Warm string set advice?

Edited: May 4, 2018, 3:56 AM · Hi. I'm thinking of trying some new strings for my yamaha beginner violin. I'm currently learning a corelli Op. 5 No. VI allegro, and perfectioning vibrato and 3rd position.

I suffer from migraines, and I always play with an earplug on my left ear, which makes me able to play the instrument. Still, a very shrill violin sound always makes me end with a huge headache which lasts for a couple of days.

So far, I've tried 2 sets: D'addario Preludes, which came with my violin. I hated them, because they were extremely bright, loud and shrill. Then, I switched to Dominants, which I like (and mostly stand), which really improved when I paired them with a "wondertone solo E".

So, I'd like to try a new set of strings, which is not very bright. I've read that Obligatos and Violinos are an option. Any reviews on these sets? Any other suggestion among other brands?

Thank you very much!

Replies (37)

May 4, 2018, 4:59 AM · Warchal Ambers.

You may also want to consider getting a soundpost adjustment.

Edited: May 4, 2018, 6:09 AM · When reading your post, I was thinking of sujesting either the Violino or the Corelli Crystal. The latter, was reformulated recently, and I have no experience with the new formula (labeled "new crystal" ) .

Compared to the Dominant you currently have, expect the Violino to be a little more flexible to your left hand. On most violins I tried them they were warmer and more subtle than the Dominant. They could also give you the impression that they are more quiet.

The Obligatos are also a relatively warm synthetic, their gold E is hate it or leave it, and they have to match your instrument. They could work on yours as well since you complain about it being "shrill". If however they match an instrument they are not "quiet" strings. Not the loudest out there, but definately not quiet.

I hope you are familiar with the fact that each string behaves differently on each violin. You can only experiment to find out. That way, in your current situation that you describe, had it been a choice between the Violino and Obligato, I would begin with the Violino, since they are usually more affordable.

Another option is of course to stay with the Dominant, and move to another bridge, or a different soundpost set up ...

Or experiment with the E

Edited: May 4, 2018, 8:15 AM · Craig: I had no idea about sound post adjustments. I'll consider it as a secondary option, as the nearest luthier in my country is at approximately 3h 30min driving, and Im not sure it's worth it on such a violin. But of course, thanks for the suggestion. I haven't tried any Warchal string yet, so I will consider the Amber ones, especially after knowing they offer a discount on the first set that makes them more affordable.

Hermes: Thanks for your detailed response and for your descriptions. I mentioned these sets just because I read they were "warmer". I'll have a look at the Corelli ones, which also seem to be affordable. I don't have a budget limitation since I'm an adult beginner, but I'd like to stick more or less to the Dominants price in my country (which are sold for about 50-60€), also considering that I'm not a good player at all and will not take real advantage of the best strings in the market (if such thing exists). You know what I mean.

I know each string behaves differently on each violin. And I was really surprised when, after a month or two playing a set of dominants (and getting annoyed by them) I bought a two different E strings, started trying them and found that the Wondertone one changed the overall sound, making the set enjoyable, and less shrill.

Regarding the bridge changing and sound post adjusting, I'd say the same I replied to Craig. I don't know if in my case it is worth going to the luthier.

May 4, 2018, 8:34 AM · Moving the soundpost a little further from the bridge foot will mellow the sound.
May 4, 2018, 9:24 AM · And I would also recommend to do a chinrest hunt. A heavier chinrest and a different clamping and position can soften the sound. And in your case with your migraines, a different jaw and ear position may ease much of your discomfort.
May 4, 2018, 10:01 AM · Paristro's Aricores, definitely, with maybe their No.1 E.
May 4, 2018, 7:43 PM · Have you tried viola?
May 4, 2018, 8:08 PM · Miguel, the main reason I suggested a visit to a luthier, is that a different set up could address the issue on the long run (as Andrew said, the soundpost can make a real difference, sometimes like playing a different instrument in my opinion), and if you really want a softer warmer sound, it would be easier and more "permanent" than chasing different string brands (which could prove rather expensive, judging from what I've done in the past :) )

Anyway the Crystal could solve your problem, in any case they are not that different from the Dominant, so I don't think that it would go all wrong. But, as I said before, the only experience I have with crystal is with their old formula.

