: I don't know, yet..

Personally, I am an adept of the wound E:

- Dominant: sweet but fuzzy;

- Eudoxa: very bright;

- Tonica (my favourite): silky;

- Pirastro No1 (chrome winding): whistles on all notes on my violin!

I have troble with chrome-wound A's and E's - maybe I should try more, or different, rosin.

May 4, 2013 at 03:03 PM · That's very useful to know, and is a good correlative to the various tones that characterise the strings.

I was wondering actually, what colour are the windings of the Warchal Russian A at the peg and ball end? I'm just trying to recall whether I have ever seen anybody using one before.

May 5, 2013 at 01:29 PM · Frankly, I'm very happy with PI strings on 4 of my violins (and they are very different from each other). However, I have found that key to PI strings magic is using the PI platinum-plated E string. The sets that were delivered to me with the nickel-plated E were not remarkable at all, until the dealer sent the platinum E's I had paid for.

My next "experiment" may be to try the PI platinum E with a completely different mix of the other strings. (I've been "string experimenting" since Dominants were first sold over 40 years ago.)

EDIT: About a month after posting this I removed the PI A, D, and G strings from one of my violins and replaced them with Vision Solos. Fantastic improvement. I still have the PI Platinum E string on the violin.

Andy

May 5, 2013 at 03:02 PM · I've noticed the considerable influence of the E-string on the tone of the other 3. I always assumed that higher tension will cramp the vibrations, but maybe in the case of the E, greater pressure in the sound-post region will transmit more upper harmonics to the back plate, which is of harder, stiffer wood.

Any experience in this area?

May 5, 2013 at 09:33 PM · My understanding has always been that a heavy E will take the majority of the strain from the bridge, so that the other strings can ring out longer and feel less tense under the fingers. However, I haven't done enough experimenting with Es to notice anything significant. I normally use Goldbrokat, Wondertone Solo or either of the Pirazzi Es. When I buy full sets (vs a mix and match set like my current set), I tend to use the E string provided. On my old violin, I have used the Tonica plain steel E and Synoxa E with great pleasure in combination with those sets, and have used a heavy Golden Spiral E as well - this was a very meaty sounding string indeed with plenty of bite.

May 6, 2013 at 12:00 AM · I've heard that a heavier gauge E can free up the other strings, but I've found the opposite more than once - that a heavier gauge E chokes the bottom strings.

May 6, 2013 at 06:00 AM · I think it would choke them if they too were heavy gauge. I haven't really done enough experimenting with tension to be able to draw firm conclusions though.

May 8, 2013 at 06:43 PM · I installed the Warchal Russian A today, and I think it's solved most of the problems of the Obligato A according to my teacher. It feels more pliable under the fingers, the sound is every bit as warm as the Obligato, and it's clearer sounding right the way up to the top. I was surprised that for such a thin string it still sounds clean under heavy bow pressure. The power is considerable, but it has sweetness as well with more delicate bowing. I'll need to experiment with it more to see how many more sound colours I can achieve, but it is an improvement on the Obligato. I've kept the Obligato as a backup but noticed that the winding seems to be unravelling slightly at one point behind the bridge. I'm not sure why this is - it only started happening a couple of days ago. It could have just been a faulty string but I'm surprised that it's happened.

May 8, 2013 at 08:48 PM · All aluminium-wound A's, whether gut or synthetic cored, have a very fragile winding, very liablme to jam in the notches of the bridge and of the nut.

I must try the Russian A; I have already used an Eudoxa Chromecore A: a bit too hard (in tone and feel) on my violin.

May 11, 2013 at 02:50 PM · I use Evah Pirazzi's with a gold E and yes wound strings CAN unravel and "get caught" in the nut and bridge and would need to be replaced but in my opinion that is well worth the sound. Wound strings are better in my opinion.

May 12, 2013 at 12:51 PM · Hi,

Part of the reason that the E influences the other strings is the balance of tensions and the overtones highlighted. In the old days of gut strings, different tensions of gauges were used to balance an instrument (there is a good discussion on this in the original edition of the Art of Violin Playing by Carl Flesch). The D string in particular seemed to be much heavier than today. That said, each violin responds differently. It is a question of trial and error for each instrument. In the case of modern synthetic strings with only three gauges available, the E plays a most significant role in finding the right balance for an instrument.

