Another thread on strings and string combos

January 11, 2018, 9:10 PM · Hi all,

Sorry yet another string thread. I'm going to change strings soon. Ive been playing with dominants and Goldbrokat E. The latter did not sound pleasant on the instrument for quite a while (anddoesnt sound especially nice on this instrument). The strings now are starting to sound a bit too metallic with some shrillness. Ive had them on for around 3-4 months and I practice around 1-2 hours daily(weekends more. Is that normal that they should start to deteriorate after such a period?

The instrument is neither 'dark' nor brilliant. I would say it has some sweetness,good enough volume for me (but I suspect it does not project a lot). The G is not particuarly strong or clear (its not too bad but not like the other strngs, fuzzier).

What I would like is, as someone who wants to work on their intonation, bow technique, are strings that would not be too forgiving but also not too harsh in terms of sound. Of course I realise this is all dépendent on the instrument and its response to the strings, but nonetheless perhaps I could gain an idea to begin with. I havent got that mch experience when it comes to choosing strings.

Ive been doing some research here and I found that a good combination would be the Warchal Avantgarde A with Warchal Amber E. I do not not know what G or D to match them with.
I've read that our Scott Cole recommends Dominant G Weich for instruments that dont do so well on G.

Anyway, I would love to read your recommendations. Just to note that I am aware that there is only so much one can expect from strings and that the instrument is the main vehicle (and even more so the player:). Nonetheless, some ideas would be great. Thank you

Replies (36)

January 11, 2018, 10:17 PM · Try tuning your Dominant G down a half or whole pitch and see how you like the sound and response that way. If it’s better, then a light-gauge Dominant may be more to your liking. I’ve used them with success on a couple of violins in the past, too.

It’s also worth trying different E strings of different gauges - they’ll affect the other strings, including the G, and they’re relatively inexpensive to experiment with.

January 11, 2018, 10:24 PM · I just got obligatos 2 weeks ago and i absolutely LOVE them. My instrument is on the bright side, so these were perfect. They feel like they are a lot less tension than my previous strings, PI, which I like as well. Having said that, they are definitely more finicky than the PI strings. I have to pay much closer attention to sounding point than I usually do (bad habit I needed to break anyway).
January 11, 2018, 11:03 PM · Here's the core question with the Avantgarde A: Do you want the color of the instrument to change most dramatically between the D and A strings, or between the A and E strings?

Normally the color change is between A and E. I prefer a more brilliant A, and I like the stability of the steel A (it rarely needs tuning). But that's not to everyone's taste -- my teacher prefers my instrument without the steel A, for instance. (My G and D strings are Passiones, and at the moment so it my A, as the Avantgarde A has been hard to find in stock.)

Honestly, though, for a beginner looking for pleasant, not too expensive strings, I'd recommend Pirastro's Violino.

January 12, 2018, 8:03 AM · Thanks Andrew, will try that.
Christopher, I think Im not really targetting dark sounding strings.
Lydia, what i read of Violono is that theyre mellow. The violin itself tends towards the sweet. Id like to try and see what the steel A sounds like. Do you prefer the Warchal Russian A or the Avantgarde A?
January 12, 2018, 8:45 AM · Don't overlook Pirastro Flexocor-Permanent strings. They are steel core strings that have much of the quality of synthetic-core, but they stay in tune better and seem to add power to softer-toned instruments. But they are toward the higher end, price-wise.

My experience matches Holland's exactly.

January 12, 2018, 12:12 PM · Another possibility is that the string choice is fine, but the violin is out of adjustment. You might take it to a good luthier and see if it requires attention.

January 12, 2018, 12:22 PM · I much prefer the Avantgarde to the Russian A. The Avantgarde sounds more like a synthetic than a steel string. Note that it and the Amber E both have a spiral design that feels a bit different under the finger; the texture doesn't bother me but it does bother some people.

I should warn that the sound of steel is less complex and warm than a synthetic string. My violin has plenty of richness and complexity, and so that doesn't pose a problem for me. And it has a very intense and brilliant E, making a brighter A useful.

January 12, 2018, 12:27 PM · Lydia, in terms of achieving more sensitivity towards intonation and bow control (ie less forgiving, drives me to learn more) , what sort of strings would you choose?
January 12, 2018, 1:08 PM · I'm reminded of that part of my youth when I sometimes played with a mute on and noticed I could hear my intonation better. I'm sure this was because mutes suppress the overtones and thus make the fundamental pitch clearer.

