Changing strings makes a huge difference

June 9, 2016 at 07:16 PM · Hello, I just changed my strings. For the first time! I was pretty nervous to get started and it took me about an hour to change the 4 strings and get them in tune. But what a difference!!!

My previous strings were Vision and I've used them for a year. My new strings are Dominant and E Pirastro gold string. I had read lots of positive comments about this combination so I wanted to try it. I had no idea what the difference would be...

In a different thread I was being told that I pressed too much into the strings. Now I totally understand what you meant. With my previous strings I had to press pretty hard on the G string to get a decent sound out of it. And the last 2 months or so I always seemed to have problems to get a nice sound from the D string. I was wondering what I did wrong and if this is normal. Now I can say that with my new strings, I barely touch the string with my bow and it gives a great sound already, on all 4 strings. So, it's going to be so much easier now to play relaxed! :-) Also, I can hear the ringing much better especially on the G and D string.

Now my question is: did this happen because of the Vision strings? Or did it happen because I've had those strings for too long already (1 year)?

Replies (29)

June 9, 2016 at 07:21 PM · Probably both.

The instrument has to work with the strings, or the instrument won't play very well.

June 9, 2016 at 08:17 PM · Visions are pretty nice strings -- higher-end than Dominants. But not all strings are good with all instruments. Also, string age makes a huge difference. Change your strings at least once every 6 months, if not every 3 months.

June 9, 2016 at 08:20 PM · That's for someone that plays a lot, if you don't play as much, the strings should last longer.

June 9, 2016 at 08:34 PM · Thanks for the answers. I don't know how often I should change my strings. I play 1 to 2 hours per day. So would I have to change very 6 months then?

June 9, 2016 at 09:31 PM · Every 100 to 150 hours of playing. So 2 hours a day is 60 hours per month, so a change every 3 months.

June 9, 2016 at 09:41 PM · If someone is not playing professionally, it would be fair enough to change strings when they are pretty much dead, or false. If when tuned properly, you cannot produce a perfect fifth up in the fingerboard, it could be time for a change. On the other hand if they sound tolerable, their windings are intact, and you're not bored with them, keep them on. It's pretty easy to drive yourself crazy, get obsessed with how many types, models and brands are out there, and change strings just for fun. In due time, you will have a drawer full of semi-used sets, worth as much as a decent backup/holiday violin.

There would be people leaning towards an optimal 120 hour mark for most string sets, but again I would only understand it if you instrument is going to pay back this investment. Otherwise, we have to think about other stuff, such as the bowing of the player, how hard he/she presses with the left hand, hand percipitation, and the materials of the string itself.

Some would disagree with the following practice, but when I am in a tight budget, I would replace my E and the A frequently, they seem to deteriorate faster. The D and G of some composite sets seem to last significantly longer, and pretty much hold their tone at a decent level. Also cleaning the strings, after every session, seems to really help.

And of course, I would prefer to change steel core stings (like the E) as many times I can afford, just to avoid whistling, or increasing tension.

June 9, 2016 at 09:59 PM · Dominant strings are less tense than Visions; you will need more subtle bowing, but the wood will vibrate more freely, which seems to suit your violin.

Dominants stretch more, and for longer, before staying in tune, but the tone deteriorates mores slowly.

June 9, 2016 at 10:37 PM · Lydia -- visions are hardly higher end than Dominants! If so, you should tell Itzhak Perlman, Gil Shaham, and Hilary Hahn to switch to a "higher-end" string!

They are newer, though! Since they are newer, they must be better, right? :-D

June 10, 2016 at 01:55 AM · "It's pretty easy to drive yourself crazy, get obsessed with how many types, models and brands are out there, and change strings just for fun. In due time, you will have a drawer full of semi-used sets, worth as much as a decent backup/holiday violin."



...have you been spying on me? ;)

June 10, 2016 at 02:03 AM · Perlman, Shaham, and Hahn are playing instruments that don't really need anything other than Dominants, which are perfectly decent, reasonably-priced, fairly low-tension strings.

