Strings used in professional orchestras

August 30, 2019, 4:37 PM · I've read lots about which string brands are used by soloists, alive and dead but I'm an amateur orchestral musician and am interested in which strings are most commonly used in professional orchestras. Soloists seem to commonly use Dominants or Evahs plus a few others at lower frequencies. Is this the same for orchestral musicians or do other strings dominate? Do brands come in and out of fashion in orchestras? Is there peer or even organisational pressure to use certain strings?

Can anybody shed any light on this?

Replies (31)

August 30, 2019, 4:46 PM · The professional orchestral musicians I know use those same stings. I probably see more Evahs than anything else with most violinists. Some violists, too, with a few other brands thrown in. Dominants used to be the standard, and many still play on them - they are reasonably priced and sound decent on most instruments. I'm seeing a few sets of Vision Solo here and there as well.
August 30, 2019, 4:57 PM · I was under the impression a lot of them used Evah/dominant as they get a good sound (most of the time)
August 30, 2019, 5:28 PM · I see nothing but Evahs and Dominants. Sometimes Obligato, and Tonica in amateur settings. But they are all wrong, because gut strings are superior!
Edited: August 30, 2019, 5:55 PM · In my area, professional violinists and top-tier community orchestra violinists seem to use either Dominant, Evah Pirazzi (green), or Vision Solo. I've seen Evah Gold sometimes, and know one pro who uses Warchal Amber. Gold Label and Goldbrokat E strings are very common.

Violists are much more of a mixed bag. Obligato, Evah Gold, Evah (green), Dominant, and Vision are all commonly used around here, with Larsen and Jargar A strings being common. I've also seen Eudoxa, Peter Infeld, Zyex, and Kaplan Vivo used by pro or serious amateur violists I know.

August 30, 2019, 5:59 PM · Alun - this is an interesting question. I assume you are not asking because you want to choose the same strings as the pros in the hope you will sound better. Remember that different strings sound different on different instruments, so the strings that work well for these folks may not work well for you. It is important to get your luthier, who can hear your violin with its current strings, to recommend strings that would produce a sound more in keeping with your ideal sound.

That said, I suspect that the orch pros are all over the map, although Evahs, because they are so bright, will tend to project well (assuming they sound good on a particular instrument to begin with).

Anyhow, I will be interested to see what others say.

Edited: August 30, 2019, 7:49 PM · Dominants and Evah Golds more than anything else, I think. Visions, Evah greens, PIs also.

In community orchestras there's more of a mix. A lot of older players are still using whatever they grew up with. I see a lot of Eudoxas as a result. Dominants and Evah greens seems to be the most important, but a lot of players give up the advantages of Evahs by only changing them once every one or two years, long after they have died soundwise.

It is, in my opinion, foolish to buy very expensive strings when you cannot afford to change them as frequently as necessary; you will get overall better sound by keeping a decent-quality string set on your violin year-round, changing regularly.

Note that pro orchestra players focus on BLENDING. They are generally playing decent-quality, responsive violins and will choose strings that are economical, long-lived, responsive, and produce a sound that will blend seamlessly with the section sound. Thus the popularity of Dominants.

August 30, 2019, 9:26 PM · Maybe interestingly, the only Eudoxa user I know is a recent (within the last 5 years) conservatory graduate.

I wonder how much it varies geographically. I see a lot more Vision and Vision Solo strings in Northern California than I ever did in Southern California, and all the people I see using them are pro orchestra players except for myself. (Ironically, none of the local shops in my area seem to stock them, whereas they were readily available in both violin shops and general music stores in LA when I last lived there.)

August 31, 2019, 8:07 AM · What Lydia said. I use PIs on one of my instruments; Vision Solo on the other (except for the E strings)
Edited: August 31, 2019, 2:56 PM · Thanks for the interesting replies.

Broadly, based on your replies, it seems that pro orchestra players reflect soloists in their choice of strings (though there will be a greater range because of the greater numbers involved).

I'm not interested in changing my strings (Warchal Brilliant Vintage and Dominants on two different violins), which work fine for me. Though always open to trying something new.

But am interested in the subjective (inevitably) choice of strings among professionals and whether there are fashions in strings, whether Leaders or conductors put pressure on string sections to use certain brands to attain a certain sound (or indeed whether there is peer pressure to do so) and as Andrew Hsieh wondered, whether there are geographical variations. Do US orchestras have noticeably different patterns of string use to UK or European orchestras, for example.

