violin stringsMany violin players find choosing strings for their instrument confusing. The selection of strings available is huge and can be overwhelming. We’ve put together an overview of the types of violin strings in use today, and their pros and cons. We’ll also introduce you to our favorite, most-recommended sets and tell you what you can expect from them.

Types of Strings

1. Steel:

Steel strings are often used by fiddlers, who value their brighter sound and durability. They tend to be more affordable than other types of strings, and lower-end instruments commonly come from the factory with steel strings. They’re not as stretchy as other types of strings, which means they don’t have to be tuned as often when new and work better with fine tuners.

Steel strings work wonderfully for smaller-sized instruments, fiddling, electric violins and outdoor playing.

Pros: durable, not very stretchy, affordable

Cons: tinnier sound, not as lively a response as other materials

2. Synthetic:

Synthetic strings are the go-to strings for the modern classical violinist. They tend to have a good response (they react to the bow well) and a warmer sound than steel. Because they are stretchier than steel strings, they have to be tuned frequently when new and don’t work as well with fine tuners.

Pros: warm tone, good response

Cons: pricier, don’t tune as well with fine tuners

3. Gut:

Gut strings are not commonly used on modern instruments. They are indeed made out of animal intestines (yes—yuck). Gut strings are often used for playing period music, usually baroque. They have a warm, mellow tone prized by people who want an authentic period sound.

Pros: Good for period music, very mellow tone

Cons: very expensive, need to be replaced frequentlydominant

Our Favorite Strings

Helicore: These steel strings are durable and affordable, with a nice tone. Great for fiddlers!

Dominant: Possibly the most popular synthetic strings. They are a great set for all skill levels. Not too bright or too dark.

Pirastro Obligato: These synthetic strings are the best for warming up the tone of a too-bright violin.

Evah Pirazzi: Synthetic strings with great brightness, volume and clarity of tone. We recommend these for instruments that tend to be too dark sounding.

Keep in mind that putting the right set of strings on your instrument will improve the sound, but can’t fundamentally change it. Just as putting whipped cream on a bad pie won’t make it yummy, even the best strings can’t fix an instrument with poor sound.

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123 replies
    • Alex
      Alex says:

      As a complete beginner coming at it from a guitar background, where you change the guage of a string according to what you want, what about guages? Are they always the same?

      • rebecca
        rebecca says:

        Violin strings are different gauges, but are not sold as such the way guitar strings are sold. I had gut strings originally, and a luthier filed the groves in the nut to fit the strings. When I changed to synthetic core strings, they were a little thinner and fit in the groves. Steel strings would be a little thinner than synthetic core strings, but I don’t like the loud tin sound. To me, steel strings sound like a banjo and synthetic core strings sound like an acoustic guitar. Gut strings sound like a 12-string guitar.

    • rebecca
      rebecca says:

      String choice is a personal one, I liked the warm tone of gut when I was younger, but now use synthetic strings and get a similar tone and humidity does not affect them. I expect to spend around $100 for a set of 4.

  1. judys
    judys says:

    When we bought my daughter’s violin we almost didn’t buy it because the e string squealed out terribly. The shop tried probably 5-7 different strings before one worked. It was the Dominant that worked! Several other higher priced strings wouldn’t work with it!

    • Mariko
      Mariko says:

      I’m using Dominant strings as well. My instrument came with steel strings and sounded horrible. With the Dominant strings it sounds much better! Good luck to your daughter! 🙂

  2. Alteria117
    Alteria117 says:

    I have noticed Dominants come quite highly recommended. Have ordered a set as well as a new Ipe wood bow to see if I can get a better sound. As to the gut strings I remember that it was sheep’s intestines that were preferred at one point. I have seen a reconstruction of their making and despite the initial ick factor it was much more interesting than ick

  3. jlkasper
    jlkasper says:

    Interesting, I had no idea. Speaking of strings, a while back, someone had tried to tell me about strings made of spider webs. Is this possible? If so, I wonder what the appeal would be as far as quality and sound go?

