New strings that will soften the sound of my cheap violin?

Edited: November 20, 2020, 10:07 PM · Hi! I’m a beginner/early intermediate (about 2 years) with a $320 usd violin. It’s the stentor conservatoire. I am looking for some strings that will soften or even “mute” the sound a little bit, maybe make it mellower. I don’t know if it’s just me, but my violin sounds really loud and it seems like it doesn’t need to be that loud. Anybody have experience with the stentor conservatoire? I’d like to hear your opinions.

Anyways, I put a rubber mute over the bridge and the sound is much more appealing. It’s much quieter, and it’s a little more muffled. When the mute is on, I feel free to move the bow a lot. I feel much more “alive” on the the violin with the mute on. I am guessing this is because it’s quieter with the mute? Or is the sound of my violin excessively loud and bright? I feel like I shouldn’t play with the mute on all the time. What could I do to help with the sound? Or am I crazy? I was thinking of trying the D’addario Pro Arte strings with the wound E (they claim to be very mellow), or the Fiddlerman strings maybe. People say they sound like the Dominants. Your opinions?

Thanks in advance.

Edit: I forgot to mention that I watched a video on YouTube about this guy who put paper clips on his violin’s bridge to soften the sound to make it more mellow. It works a little, but it still seems loud when playing.

Replies (11)

November 20, 2020, 11:05 PM · I think the Pro-Arte strings might work very well for the situation that you describe. They are also reasonably responsive and powerful (while remaining mellow - some might say dull), as well as inexpensive.
Edited: November 20, 2020, 11:13 PM · I would go with Pirastro Tonica, they're nylon core which will be mellower than steel core strings your violin probably came with. You don't want a steel core string, they're brighter. As for using a mute, that's your business, if you like it better that way I don't see any problem unless you're trying to play publically. Tonica are going to be better than those other two options mentioned and they're no any more expensive, about $35/set
November 20, 2020, 11:43 PM · I haven't tried the Pro Arte but I think they will accomplish what you want. You didn't say what strings you are using, but if they are steel, as Lyndon states, almost any synthetic string will be mellower.

Tonica is a very well rounded string (and incredibly cheap for the quality) on the mellow side, but not the mellowest. Pirastro Violino would be even more mellow and soft than Tonica if you want to go all the way. Pirastro Aricore is the mellowest Pirastro string (I would just call it dull...), but it's hard to get and more expensive. If you don't mind splurging, try Violino.

Edited: November 21, 2020, 4:55 AM · My Conservatoire II came supplied with Tonicas.
Yes, these cheap violins sound like cathedrals. I'm not sure why. Even my Gewa Maestro 11 sounds like a cathedral compared with my Breton.
But the effect only becomes noticeable when you have played a better instrument. (in other words, I liked the Stentor until I bought the Gewa and I liked the Gewa until I bought the Breton!)
In December I'm going to have my luthier give my Gewa identical action to the Breton, which I bought from him.
He'll either lower and reshape the old bridge or carve a new bridge. Probably the latter, since the old bridge is signed. I had a feeling that higher action might make the violin less easy to control.
And that raises the question of who set up your Stentor for you.
I was going to reserve my Stentor for folk music, but maybe the Gewa would be better for that and I should sell the Stentor.
If you are a beginner, it is possible that you are playing loud because you have learnt to increase bow pressure for the same bow speed to improve tone quality. It takes a bit longer to learn to do the same by reducing bow speed for the same pressure and playing quieter!

Also, the way you hold the violin affects how loud it sounds to you, and a change of chin-rest/shoulder-rest combination may work for you.

Edited: November 21, 2020, 10:18 AM · I own an €400 Yamaha violin, which has the same problem. The strings that have tamed it best are the Pirastro Violino (which I’m currently using). The best sounding strings I’ve tried in this violin are the Larsen Tzigane with a difference. But they were excessively loud in this instrument.
Edited: November 21, 2020, 11:38 AM · Thank you all for your responses.
My stentor came with some horrible strings which I immediately replaced with the D'addario Ascente strings. Those are the strings I've been using for almost 6 months now. I got my stentor after a year or so of playing a $30 VOS.