The baseline Visions are actually less expensive than Dominants these days, I think, but most people who use the Vision line use the Vision Titanium Solos, as far as I know, which are significantly more expensive than Dominants.

Even on inexpensive instruments, fresh strings can make a real difference in sound. For a player who always wants their violin to sound the best, more frequent string changes help a lot. It may even be worthwhile, on a budget, to buy less expensive strings and change them more often, rather than getting more expensive strings but letting them deteriorate badly.

June 10, 2016 at 09:30 AM · Adrian -

"Dominant strings are less tense than Visions; you will need more subtle bowing"

I haven't come across this "subtle bowing" - does it start with an up bow or a down bow?

Either way, like Dominants, I try to be less tense as well. (But it's hard work).

I had better go and take my pills now ...

June 10, 2016 at 09:35 AM · @Fox, at first I thought I was writing a short autobiography :)

June 10, 2016 at 11:00 AM · I would be careful to use the term "higher end" on strings. The choice of strings is highly personal and depends on the instrument, sound preference, tension, playability, venue, type of ensemble, price, etc. -- all factors that are personal to each player. I am a big fan of dominant strings with the Pirastro E, just as the OP is using. I've tried quite a few strings and this combination is a really great compromise and seems to be a popular choice.

June 10, 2016 at 11:22 AM · And yes, new strings sound a lot better, but I have found that the Dominants sound kind of metallic for a few days until they are broken in.

June 10, 2016 at 12:40 PM · Thanks everybody for all the info! Happy to hear that many like this combination. I already like these strings but I'm curious as to how the sound will change after they are broken in. :-) It's great to read that they will sound better after a few days! Looking forward to it.

June 10, 2016 at 01:24 PM · Hi Mariko! As others have said, it's likely strings were dead, but equally so, it may be the Dominants are better for your violin. Funny, I just put the Dominants on my violin with the Gold E, too, a few days ago. I had played the Vision Heavy for a while, and did not have to press hard to get a good tone, so it may be again that your violin prefers the Dominants.

I just took off the Evah Gold's (replaced with the Dominants)- a wonderful warm G, loved it, but the tension on all were really too high for my violin, and the A was too harsh from the tension.

Back when I was playing, I was a string fanatic and tried most of the popular brands and types - but really, price should not be an indicator - just because it costs more does not mean it will sound better. The individual characteristics of the strings and how they react with your violin are what's important, not the price tag.

I like the sound of mine with the Dominants, and Gold E. I'm curious about the other E's - the Goldbrokat and Hill?

June 10, 2016 at 01:26 PM · You will have to upload a progress video in a few months, after practicing on the new strings, and the bow techniques mentioned.

June 10, 2016 at 01:54 PM · The Violin Society of America (VSA) had a round table discussion of strings some years back that was published in their Journal. It was mentioned that Hahn, would put a new set of Dominants on her violin 24 hours before every concert (with her schedule, I don't know how that was really possible, but that's what it said). I wish I could cite a specific reference, but I just gave away all my VSA Journals along with my old STRAD & STRING magazines.

I grew up with wound gut strings and used them starting around 1939 (graduating to Pirastro Eudoxas when I was working and could finally afford them) until 1970 when I tried the just released Thomastik Dominants. They just did not work right on my violin and I had to wait for Pirastro to release Tonicas, which did work on that fiddle.

I have followed the release of new synthetic (and steel and even some gut) core strings since then and even tried reverting to Eudoxas and even Olives a few times.

I have recently added Pirastro Flexocor-Permanent strings to one of my violins that seems "undervoiced" to me under my ears and found them to be a useful string for such instruments - this was after switching my viola from Dominants (that are good on it) to Permanents (that are even stronger on it). I cam to the viola Permanents after having success with Pirastro Permanents on at least one of my cellos and Pirastro Flexocor on at least one of them. (To the best of my knowledge all the Permanent and Flexocore strings use steel cores.)

