Strings to "Pimp Out" a Cheap Violin

November 3, 2018, 7:21 PM · Hi. I am using a student violin, that I bought before upgrading to my new violin, in school basically 3 days a week. I am currently using a Dominant G, D, A and a Pirastro E. I was wondering if there are better strings for this instrument that can make it sound half decent. As I said, I use it quite frequently and I wanted to upgrade it a little. The brand is Giuseppe Meucci.

Replies (16)

November 3, 2018, 7:33 PM · That string setup is fine - I know a number of experienced violinists, including pros, who use that combination (the E may vary according to taste) - but it is important for the best results to have the violin checked out by a luthier, the bridge and sound post being the most important items that may need attention.
November 4, 2018, 10:07 AM · I agree with Trevor, although if money is no object, you could put Evah Pirazzis on it. But for the cost of a year's worth of EPs, you could also buy a better violin.
November 4, 2018, 10:12 AM · I wonder how much better would sound a cheap violin with Evahs, if the difference would be noticeable enough.

I'm not sure if the investment is worth it in this case.

I think the strings you're using is alright. Dominant and Tonicas are common in student violins, they're cheap and pretty good.

November 4, 2018, 11:45 AM · Demian, it depends on who is playing that student violin fitted with EP's. A pro will be able to get the best sound out of a student violin that the instrument is capable of with almost any combination of strings, and that sound, in both quality and volume, will vastly exceed what the student can produce - as most students will have experienced when their teacher picks up their violin to demonstrate something. I've been on that particular receiving end myself some time or other during lessons!
November 4, 2018, 1:51 PM · This is in concord with myths propagated by the string manufacturers how a certain brand can "make your violin sound like....
Ask yourself: what is a strings?
How come all those Stradivarius, Guarnerius violins sound so great with Dominants?
Proper setup can improve sound way more than a set of strings, but on a humble student violin, do not place too much hope in improving.
Use Dominants or Tonica and experiment a bit with E-string type / gauge. Save your money for a better instrument.
Edited: November 4, 2018, 11:39 PM · There are two myths: 1. String choice does not matter, 2: Good string choice can turn your VSO (Violin Shaped Object) into a Strad. Both are nonsenses of course.

String choice does matter, but it is only a part of the ideal set-up. Apart of strings, we should consider at least bridge, soundpost (not only its position, but also its length and therefore violin body tension). Tailpiece weight and length also matters and the tailgut matters a lot. Chinrest also can make some difference, shoulder rest matters for sure. Bad SR can dampen the violin a lot.

Many peole say, why I should get bothered by tailgut or rosin quality if a good tailgut gives me 5% more sound, and rosin another 8%? But try to count say 20% for strings, 15% for bridge, another 12% for soundpost, 4% tailpiece, 5% tailgut, 8% for rosin and say 10% for SR (not mentioning bow qaulity). You get 74 % more (or better) sound.

Are such investments worth it or not? In order to understand the matter and find the answer, you should be able to learn, how huge the violin quality range is in fact. The difference between what do you hear from a cheapest “violin” and the best ones is not 2 times better sound, neither 20x, but rather 200 x I guess. By “best violins” I do not mean old Italians only. I have purchased a contemporary violin recently. Only very best old Italians can be compared with it.

So if you play say at least an old German violin in prices USD 3000 or a nice quality student violin, 74% better sound is really worth your consideration. Some of such instruments may have really decent sound being adjusted correctly. But what we can get from say USD 300 violin? If there is no sound, 74% more will not make any difference.

Once I experienced interesting story. Visiting Beijing and having enough time, I tried very cheap student violins. I have picked up the worse sounding one. They were strung with the cheapest Chinese metal strings they sell for USD 2 per set. I have changed string to ours. It was very surprising, the result was even much worse. So I took several flagships of competitive reputable strings brands. I used to carry some, in case I would like to do a comparison on a particular instrument. (They were not bought in China of course and they was certainly originals). The result was exactly the same. Whilst there was at least “some sound” with the Chinese strings, there was no any sound with any kind of synthetics. It sounded worse than playing with super heavy practicing mute. As a last step, I tried to put the Chinese strings on my 28k contemporary instrument. The result was terrible. I never want to hear such sound again.

So the acoustic principles are not so simple they seems to be. Although I know that strings choice matters a lot Rocky is right. If you play poor violin, there is no much sense to invest into expensive strings and I also suggest you saving money for a better instrument.
I am just sitting in a plane from Tokyo to Cleveland. Should some of you guys intend to visit VSA convention in Cleveland, I will be pleased to discuss the set-up matter in person. Having instruments in our hands, things would become much more obvious :-)

November 5, 2018, 12:18 AM · Now that's an interesting experiment. I had been under the impression that a decent, neutral synthetic string (e.g. Dominant or Tonica) would at least improve any cheap violin. My first thought is surprise that this is not the case... but my second thought is that, given the heavy, clunky construction of many of these cheap Chinese instruments, maybe it's not that much of a surprise.
November 5, 2018, 8:20 AM · "neutral synthetic string (e.g. Dominant or Tonica) would at least improve any cheap violin."

