Viola C strings?

June 17, 2018, 3:43 PM · Hi,

So at the moment, my Viola is currently strung up with obligato strings. One issue I find is that my C string is a bit wooly sounding - but only above 3rd position, 1st and 2nd on the C sound great. Does anyone know of any good viola C strings that have a much clearer sound?


Replies (7)

June 17, 2018, 4:38 PM · It's very instrument dependent – are you sure the rest of your instrument is set up properly? Maybe a soundpost or bridge adjustment could make a difference.

If you're otherwise happy with the way it's set up, then you might want to try a steel core C string, like a Thomastik Spirocore, which many swear by (though I think it's a bit expensive and too tense for me). Cheaper steel alternatives include a Pirastro Permanent, a D'Addario Helicore, and a D'Addario Kaplan Forza.

For synthetic strings, you could consider a Thomastik Vision or Vision Solo, though these may be too bright compared to your Obligato strings. I haven't tried Evah Pirazzi or Evah Pirazzi Gold but one of these may possibly help you too. The tension of these last two is quite high, so that might choke your instrument a bit.

It's all about experimentation. Also consider your point of contact with the bow – you may need to come closer to the bridge for more focus in your sound.

Edited: June 17, 2018, 4:52 PM · The key may be the tension of some of your strings. I suggest trying the following things.

1. Loosen your C string a small amount and see how the tone changes. If that makes it worse try tightening it a bit. Whichever way it goes might be a clue as to the proper C string tension for your viola.

2. This was also suggested to me by a viola-playing clerk at Ifshin Violins: He said some violists find that using a lower tension A string has also improved the sound of their C string.

I did both of these things and each improved my very edgy C string. So I am now using A Pirastro Passione C string and Dominant Weich A string. My D and G strings are both Pirastro Permanent. This is a completely satisfactory setup for this viola (best yet) that I have owned for 20 years.

Before I moved to this current setup all 4 strings were Pirastro Permanents. This had been preceded by a set of Evah Pirazzi Gold that was impossibly edgy overall. And that was preceded by Dominants with some moderately successful variations (that I cannot remember accurately) of the A and C strings. A set of Spirocore strings did not work well on this viola, although it was quite acceptable on my other 16-inch viola.

Edited: June 18, 2018, 4:43 PM · I agree with Andrew. Only a few producers provide guidance for different string length and poor sounding string is sometimes caused by tension mismatch.
General guidance: the shorter the string the higher gauge is needed to reach medium tension.
Other factors may include:
Sound post length, position and contact points.
Bridge shape / design.
Bass-bar quality.
June 18, 2018, 8:41 AM · Thanks, everyone! I'll experiment with the string tension and hopefully see an improvement :)
June 18, 2018, 9:22 AM · The eudoxa-oliv C is my favorite. Much more responsive than passione C. For synthetics the Warchal Amber are nice strings (although my viola doesn't agree with the aluminum D)
June 18, 2018, 12:51 PM · It can be difficult to get a quality sound from the C-string on a cheap or small Viola. I also would recommend gut or low-tension. I discovered that my Viola preferred low tension C when the arranger at a recording session wrote a low B nat. note.
June 29, 2018, 6:42 AM · I have warchal brilliant on my gliga 1 viola and they have a lovely even warm tone across all the strings, even in high positions.

Karneol sounded quite flat/deadening on her and Amber were even and sweet but somehow thinish.

Obligatos and passiones, which turn my heirloom german trade violin into a thing of beauty, just sounded dull and lifeless on my viola and had similar c-string issues to what you describe.

Warchal aren't too expensive so they might be worth a try...

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