String suggestions

November 10, 2020, 5:49 PM · I am going to ask for a set of strings for Christmas! :) I haven't experimented much with different strings, and I don't have the resources to do so a lot at this point, so I am just hoping to get a set that would be fun to try for one cycle of strings (I end up changing them every 4-6 months...whenever they go lifeless.)

I would describe my violin as dark instead of bright. I think it has an especially nice lower strings sound. (A teacher once told me he thought it has some of the depth of a viola.) I much prefer a dark, warm sound rather than a bright sound, but I know that often brighter strings are suggested for a darker violin...

Which brings me to my question: does anyone have any suggestions for a strings splurge?

I normally use the Infeld set that come in a silver package.

Looking forward!

Replies (18)

Edited: November 11, 2020, 5:41 AM · If you're using Peter Infeld and like them, there's probably no reason to change, just keep buying the same, they're arguably the best strings on the market and theoretically it makes sense that they work well on your violin. If you would like cheaper but similar ones, try Titanium Solo.
November 11, 2020, 5:14 AM · David, I assume you wanted to start a flame war with "they're arguably the best strings"?

I tried Infeld on my instrument but prefer the sound of Larsen Tzigane. This is a personal choice and I would never, ever state or assert that one specific set of strings is the best.

November 11, 2020, 5:44 AM · There are so many great strings that work well on some violins and not so great on others. And there's no way to know which will work well on your violin until you try them. Which can run into a lot of money, trying to find what's best for your violin and your playing style.

Regarding the suggestion that "brighter strings are suggested for a darker violin" -- don't take that as an absolute fact. That's only true if you don't like the sound of a darker violin. There is no right or wrong way to go other than whether you like the sound of your violin when you're playing it *and* when you listen to someone else playing it *and* when a trusted other person listens to you as you play it. What we each hear under our ear as we play is not necessarily what the audience hears when we play, so it's important to weigh both points of listening when we decide what strings to use.

And you should start making a chart right now, starting with the strings you currently have on the violin -- Make and model of the strings, list the date you install the strings, write down any descriptions you can of the sound and ease of playing trying to use as objective terms as possible so that after a couple of changes of strings using different sets you can refer back to your notes and understand what you meant. Don't just say "I like these" but try to write down why you like them (or why you don't like them if that's the case).

There are so many different sets of strings, both from the same makers as well as the many different makers, that it's impossible to try them all so most of us end up selecting strings that we like best of all that we've tried and play them for a long time.

And don't use the prices of the various sets of strings as a gauge of their quality for your violin -- it's all very subjective as to whether any set of strings is good or bad on your violin.

As an example, while I'm not a very good violinist (I'm mainly a trumpeter) my wife is an excellent violinist and she'll try a new set of strings and might make a comment asking me to give a listen while saying she thinks they're too bright while she's playing. But I'll stand 15 feet away and the strings will sound beautiful and not nearly as bright as she's hearing while playing. Then I'll play some sustained notes on the open strings while she listens and she'll be amazed at how different even just sustained notes on the open strings sound while she's listening compared to what she heard on the same open strings while playing the instrument.

Suggestions for a string splurge -- the Larsen Tzigane like Tony suggests, try the Evah Pirazzi Green (or Gold if you've got lots of money), Ascente (really cheap), Obligato, Zyex.

I would suggest that as you make a chart to keep track of which strings you like or not, don't buy a lot of different sets at the same time. Make a list of the string sets you plan on trying and then have the next set on hand while trying one set, then when you're about to try the next set buy the following set. And buy from a source which is likely to have the freshest sets on hand, i.e. either string specialists such as juststrings.com or a retailer who specializes in strings such as Johnson Strings or Shar or Southwest Strings.

Unfortunately local music stores may have their violin strings in stock for a long time before they get sold and even though packaging has come a long way to helping strings last longer in the package, there is a point at which they lose some of their resonance. A local luthier who does a lot of repair work is another source to investigate.

Edited: November 11, 2020, 5:36 PM · Tony, Of course strings depend a lot on the violin in question and the player, that's why I specifically said "arguably", you need to read all the words. And yes, they're arguably the best strings on the market.
They are top of the line, the most high-end strings from Thomastik. They're one of the most expensive but not overpriced, not excessively high tension, great sound and a very durable.
Edited: November 19, 2020, 5:20 PM · "Mixing strings" is another approach to optimizing an instrument's performance. This mixing can be done by using different gauges of the same string brand, using different brands from the same or ANY manufacturer.

