Choosing Strings for Violin or Viola
The best strings for your instrument will depend on your instrument, budget, playing style, and personal tastes. Finding the right strings is often a matter of trial and error. But, to get you started, here are some of the sets that we recommend trying . . .
About Violin Strings
Alternate E Strings
It is common practice for players to purchase one set of strings, but replace the E string with one from a different set, to match their particular instrument and preferences. Some E strings are manufactured for this express purpose, and are sold individually. The tone of the E you choose effects not just the notes played on the E string, but the tone quality of the entire instrument across all four strings. To read about different types of E strings, please see our Guide to Violin E Strings.
Loop vs. Ball End
Because the violin E string is so thin, it can be difficult to keep in tune. It is, therefore, typically given a fine tuner, installed at the tailpiece. (The other strings - A, D, and G - are typically installed directly into the tailpiece itself, though student instruments are sometime setup with fine tuners on all four strings.) There are two types of fine tuners - ones that accept "Ball" end strings (with a brass ring or ball attached to the end of the string) and ones that accept "Loop" end strings (where the string forms a loop at the end, with no brass ball). It is important to purchase the correct type of string for your E string fine tuner. Violin G, D, and A strings are only made in the ball-end style.
Viola A strings are also sometimes made with a "Loop" end, though this is less common than with the violin E. Again, be sure to purchase the correct type of string for your setup.
Many string manufacturers now make 'removable' ball-end violin E strings (and viola A strings), which can be installed as ball or loop, as needed.
Some gut strings are sold with a "knot" end, where the string itself has been tied into a knot at the end; the knot should be wedged into the tailpiece as with a ball-end, not looped over the tuner as a loop-end string. Gut strings are also sometimes sold with a "plain" end, where the string simply ends, with nothing at the end at all. In this case, the player must knot the string himself or herself before installing.
Violin sizes range from full-size (4/4) down to 1/32 size. Strings are sized accordingly and must match the size of the violin to prevent damage to the instrument. 1/8 Size strings may be used on 1/10 violins, as manufacturers do not generally make 1/10 size strings.
The gauge of a violin or viola string is a measure of its thickness. Heavy strings respond more slowly, produce greater volume, and put greater stress on the instrument. If the instrument is not up to the pressure, the tone may become 'pinched' or 'closed off', and the instrument may become damaged. Note that string gauges are not standardized and a medium gauge of one set may be thicker or thinner than that of another. Changing gauges or string types may also necessitate a sound-post adjustment to compensate for the change in pressure.