August 31, 2019, 1:04 PM · This is tangential and applicable.
I was looking at the website for West Country Violins, an online shop in the U.K.
They "...specialise in French luthiers and archetiers from the 19th and earlier 20th century."
Almost all their violins are set up with Obligatos.
Given the preponderance of Evahs and Dominants (and a smattering of other brands) in professional use, me question re their Obligatos set-ups is...WHY?
Or, Whaddya think?
August 31, 2019, 2:37 PM · Why not? Obligatos are excellent orchestral strings. They're probably the single most popular brand among professional violists in my area, though admittedly not nearly as commonly used by violinists.
August 31, 2019, 3:26 PM · I use Obligatos on my 1901 French violin. I have several colleagues who use them as well, although Evahs and maybe Vision Solos are more prevalent. Obligatos work better for me, as Evahs and PI are too bright. Maybe there’s a French instrument thing. I really don’t see as many Dominants as I used to.
August 31, 2019, 4:43 PM · I've never heard of any section leader or conductor urging section players to use any particular brand of strings and in fact such an effort would be ludicrous. People are choosing the strings which work best with their own particular instrument, and there's as much variation among the instruments in a section as there is among the personalities of their owners.
August 31, 2019, 5:28 PM · Agree with Mary Ellen. If your sound sticks out of the section sound, your section leader may say something to you (or even the conductor, if it's egregious, though that's unlikely to occur at the pro level), but the proper response to that is normally to change your technical approach, not to mess with your strings.
August 31, 2019, 6:33 PM · What Robyn said. My violin does not sound good with Evahs or PIs. Evahs are too bright and PIs are too harsh. My violin may or may not be an old French one made by Bailly (10 experts have given me 12 opinions, literally on my violin's provenance).
August 31, 2019, 7:33 PM · In violin section, I see mostly Dominants, Evahs, and Peter Infelds, with some lesser mix of Vision and Evah Gold.
August 31, 2019, 9:36 PM · A lot of older violins do better with lower tension. The Obligatos have a lovely warm sound with lower tension than the Evahs; it's essentially the same composite core, but they are longer lived (possibly as a result of the lower tension) and usually less expensive.

I used Obligatos on my primary violin ("modern" Italian) until Evah Golds came along.

Edited: August 31, 2019, 11:44 PM · @Lydia, I like high tension guitar strings, but it does annoy me to wake up to find a bass string has spontaneously snapped during the night. Something makes me think I should get used to lower tension, at least in the basses, which have the same construction as violin strings. But I've given up guitar for violin and haven't bothered restringing a guitar for more than a year.
Edited: September 4, 2019, 6:47 PM · Our orchestra matches Douglas' post.Everyone seems to be looking for a good balance between strength and blending..I personally like Evah Golds but Obligatos are terrific also.
September 4, 2019, 12:10 PM · Some of my players in Germany are adamant about gut strings.
September 4, 2019, 3:18 PM · hiliary hahn, ray chen, and david garrett use dominant so i use dominant haha. i'm no ochestra player but i noticed 2 girls in 2nd violins use dominant.
September 5, 2019, 4:16 AM · I use Dominants because the violin came with them on. Perlman, I read, uses Dominants. So I know I can't blame my tools.
Edited: September 5, 2019, 6:50 AM · On this site you'll read nothing but derision for Dominants. But I think there's a reason a lot of people like them. It's a neutral-sounding string and if you've got an amazing violin then you want to hear its intrinsic sound. At least that's my take on it.

On the other hand my viola came with Dominants. Maybe they were shop-worn, but I couldn't wait to take them off. My luthier recommended Obligatos and that's what I have on there now.

September 5, 2019, 5:26 PM · Players in orchestras are just like everyone else.
The next set of strings are going to be just amazing.
Unfortunately, I've found I sound like me whatever I use.
September 5, 2019, 7:25 PM · I am interested when someone states that everyone in their orch uses Evahs or Obligatos, as if there was some sort of equivalence. These are very different strings producing very different types of sound. If you look at the table on the Shar website (https://www.sharmusic.com/Pages/How-To/Strings/Strings-Chart/Violin-String-Chart/) about where the strings they sell fall on the spectrum, Evahs and Obligatos are at opposite ends, with Dominants in between. Evahs tend to be quite brilliant and direct, while Obligatos tend to be warm and subtle. So, it puzzles me that some people, at least implicitly, are referring to them as if they are very similar. My violin sound great with Obligatos and awful with Evahs.
September 5, 2019, 8:08 PM · Do you mean you're surprised when "everyone uses Evah" or do you mean you're surprised when "everyone uses either Evah or Obligato"?

In the latter case, I'm not that surprised, and I don't see it as any kind of equivalence. The violinists in any given orchestra play widely varying instruments, so can't be expected to use similar strings.

September 6, 2019, 12:21 AM · Obligato, EP, and EP Gold are made out of the same composite material. So it's not surprising that people who basically like this Pirastro composite pick different portions of the spectrum to suit their instrument's characteristics.

That said, I don't see many violinists that use Obligatos these days. Like a lot of former Obligato users, I too switched to EP Golds when those became available.

September 6, 2019, 12:23 AM · Would the folks on this thread who use Obligato say which gauge and which Obligato E (or if you substitute a different brand for any of the strings)?

Thanks

September 6, 2019, 8:28 AM · I used the medium gauge, but I found that the gold E whistled for me, and swapped it out for a Jargar E.

The correct gauge and best string-set is very violin-dependent. Many shops have a "default" preference. In the case of high-end violins it is usually EP / EP Gold / PI. For student instruments it is usually Tonicas or Dominants. Visions are sometimes also used, regardless of price range.

September 6, 2019, 8:59 AM · Sadly, Pirastro stopped making their Obligato and Tonica strings in different gauges.
September 6, 2019, 10:58 AM · Also favor the Jagar medium E.... With Obligato's on one fiddle and Evah's on the other.


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