Years ago, when SHAR was regularly mailing me their catalog (I started being a customer of theirs over 50 years ago) they initiated a section in which they described the instruments and strings used by their employees. As I recall, most of them mixed string brands. I had started mixing string brands even before that and continued to some degree until recently when I discovered the Warchal Amber and Timbre sets. However, I still mix a Thomastik Peter Infeld Platinum E string with Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Gold medium A,D & G on one of my violins.

Edited: November 11, 2020, 10:27 AM · David, I've had a day of arguing with intransigent people and I'm really quite tired of it, but not so much I'm going to ignore you and allow you to leave very questionable statements here without challenging them.

The only thing you can say with confidence is that in your opinion, for your playing style, on your instrument, you like Infeld best. I might hate them. These would be our opinions and we are each entitled to them but neither of us is entitled to force our opinions on anyone else.

What I don't want to happen is for lots of novice players to run off and buy Infelds because you say they are the best when the chances are, that for a different player with a different instrument and bow with a different rosin choice, they won't be.

November 11, 2020, 12:55 PM · I used to use PIs, which were pretty bright, and I switched to Passione Solo G and D, Eva Pirazzi Stark A, and Kaplan E. I wanted to try out a gut core string, so I went with the Passione Solos, then with my luthier, we played around and matched the other two strings, and my violin seemed to agree. It's all kind of trial and error, and one violin may find a certain set of strings very agreeable, whereas another might not, but I find that the Passione Solos have a nice richness to them. They played a little different than the PIs, so it took a little bit to adjust, but I won't be going back.
November 11, 2020, 1:00 PM · If you can afford PIs and have some time on your hands (which I assume with Covid you do), but find them perhaps to be a little too in-your-face, I highly recommend trying the Thomastik Rondos and your choice of E string (although the tin-plated E I think is pretty good).

If you've never tried a wound non-whistling E string, I would highly recommend taking this time to play around with them. Kaplan and Warchal both make one and they're about $10 a pop.

The Warchal at least, is noticeably less brilliant on installation than some of the other mainstream Es (I used to use Goldbrokat or Jarger) but a lot of that can be overcome with technique.

November 11, 2020, 1:24 PM · Easy! The best strings for ME are Dominant (with Silver D) and Pirastro Gold E. I have tried, over time, every set on the market and eventually come back to this combination.
You will find eventually the set that works best for YOUR violin, bow, and playing style, as well as the sound in your mind’s ear.
One should not get too obsessed with strings, rosins, etc The best way to improve one’s sound is mindful practise and active listening!

Cheers Carlo

Edited: November 11, 2020, 4:32 PM · Aquila light plain gut---but not the E string. Use a steel E.
Edited: November 11, 2020, 8:51 PM · @Tony, You look triggered and to not know the meaning of ARGUABLY, I recommend checking the dictionary online.
Like I said, it depends a lot on the violin and the player, not always the more expensive/high-end strings will be the best fit for someone's violin. That's why I also said that the OP doesn't need to change to other strings if she is enjoying PIs and they are performing well on her violin.
Being top of the line from Thomastik means a lot. And they are even more durable than other Thomastik strings. Unlike Pirastro, Thomastik doesn't make overpriced strings that you can use for two weeks.
Edited: November 11, 2020, 10:18 PM · For me, Infeld Pi are about $20 too expensive. The platinum E is terribly overpriced (compare pricing with Pirastro's version-it is an absurdity.) Thomastik already has good sounding sets that do not cost as much. That said, I am not saying they are bad strings-they also have become ubiquitous by now, even with some soloists.

I used to like Titanium Solo, but they are a bit stiff, even if not as much as regular EP mittel. The E, which while relatively expensive at least does not match the even higher price of the platinum E, is excellent, and uniquely brilliant (for some players, it may be too much, but I like brilliant strings as long as they do not lack too much body.)

The classic Dominant are awesome because they have lower tension options, and I really have enjoyed using them for the last month. $49.99, a bit more than Tonica, but lighter tension. Tonica used to come in weich too, but... bad Pirastro business decisions. If I had to choose between Pi and Dominant light, I believe I am choosing the lighter classic, old tech and all. Unlike Mr. Ballara, I prefer the aluminum wound D, though.