I've had a lot of experience (that has cost me thousands of dollars) with simultaneous use of different strings on same/different instruments and have no doubt that there is good reason that there is such a wide variety of different string brands, gauges, thicknesses, tensions, and internal damping. If every instrument had the ideal frequency spectrum of the virtuoso favorites a far more limited range of strings would be necessary, but the big market out there is in trying to enhance the sound that can be obtained from the more populous lesser fiddles.

Mariko, if you had a teacher you might be able to get good advice for your specific violin (but actually I have doubts about that). If you have access to a violin dealer/luthier you have a better chance for good advice. Such a person, just playing your violin and knowing waht kind of strings are on it can often give good advice. (I am lucky to have had personal access over the past 20 years to Richard Ward at Ifshin Violins who has published at least several articles in STRINGS magazine on instrument strings and definitely has access to all manufactured strings.)

Just a few years ago the SHAR catalog listed the mixed string sets that different members of their staff were using on their instruments. Once you get into mixed sets things can rally start to get complicated. Thomastik tried to address this problem some years back when they introduced their RED and BLUE strings.

An additional problem that arises when mixing strings is that every string on an instrument influences the sound and playability of the others. It gets to be a real "crap shoot" and once you find a string set or combination you like, stay with it as long as you like it. One way to do that is to make your next change of strings the same as your last.


June 10, 2016 at 02:12 PM · Lydia said: Perlman, Shaham, and Hahn are playing instruments that don't really need anything other than Dominants, which are perfectly decent, reasonably-priced, fairly low-tension strings.


Interestingly, many students are also successfully using Dominant strings on their not-strad instruments. Perhaps they are just all around great strings and should not be considered "low-end"?

As for Vision's being "higher end", what soloist is using them? None that I am aware of, unless you move into the Titanium / Solo range, but even then there are few.

Additionally, I find that many of the newer string types that act as a "filter" to try to make the violin have qualities it does not innately have, fade quickly and have a shorter and more abrupt end to their lifespan.

June 10, 2016 at 02:41 PM · I find it interesting that people are taking the term "low-end" to be somehow offensive, sigh. If it makes you feel better, "less expensive" is what I meant, not that the strings are low quality. Dominants are still effectively the reference string for the synthetic market, given that they totally dominated the string market for a few decades before composites came on the scene.

What soloists use is of little relevance to most people, given their unique needs and high-end instruments. It's nice marketing, of course, and everyone is endlessly fascinated by who's got what strings on their violins.

I agree with Douglas on the characteristics of many newer strings. I believe that composite cores deteriorate differently from nylon (perlon) or gut; composites tend to break down soundwise all at once. Many newer strings are also much higher tension in order to try to maximize volume.

Nobody needs to get all defensive about using Dominants. I am not trying to discourage the OP from using them, merely pointing out that Visions are perfectly good strings, and string age is a major factor in sound, and obviously, every violin reacts differently to different strings.

June 10, 2016 at 03:24 PM · Hi Lydia,

Yes, that makes more sense -- to me "low end" and "high end" are indicative of quality, not price. However, aren't regular Vision's less expensive than Dominants?

I think it is somewhat relevant what soloists are using, since we can consider these a good quality professional string. I see Dominants, Evah Greens, Evah Golds, Peter Infelds, and things like that. I can't imagine a great soloist using inferior strings just for marketing purposes.

I also agree that string age is a major factor -- change your strings on a schedule and keep track of their lifespan so that you can always have optimal sound!

Lydia I don't mean to attack your comments or you, I like your contributions to the board very much! I just don't want something like Visions being higher-end than Dominants being forever on the interwebs :-D Curious -- what strings do you use, and what's your fiddle?

June 10, 2016 at 05:16 PM · Dominant and Pirastro Gold E is a very popular combination. I also recommend Warchal Amber E, which feels softer and very playable.