I think that precisely because they are neutral, they will not improve the sound, or make it sound worse. A cheap string with some colour might give better results. I was satisfied enough when I used Pro-Arté in a cheap violin, and they very affordable (for most people, where I live I paid 70 US dollars for them).

Edited: November 5, 2018, 9:41 AM · Like Trevor says.

A cheap violin with Dominants IS pimped out already.

November 5, 2018, 10:43 AM · Dominant is not dull or too warm. It's relatively bright and lively. Good synthetic, and a better value than Pi's in my view (though some believe Pi last longer.)

Tonicas are also good, and so are Warchal's Karneol. The nylon core was never too bad, and also doesn't feel too tense, even at higher tensions (Synoxa is rather semi-heavy, but doesn't feel that tense, for instance.)

Cantiga appears to be a good value for money that isn't nylon. Also, Warchal Brilliant, either regular or vintage.

Value for money is also a bit overstated. All of the above strings, though sold as "not as premium as the premium strings" are all "professional grade" in practice. There are no "student" Dominant/Tonica/Cantiga strings out there, other than them being used by many students.

(Gold Label gut strings are pro strings sold as "budget/value" strings by Pirastro thenselves.)

Of course the "premium" strings are worth it to many, but perhaps not truly essential for cheap OR expensive instruments.

Contradicting myself a bit, the Evah Pirazzi will likely make a difference, but it may be a matter of taste and violin match between them vs Dominant. Weich EP are pretty good to try, though they are certainly not obtained for free.

November 5, 2018, 11:22 AM · Back in the days when Dominants were introduced they did not work as well as the Eudoxas I had been using on the one violin I owned then so I put the Eudoxas back on.


I tried Tonicas when they came out and they worked well so I stuck with them until many other brands started to flood the market and I've been trying to get around to trying most of them. I have finally gotten to the Warchals.

My suggestion would be to follow the path I took. If the Dominants are not good on your violin, try the Tonicas. (I recall 20 years ago when Ifshin's was putting Dominants on all the new violins they sold, and then they started to put Tonicas on some instead - you know, they must have had a reason.) If they don't work you might consider the difference in tone and response from those two strings and report back here. Maybe there is a set of steel-core strings that will work better (depending on what that violin has sounded like with Tonicas and Dominants) or maybe there are no strings that will help it sound good - there are violins (VSOs) like that, lots and lots of them, unfortunately.

November 5, 2018, 11:37 AM · I'm not sure what you mean by 'student' violin, since it could be anything from ebay VSO to a rather nice gliga or more.

I have about 15 student instruments
I bought second hand to loan to my beginners - mostly stentor st antonio etc. They sound best with tonica strings though ametyst aren't bad on some and one sounds good with corelli crystal. I expect dominant would also fit the bill but they sound aweful on the german trade violin i play (she likes obligato or passione, and was pretty good with corelli crystal when thst was I could afford. Dominants make her very dull and EPs make her sound like a VSO) so i never had any lying around.

Because they are already bright-sounding instruments, using something like EP which has alot of 'punch' makes them sound worse than they really are. I'm woth rocky there - save your money for a better violin.

However when a student's dad saved up to get her an $80 VSO from ebay and asked me to set up the bridge, nothing turned it into a violin and I secretly swapped it out for one of mine. It's in the garage somewhere so I'll dig it out and try bohdan's experiment sometime.

My gliga 1 viola sounds so magnificent with brilliant strings that I never bothered experimenting. She was set up by a luther who explained that he prefers bright strings on mellow instruments and mellow strings on bright instruments, which might be worth looking into.

November 5, 2018, 12:29 PM · "I'm not sure what you mean by 'student' violin".
Yes, that's a problem. For some people, anything less than $5,000 is a student violin.
If I sound like crap, I blame me. It's easier than developing an equipment fetish.
November 5, 2018, 2:03 PM · Anish Carmyn : "However when a student's dad saved up to get her an $80 VSO from ebay and asked me to set up the bridge, nothing turned it into a violin and I secretly swapped it out for one of mine. It's in the garage somewhere so I'll dig it out and try bohdan's experiment sometime."

Proof not all heroes wear capes.

November 5, 2018, 2:43 PM · @Andrew: Yes, anything less than $5,000 is generally a student violin.

To draw a car analogy: You don't learn to drive by starting out in a Formula One racer, or, in most cases, even a Porsche 911. Most students can get where they're going in, say, an old used Kia Rio, and many people will be satisfied with something like that. Still, many people will notice the difference in upgrading to a nice Audi. And a few will be willing to pay for performance sports cars... and still fewer will drive purpose-built race-cars.

November 5, 2018, 4:28 PM · Not "anything!" Some violins are not fit for students at all. Even a "student" violin has to be good enough to learn on.

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