Rather that trying to find a string that does that sort of thing I would recommend using the strings that allow the violin to output the maximum that it can and mute it somewhat for greater sensitivity to pitch for finger training if that is helpful.

January 12, 2018, 1:24 PM · I find that intonation is easier with more overtones, not less.

Strings don't make *that* big a difference in helping you learn or not learn. That's really the function of the violin.

Decent-quality, relatively neutral synthetics are the best choice for the beginner. The classic combination is Dominants with a Pirastro Gold Label E. A full set of Tonicas is decent. If the instrument is a bit harsh, like many beginner instruments are, Violinos are often nice.

Edited: January 12, 2018, 2:47 PM · I agree with you NOW, Lydia, but back when I was a lot younger I found it easier to hear my intonation without the accompanying harmony of overtones.
Edited: January 12, 2018, 3:28 PM · I’m currently using medium Thomastik Infeld Blue with a Goldbrokat E on one of my violins. It’s probably my favorite synthetic string and in my opinion a much better version of Dominants (also made by Thomastik). I use Tricolore gut strings on the 1690 Grancino I play on which seems to be a perfect match. Each instrument varies and responds differently to strings. I do think the older instruments in general respond better with gut strings.
January 12, 2018, 8:10 PM · I use Peter Infeld with Goldbrokat 24k gold E string. I am very happy with the combination with my benchmade Topa. I always like Goldbrokat E string but this gold one is even more beautifully sweet, bright and very playable.I'll see how long it will last.
Edited: January 12, 2018, 9:34 PM · Yixi, the PI's are pretty expensive. how is their logevity, compared to Dominants for example? And what is the advantage in using them, in terms of sound quality you find?

Nate, why do you find the Infeld Blue better than Domanants?

Does anyone have thoughts on the Kaplan Vivo-Amo strings?

Edited: January 13, 2018, 2:21 AM · Tammuz I find Infeld Blue to be far superior to Dominants on my violin, in response, purity of sound, stability, and also longevity. When I used Dominants years back, the A-string would always come unraveled around 3rd position after about 2-3 weeks.
Edited: January 13, 2018, 5:26 AM · Hi,

I agree with Nate that different violins will react differently to different strings.

A brief comment regarding Dominant strings... On many violins, they change quite a bit depending on the E string that you use (because of the balance of tensions). You might find them to be totally different if you use a Pirastro Gold Label E for example than the Goldbrokat E. So, you might want to try changing just the E and see what that does first.


January 13, 2018, 7:32 AM · I do highly recommend the Tricolore set with whatever E you prefer, but gut has an undeserved "stigma," based on years of synthetics being popularly used in the market. Of course, I do believe in "play what works best for you and your instrument" but often teachers or peers disagree about the "usability" of gut for modern playing, and some thus may be inclined to just comply with "the norm." These strings can be "more difficult" to play for most first users, since many of us were not trained with them when we were starting out, but once you have a better bow arm and adapt to them, the challenges are well worth it, in my opinion. In this regard, they will refine bowing if you are careful to learn how to best play on them. The "modern", remanufactured Tricolore I use also have the added benefit of great stability (vs most Eudoxa and Oliv variants, at least), and a very resonant, penetrating, powerful tone (the unwound A is "the best", for me.)

For Tammuz, any of the synthetic options mentioned can obviously work. Haven't used Infeld Blue in quite a few years, but with the Goldbrokat E, it should be a fine, clear sounding combo. But OP might want a "smoother" string combo from what can be gathered by the comments, which is not my preference.

(Side note: I am using an aluminum wound, "Heavy" Tricolore D-rather than the relatively popular unwound D-and it still is an amazing string. Might be "better" than the nice Oliv Silver D I love, and more responsive for sure vs the "medium thick" rigid Gold/Alum Oliv D. IMHO, it really "beats" the Rigid Eudoxa D because it has a more vibrant and brighter tone, and doesn't noticeably shifts its pitch when playing in the higher positions. My opinion alone, of course-feel free to disagree.)

(Wanted to add that with Winter weather and a drier environment, many violins will sound more "shrill"-old strings usually get more dull/"dead" rather than "harsh", losing volume as well, IME.)

Edited: January 13, 2018, 7:51 AM · hi Adelberto, I didnt specify smoother specifically. I actually want strings that would promote more clarity, make me work more consciously with bow articulation, is better in higher positions especially on the G and promotes more intonation awareness. Of course all this is dépendent primarily on the violin...but at least i can optimize with the strings. Please keep in mind I am not an advanced player, but that doesnt mean I want something to cover over my bad playing :)

As for the violin, it is sounding sometimes shrill and sometimes dull. But the weather in Montréal has been fluctuating lately. Its cold now, was not cold yesterday.