Mr. Duarte, I am glad you love your Pis, along scores of other professional players. Nothing wrong with it. But just wanted to mention that "top of the line" doesn't mean much unless the strings work for you. Since they do, I am happy for you, but I do find them expensive and may never get to try them. If I am going to spend that much, may as well get some Oliv strings. No offense is intended-just me rambling about how I find most modern synthetics a bit too "top of the line-priced" for me. (Similarly, I may never try Perpetuals-$.)

Mr. Lesniak, hope you enjoy the Passione Solo-that EP stark A scares me! I started using gut strings via the original Passione, which then incited me to try most other Pirastro's wound gut options. I do not like the price, but they are better than synthetics IMHO.

Edited: November 12, 2020, 10:18 AM · Current favorite set on my best violin (2011 Guerneri model by Guy Harrison): Warchal Ambers. Also, Passiones. Got very tired of the sound of Titanium Solo and have given them up. Haven't tried the PIs yet. Definitely did not like the sound of Evahs, especially the Golds. String choice seems highly dependent on the instrument, and you have to experiment over the years. Your ears (and nerves) change too. On my vintage violin (1880s, Mittenwald), which has a darkish sound, the Warchal Brilliant Vintage are a very good match.
November 12, 2020, 10:46 AM · Adalberto, I don't remember how we got to the Evah A Stark - I think we were messing around with other strings, and the violin ended up responding better to that one. I had never played on Evahs before, and I remember thinking they sounded a bit hysterical. It may have just been a hunch my violin guy had, but I like the violin's sound. I don't think I'll go back to straight-up synthetics, and maybe I'll try that Oliv at some point.

I tried dominants on this violin many years ago, and yeesh, they were terrible. They seemed to do okay on a really crappy fiddle I had years ago.

Parker, maybe I'll give the Warchals a go at some point, since I seem to hear so much good about them here.

Edited: November 13, 2020, 9:31 PM · Mr. Lesniak,

Do not take me wrong-I do not hate EP myself, even if it is popular to dislike them on these forums. I just do not love stark strings in general, because of *my* violin and what my fingers prefer. However, as I have stated too many times by now, I would not reject a weich EP set, though in practice they have a mittel sort of tension. The mittel and higher I know I could use-did use EP mittel for years in the past, after all, but EP stark are heavy indeed (to be fair, the Heavy Dominant are also quite heavy, as advertised.)

I am glad you are enjoying the Passione Solo G&D. IME, the A is also quite stable, but if it did not suit your violin, it is understandable you went towards another direction. May be likely that when you try the other wound gut strings, you may prefer them because they offer even more nuance and musical colors. But if you need the compromise, Passione are better than synthetics, as they are gut strings after all.

Oliv and Eudoxa are a bit different, so research a bit if you ever get around to trying them-Eudoxa are rather light, while Oliv more "mittel-like", for lack of a better term. Oliv Gold/Aluminum D is quite stiff. But as always, your ears, playing, and violin will let you know whatever works best.

(I am having a great time with Dominant light GDA with a Jargar gold-plated E, but have an Eudoxa set waiting for later use. They are working quite above expectations after my violin was heavily repaired during summer, and are a joy to play.)

November 15, 2020, 7:34 PM · Thanks for the suggestions! I should have clarified...I use a different E string, a Hill E. And also, the strings are simply ones that my teacher insists all her students use, so they are in no way chosen for my violin specifically. That being said, I don't have complaints re. the sound. In fact, I'm impressed they sound so solid for such a long time. (And they are cheaper in Germany, woot!)

I tend to really love dark, warm, deep rather than bright, brilliant, piercing.

Are guts worth a try?

I've noted down all the suggestions and will take a look! Thanks!

November 17, 2020, 4:06 PM · Guts are definitely worth a try! A combo that has worked well for me is:

oliv rigid G
oliv silver D
passione solo A
Evah platinum E - light

November 19, 2020, 12:08 PM · I also change my strings roughly every 4-6 months, but I always change it up. I figure there are so many strings out there to try, that it's fun to test different sets out. I prefer darker and more colorful sounds, so it helps that I can stick to one end of the spectrum. The Pi strings are fantastic, but I also really like Obligatos, Eudoxa's, Dominants... Some sound better than others, but generally speaking, I find my E string to be the most finicky and have been sticking with a wound Eudoxa on one violin and a Westminster E on the other.

I would say, If you like darker sounds, try a set of Eudoxa's. Every violin is different, but they do have a nice dark, but still clear sound.


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