Viola string tensions compared

Edited: December 27, 2022, 3:24 PM · Viola String Tensions

Tensions (not garanteed!) are in kg.
Unless otherwise stated, strings have aluminium or silver windings on a "composite" core.
Nylon/Perlon-cored strings take longer to settle...and longer to deteriorate!

Pirastro Chorda (plain gut) medium
C 4.4 G 5 D 4.9 A 6.5 TOTAL 20.3
Thomastik Dominant (wound nylon) medium
C 4.9 G 4.8 D 5 A 6 TOTAL 20.7
Pirastro Eudoxa (wound gut) medium
C 4.8 G 5.5 D 5.7 A 6.5 TOTAL 22.5
Pro Arte (wound nylon) medium
C 5.2 G 5.2 D 5.4 A 6.8 TOTAL 22.6
Pirastro Tonica (wound nylon) medium
C 5 G 5.3 D 5.6 A 6.4 TOTAL 22.9
Aricore violin A on viola: VSL 32.5cm 5.5kg to VSL 37cm 6.6kg
Eudoxa-Aricore A (wound nylon) discontinued ! :(
13-1/4(soft) 6.5 13-1/2(medium) 6.8 13-3/4(strong) 7.2
Warchal Amber
C 5,3 G 5,3 D 5,3 A 6,3 TOTAL 22.2
(metal A 8.6 total 24,5 kg)

Helicore (all steel) light
C=5.4 G=5.4 D=5.1 A=7.1 TOTAL 23 kg
Larsen original medium
C 5 G 5 D 4,9 A 8,2 kg(steel) TOTAL 23,1 kg
Soft A 7.7(steel) TOTAL 22.6
Zyex medium
C 5.2 G 5.4 D 5.4 A 7.2 TOTAL 23.2
Pirastro Obligato light
C 5.3 G 5.3 D 5.7 A(steel) 7.7 TOTAL 24
Pirastro Olive medium (wound gut)
C 5.3 G 5.6 D 6.7 A 6.9 TOTAL 24.5
Pirastro Passione (gut+ synthetic) soft
C 6 G 5.6 D 5.8 A 7.1 TOTAL 24.5 A(steel) 8 TOTAL 25.4
Pirastro Obligato medium
C 5.6 G 5.3 D 5.9 A 7.8 (steel) TOTAL 24.6
Pirastro Evah Pirazzi (composite) soft
C 5.8 G 5.2 D 6.2 A 6.8 (steel 7.7) Total 24.0 (24.9)
Pirastro Evah Pirazzi medium
C 5.8 G 5.4 D 6.2 A 7.0 (steel 8.2) Total 24.6 (25.6)
Corelli Crystal light
C 6.3 G 5.8 D 6.2 A 7.1 TOTAL 24.6
Corelli Cantiga light SET 74,00 €
C 6,3 G 6,4 D 6,1 A 6 TOTAL 24.8

Thomastik Spirocore (all steel) light
C 5.7 G 6 D 6.4 A 6.8 TOTAL 25 kg
Thomastik Vision medium
C 5.5 G 5.6 D 5.7 A (steel) 8.2 TOTAL 25
Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Strong
C 6 G 5.6 D 6.4 A 7.2 (steel 8.9) TOTAL 25.2 (26.9)
Pirastro Passione medium
C 6.1 G 5.8 D 6 A 7.3 TOTAL 25.2 A(steel)8.2 TOTAL 26
Thomastik Rondo
C 5.4 G 5.6 D 6.1 A(steel) 8.3 TOTAL 25.4
Pirastro Permanent Light (all steel)
C 5.7 G 5.9 D-5.2 A 8.5 TOTAL 25.4
Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Gold
C 5.6 G 5.7 D 6 A 8.3 (steel) TOTAL 25.6
Thomastik Dominant Pro
C 5.6 G 5.6 D 6.1 A(steel) 8.2 TOTAL 25.5
Corelli Alliance light
C 5.8 G 6.6 D 6.5 A 6.8 TOTAL 25.7
Thomastik Vision Solo medium
C 5.6 G 5.7 D 6.3 A(steel) 8.1 TOTAL 25.7
Helicore Long Medium (all steel):
C 6 G 6.2 D 5.8 A=7.7 TOTAL 25.7
Thomastik PI medium
C 5.6 G 5.6 D 6.3 A 8.1 (steel) TOTAL 25.6