Christian, i might well try the Gold Label Ejust to see if that improves the Dominants I have on, even though they might need to be changed.

Edited: January 13, 2018, 8:15 AM · Tammuz, a set of regular PI at Long and McQuade costs $115 (less without E string) these days but they last a long time (at least 8 months for me). I too agree what Christine said that you are better off trying a bunch of E strings to see how your violin sound before buying a whole new set. Another way of doing it worked for me in the past (for my other older violins) was to let my luthier tweak the sound a bit and try the strings he recommended. I was happy with the Obligato with Goldbrokat E combination on those volins, especially before Obligato raised its price.
January 13, 2018, 11:23 AM · Tammuz, from what you write, I actually wonder if a steel string like Helicore might be what you want. They usually sound warm, though not rich and full in the same way that many synthetics do, and are very focused.
January 13, 2018, 12:02 PM · Tammuz — again, I think Dominants with Goldbrokat E is a fine string combination. It might be that your violin needs an adjustment. A worn bridge or nut groove, slightly out-of-alignment bridge, open seam, loose bass bar, or misfit soundpost are just a few of the things that might cause a weak G.

I also agree with Christian that you could experiment most easily with alternate E’s. It's almost hard to believe how much the E can change the entire set of Dominant strings!

You asked about Kaplan Vivo-Amo. I tried both sets when they came out and they are very good strings. I found the Vivo to not be overly bright, but very loud strings — in a good way as they also contained a lot of richness. The Amo were very very dark and muddy on both of my instruments, I didn’t like them nearly as much. However, the Amo still played very nicely and responsively, so they could work on extremely bright violins I suppose.

When I tried the Avantgarde A, I found it to be very good for a steel string, but still lacking compared to gut or synthetic strings. Steel A’s were often used back in the days of gut because the gut A’s were unreliable, but I no longer see this as a problem for many reasons.

Infeld Blue have been mentioned. For me, they were brighter than Dominants but less rich and a little bit more one-dimensional. They don't have high tension numbers, but they do feel significantly more tense than Dominants.

Tricolore gut strings are amazing. I can’t use them in my professional life because they do require some extra periodic tuning, but if I only played recitals or for myself I would certainly consider them. They also seem to last quite a while.

There are so many strings out there right now, and I think I’ve tested nearly every set. My go-to synthetics are:

Dominants with alternate E (usually a heavy E)
Vision Titanium Orchestra
Vision Solo
Corelli Cantiga
Warchal Brilliant

January 13, 2018, 3:48 PM · thanks all for the great suggestions

im not going to use gut strings for the moment until i get a bit better. :) i would like to be able to take fuller advantage of them when my technique has improved a bit more.

in terms of trying e strings to see which matches, I have a couple of questions:

1- would it be reasonable to try changing a few e strings in one session or do i need to give each a prolonged break-in trial? in ohter words, can one tell immediately with e strings which works better than the other without going through the break-in period.

2- do you suggest this trial of e strings to be concurrent with the change of the other strings (G, D,A) prior to their own play-in period (perhaps there are too many variables here) or should i use my 3-4 old month strings that already strung on my violin as context?

again, thank you all for your great advise.

January 13, 2018, 4:12 PM · E strings shouldn't need a break-in period. You can try a bunch in rapid succession with your existing strings.
January 13, 2018, 4:14 PM · Great, thanks Lydia
Edited: January 13, 2018, 8:31 PM · Ok, so just to remind that I had G,D,A dominants. Also to note that I wanted a stronger G since mine was a bit fuzzy (I realise that could well be the instrument but again, my aim is currently to optimize though strings).

I therefore bought (After seeing some recommendations here in preious posts, I think by Brian Lee): Peter Infeld PI G , Dominant aluminum D and Dominant aluminum A and a few E's. So, this also ties in with the idea suggested here not to stray too much away from the Dominants but rather to detect what doesnt work and then vary that factor.

So the idea was to keep my old G,D,A and play with the E'S. However, finally, instead of keeping the G, I replaced it withh the PI G and hoped that the stability of the old D and A would give me enough known constants to be able to judge the different E's. I didnt want to test the E's against the old G knowing that I wasnt going to go for a Dominant G anyway. So...

for the E strings, I bought and tried the following (alongside the above strings:

1- Kaplan gold plated: somewhat sweet but it was too resonant on my violin and there was an exagerrated "thhhh" (soft thhh) sound...which I believes owes something to the A...but it the thhhh was quite prominent here. Oh and visually its a bit bling with the gold :)

2- Warchal Amber E: Again sweetish, however it wasnt particularly strong on my instrument and i noticed that the higher positions in G were somewhat weaker, the G felt a bit flabbier with the Warchal. The D was resonant and the A was giving what seems like higher harmonics than before for some reason. Well thats how my instrument reacted. The Warchal E was not too strong I found on my instrument (soundwise).

