Recommendations for Selecting Violin Strings
High-Tension Synthetic Strings
Recommended for Players of Classical Music
If you seek richness, complexity, power, projection, wide dynamic range, and a wide range of nuanced tone colors, then consider a high-tension synthetic string with a composite core.
Genuine Gut Strings
Recommended for Professional Players of Classical Music
If complexity of tone and a rich, organic sound are your priority, then consider strings made from genuine sheep gut.
The baroque player, seeking period-authentic, un-wound strings, should consider
Pirastro Chorda. For everyone else, gut-core strings with metal windings combine stability and modern playability with rich, organic sound. Here are a few of our favorites . . .
Medium-Tension Synthetic Strings
Recommended for Players of Classical Music
For the classical player who finds high-tension composite-core strings too brilliant in tone, too high-tension for their instrument, or too expensive, a lower-tension synthetic-core string can be a great choice. Their ease of play and beautiful tone also make these strings excellent for students.
Budget-Priced Synthetic Strings
Recommended for Students and Anyone on a Budget
Too often, young players are held back by cheap, difficult to play, plain steel strings. For beginners, or anyone on a budget, please consider these excellent, value-priced synthetic string sets, which will be easier to play, easier on your fingers, and produce a much more complex and beautiful tone.
Chromium-Wound Steel Strings
Recommended for Fiddling & Fold Music
By far the most popular strings for that distinctive old-time sound are chromium-wound steel.
E String Selection
Although players avoid mixing and matching strings from different sets, the E string is an exception. Feel free to try different types and brands of E to see what works best for your instrument. The E is almost always steel, even with most
synthetic and gut sets. The most common E for professionals is a tin-plated carbon steel E (Pirastro calls this silvery steel), which yields a round, brilliant, silvery sound and feels smooth under the fingers. Gold and Platinum plating will yield a warmer tone for the entire set, but will be more prone to whistling, particularly on better instruments. Aluminum-wound steel Es are commonly chosen when whistling or squeaking is an issue - the larger diameter of the winding gives the hair more surface to grip. Chome-wound E strings are often chosen to match the tone of chrome-wound fiddling G, D, and A strings. And, of course, the cheapest Es are plain, simple carbon steel.
Note that, with some exceptions, the E string in almost every set on the market is one of the above. So, even with the wide array of sets out there, if you wish to compare different Es, you need not try an E from every set, just one of each type; i.e. a tin-plated E from one set is pretty much the same as a tin-plated E from another manufacturer, barring slight differences in the quality of steel and the gauge.
For more, 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.
Want to compare E Strings? Check out our
Violin E String Comparison Set, a collection of our best selling Es, representing all of the major types of Es on the market.
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.
- Heavy/Stark/Strong Gauge: Stronger tone, slower response, greater string tension
- Medium/Mittel Gauge: The thickness recommended by the manufacturer for most instruments
- Light/Weich/Weak Gauge: Softer tone, faster response, lower string tension
Tone Color & Other Considerations
In your search for just the right sound, players will frequently use words like
warm, bright, dark, brilliant, edgy, dull, etc. Keep in mind that different people mean different things when they use these words; we don't have a good, common vocabulary, unfortunately. Everyone has different ears and different tastes, and our perception of sound is sufficiently complicated that precise definition is next to impossible.
But, as a broad generalization, whether they know it or not, players use these words primarily to describe the frequency distribution of the tone produced, i.e. what frequencies are emphasized and what frequencies are subdued. Think of this as the difference you hear when using the treble and bass knobs on your stereo. When you turn up the bass, the sound gets
warmer, darker, duller, muddier, boomier, etc. When you turn down the bass or turn up the treble, the sound gets brighter, more brilliant, edgy, articulate, clear, sharp, etc. Note that some of these words are positive and some negative, and you can't get one without the other. For example, a more brilliant string set, like Evah Pirazzi, will yield greater clarity and brilliance, but necessarily, at the same time, will accentuate squeaks and squawks. A darker set like Obligato will yield greater warmth and diminish squeaks and squawks, but will also have less clarity, duller articulation, and will sound muddy to some ears and on some instruments. String selection is a bit of a balancing act between these two extremes, and is a matter of finding the right strings for your instrument, your tastes, your ears, and your style of music.
Tone color is not the only factor in string selection. Ease of play, longevity, price, and other factors can be just as important. One other note: if you're having trouble finding the strings to give you the sound you're looking for, consider that the strings are only part of the whole. The adjustment of the instrument, choice of bow, rosin, even chin and shoulder rests also factor heavily into the resulting tone. If you can't find strings that sound good to you, you likely need to try adjusting other factors.
Need help selecting a set that works for you?
Send us an email and let us know what you're looking for. Tell us about your instrument, strings you've tried, and what you like and dislike about each. We'll be happy to point you in the right direction!