String suggestions for warmer viola sound?

March 11, 2021, 11:58 AM · Hi. I'm trying to decide on my new strings for my viola. Currently I am using Dominants with a Jargar A but am finding that the strings (Dominants in particular) don't produce as warm or rich a tone as I would like.

Does anyone have any suggestions for any specific strings that have more of this characteristic?

Replies (23)

Edited: March 26, 2021, 4:56 PM · Pirastro's warm, sweet Aricore has been discontinued, including their beautiful Aricore-Eudoxa A-string, for which I am seeking a replacement..

Their Obligato set is warm and textured, medium tension, but with a steel-cored A.

Warchal's Karneol and Amber are lower tension, and warm and textured.

Corelli's Crystal and Alliance are warm and clear, but with high tension.

D'Addario's Pro Arte are very warm but dull, but very high tension.

March 11, 2021, 12:41 PM · I second the recommendation for Warchal Karneol! Wonderful viola strings.
March 11, 2021, 12:57 PM · Obligato with Larsen A is a nice warm set. For a little more focus, Evah Gold with Larsen is excellent.

If you like gut, you could try Passione.

March 11, 2021, 1:13 PM · Peter Infeld PI strings will keep the clarity of the Dominants but give you a darker, warmer sound. (In many other strings, darker and warmer = less clear and worse projection.) Not cheap though!
March 11, 2021, 2:05 PM · Thanks for all the suggestions! The Warchal Karneol right now is looking to be my next choice. The price definitely has something to do with that! The PI strings are definitely not the cheapest. If it doesn't work, then I may find myself trying out the other stuff.

Does anyone know what the lifespan of these are on average? Also, would you recommend switching out my A for a Larsen?

March 11, 2021, 3:16 PM · On a violin page, you're just asking for a response involving blowtorches!
March 11, 2021, 3:20 PM · The viola jokes never end, now do they?
March 11, 2021, 4:31 PM · I just corrected my list: Pro Arte are duller than Corelli strings.

Obligato's own (steel) A, and Jargar's, may be prefered to Larsen's

March 11, 2021, 6:38 PM · Have you considered Corelli Cantiga? They sound very full and rich on my viola. Super responsive and easy to play, and not expensive, either.
March 11, 2021, 6:48 PM · Thanks Adrian! Amrita, I've heard of the Corelli Alliance Vivace, but haven't tried the Cantigas before. I will be sure to look into those as well. Do you know what the tension is like for those?
Edited: March 11, 2021, 8:27 PM · I've been very happy with Kaplan Amo, which I've used for the last year or so. Warmer than average, still very responsive to the bow.

I can't speak to lifespan -- I'm still on my first set and I'm not sure how many hours I've played, mostly because I was injured and unable to play regularly for much of 2020.

March 11, 2021, 10:49 PM · The Larsen A is a nice upgrade from the A strings that come in the Pirastro sets. I use a Jargar with Dominants, but like the Larsen for everything else.
March 11, 2021, 11:11 PM · My preferred (i.e., "better"?) viola makes glorious sounds with Pirastro Permanent* D & G strings, but needs the lower tension of Thomastik Dominant Weich A & C strings. I have never liked the way the Larsen A "shouts out" over the lower strings on that - or on my other viola, which seems to be compatible with any viola strings it has ever worn. So it gets all the strings rejected by #1.

* Permanents have a steel "rope" core. The Permanent A & C were too high tension for this viola. The maker of the viola later told me he obviously made the volume a bit too small (i.e., ribs about 1 or 2 mm too "short"). So it took me about 20 years to find the right string combo for it.

March 12, 2021, 12:00 AM · Rich, the idea of the Larsen A being an upgrade is interesting to me. Depending on the viola, I don’t find it to be better, just different.

I find it can be overly warm and a bit tubby-feeling on certain violas, and in those cases, I’ve tended to prefer the Pirastro As.

March 12, 2021, 6:46 AM · Many, if not most, violists seem to expect their A-strings to scream!
The only advantages I find in steel A's is their clean sound, and their ability to withstand clumsy bowing..
I find the Larsen too bright and metallic on both my violas, and I much prefer synthetic A's. I don't want a trumpet (much as I like them..)

I have not yet explored the effect of different A-string tensions on the tone of the lower strings: has anyone some feedback on this?

March 12, 2021, 10:01 AM · I was advised to use a lower tension A string to reduce the raspy sounds of my C string (on #1 viola) by the clerk at Ifshin's who played my viola after installing new A and C strings. He had installed a Weich Dominant C for me and a Passionne A and played it for me in their large "cello room." (He really is a VIOLIST!) I could not hear the C-string rasp but it was still there under the ear. A month or so later I replaced the Passione A with a Dominant Weich (light) A and it has reduced the C string problem even more. I noticed no effect on the D & G strings. The Pirastro Permanent D & G strings have been on this viola since I started playing it in orchestra around 2015.
March 12, 2021, 1:17 PM · Ida, I don't know the specific tensions, but I have heard that as manufacturers have made string tensions higher and higher, the Corelli Cantiga LIGHT gauge is similar to what Medium tension strings used to be. Cantiga's "Medium" gauge is similar to what High tension strings used to be. Go for the LIGHT gauge. I got mine at Southwest strings.


Edited: March 26, 2021, 3:50 AM · Andrew, thank you for your detailed account.

I have often read about a tense viola A (or violin E) brightening the other strings. Maybe by communicating more to the back plate via the soundpost? It's the "stiff" side of the instrument. In your case you wanted the opposite! I suppose we have to balance "raspiness" under the ear against "projection" at a distance. Perhaps we need a "private" viola plus a "concerto" viola,.. and Etymotic ear-plugs?

I am intrigued by your choice of steel cores for the G & D. But some bright spark said of the middle strings "it's like playing on wet cardboard", so maybe I should try this. My french friends seem to like a trombone C, a trumpet A, and "wet cardboard" in between. Odd.

March 25, 2021, 11:33 AM · Between the trombone C and trumpet A a couple of french horn G and D would be more suitable ;)

What non-trumpet A string have you resorted to now that the Eudoxa-Aricore A is gone? (I had a small supply but am currently playing on the last one)

March 26, 2021, 4:12 AM · @Bo: I have one or two in reserve, but I shall try the light versions of Corelli and Alliance A-strings. Cantiga is said to be brighter.

Obligato do a synthetic A for violin only, so I tried that, but the extra tension due to the viola's string length stretched the string unevenly, affecting tone and intonation. Perhaps the light version would stretch better?

I keep a light Jargar in reserve, and a small blob of mastic to put on the corner of the bridge, just in case.

March 26, 2021, 6:08 AM · Pirastro is still making Eudoxa-Aricore for violin in 3 gauges: 13 1/4, 13 1/2 and 13 3/4. I think that the medium gauge I am using right now on the viola is 13 1/4, so perhaps a light gauge violin string would work if the string is long enough. Adrian - could you check the gauge of your spare string for me, please?
Edited: March 26, 2021, 4:58 PM · The viola versions had the same three gauges as the violin ones; my violas have a vibrating string length of (only) 14 inches, and of course the A peg is nearest to the nut, so I will be able to try them.

They will have higher tension on the viola, but that seems to be the normal way.

Nylon cores (Dominant, Crystal, Tonica) seem to tolerate more stretching than Composite cores (most of the more recent strings, including Obligato). Indeed , with Composites, we are told not to over stretch (e.g. a semitone) to speed up settling the pitch.

April 1, 2021, 3:04 PM · I managed to find a dealer in Germany who still has a stock of Eudoxa-Aricore Viola A, so now I'm good for another couple of years.

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