What Carlos said could work as well, and it's something you can do by yourself...Maybe a taller chinrest could place your ear farther from the violin, and maybe a cloth over the chinrest could slightly alter the sound to your liking.

Since we are talking about setup, a shorter afterlength, could also be a solution.

Aricore that Adrian suggested are indeed supposed to be on the warmer side, and apart from Pirastro No1 E, you could also try an aluminium wound E like the Eudoxa - it comes in two versions, plain steel and wound.

One more thing: a heavier tension or heavier gauge E, like any heavy gauge, or even the Evah Pirazzi medium E, usually makes my violin seem louder (when using Dominant ADG) but also the whole situation seems darker/warmer as well...but chances are it will be louder, and I'm not sure if you want that.

If the budget is not an issue, you could also try gut, Pirastro's Gold and Eudoxa are not that expensive after all, and it could be a really interesting experience

Edited: May 5, 2018, 2:08 AM · Carlos: I’m completely sure this is good advice, because my teacher told me the same the year I started playing (I’m on the 3rd now). I changed to a centered and slightly elevated chinrest in which I can “decide” if I want to contact the violín frontally or laterally. It really reduced the strain and increased the distance between my left ear and the f holes. So I will continue with my current one by the moment. But I’ll consider it if necessary, as I’ve experienced the benefits one can get. Thanks.

Erik: No. I haven’t tried viola yet. Maybe in the future. The idea of having a new fancy clef to read and being able to play Bach’s cello suites makes it appealing. But for the moment I plan to stick with the violin (and the piano, which I play way better than the violin). It’s fun, because even if the E string can make it uncomfortable for me, I still love it’s sound and I’m “hooked” to the high registers of that string. Maybe when I try a viola I get hooked to the C. Time will tell. Thanks.

Andrew, Adrian and Hermes: As you suggested it is worth, I will see if I can get a luthier to see and adjust my soundpost when I travel to the capital. By the moment I will try those E strings sticking with Dominants, and if they don’t work, some of the sets you suggested. I’m curious to try the gut strings, but they seem difficult to play. What’s the difference between gold and eudoxa (and what justifies the eudoxa higher price?)

I don’t really want my violin to get louder. I don’t need much projection (I still don’t have the level to play in any orchestra or ensemble. I just play for myself). And I practise in a small room, with low ceiling, which makes it resonate even more. I tend to use a mute, but I really like to play without it.

Thanks for your advice and time. You’re helping me :)

May 5, 2018, 4:24 AM · Eudoxa. Unless you have the patience to adjust to plain gut for the D and A.
May 5, 2018, 12:21 PM · Warchal Karneol!
May 5, 2018, 5:46 PM · Why are you on your third teacher? Just curious.

You might be better off saving for a better violin. A new set of strings will run you USD $100 give or take. Add that up a few of times and you could get a much better violin. Depending on which Yamaha beginner violin, a $300 upgrade could go far.

Dominants are not a good string for the kind of sound you are asking about. If you were “serious”, I’d suggest gut strings too, eg Eudoxa or Oliv. Obligatos are the less expensive syntenthic (longer lasting) step above Dominants for “warm” strings. I think Warchals are priced similarly. But I’d look at an instrument upgrade with this too, especially if your bow is in need of a rehair.

You get what you pay for. It’s worth getting a better set of strings, maybe not the best or most costly, when you are learning, especially if at a rapid pace. Repertoire does not equate with proficiency, and depending on the local area proficiency can be quite variable.

That said, when you start adding up maintenance on a cheap violin, $80 for a rehair, $100 for new strings, a $40 new chinrest, sound post adjustments priced by your luthier, or replaced (definitely more), it might be better to purchase a new (or used) violin and have bridge and sound post set up, strings, and choice of chinrest in the price.

