Viola string help! Urgent!
So, I'm taking in my old viola i bought to be restored tomorrow (Oct. 20) and my luthier is going to ask what strings I want on it.
I don't know what its personality will be, so I don't know if it likes dark or bright strings (ex. Evahs vs Obligatos), so what strings could I say that are pretty neutral but still sound good?
I want to stay away from Dominants. As much as I try to like them, they're just not my cup of tea.
I've heard Tonicas or Helicores are good for violin, but what about viola? What would you all recommend?
Thanks guys, I really appreciate all of your answers on my posts, no matter how silly or naive they seem. It's nice to be part of a community where everyone is helping each other learn :')
I think both Helicores and Tonicas might work well - they are generally neutral-sounding, even, responsive strings, and both also happen to be relatively inexpensive. I found that the Tonica D (new formula) cracked unusually easily, and I experienced this with 2 different samples. But maybe that’s not a common problem on most violas.
Have you tried Dominants on a viola, or do you just dislike them on a violin? I ask because I tend to like them on a viola and dislike them on a violin myself.
I use Tonicas on two very different violas. I can't comment on the Old vs New Formula without comparing two unused sets..
What you really need to do is turn the question around and ask your luthier what s/he thinks would give you the best sound. You can start by thinking about what you liked or did not like about the last set of strings you had on it. Depending on the amount of work done, the viola may have a somewhat different sound, but at least that gives you some basis for the discussion with your luthier. If you have never had strings on it or want to start with something as a baseline and go from there, Dominants (neutral), Obligatos (warm) or Evahs (bright) will give you a good start. The problem with asking people for advice is that different strings sound different on different instruments, so what sounds good on my viola may not on yours. We can tell you what sort of general sound a particular string will produce, but not necessarily how that will work on your instrument. Good luck!
As mentioned before, vibrating string length (the distance from nut to bridge), is the most important factor in string selection. It is in inverse proportion to string's gauge: the longer it is, the thinner strings should be (and vice versa). Failing to chose a proper gauge may cause certain brand to sound bad and non-responsive. This in particular in higher positions or all away up on A! Last thing you want to have is a slow-respondig viola.....
Hmm thanks guys!
Prejudice against Dominants is unwarranted.I harbored that feeling because I tried them when they first were marketed in 1970 and they did not work on my violin that had previously only experienced Eudoxas and Olives. Tonicas worked well on that violin so I switched to them - for a while. That was probably more than a dozen string brands ago.
Kristen - good luck and let us know what you choose and how it works. I would still ask the luthier for an opinion based on what s/he thinks after restoration.
I'll let you guys know! He said he'd figure something out, so I'm wondering if he's going to try a bunch and see what sounds best. He's really great! :)
Just FYI for everyone: the Star website has a visual aid specifying the relative cost and type of sound for many of the viola strings:
Graphs or tables of string tensions might be more helpful since many instruments have weakness on certain strings - at least once you know what your instrument's weaknesses are. But it is a nice graph, unfortunately it does not include strings SHAR does not sell!
Andrew - good point. However, for most, this graph is a decent starting point. It includes every string I have ever tried and some I have not. Which strings in particular do you think are important that are not included?
Warchal as an entire brand, Tricolore and I don't see Spirocore. Also, the Pirastro line of steel-core strings seems to be missing: Flexocor-Permanent for violin (Permanent for viola and cello and Flexocor for cello).
An analytical look at some strings:
Wow, what a study! So much information there (and so much not) it will take me a long time to try to work that all out (or in) if I do. Good thing the study stopped where it did or it might still be going on.
That study is a very interesting one, because the study also quoted multiple reviews of every string set.
If you want dark and pliable, aricore a,d, and obligato g,c. (Substitute tonica for $) I used to like that combination quite a bit before my instrument darkened with a series of setup changes. Now, I like Kaplan AMO for responsiveness. Helicores would be bright to my ear on most instruments, but they are thin and responsive. I also found Tonica to be a fair set for a reasonable price. IMHO, YMMV, yada yada.
Thank you! My luthier said he'd figure something out, so I trust him. Eventually I'll upgrade when I figure out my instrument's personality :)
Kristen - sounds like a good plan. Good luck!
Looks like Pirastro discontinued Aricores for viola, as well as Synoxas (and both are gone for cello too).
The Helicore Viola A is good on my Violas. For the C-string, we want as rich a sound as possible, so, if you can afford it, try a low-tension gut C. For the middle strings either metal or synthetic core, depending on whether you want a bright or mellow sound. You will see a lot of Helicore strings on the Cellos and Basses of orchestra players.
a low-tension C will not work on a short VSL viola, for the reasons described above.