To find the right strings for your viola is a difficult task, I will like to share my experience in the subject, hopefully that will help you to find the right strings for your Viola.
First you have to decide what you want from your strings, or what you dont want.
Some violists want a warm viola sound, or/and a focus sound, a sound like velvet.
Other people look for strings who are easier to play, strings that respond quick to the bow.
If you are a student I recommend strings that will make you every day playing easier, like choosing a string because it gives your viola good bow response or clarity or projection.
Personally I dont try to make my viola sound a certain way, but I prefer to try to find what suits better for the natural sound of my viola.
With my old small viola I went for a beautiful direct sound, and specially good bow response.
With the big modern viola I go for a warm sound with projection and the good bow response.
If you are a beginner you have to realize that may be your technical problems with bow speed and control may be the problem and not the strings choice.
Important to know that the size of your viola is very important, because the smaller the viola, the more tension feeling you may have.
The ticker the string, the more sound you get, but you need energy to make the string vibrate. Thats why strings like Pirazzi dont work well is a small viola, because they are thick and have a high tension. Helicore is I think, the ideal string for smaller violas, not only because the lower tension, but also because they are thin strings. Thin strings in a small viola will help you to find quick bow response.
(If you have a small viola you can go to the end of this review where I write a bit about strings for small viola.)
For my new made in 2014 French viola ( 41.5cm body) with warm natural sound:
A Larsen: The standard string for viola, work well in most violas, but notice that the choice of the other strings may do this string to sound very metallic. With Pirazzi re, not a good combination. With Helicore D, good combination, because Helicore is a thin string with low tension and the combination works well.
A Larsen dolce feels very thin if the fingers and the volume is a bit less, so if your viola sounds too loud, try this one.
A Kaplan Solutions: This string have a velvet like sound, if your Larsen A sounds aggressive or metallic try this one. is slightly thicker than Larsen.
A Pirazzi. First I tried the aluminum one, is much thicker, and gives a great sound ( IF together with a Pirazzi re) but the string is not responsive, if you play slow music, is amazing, but fast music, you will need to change something in your bow speed to make it sound. For me was too complicated. Then I tried the Pirazzi steel (normal one) did not liked it, very aggressive metallic sound in my viola.
A Helicore: No for me, sound silky, not focused, is thicker than Larsen, the bow does not respond easy with this string.
A Jargar, the string is extremely thin. Gives a thin elegant sound but more like a violin sound. Your fast vibrato will come out easier, the string respond very quick.
D Larsen: Tried very shortly and it sounded very laud in my viola. But many friends play with Larsen D, and they say the string have to be replaced every two months.
D Helicore/ I love this string if in combination with a high tension G string. or with a Helicore G string. The string is extremely thin and gives a nice sound. Feels good in the fingers. Good bow response.
D Pirazzi: yes, Pirazzi are great strings to make a normal viola sound better, but you will not get the low warm viola sound. But if your viola have a natural warm viola sound, the string will work very well. many people use this string nowadays in Orchestras.
D Obligato: I hoped this string will bring more warm sound to my viola, but I was disappointed. read somewhere this was a great string, may be in other viola, not in mine. The sound feels like "Aluminium" sound, a bit like the famous D Dominant. I did not get the solid sound from Pirazzi, or the warm sound from a gut string. Waste of money for me.
D Vision Solo: Is a good string, the tension is not as high as the Pirazzi, the volume is less. But the sound is a good sound. This string is thin also.
D Superflexible: This strings are great for advanced students because the tuning becomes very evident. Flawless quints ( as advertised in the brand website) are really true. M. Kugel the famous viola teacher demanded all his students in Belgium to use this strings. You get a big honest sound. But not a warm sound. This strings are very flexible and thin.
G Larsen, for me loud but only volume. In my viola did not sound right.
G Helicore, great string, and the soft version also a great string. You get a warm sound, and the string is responsive to the bow.
G Pirazzi, good string, louder than Helicore, yet gives good body. A solid string. Only it feels very thick in the fingers, thats why may be difficult to play, but hey, you can not have everything.
G Pirazzi Gold: my favorite string, th sound is direct and warm. And the volume of the normal Pirazzi. Just put it on yesterday, so we will see how it will sound in a week...
The tensiàn of this string is a bit higher than the normal pirazzi G. I read this in their website.
The warm tone comes with a price, you have to have a solid contact between the string and the bow to get a great sound,in the frog and in the point, in other words, you have to work hard to get such a sound. It feels hard i the fingers, but the sound you get ( at least I get in my viola) is worth the effort.
G Vision solo; also a good string. Less loud than Pirazzi, same as D string.
G superfelxible: same as D string.
C Tungsten Spirocuore: Very loud,but the sound is not bad, I like it in combination with Pirazzi G. Not good with Helicore G as you will feel the difference between G and C, because G Helicore is a thin string with low tension, and C tungstein is a heavy string and very thick.
But this string sound good in many violas. Very popular. The string is very heavy!
C Vision solo, is a great string, less loud than Pirazzi but gives a good warm sound.
C Pirazzi: No, did not liked it. Agressive and very thick string, difficul to play after th position.
C Pirazzi gold. Yes I loved, this string together with G Pirazzi gold sounds big and warm. Finally .. The tension of this string is a bit less than the Pirazzi normal, I read this in their website. The sound is warm and not metallic.
C Superflexible, very thick and not responsive... next...
C Obligato: Did not try yet
In the end the tension between the strings is very important. Your D Helicore may sound great with a G helicore, but the same string in combination with a Vision solo G may sound unfocused in some notes. because the tensions are in conflict.
Personally I prefer:
the A and C lower tension, and the D and G higher tensions.
For a small viola:
You can not force an instrument to sound in other way other than the one he was made for. A small viola will never give the same sound of a viola with a big body. For me the ideal viola is 41-42cm.
For my 1771 French viola, small ( 40cm body.
The sound of this viola is not really a warm viola sound because the body is not big, strings can not do miracles. So I did not go for a warm sound, but for a beautiful focus sound.
in this viola this is the selection of strings I tried.
LA Larsen: One of the best if not the best La string for viola. In a small viola Larsen medium and forte may sound aggressive in the first position, if is the case, try the Larsen soft gauge. The Larsen soft feels very thin in the fingers.
LA Kaplan Solutions: This string goes well with Helicores, feels like less tense in the fingers than Larsen. The sound is a bit less brilliant, but have a different color.
This string is a bit thicker than Larsen.
LA Pirazzi: Too metallic for a small viola. I found the sound aggressive specially in the first position.
D, G, and C: Helicore. the best strings for a small viola because they are thin, so very responsive to the bow. They suppose to last long, but in my experience they have to be replaced often. Sometimes they broke.. or may be I am just unlucky.
D, G and C Pirazzi: The tension is too big and the string dont respond easy to the bow in fast passages because this string is thick. Specially difficult to play in higher positions.
D, G and C Vision solo, good strings, they feel a bit stiff in a small viola, but they give a focused sound. They last forever.
D, G C Superflexible, good choice for a small viola because they dont feel as tense as other strings, they are very flexible. But the C string is thick! and not very responsive.
Things in this review may or not be logic, but thats my personal experience.
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