@Gordon Shumway, my stentor came set up, I just replaced the bridge (not replace as in change the bridge, it just came collapsed) and changed the strings myself after watching some videos on how to do it.

I have ordered the Fiddlerman Carbon fiber Bow, and a 32mm chin rest (I have a long neck). I currently have an Everest shoulder rest which dampens the sound and makes the B on the D string in 3rd position unplayable. I have also ordered the Wofl Forte Secondo. I won't be able to get all these items I ordered until late December because I live in Mexico and I'm going to the States in December. Hopefully with this decent setup my playing will improve more quickly, because the bow that came with my violin is very heavy.

Thank you, I will look up the Tonica strings and see how I like them

Edit: aren’t the Pro Arte nylon core as well?

November 21, 2020, 11:35 AM · I doubt that your violin bow is heavy. The typical violin bow weighs between 2.1 and 2.2 ounces. No way is that heavy. What makes a bow feel heavier or lighter is usually the balance: bows with more tip weight feel heavier, bows with less tip weight (i.e., more weight at the frog) feel lighter even though there is actually more mass in the hand.

You may be able to make your bow feel lighter by adding a gram or so at the frog end. However a frog-heavy (i.e. light-tip) can be harder to use for many kinds of bow strokes. (BUT-> "different strokes for different folks!" preferences vary depending on lots of factors).

I don't recommend making changes to a bow's balance without either professional advice or decades of experience.

Edited: November 21, 2020, 11:31 PM · Josh,

You complain that your violin is loud. Well! a violin IS LOUD - especially under your chin, a very few inches from your ear. When you play in an orchestra or other ensemble you want to be able to hear yourself - imagine there may be oboes, clarinets even trumpets nearby.

If your hearing is good you will certainly notice this loudness. You can reduce it by using ear plugs - either the "musicians' earplugs" sold for premium prices or a couple of the cheap wax plugs sold in drug stores loosely fitted in your ears and adjusted for loudness.

Also, you can test your own hearing at this free website: https://hearingtest.online/

and get results comparable to a professional audiologist's unless there is a pathological problem.

My own hearing is compromised and I must use digital hearing aids to achieve anything approaching a level of hearing my instruments similar to when I was younger.

The match between your own hearing curve and the frequency response of your instrument with the strings, bow and rosin you use do need to match what you can tolerate.

An ordinary (soft) mute will reduce the overall sound volume and especially reduce the high frequencies that can bother "good hearing." A heavier practice mute will cut everything down.

Personally, I think it is a shame to cut out the higher frequencies (below 5 KHz) that help a good violin project - but there needs to be a proper balance and you have to do what you can tolerate. I remember when I was a kid growing up in New York apartments, my father had to use a very heavy weighted metal practice mute on his Scarampella violin after a neighbor threatened murder. Shortly afterward we moved to the Maryland countryside and had a house in the middle of 27 acres - and the mute was gone.

If you have a teacher get advice there.

Edited: November 21, 2020, 2:34 PM · One of my students has a Conservatoire, I gave her a set of Obligatos and the violin sounds very nice. The best use for them is precisely this case.
With Violinos you will loose more volume and projection. Tonicas are neutral strings and brighter than Dominants, I don't think they will provide what you are seeking.
Your violin is loud only under your year, from a distance it won't be loud or clear, that's typical of a "factory" violin.
I would try Obligatos or Dominants with Pirastro Gold E.
Edited: November 21, 2020, 8:10 PM · @andrew Victor, I am 17 and have young ears so that’s probably why it sounds loud to me. But it’s not just the volume. With the mute, it’s almost like the strings feel softer under the bow and under my left hand fingers. The strings seem more pleasant to play in general. It’s a weird thing. Unfortunately. I don’t have a teacher. I would definitely have one if I could but where I live there are none.

@David Duarte, thak you for the suggestion but the Obligatos are a little too pricey for me.

I’ve been thinking about it and I think I’ll go with the D’addario Pro Arte strings. They seem like my best choice at the moment.

November 24, 2020, 11:18 AM · Do try Corelli crystals. Also try to notice whether any of the strings is the problematic one irrespective of the sets you try and replace accordingly :-)


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