Pirastro Passione strong
C 6.2 D 5.9 D 6.2 A 7.5 TOTAL 25.8 A(steel) 8.6 TOTAL 26.9
Kaplan Amo medium
C 5.9 G 5.9 D 5.8 A 8.4(steel) Total 26
Jargar Superior medium
C 5.7(steel) G 5.6 D 6.6 A 8.2(steel) TOTAL 26
Corelli New Crystal medium
C 6,6 kg G 6 kg D. 6,3 kg A 7,5 TOTAL 26,4 kg
Kaplan Vivo medium
C 3.3 G 5.9 D 5.8 A(steel) 8.4 TOTAL 26.4
Pirastro Perpetual
C 6.4(steel) G 5.7 D 6.1 A 8.3(steel) TOTAL 26.5 k
Corelli Cantiga medium
C 6.5 G 6.2 D 6.2 A 7.3 TOTAL 26.2
Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Gold (all steel)
C 6.5 G 6.3 D 6.9 A 8.3 Total 26.7
(A Chromcore 8.2, Chromcore+ 8.2)
Corelli Alliance medium
C 6.1 G 6.7 D 6.6 A 7.5 TOTAL 26.9
Kaplan Forza medium (steel)
C 4 G 5.9 D 5.8 A 8.4 TOTAL 26.5 (Light: A=7.5)
Pirastro Permanent medium (all steel)
C 6.1 G 6.1 D 5.6 A 8.7 TOTAL 27.1

Jargar Classic (all steel)
C 6 G 6.4 D 8.1 A 8.1? TOTAL 28.4?
Thomastik Spirocore medium (all steel)
C 6,6 G 7,0 D 7,1 A 7,6 TOTAL 28,3 kg
Thomastik Superflexible (all steel)
C 6.4 G 6.8 D 7.1 A 8.1 TOTAL 28.3
Piratro Permanent strong (all steel)
C 6.8 G 6.3 D 6.2 A 9 TOTAL 28.3

Replies (17)

Edited: December 6, 2022, 12:24 PM · @Adrian - Thanks for posting this. I am not really sure how to evaluate the differences in tension. The difference between the lower and higher does not seem that great simply from the numbers, but something tells me that small differences in the numbers translate to significant differences in how the strings play. Anyone care to explain this a bit more? Thanks.
Edited: December 6, 2022, 12:33 PM · Do all the manufacturers base it on the same VSL? It's been a while since I last looked into trying a different brand of viola strings, but I think I might recall different manufacturers using different VSL.
December 6, 2022, 12:54 PM · Fascinating question. I was just looking in a dealer's price list, and the number of lengths they allow for is staggering.
Edited: December 27, 2022, 3:25 PM · I believe Pirastro use a VSL of 37cm, which would correspond to body of 40.7cm. Other makes choose 38cm (body length 41.8cm)
I know these differences disrupt the order of my list somewhat, but I really just wanted to verify what folks say about "low" or "high" tension strings. For example I was surprised to find that all three Corelli brands labelled as "medium tension" are in fact higher tension than most other synthetics, which explains their thickness and stiffness.
Edited: December 24, 2022, 5:58 PM · Adrian - GREAT JOB!

This should be extremely helpful to violists who are seeking better string combinations for their instruments.
I've been one of them for 26 years.

December 6, 2022, 11:34 PM · Hi Adrian, I didn't think Pirastro made their Perpetual viola strings in light tension, at least not yet?
Edited: December 6, 2022, 11:45 PM · I don't see the set I use in the list, so I'll add:

Kaplan Amo medium
C 5.9 G 5.9 D 5.8 A (steel) 8.4 Total 26

This is based on 38 cm VSL.