  4. lucaay
    lucaay says:

    I’m currently using the D’addario Kaplan vivo strings in medium tension. I love how strong and clean it sounds.
    I’ve used Evah Pirazzi, Obligato, Infeld Red, Dominant, and all sorts of brands, but my personal favorite are Infeld Red and the ones I’m currently using. My thoughts on Evah Pirazzi are that they don’t last very long, especially the gold E string. From what I remember, they only lasted about 2 weeks and the sound was completely different from when I first put them on. Also, the Obligato strings are too harsh sounding, although they are very good strings. It projects your instrument’s sound, but like the Evah Pirazzi, the sound just kind of sounds different and screechy after about 2 weeks. Just my thoughts.

  5. Will
    Will says:

    After a fairly lengthy process of comparison and elimination, I like Dominant A, D (aluminum) and G string with Pirastro Gold E string… I think… maybe… Then again, I have not tried the Obligato strings. Maybe someday……

  6. gordonlee
    gordonlee says:

    I have used Dominant strings all my life but think that after this article, I may experiment with others… just to see what they are like … and if it is the player that is the problem or the tool 🙂

  7. hmoulding
    hmoulding says:

    I listen to a lot of violinists carry on about their strings. In the eight or so years I played when I was younger, no one ever mentioned them, except to point out one time that my e was getting frayed and that was why it sounded terrible. I do prefer synthetic core to solid steel, though I think that preference came much later. When I was starting out I didn’t have the ear or the skill to worry about it.

    • Anteros
      Anteros says:

      I’ve been using Dominants for over a month now and have been enjoying the sound. Many recommend trying a different E string. I may do that the next time I switch strings.

  8. fbellezzo
    fbellezzo says:

    Im just starting but I can see myself in the future having different instruments with different sets of strings for different music! Very cool. An gut? Never even thought that it was a possibility for strings. Interesting!

  9. composersdg
    composersdg says:

    I’ve been playing for a long time, but just recently came back to the viola. I use Helicores on my new viola. They’re super responsive and surprisingly warm and complex for steel core strings.

  10. WonkyViolin
    WonkyViolin says:

    I like evah pirazzi’s as well, Still looking and trying different strings, especially e strings. Found somewhere online once where you could buy 4 or 5 different e stings to try. Would love to see a package like that on Superior Violins.

  11. ChrysalisMoon
    ChrysalisMoon says:

    I was used to steel strings, but rather like the sound of my mixed strings that came with my violin. I will switch out to all-steel eventually, since I’m mostly interested in Irish fiddle music & will probably add more fine-tuners, so I don’t go breaking strings.

  12. John Henry Adams
    John Henry Adams says:

    I used two different kinds of strings for my fiddle and find that nother is better for country music fiddle than steel strings because they do not stretch as much.

  13. Iahnee
    Iahnee says:

    In highschool the strings we had on our orchestras instruments were always either steel or synthetic so I’m not exactly sure how the sound quality would be on the other types of strings.

  14. vega981
    vega981 says:

    I use Cecilio and Dominant strings on my violin. I have both on my violin because my instructor has been nice enough to replace them when one breaks, which is not often, but dire when one practices as often as I do.

  15. agaboury
    agaboury says:

    I definitely love Dominants. I don’t put anything else on my violin. I also have dominants on many of my school instruments. Students who are learning need a good string so that they are not getting a tinny sound. The price of the string is worth it.

  16. WonkyViolin
    WonkyViolin says:

    I’ve used Dominants, Evah Pirazzi and Obligatos. They all sound pretty good on my violin. Problem is I’m a curious tinkerer and am forever experimenting… that being said I have a set of Warchals and a set of Corelli Alliance Vivace on the way. I also found a sampler set of E strings, 6 different E strings to experiment with. Woot!!!

  17. Michelle Liu
    Michelle Liu says:

    Ahahha I should have seen this when my mom bought strings for me a few years ago-they were not very good and they didn’t fit with my violin! Oh well at least I’ve seen this now so I know for the future…

  18. Brittni Nack
    Brittni Nack says:

    I use Passione gut strings. They sound absolutely wonderful on my violin. They are warm and very easy to tune with the pegs. I tried the Evans, and those were nice too, but my violin sounds really nice on gut strings so I think I’m going to stick with them.

  19. Rebekka18
    Rebekka18 says:

    I’ve heard of violinists mixing and matching strings, especially the E and G strings. Does this make a major difference sound-wise and are there any specific brands you would recommend for particular strings?