June 10, 2016 at 05:35 PM · I agree with Sung; I used to play with a Dominant and Pirastro Gold E for a very long time until I recently changed strings, and now my combination is a Dominant G and D, a Warchal Brilliante A, and a Warchal Amber E. This is one of my favorite combos so far, although you may have to be careful when unwinding the string for the Warchals. My very first Warchal E snapped before I had even finished putting it on! Granted it was because of a defect but I would still be careful.

I also often find that the 'strings choose the violin', and your string combination might not have matched your violin. It's good to try out different combinations by changing one string at a time to isolate them. I also agree that you should probably change them more than once a year, as the strings tend to loosen and become harder to play with age. Even if it's not strictly 3-6 months between changes, definitely more than once a year is needed.

June 10, 2016 at 07:27 PM · Yup, I noted in an earlier post that the regular Visions are less expensive than Dominants (although I seem to recall that wasn't the case when Visions were first introduced to the market), but the Vision Titanium Solos are almost twice the price of Dominants.

I own three violins, though I'm trying to sell two of them. I can share string stories about all of them, though.

My current violin is a JB Vuillaume. I use Passiones with a Warchal Amber E on it. Warchal Brilliant Vintage (especially with the Avantgarde A) plus the Amber E is a good combo as well -- actually sounds quite similar to the Passiones, surprisingly enough. It's had EPs and EP Golds (with the PI platinum E) on it previously, but I've concluded that it does much better with lower-tension strings. (My luthier likes Dominants on it, but I dislike the metallic Dominants sound during their break-in period.)

I have an Enrico Marchetti (late-19th-century Italian) that I've tried a huge array of string sets and combos on. For maximum projection, it does well with Larsens plus a Jarger forte E. For pure sound quality, Olivs. EP Golds, with the PI platinum E, are probably the best set on it, even if the tension might be a bit more than it really wants.

Finally, I have a Rafael Carrabba (contemporary, made 30 years ago, when he worked for Carl Becker) that I've similarly tried a lot of different strings on. I used Dominants (with the Gold Label E) on it until composites came on the market, and then Obligatos.

I think the trend towards high-tension strings is driven by the desire for projection. Soloists need that, but many players, especially beginning-to-intermediate students, don't, and for that matter, most amateurs don't.

In the community orchestra that I'm concertmaster of, the most common violin strings now look to be EPs -- it's hard to miss the glowing green windings. I suspect the string-section sound would actually benefit from something less loud but with more refinement, unfortunately.

June 10, 2016 at 08:30 PM · Hi Marika,

From my experience, the metallic sound of Dominants goes away within a few days. And they reach peak sound within 2 weeks. I change strings about every 4-5 months, but I only play about 1 hour per day.

Hi Lydia,

I don't think people were getting defensive about Dominants, just the use of the term high end. And I second the other opinions on this board, you are an extremely valuable contributor to this forum -- pretty darn good player too :-)

June 11, 2016 at 11:11 AM · Thank you so much everybody for all the info. There seem to be many different opinions. :-)

I'm enjoying my new strings and I'm looking forward to hear how the sound will change over the next days/weeks. I don't have the courage or the budget to be testing many strings and see what works best. I think for my "cheap" violin it's not worth the effort anyway. I'm very happy with how these strings work for my violin so I guess I'll stick with these. But I'll remember to change them more than once a year. ;-)

Wishing you all a nice day! :-)

June 11, 2016 at 11:29 AM · Don't forget though, that we all wish for a better sound with the right strings, the greatest improvement comes with working on technique and sound, and particularly bowing technique. The player is the sound.

June 11, 2016 at 02:33 PM · Once you hit a combo you like, I'd stay with it!!! Expensive strings do not guarantee better sound! Louder isn't always better! (thinking of when I had EP's on my violin......)

June 11, 2016 at 04:10 PM · Yes that's right. I'm happy with a good string combination. And now I'm going to practice hard to improve my technique! :-)

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