Edited: December 21, 2022, 6:45 AM · @Andrew: Thanks for the Amo! I'll look for the Vivo as well.

I also mean to try all the synthetic A strings, which are surprisingly few!
My all time favorite was the Eudoxa-Aricore, which is no longer made for the viola, though I still have a few in reserve. It's a mean trick since the three diameters were the same for violin and viola. (The extra VSL provided the extra tension for viola). I could try the violin version and delicately scrape a little of the silk winding to avoid the nut.(My VSL is only 35.6cm (14"") on both 15.75" (ergonmic?) violas. I shall try Cantiga A next, or Alliance A on my brighter viola.

BTW I think there is some confusion between Perpetual (steel C & A), and Permanent (all steel).

Edit: I note that the new Jargar Superior has a steel C & A, which should please my French friends, and that Evah Pirazzi Gold is all steel for viola.

Edited: December 16, 2022, 2:17 PM · I have added Kaplan Amo and Vivo, and Evah Gold synthetic medium, less tense than the all-steel set.
If I stretch an Aricore violin A from 33 to 37cm VSL the tension will be 6.6kg similar to the Aricore-Eudoxa.

In a word, higher tension means more "body" and power, but fewer high overtones and a stiffer attack. But differences in materials and structure can compensate. For example, Corelli medium strings (all synthetic), are high tension, but relatively thick, making them a little duller than some.

There are numerous articles on equal-tension stringing, but apart from Obligato, with its heavy C, and Jargar Superior, with a steel C, the usual pattern is a progressive increase from C to A with steel A's much tenser than gut or synthetic ones.

December 20, 2022, 12:18 PM · Sorry, me again..
I have corrected Obligato medium (the C was wrong), and sorted out Perpetual (steel C & A) vs Permanent (all steel).
December 21, 2022, 4:36 AM · Adrian - the Aricore-Eudoxa is still available for violin. According to Pirastro (and they should know) it is different from the Aricore having a darker sound.
I still have a stock of the Aricore-Eudoxa viola A so I'll be OK for a couple of years :)
Edited: December 22, 2022, 4:00 AM · @ Bo, we can very carefully scrape some of the black silk off the violin version: it is long enough for my viola, as the peg is near the nut.

I too have two or three in reserve.
Pirastro sent me an Evah synthetic A, and I tried a Zyex, but both were much too bright. I find the Tonica A tinny, like the Dominant A

I find the three Corelli sets oddly dull and stiff, but maybe their A's would suit me with my usual Tonicas..

December 21, 2022, 11:29 PM · Adrian, I wonder if you might like a D'Addario Pro-Arte A, perhaps in long scale to lower the tension for you. Or a Warchal Amber A (the synthetic version).
Edited: December 22, 2022, 10:26 AM · It seems (to me..) that the difference in warmth between two versions of the same brand corresponds to their tension: tenser = warmer.
This seems to apply to violin E-strings too.

I think I am bothered by three different aspects of steel-cored viola A's: their "whining" sound, the metallic fizz, and the very audible mismatch with the D string.
I haven't found Pro Arte here in Paris. Pity, as it would be a warm, low tension string. I shall try the much more tense Corelli A's, which should equalise the bowing pressures across the strings.

Before renewing my set, I once swapped over the A and D! The A then sang like a violin A, and the D was much better defined. Fingering was a nightmare, though! So I like to have a wide-topped bridge to keep my A's under control.

Ok, I have a certain nostalgia for the plain gut A's of my youth (Primrose went "back" to a gut A, and lost none of his tone..).
My French friends seem to like a trombone C, a trumpet A, and wet cardboard in between... A sort of violists inferiority complex?

December 22, 2022, 11:29 AM · Plain gut is still available. Why not try Tricolore? I use the G and C and love them.
December 23, 2022, 8:27 AM · I like the Tricolore G and C. Could not get the plain gut A or gimped D to work well. I just put on a set of Obligatos that seem to be responding nicely.
December 24, 2022, 5:12 PM · Adrian. Thank you for posting this information. I’d love to have an Excel spreadsheet if possible!

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