  20. Will
    Will says:

    I’ve been using Dominant G, D (aluminum), and A with a Pirastro gold E string for a while now. I noticed that they come to a point where they quit stretching and don’t need to be tuned as often, but shortly after that they start unraveling (windings I suppose) and get a little “buzzy”.. It takes between 3 – 4 months then they get “buzzy” and finally need to be replaced.

    I like the sound and the feel (kinda cushy) of them.

    We have a recital about every two months so I make it a point to change them a week before every other recital.

  21. Will
    Will says:

    I’ve been using Dominant G, D (aluminum), and A with a Pirastro gold E string for a while now. I noticed that they come to a point where they quit stretching and don’t need to be tuned as often, but shortly after that they start unraveling (windings I suppose) and get a little “buzzy”.. It takes between 3 – 4 months, then they get “buzzy” and finally need to be replaced.

    I like the sound and the feel (kinda cushy) of them.

    We have a recital about every two months so I make it a point to change them a week before every other recital.

  22. Erika Mang
    Erika Mang says:

    The difference between a decent violin and a great violin is always with the strings or the bow. I would never use anything less than Parazzi, but I don’t tend to play on strings that aren’t gold wound or liver at bare minimum. The quality is easy to hear on any instrument, just spend the money!

  23. Mark Woodyatt
    Mark Woodyatt says:

    String choice, in my opinion, is quite subjective, as each violin is different.
    My personal favorites are Thomastik Solo Titanium, Dominant, Heliocore. I’ve found that the Kaplan Solutions Non-Whistling E-string compliments all of these sets very well, and responds the best to my rather thick finger-pads.

  24. Celia Levy
    Celia Levy says:

    So far I’ve always loved the D’Addario Zyex Medium Tension Violin Set Zyex Core Aluminum D because they always manage to stay in tune most times even though I’ve had to tune my strings a few times.

  25. Dianne Adkins
    Dianne Adkins says:

    Thomastik Dominant are my preferred strings as a professional. I use an Olive or God Pirastro E string. I recommend Thomastik Dominant strings to students intermediate and up.

  26. WonkyViolin
    WonkyViolin says:

    Well I purchased Corelli Vivace strings and Warchal strings. Not positive if I gave the Warchal enough break in time but did not like them on my violin. The Corelli’s are okay, but do not sound as good as the Obligatos. I’m thinking I’m wise to just stick with Obligatos and stop experimenting!! Now to save up the money. Sigh.

  27. Alec Damiano
    Alec Damiano says:

    As someone who plays both orchestral strings and electric strings (electric guitar, bass guitar), I often wonder how concepts from guitar strings would carry over to violin strings. For example, on one of my electric guitars, I use a set of Dean Markleys Blue Steel. Apparently these strings have been cryogenically frozen to alter the tone. I also had a set of Dean Markleys on one of my basses that had elliptical winding as opposed to round winding.

  28. Lanie Hubbard
    Lanie Hubbard says:

    I recently got my hands on my first violin, and I’m thrilled to start…but the instrument is about a hundred years old. Any suggestions to string/play it safely?

  29. Mark Woodyatt
    Mark Woodyatt says:

    Helpful article. For those who like the feel of Thomastik Dominant strings but want a longer lasting string with a little more punch, I highly recommend Thomastik Vision Titanium Solo strings. Another similar string but even brighter is the Thomastik Pi with the Platinum E-String. Too bright for my violin but it may be perfect for you. These two are the finest strings I have found, and I’ve tried most everything out there.

  30. Angie07
    Angie07 says:

    At the beginning I used pirastro chromecor but sometimes broke easily. I change to dominant and really like them. The only issue that I found was that they take more time to set in. But besides that I am very pleased.

  31. William Bickerstaff
    William Bickerstaff says:

    Because of the string mix I chose, I find that I have to order them individually rather than as a set. I like to stick with the aluminum wound D and A strings. They seem to be a bit warmer and darker than silver wound (at least that’s what my ears tell me).

  32. Musiciater
    Musiciater says:

    I love the Larsen Tzigane strings. I’ve tried many different types, including gut, which I disliked and don’t stay in tune well. I wasn’t aware that steel strings were the go to for fiddle players. I have had a lot of interest in getting the “fiddle sound” now that I’ve moved from classical to contemporary so I will definitely give the steel strings a go (as much as they make me cringe). I may need 2 violins….

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