May 5, 2018, 5:50 PM · Oh, and a better violin, a vibrational separating chinrest like the Menuhin shoulderest can help headaches. The authentic shoulder rests aren’t sold any more but Shar has a similar nobrand. Personally, I have the choice to play with or without a shoulder rest but find my headaches are less bothered when I do play with one. (It’s not positional. I developed a headache related health condition.)
May 6, 2018, 12:51 AM · Jane: I see I didn't choose the correct wording. My fault. I wanted to say that this was the 3rd year since I started playing the violin. But I'm with the same teacher. And we're both happy. When I started I told him that I was interested on learning, but that I had little time for practising (I'm a lawyer, and I usually arrive home late and a bit tired) so this was a long-run hobby. I don't mind if I spend 10 years for reaching a 4th grade level or whatever I reach. I just made him know I will stick to it for a long time. Knowing that, he's being really supportive, and taking into account my very little practise time, I think I'm learning at a reasonable pace (Suzuki 3 finished, 3rd position, vibrato, dancla 123, some Vivaldi and Corelli...). I'd say my technique is not the best, but my teacher says I have good intonation (at least I know if the sound is high or low, even if I don't always hit the right spot...) and some musical sense, as I've been playing the piano since a I was 6. This helps my progression.

I was a bit reluctant about modifying the violin because I know this is not a great violin. It's a V5 (I think) whose complete set (bow and case included) was 400€ worth. That's why I thought about changing the strings first, and then, when I reach a better level, getting a better violin and a better bow.

Regarding the chinrest, I play with a centred mounted and slightly elevated wittner Augsburg which helps me a bit with headaches. I don't know what kind of chinrest did Menuhin use. I'll make a quick search on the Internet.

Thank you.

May 6, 2018, 1:13 AM · Assuming you get payed for being a lawyer, why would you want to make all this effort and only spend $400 on a violin, in my experience you don't start getting into decent sounding violins till you pay $1000 or more, many people can't afford that, I understand, but you???
Edited: May 6, 2018, 2:33 AM · Lyndon: Well, I just spent that money because I started with it when I was preparing for my bar examination, so I wasn’t getting paid 3 years ago. I also didn’t think it was worth spending much on a violin when I wouldn’t be able to benefit from a better instrument... and I didn’t exactly know then where was the price point I which an instrument starts getting good sound. So I bought what my teacher reccommended me.

Edit: After reading again your question, I see I didn't understand it well. Now I can afford a better violin, of course. And I plan to get a better violin and a better bow when I improve my technique a bit. but, having a violin in which I can study even if it's a low tier one, I don't really see the necessity of buying a new one. But, who knows, maybe it's time to think about it. Thanks for suggesting it.

May 6, 2018, 7:41 AM · Maybe the shrillness, if its still there after having put on the Dominants, is due to your violin. Have you tried playing better quality violins?

I would say first, try going for a quieter smoother E string. People here have recommended the Hill E. I tried it, it's sweet and really nice but didn't work with my setup at that time.

Perhaps orchestral mutés would help (perhaps this can be confirmed)? They're not supposed to snuff out the sound the way practice mutes do.

May 6, 2018, 8:04 AM · Well, I've only played this violin and a €10,000 one that a music major I know lent me for 10 minutes. The difference was abysmal, even when I played it afraid of damaging it by hitting it or letting it slide. Really, both Lyndon and you have made a point. I was thinking of buying new strings and now I'm considering saving a bit for getting a better violin in a few months. Maybe that will be a new v.com thread in a near future, because I don't really know what to look for on a new violin, besides a sweeter sound...
Edited: May 6, 2018, 8:59 AM · Miguel, in a way I meant to say that if the shrillness is still there after changing strings (you said you liked the Dominants but you didn't mention if there was still shrillness to the sound) and having a knowledgeable luthier optimize it for you, then perhaps it's the choice of violin. This has been stated here by experienced players and luthiers on several occasions (I'm not qualified to give an experience based opinion)

If however you play many good violins and theyre still too shrill for you owing to your migraines, then perhaps it is not the choice of violin but overall choice of instrument. I think this is why Erik suggested the viola, not for the novelty factor.