3- Jargar forte. Actually, it was a nice string, made my violin sound somewhat more neutral and blended in really well with the setup. I liked it but mt violin has a certain voice, a certain sweetness (not dullness) that it neutralized a bit. It was I think possible the strongest sound body Wise (the resonance of the Kaplan maybe made it stronger, but in terms of the body of the sound I think Jargar was more fullbodied if that makes sense).

1-Christian (Vachon)'s recommendation, Pirastro Gold Label Wondertone E. Now all the other strings I found with a ball version, this one they only had the loop end version. The lady at the shop told me I could hook it to one of the little bits that crade the ball. So, I did that. I think of all the strings this was the nicest on my violin, sweetest, was closer to the character of the violin...and it just worked well with the setup generally, the G was fine with it. So Ill stick to this one. Thank you Christian :)

The strings havent settled of course but so far i like the improvement in the G and the E is really nice. The D sounds decent too. However, Im not sure if the Dominant aluminum A doesnt sound as fullbodied as it should because it hasnt settled in or because I need to find another A. I'll give it time and see if it works.
If anyone has any ideas on what a good A would probably be given its other three neighbours (PI G, Dominant alum. D, Wondertone Gold Label E) it would be much appreciated and Ill keep it in mind in case the A doesnt work.

Of course, if its not string- related I might then talk to a luthier.

Thank you all. Youve been very kind

edited to add: Actually neither does the D alum sound that good, a bit muffled like the A. I think maybe aluminum doesn't work on my violin...or I just need to wait for them to settle/.

January 13, 2018, 11:48 PM · Glad that you found a setup that works better!

However, I can't pass up an opportunity to recommend Thomastik Infelds. I LOVE my TI strings. They are clear and have an amazing tone. I have used them on 3 violins, and they are by far my favorite. I am basically in love with these strings. (Just make sure to replace them when they get old; sometimes I forget and then I start to wonder why my violin sounds so bad, but it's just because I waited to long to change them) But if anyone can tell me more about them I would be grateful. I believe that they might only be available at luthier shops, but I have no other information about them because whenever I get them, they come in tubes without any other information. Are these perhaps the Infeld Blue strings that were mentioned earlier? If it helps, they have orange wrappings.

January 14, 2018, 6:31 AM · As I noted before, all-Dominants with the Gold Label E is a classic combination, so it's not surprising that this E works well.

Honestly, though, if the PI G works on your violin, I would try all PIs on your violin. There's a selection of E strings for it, including an expensive but terrific platinum-plated E string.

I try to avoid Frankensteining strings too much because of the uneven mix of tensions.

Edited: January 14, 2018, 10:09 AM · Medium Infeld Blue G D A with Hill Thick E combo works well with on my dark instrument (2016 Atanassov), which generally responds well to lower tension strings. The thick E really made a big difference on the overall balance and ring. Finding the right string brand combination is difficult, but we shouldn’t forget that varying tension gage on a given string can also have a significant impact.
January 14, 2018, 10:27 AM · Hannah, I wish I could buy some TIs to try.

They are different from any other Thomastik string, per Thomastik.

Thomastik has another violin string called Rondo that’s only available through luthiers, too.

I wonder why they won’t make these strings more widely available.

Edited: January 15, 2018, 5:29 PM · I use the Warchal Amber E and Avantgarde A in combination with Vision Solo D and G. This is a very bright, high-tension lower strings in combination with upper strings that are a little more mellow (even though the upper string are steel, interestingly).

However, my recommendation would be the same as Douglass -- get your fiddle to a good luthier for checkup, tune-up if you don't feel you're getting the sound you want. Sometimes a new soundpost or adjusted/recarved/new bridge can make a huge difference.

Another thing to keep in mind is that strings interact with each other in interesting ways. A high-tension E like the Westminster (which I think is an extraordinary string) can brighten up the other three strings as well.

Not clear to me from Tammuz' comments exactly what he/she wants, and that's okay, sometimes you find out what you want by experimenting. Sometimes we want different things depending on what is happening with our technique. For example, if I'm playing with less bow hair tension and lighter touch, I might want to balance that with higher-projection strings. But if I like to play with an aggressive, percussive bow technique, maybe more gut-like strings are the thing.

