String recommendation - warmer and less projection

Edited: November 30, 2018, 6:53 AM · I have a violin that has turned on me. At first it was dead sounding. Then had one luthier work on it (put Evah Pirazzis on it) and it improved. Had another luthier look at it (replaced the sound post) and that thing is now projecting my head off. However, it has a sort of caustic sound. Don't know how to explain. Luthier couldn't stand the sound of it. We put Helicores on it, and a "sweet" Pirastro E string (Don't know the model). And it's in jeopardy of blowing my left ear off my head. For the time being, I've tuned it down a whole step to use for my cajun fiddle, and tuned my other fiddle to standard tuning.

The site does not make it easy to search for less projection, so I'm wondering if anyone here might have some suggestions.

Looking for warmer, and less projection. Thanks.

Replies (39)

November 30, 2018, 7:00 AM · For a warm E string I'd recommend Eudoxa aluminium wound, or plain gut 0.6mm.
Edited: November 30, 2018, 7:16 AM · I haven't tried them yet, but Pirastro Violinos are said to be one of the quietest strings in the market. Have a look at them:

Pirastro official website

Violin String Review website

I will soon try the Larsen Tzigane strings, which are said to be warm sounding, but since they're also said to be projecting, I'm not sure they're what you're searching for.

Edited: November 30, 2018, 7:24 AM · D’Addario pro-arte May tame the beast.
As will a shorter after length.
November 30, 2018, 7:52 AM · If it is too loud isn't that still something best tweaked through sound post modifications? I'd go back to that and then get other strings.

Also FYI Shar has a good string chart for comparison of projection and warmth

Edited: November 30, 2018, 8:34 AM · Gut strings! Head on over to Gamut. For a balanced set, try E ~.65 to .72 mm, A .80, D 1.08, and a heavy Tricolore G. Also try shortening the afterlength (longer tailcord) and moving the soundpost away from the bridge.
Edited: November 30, 2018, 8:51 AM · E .72mm?? I feel like 0.66mm is already the max for solo playing at 442hz...
Edited: November 30, 2018, 8:58 AM · I like very heavy strings. My D string is 1.20 mm, and I sometimes twist my old medium Ds to 1.00 mm when my A strings break and I have no spare.

But I'm not even the worst!
Some people playing with equal tension sets go up to 6.5 kg on each string, plain gut...

November 30, 2018, 9:02 AM · @cotton "try...moving the soundpost away from the bridge."
Interesting you say that, as my (pro set up) violin's soundpost is further back than I was expecting. I'm not going to worry about it, though. How far back does it have to be for it to be wrong?
Edited: November 30, 2018, 9:09 AM · A luthier once told me the maximum tolerance on most instruments is two post widths back and two post widths out (towards the treble bout). He primarily worked on cellos and basses, though, so I wouldn't test that limit. I don't really go farther than a post width and a smidge from the "factory setting".
November 30, 2018, 9:21 AM · David - at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will say what I always say in response to posts by people asking for string recommendations. Go see your luthier again, or another luthier. While you have received good general recommendations, none of the previous posters can hear your violin with the current strings. What works or might work for them may not be what you are looking for in the sound you seek. A luthier, however, can hear your current strings (and setup) and make a good guess as to what will achieve your desired sound, although the recommendations may give you ideas about what options you could suggest.

If you wish to find some other recommendations, go to the website. They have a graph showing the relative warmth and brightness of the various strings they sell ( Obviously, it is limited to the strings they sell, but they sell a fairly large selection. I use Obligatos, a string emphasizing warmth, on my violin and viola, which work well, but those might not be what you would need.

Edited: November 30, 2018, 9:42 AM · "And it's in jeopardy of blowing my left ear off."

Whichever strings you use, I hope you're using some kind of ear protection. When I was playing on wound-gut strings, I didn't feel the need of this; but as soon as I switched to composite-core A-D-G + steel E some years ago, I did feel the need. I've used foam earplugs, L/R, dB factor -33, ever since -- even when playing on gut.

"To each his own." But I won't practice or play without earplugs -- especially with an instrument that can pump out 105 dB -- 3" from the ear.

November 30, 2018, 9:51 AM · @cotton "A luthier once told me the maximum tolerance on most instruments is two post widths back". Thanks, mine's not that bad, but it's more than one width back, which is what I thought was approximately correct.
November 30, 2018, 11:46 AM · Definitely Pirastro's little-known Aricore, but with an aluminium-wound E (Dominant or Pirastro No1.
November 30, 2018, 12:17 PM · Considering that on average the starting point for the soundpost position is on average ,125" (half the post diameter) behind the bridge treble foot and that studies have demonstrated that movement ± .020 fore or aft of that position can lessen or increase power and tonal quality by 30%, one or two post diameters (.250" to .500") strikes me as very aggressive moves.

