Many 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
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
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
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
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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