Make Your Violin Sing: Strings


Strings are most powerful tool to pull the sound out of the Violin. And it is easy to use. You don't need to go to a luthier - just buy a set of strings and put them on. The question is: what strings to buy? 

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question and personal preference plays a large role in deciding for yourself. There are so many good brands on the market and all of them are worth trying to get the best fit, but the life of an average violinist is a bit too short for that. So, it would be useful to sort out some of strings (the more - the better) before trying them on and this article will help break down some of the key points required to aid in that search.

Odds are that if you’ve purchased your violin for less than $100, it was not made by Stradivari 350 years ago, it was not even made by Zimmerman workshop 100 years ago. Our first recommendation is not to buy a $100 string set to put on your $100 violin. It's a waste of money as you can usually achieve the same result with a $20 dollar set of strings.

On the other hand, if your violin is a bit older (beginning of the 20th century) it should go without saying: don't buy the cheapest strings you can find. You might blame your violin for not meeting your expectations. However, buying the most expensive strings would also be a waste of your money. Choosing strings in a mid-price range should suffice to produce a great sound.

Finally, If you are the happy owner of a master made violin from the 19th century or older, then you probably don't need our advice. You will be buying the most expensive strings money can buy.

Alice by Guangzhou Romance Musical Instruments are decent strings for a very low price. They are very stable in tuning and have a nice and clear tone. Also, you should note that all Alice violin strings come with a complementary spare E string as it is more prone to breaking than other strings.

 Historically violin strings were made of gut or catgut, which, despite the name, has nothing to do with cats. Catgut is a type of cord that is prepared from the natural fibre found in the walls of various animals’ intestines. 

Old gut strings on the violin

The disadvantage of the gut strings is that they are too sensitive to humidity and temperature change and cannot hold pitch for long period. In addition, they wear out quickly and become brittle soon. However, some players still love playing on guts. The best gut strings that can be bought today are probably Pirastro Olive. They are very good on old master instruments, sound gorgeous and feel nice under the fingers. Excellent strings for Solo, but very hard to manage in the orchestra, because they need to be tuned frequently. To make them retain pitch you need to practice intensely for about an hour before going on stage in order to warm up your instrument and the strings, and the climatic conditions in the rehearsal room should be similar to those on the stage.

In early years of the 20th century string makers started producing metal strings, which were much more durable and practical. For many years Thomastik-Infeld Super Flexible, or so called "Blue Thomastik" was the most popular among orchestra players, students and even some solo performers. David Oistrakh played on Blue Thomastik, though his magic hands could likely make anything sing beautifully.

Unfortunately, Thomastik doesn't produce those strings anymore. There are strings with the same name, but they are made of synthetic core, not metal. The strings that are closest to the old Blue Thomastik are now called Infeld Blue.

In the late 70s another workhorse swept the world. It was Dominant by the same Thomastik-Infeld, made of perlon core with aluminum winding. Almost as durable as metal, but closer to guts by their characteristics. Very soon Dominant became the most popular Violin string set, especially among orchestra players. 

However, soloists prefer strings of higher level. Synthetic strings of the company Pirastro undoubtedly the frontrunners. Their Evah Pirazzi and Obligato surely stand out among other synthetics.

Another brand for professional use is Larsen from Denmark, better known and loved by cellists and Viola players. Their synthetic core Violin strings are less popular than Pirastro  or Thomastik, though they are definitely no worse, but in many aspects even better. They are rich in colour as best guts, they project the sound like no other strings and they feel amazing under the fingers, almost like something living. A disadvantage of Larsen is their shorter life span. Like a beautiful flower that pleases your eyes for a short time before it starts to wither, with time these strings start losing their power and slowly fade out. They still sound beautifully, but not as bright as when they are new. So, if you are okay  with changing strings more often and you want something really good and unlike anything else, then it is Larsen.

In recent years, the violin strings of the Slovak company Warchal, until recently known only in Europe, began to confidently win sympathy among musicians in North America. And this is rightfully so. The company's motto is: "Warchal strings are not handmade, they are head-made". And that is true, though they are handmade as well.

Several of their models cover the full range of violinist preferences, with the exception of only gut strings, which they don't produce. 

So, experiment and make your Violin sing by choosing the best strings.


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