I found quickly while working for a luthier many years ago that while moving the post further aft of the bridge lessened projection and softened/ warmed the tone a bit, it didn't take but a few thousandths of excess aft movement to really diminish tonal quality as well. I was surprised at how much just an incremental movement improved or worsened tone or quality. I would be very careful in large sound post adjustments.

Keep in mind that a soundpost is also sized for a particular position. If moved very far from it's original position it could be too tall or short for the new placement, and too tall can cause excess pressure and cause gouging or cracks. A properly fitted soundpost also has the ends contoured for it's position and gross adjustments will likely reduce soundpost contact with the top and back, which also effects projection and tonal quality.

All that being said, if a violin truly requires that extreme of a position from the bridge for the desired sound, so be it. That's what matters in the end.

November 30, 2018, 7:18 PM · Take a look at your bridge. If very thin and skinny - that is your culprit! Other than that, Obligatos are well known for taming excessively bright instruments.
November 30, 2018, 9:21 PM · Put on a set of Eudoxas, if that doesn't warm it up nothing will. And then, go find another Luthier ;)
November 30, 2018, 9:28 PM · Obligatos or Eudoxa.
November 30, 2018, 9:33 PM · I was looking at the Obligatos. Not sure I'm of the proper caliber for a Eudoxa. Whatever the hell that means.
November 30, 2018, 9:35 PM · There's something weird about this though. It's not BRIGHT in the usual sense (in the sense that I can't stand something too bright). This is loud and.....well, it's LOUD. And something sort of sawtooth going on in the sound.

That luthier did mention getting a new bridge that wasn't hard and brittle.

November 30, 2018, 9:55 PM · I play fiddle rather than violin and use steel strings due to the amount of alternate tunings I use in a day. My fiddle, too, has no problems projecting at all, or being able to cut through. The helicores were the first steel ones I tried on my current fiddle. They were better than expected compared to how Dominants sounded on it already, but I still wasn't super happy. I went through quite a few sets of strings testing what might work. Synthetics definitely tamed it a little more but they weren't worth changing my playing style for and sticking only to standard tuning. Pirastro Violinos were by far the most mild, both in terms of warmth and projection. Obligatos are warm but offer much more projection than Violinos imo. The middle of the road strings such as Domiants and Pirastro Tonicas weren't bad but I was so used to steel strings by that time that they bowed and handled differently than I was used to. Tonally, they were nice. At the moment, I've settled for Pirastro Flexocor rope core steel strings. Warmer than Helicores but about the same projection. The projection is only really a problem in small rooms and I compensate for that with a little sliding Spector concert mute. It works well for me! I just slide it off for when I need that extra power in a high energy jam. I've also noticed that the lower the tension, the milder the string. To the extent that a lower tension string with a reputation for brightness is usually more bearable than a higher tension "warmer string". I think it might need a little adjustment to the soundpost as a result. In the meantime, I have a set of light tension helicores on the way. Sadly Flexocors only come in medium. I'll report back once I test them at a jam on Sunday :)
November 30, 2018, 9:58 PM · And as you said, brightness isn't usually as unpleasant as loudness. Brightness is a descriptive quality of the sound. Loudness is the amount of it you're receiving... that's were the unpleasantness starts. A lower action and/or lower tension strings would probably solve some of that. Sound posts too rigidly installed are usually a nasty culprit too.
November 30, 2018, 10:05 PM · He did put a new sound post in. I'm not sure I could tune adequately using just pegs with the Eudoxa. Maybe it's time I gave it a shot.
December 1, 2018, 1:00 AM · How many different aluminium-wound, steel-cored E strings can Pirastro possibly come up with?
December 1, 2018, 3:06 AM · Aricores are sweeter and smoother than Obligatos, noticeably lower tension, cheaper and longer lasting. I found their plain steel E too bright for the set; the Eudoxa E also. Their No1 E is sweeter.

December 1, 2018, 9:11 AM · OP, you said: "Not sure I'm of the proper caliber for a Eudoxa" and "I'm not sure I could tune adequately using just pegs with the Eudoxa."