January 15, 2018, 8:05 PM · By the way, if you use a steel A on a regular basis, your luthier might want to shape the nut and cut the bridge for that.
January 19, 2018, 11:25 PM · TI and Rondos are available to luthiers and shops in a marketing strategy to get players to suppory their local brick and mortar places. I hope its working. I carry the TI and they seem to have more zing and edge to them than dominants with a similar tonal sound. I like to use or suggest them on instruments that have a sluggish response. I find them to be neutral in tone. They are slightly higher tension and also are overall slightly thinner diameter strings than medium dominants.
Edited: January 21, 2018, 8:15 PM · What is a "Thomastik Infeld" string? They seem to be calling their entire product line "Thomastik-Infeld" now. There was the Infeld Blue and Red mixable line some years ago and there is now the "Peter Infeld" brand --so I'm just getting confused. A little help here, please!

And I decided to try the suggestion of Nate and some others and put a set of Tricolore mediums (bare-gut D) on one of my fiddles yesterday. With Pegheds it takes a good bit of cranking and at least 24 hours to get the strings in tune - but that G string is to die for! It sounds as good all the way up as in the first octave. I'm keeping my Peter Infeld platinum E on there even though it is a little powerful compared to the other strings - I think I can compensate with appropriate shifting. There does seem to be less power than the set of Evah Pirazzi Golds that I removed (under the ear and on the lap). I played this violin exclusively with Pirastro gut string sets (Eudoxas and Olives, Gold Label were not good on it) from 1952 - 1972.

EDIT: Latest change. After 2 days stabilizing the intonation of the 3 gut Tricolore strings I have put the Goldbrokat E that came with them on in place of the PI E I had on there. Much better match! The PI E was too powerful.

January 20, 2018, 2:54 PM · Mr. Victor,

I find the remanufactured Tricolore the more "powerful" gut string in the market (that I have used: vs Oliv/Eudoxa/Gold Label/Passione/Passione Solo.) It may be an aural perception, but they emphasize the right frequencies on my violin, making it sound super open and resonant-en excellent sort of brightness, while retaining tons of depth/warmth.

The G sounds amazing indeed-I did find it improved even further when the core was fully stretched, so if you find it a bit "loose" in tension, it will most certainly get better soon, becoming very tolerant of bow arm weight.

My wound Tricolore strings also feel "sandier"/more rough under the fingers-especially when new. In this regard, I must acknowledge that Pirastro manufactures great windings, and have modernized their machines throughout the years. The wound Tricolore feel from another era, so the claims they use the same machines and wire specifications is quite true (fear not-it's noticeable but the tone is excellent, and I expect it won't affect your playing.)

(In view of Tricolore's wound strings phenomenal stability, I wonder why many of Pirastro's "more modern" offerings are comparatively so sensitive to the touch of one's fingers. Passione was a purported "fix", but how come other manufacturers don't have that pitch instability problem while playing in the higher positions? This is more noticeable in Eudoxa aluminum wound Ds.)

"Incredibly", I have never used EP Gold, but I do like the regular, and consider them louder than anything under the ear, including Titanium Solo (have not tried Kaplan Vivo yet.) So it's not surprising to me you do not find Tricolore as loud as EP Gold, considering they are siblings with the regular EP.

That said, I find they debunk the myth of "weaker sounding gut strings', as they are really intense, and surpass in power many other popular synthetics. The pure gut A is particularly prominent and bold. They can be used for any modern performance purpose without doubt.

Hope you keep enjoying them as much as some of us do/did. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

January 20, 2018, 3:00 PM · What's the tension on the Tricolores like? I've noticed that "gut" is usually considered to be low-tension, but the tension of, say, Oliv mediums is actually on the rather high side compared to synthetics.
January 20, 2018, 3:26 PM · Ms. Leong,

They are heavier than Eudoxa and Gold Label, but less so than rigid Oliv and Passione by a bit (if I remember correctly.) The aluminum wound D Tricolore I am using is of larger diameter than my last Gold-Aluminum Oliv, but quite less tension. Both sound good but the Tricolore speaks/articulates easier and has a clearer tone... it also is really louder, I must admit (on my violin, in any case).

I am using all "heavy" Tricolores, and a Medium Goldbrokat. Total kp is 22 (used to be around 23 with my previous Oliv/Tricolore gut core combo.) Just a loose reference, of course.

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