Also a nice sounding violin helps you want to practice more :)

May 6, 2018, 9:24 AM · Of course I understood that way the viola suggestion. I spoke about a new clef as a humorous point. I really think I like more the violin, and, as long as I can pstand it, I think I'll stick with it.

With dominants there's less shrillness to the sound, specially after changing their E string. There's still a bit, but I can stand it with my left ear plugged. But the overall sound is better. That's why I was thinking of a new string change.

I'm sure part of the shrillness comes from the instrument itself, and I'm almost completely convinced that a darker instrument, or a better one with darker strings (or even gut ones) would solve the problem. But I'd like to see if I can "solve" it by taming my actual instrument. Hence my original question.

And I completely agree with your last statement. That's an indisputable truth!! :)

Edited: May 13, 2018, 11:34 PM · The problem with some of the budget warm student string sets is that they also are more susceptible to dull the sound, making it less desirable to play also. If you're experiencing that, and the higher quality warmer strong sets are too bright or brash, then it isn't a string problem.

In that case, you may want to either find another violin and discuss with a shop you're budget needs and tonal preferences, or work with a luthier to change your setup. Getting a softer bridge and soundpost with varying bridge thicknesses can dramatically temper the tone to your preferences.

You may need to find out if your violin likes high tension or low tension strings, whether or not your violin sounds better with more or less vibration. Sometimes thicker diameter strings sound better on some instruments, and thinner higher tension strings work better. You won't know until you try. You could try one of each from the list below to find out. I also have to figure out a way for my shop to make it viable to have customers buy into a string trying pool where they can test each set for 2 days and pass them to the next client up to 4 times before recycling them.

Low tension thin diameter warm strings: tonica, vision titanium orchestra solo

Low tension medium diameter warm strings: warchal karneol, dominants

Low tension thick diameter warm strings: warchal ametyst, violino, larsen tzigane

High tension thin diameter warm strings: kaplan amo, obligato

High tension mediim diameter warm strings: peter infeld

High tension thicker diameter warm strings: vision solo, evah pirazzi gold with gold, zyex

Goodluck on finding your ideal setup!

May 14, 2018, 5:33 AM · That's a good list, but would you really describe Vision Titanium Orchestra as "low" tension?
May 14, 2018, 8:56 AM · Adrian,yes the titanium solo orchestra version is less tension than dominants, 9.9lbs for g & d, 11.9 for a, and e is 17.6lbs although they are are a focused and thinner diameter string than dominants. The regular titanium solo version has a higher tension and a hair thicker diameter than dominants (except dominant aluminum d which is very low tension and very thick)
May 14, 2018, 11:07 AM · Hi Thomas, how did you measure diameter?
May 14, 2018, 11:56 AM · Hi Andrew,

You can use a basic digital caliper, additionally you can categorize them by eye pretty easily. I made my basis from dominants and made comparisons from there. I see all of these brands of strings on instruments regularly all the time.

May 14, 2018, 12:10 PM · OK
May 15, 2018, 10:14 AM · Wow! What an exahustive list, Thomas Yee !

Since I posted this a week and a half ago, I haven't decided which string set will I try next. Just a curiosity. How would you define in your "tension-diameter-tone" list the d'Addario Preludes and the pirastro wondertone solo? I ask this because these are the other strings I've tried on my violin, so I can "guess" what type of string does it like.

I've played the violin this week and I think I like the G and D dominant to some extent. The A can still get a bit shrill on 3rd position. And I changed the E, which I just couldn't stand.

Lots of responses in this thread have suggested changing the bridge or adjusting the soundpost. So I'll think about the possibility... thank you!