I have Eudoxa D-G on one of my instruments and have played on full sets before. The wound E, although not dull, is a brilliance-reducer. I don't know -- this feature might help you. I'd need to try out your fiddle myself to get a better idea of what's going on; but for now, you might want to have a luthier install a set of these strings on your instrument -- for a trial run. The tuning isn't hard, but I got used to tuning with just pegs for A-D-G in my early teens, when I moved up to my first 4/4-size instrument.

Another word about Eudoxa: Pirastro recommends the stiff versions of D-G for modern players. My one experience with regular D-G, almost 13 years ago, was a letdown. The tone would break or crush too easily for my type of playing -- they didn't stand up as well to intense bow pressure. The stiffs are better for this. They also have a bigger, more robust tone -- and they have better pitch stability than the regular versions.

December 2, 2018, 1:36 AM · Maybe the response will be different on another violin but when I switched this summer to Passione wound gut, I expected to lose a little projection based on reviews of other gut strings. While maybe it's due to them being wound, and while they definitely have a very nice warm tone, the increased projection caught me off guard. When I first played for my ensemble members to get their opinion, the first and most common response was how much more projection/loudness the violin has. By no means was it a soft or low projecting violin previously, especially with the Warchal Ambers on it.

While your results may be otherwise David, I don't recommend the Passione strings for less projection.

What is the consensus on possibly a bridge material softer than maple or a different tailpiece, given comments and reviews I've read of some tailpiece materials reducing projection?

December 2, 2018, 1:47 AM · or maybe buy a mahogany violin
December 2, 2018, 6:45 AM · You don't mention where you live, which might be helpful.

I think it's a mistake to attack this problem with strings. As you've already seen, setup matters a lot, and it sounds like that's where this project ran off the rails. Strings are mostly good for fine-tuning a situation, not changing it, IF everything else is optimized.

Not all shops are equal. You might ask around in your neighborhood to find someone who's got a good reputation for troubleshooting.

Edited: December 2, 2018, 12:22 PM · Players often confuse projection with loudness, brilliance, edge, etc. Projection would be the subjective, perceived loudness to the audience at a distance, and the player is not a good judge of that. If you hear your reverb bouncing off the back wall of the hall, you are being heard. The tone of any note is a mix of fundamental, overtones, formant resonance, and very high frequency white noise. The fundamental carries farther than the high sounds. That's why the coast guard uses fog-horns instead of piccolos, and the bass drum of an approaching marching band at a parade is heard before the snare drum. The white noise of the bow, rosin on the string dissipates rapidly and just sounds like a clean attack for the audience. The mellow sounding gut strings can carry, project farther than the set of "brilliant" synthetic strings. In practice, for the best projection, we want a balance of low and high frequencies, also known among singers as chiaro-oscuro. A plug in the left ear, in addition to long-term hearing protection, gives you a more honest version of what you actually sound like, from the right ear, and will prevent some from playing too passively, shying away from their own sound.
December 2, 2018, 6:43 PM · Thanks for that post Joel, very insightful! So would you suggest that Eudoxa actually has very good projection, despite having much lower tension?
December 2, 2018, 7:22 PM · Get a sliding wire mute and move it near but not on the bridge as intended. You can take the edge off a violin without losing volume this way.

I also second Obligatos for a harsh instrument.

December 3, 2018, 1:57 PM · Thanks, James D. Before the Dominant strings were popular, everyone, including the leading soloists, used gut strings. The Pirastro line was the majority choice, one used Black Label, Gold Label, Eudoxa, or Olive, depending partly on price. Now we have too many choices! Finding the optimum brand and gauge of string for each violin can turn into an expensive, long-term experiment. A Luthier or experienced teacher can help narrow the choices.
December 7, 2018, 10:08 AM · I never really liked the sound of my violin with Dominants or some of the other popular synthetic strings. I discovered Warchal Ametyst strings several years ago and have been using them ever since. They are lower tension and I don't have to work as hard to get the sound to come out. I think the tone sounds more relaxed and pleasant, less harsh. Another good thing about Warchal strings is they are less expensive than a lot of others.
December 9, 2018, 1:42 PM · What Adrian Heath said! (Aricore)
December 11, 2018, 1:52 AM · Eudoxa Or Dominants in the lighter gauge (use light Jargar E).
December 11, 2018, 5:07 AM · Aricores are less metallic than Dominants, and sound more like Eudoxas.
I insist because they seem less well known..
December 29, 2018, 7:49 AM · The warmer string set I have ever tried was the Peter Infelds ( p ).
December 30, 2018, 6:01 AM · Peter Infelds definitely is one of the most projecting strings on the marker, and OP is asking for the opposite.

For warmth and less projecting, Pirastro Violino is the best choice.

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