Distinguish between D and A strings

Edited: December 8, 2017, 3:21 PM · I have a noob question. Each time I change a new set of strings to the violin, how to distinguish between D and A strings, for sometimes they are in similar levels of thickness? (the thread color is different at the tip of the strings, but I don't know if that means anything)

I have no other means to separate them except for their sleeves and current position on the violin.

Edit: I found this website for color coding of different brands' strings. But it would be handy to know any other ways one can distinguish from just examining the physical appearance of the strings. It would be more convenient for storing and changing if one could know other ways.


Replies (15)

December 8, 2017, 3:24 PM · Well, if you tune a D string up to an A, it's going to snap and possibly break your bridge. That's one way to tell.
Seriously, though, the color coded windings are really the only way you can definitively tell which brand and string you've got.
December 8, 2017, 3:34 PM · Read the string package?
December 8, 2017, 4:13 PM · @Douglas Thank you but if they are old strings there would be no package - and it's hard to ascertain the brand as well.
December 8, 2017, 4:35 PM · If you have a high-precision scale: weigh them. The tension is about the same for all strings of a particular series; the heavier ones have a lower pitch at the same tension.

And in case of doubt: string them to a "normal" tension. The pitch will tell you what string it is.

Edited: December 8, 2017, 4:41 PM · This won't help you now, but when you put on new strings keep the empty packages and when you retire strings put them in the appropriate envelope for emergency use in the future. If you put used strings in the envelope write the brand name but try to use the same string pitch (i.e., A for A, etc.)

There is no way to tell by string thickness because each pitch has a range of thicknesses (i.e., gauges). The tailpiece end of the string usually is color coded in some way for brand and the peg end for pitch and gauge (within the brand). Although for some brands the brand and pitch information are both at the tailpiece (as you have found in your Lashof link)

December 8, 2017, 4:55 PM · I’d recommend that you tune to D, then if the string is too loose, that should be an A string.
December 8, 2017, 4:57 PM · I've learned the colors for the strings I commonly use. It's why the windings are different.
December 8, 2017, 5:14 PM · Good idea Cat, I second that if you can't find the color codings
Edited: December 8, 2017, 6:11 PM · If you are willing, either return them to the original package, or label them with a piece of "post-it" note wrapped around the end. Will you?
Edited: December 8, 2017, 8:13 PM · Thanks everyone for suggestions! For storing the strings, apparently I would need to to clearly mark the strings when I retire them (should maybe mark just either A or D string for each set)

@Cat, it's actually a great idea!

December 9, 2017, 2:09 PM · The A is wound with aluminium, which has a blueish tinge; the aluminium-wound D is thicker, while a silver wound D has similar thickness t,the A, but with a more yellow surface.

December 9, 2017, 3:39 PM · I usually change one string at a time so I don't get confused. You shouldn't be taking off all strings at once, anyway, to reduce the risk of your soundpost dropping.
December 10, 2017, 8:11 AM · @Everyone sometimes if you actually pay attention, the D string is actually thinner than the A. Believe it or not, look at it closely. It's becuase we require more aluminium wound on the A string than the nickel of the d string. However, it varies on the brands.
Edited: December 10, 2017, 11:50 AM · It's not exactly clear from your post whether you're talking about used strings, but if you are, since the A string peg is further up the pegbox than the D string peg, the distance to the coiled part of the used A string where it wrapped around the peg will be just that much further up the string than it will be for the used D string.
December 10, 2017, 3:14 PM · Thanks everyone for very useful suggestions!
@Mark, another great advice! yes I’m talking about used strings, and since I have more than one violin I’m often tempted to change the strings between them to see how different string brands would work on different violins.

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