May 17, 2018, 11:31 AM · My pleasure, Miguel. Preludes are medium tension and diameter, as are wondertone solos in the slightly higher tension in the medium category. Preludes are metal core however, so the response is different than synthetics. If you've tried both, you'll know what I mean.
May 18, 2018, 10:21 AM · I only have tried the Obligato G, but I quite often use it in combination with Evahs on my own Italian fiddle; I do find them to be very warm.

Thoughts on Infeld Reds? My impression was that those were meant to be "warm" in tone but I don't have enough experience with them to judge.

Edited: May 18, 2018, 10:40 AM · Infeld Reds are good, but they are more like a slightly warmer Dominant on the spectrum. I find Obligato to lean more toward the extreme warmth range of things.

An oft overlooked set with some good warmth characteristics is the Vision Titanium Orchestra. The G string in particular is amazing in that set.

What makes you use the Obligato G rather than the Evah G?

May 22, 2018, 10:24 AM · Thomas Yee : Of course I know what you mean! I didn't like the feeling of those preludes at all, so I'll try to avoid metal strings if possible. Thank you again.

Laurie Niles and Douglas Bevan : I asked about the Infeld Reds as they're made by the same company who makes the dominants and seem to be in the same product line. The Vision titaniums seem all the same to me (titanium solo, orchestra, vision...) They all use almost the same package! Thank you.

P.S. : I'm slowly realising that this issue will end in a new violin and bow, not in a very far future. I'll stick with my current one a bit more, to let my technique improve. I want to benefit properly from a better violin. Just for curiosity, when do you think is a good moment to switch to a better instrument?

Edited: May 23, 2018, 1:47 AM · I bought a set of Obligatos a while ago and changed to them from my Evahs. The first thing I noticed was that the Obligatos have more "texture" than Evahs. It's hard to explain but it's like comparing EPs to silk and Obligatos to wool.
May 22, 2018, 3:16 PM · I would have compared Obligatos to velvet rather than wool!
(On my viola at least..)
May 23, 2018, 1:27 AM · Miguel, anytime is a good time to switch to a better instrument providing budget allows, especially if you're happy about playing the violin but feel there is something lacking. Of course practice and technique is a must.

Laurie, I find infeld reds on several instruments are warm, smooth, with brilliant harmonics and an open tone. They are not as focused as dominants are. I've found evah and obligato to be very contrasting strings, and don't feel as compatible. Consider matching evah gold with evah greens, or evah golds with obligatos. I think they balance much better in this way. To add to the confusion, you can now make an uber expensive soloistic warm set of evah gold gold g, silver d, evah green a with platinum evah e! A more practical warm set would be evah gold silver g/d obligato a/e

May 23, 2018, 6:46 AM · I actually find that Infeld Reds, on different instruments, have a slightly less full and more focused sound than Dominants.

It seems that different musicians describe these sensations very differently.

Edited: May 24, 2018, 10:21 AM · Thomas Yee : I'm "studying" myself when I play the violin. During this last 2 weeks I've seen that on days when I feel good and don't suffer any kind of headache or secondary symptom, I can perfectly play the violin with my left ear plugged, and it doesn't seem so shrill. But on the other days, it's a huge pain. I'd definitely define it as quite bright and direct. I think I prefer a warmer and subtler tone, and I'll probably search for that when I get a new one. I asked my teacher today, and he told me that I can change my bow whenever I want, and that I will probably need to change my violin when I start playing 5th position. I'm practising 3rd position now, I'm more or less used to it and I'm learning shifting with different fingers on the same songs. So I think I'll be learning 5th position after this... until then, I may try some strings, and I'll be listening as many different violins as possible.

Adrian and Lillian : The idea of playing wool strings made me cringe. I don't know why...

Andrew Holland : It's difficult to describe sound with words. This set will probably be the next one I'll try.

Edited: May 24, 2018, 11:14 AM · Bad comparison, yeah. My bad.
But maybe it’s just a matter of time before we start to use wool strings instead of gut. Jk ;)

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