As for Pirastro strings, or any other for that matter, one should always put pencil (graphite) in the grooves each time they change the strings. It helps the string slide better during tuning, which extends the life of the winding and prevents warping of the bridge. It was a recommendation from Pirastro which is very useful.

Cheers!

May 13, 2013 at 10:57 AM · Hi Folks,

I started with upgrades on my violins as I have different types. I was advised to use Dominants with a Pirastro Gold E. Not bad. Started on my electric and then moved them to the Electric Accoustic. But when I put my Evah Parazzi Gold set on they both sounded great. Tried them on my late 1800's Maggini copy which I was restoring and the Evah Parazzi were lovely. Strong deep bright tone but still a little Guitarish for my liking. So I tried the Pirastro Passione SOLO. Beautiful. Rich, responsive, strong even tone. Lovely deep lower register and very bright upper register. But each instrument likes soemthing different so its sometimes trial and error. So My Doninants are on a Quiet accoustic (Skinny) violin which has been upgraded to an electric accoustic, the Evah Parazzi Gold are on the electric accoustic, I trialed the Evah Parazzi Gold with GOLD G on them all and found them best suited for the straight electric as the Gold G is flatter and deeper in sound while the set with the silver G is brighter. Th Passione SOLO keep improving as I play. They are warm, rich and bright and can quickly transfer the exprecions of the player and get the best out of the instrument. Cheers.

May 19, 2013 at 09:34 AM · After a sound-post replacement, my Pirastro No.1 E, and Eudoxa-Chromchor A (both are chrome-wound on a steel core) sound much better. G & D are still "PI".

Although my violin has a warm but rather dull tone, it responds badly to over bright, "complex" strings (e.g. Vision). I think the wood just cannot respond cleanly to conplex high frequencies. My present setup gives a clear, smooth sound, even in the higher positions.

On the other hand, the same violin hand a gentle but richer tone with a set of Tonica light (weich), with its cear, silky, aluminium-wound E.

May 20, 2013 at 06:00 PM · Adrian, you've tried Aricores - I've asked questions about it before, I know. They're warm and sometimes a bit dull on certain instruments you say, but do you find they actually attempt to change the sound of the violin, or do they bring out its natural character? I find that Obligatos and Evah Pirazzi do that and, while I like Obligatos, I can't really put up with Evah Pirazzi or any other string that makes the sound of the violin artificial in any way. I guess this is the great thing about gut, and strings like Dominants, Tonica and probably PI (though I don't really have much experience with them) as they complement and enhance the instrument's innate sound qualities. I was thinking of giving the Aricores a go when I go on the National Youth Orchestra summer residency because they seem ideal for orchestra.

May 20, 2013 at 09:23 PM · I've usually found Aricores to be so dull as to cover up an instrument's 'true' sound, so to speak.

May 20, 2013 at 09:39 PM · I have found that Aricores filter out any harshness in a violin or viola, and allow a deep, dynamic bow-stroke. They really help an over-bright or "grating" instrument.

However, they lack projection, and sound woolly on many good violins. Also, the lack of high harmonics may make one a bit less critical of intonation!

I adopted them as a substitue for Eudoxa, at a time when my younger ears found Dominant too coarse. Maybe with advancing years, I now want a richer tone!

I still find them suitable for new, rough-sounding violins, moving "up" to Zyex, Obligato etc. as the instrument settles down.

May 20, 2013 at 10:11 PM · OK, perhaps they're not for me then. My violin is not harsh or nasal at all, but sweet, complex and powerful, with plenty of ring. I know how to tone down my playing in an orchestra situation but if the ringing gets stifled I'd probably end up stopping liking the sound of my instrument! At least Obligatos and Zyex have enough ring to begin with and retain it for a fair amount of time. I'd probably be better off with one of them. I've ordered a set of Tonicas for now just as a "filler" set so I can decide what to do with the setup. I may end up keeping them, who knows. The quest continues!

May 21, 2013 at 02:57 AM · If you don't want your ring to get stifled, I would definitely advise against Aricores. Pirastro's Tonicas or Obligatos (or even Violinos) would suit you better, I think.

May 21, 2013 at 08:41 PM · Maybe in the future I'll order some Aricores just to see whether they suit my other violin. I'm sticking with my Oliv/Warchal/Goldbrokat setup until it really dies out, though - need to get the full ££ worth from it!

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