Everyone is always asking, “What violin strings should I buy?” The thing is, that varies from player to player. Below I’ll be talking about several different brands/variations of strings from total beginner to professional grade. I’ll also tell you what strings I use. I went through several years and several types of strings before finally settling on what I use now. For advanced to professional players, so much of selecting strings depends on what sounds best on the violin being played. More on that below.
Violin String Types
Before we get into string brands, we should take a look at the three types of strings. For the throwback players (Baroque ensemble types) there are gut strings. These are not actually sheep intestines like in the 16th century. They are just as sonorous though. They are very long, take forever to “play in,” and don’t sound very loud. Also, they tend to stretch or contract according to the weather conditions.
Next, we have steel strings. These have a steel core and are very bright. Non-classical players love these strings because they almost never break, and they don’t need more expensive wound strings when playing under amplification. Most beginner violin strings are made of steel.
Finally, there are synthetic gut strings. These are more expensive and can have a wonderful effect on a violin’s sound. Generally, they have a synthetic gut core (a nylon or composite material), and are wrapped with aluminum, silver, or even gold (the gold E-string by Pirastro has a wonderful sound and squeaks all the freaking time).
Beginner Violin Strings
Similar to a beginner violin, strings do not have to be expensive. In fact, you will waste your money if you buy $100 strings for a $100 violin. That is what I call putting a bow tie on a pig. Some violin-buying tips can be found here. As for beginner and inexpensive strings, these are what I recommend.
Red Label strings are made by Super-Sensitive and are about as cheap as you get. Many public school teachers buy these strings in bulk because of the low price. I know I did. They are perfect for student instruments. Honestly, they do nothing to improve a violin’s sound, but they are fairly reliable and, did I mention, inexpensive (about $20 for a full set).
A nice alternative to Super-Sensitive are strings made by D’Addario. This company is mostly known for their guitar strings, and they make really good ones. Some advanced players stay away from these because of that, but no one should ignore them. The Prelude strings are very cheap (under $20 mostly), and are similar to Red Label. The Helicore and Pro-Arté strings are very good, and a great value at $30-$40. These strings can enhance a violin’s sound, making it warmer or clearer. Perfect for students using their first full-size violin.
The Industry Standard
If you ask a hundred violinists what string they use, more than fifty of them will say Dominant. These strings are made by Thomastik-Infeld in Austria, and they were the first to use a synthetic gut called Perlon in the 1970s. These strings work for everyone, and are reasonably priced for good strings ($60-$70). They give a violin a clear sound (but not too clear), a warm sound (but not too warm), and they are one of the most reliable strings out there. They “play-in” very quickly, last a long time, and rarely break (unless they are really old and worn).
Thomastik makes dozens of varieties of strings for those who want more customization in their sound. The Infeld Blue and Infeld Red give more clarity and more warmth respectively. The Vision series of strings are excellent as well. These include Vision, Vision Orchestra, Vision Titanium, and Vision Solo. See the string chart below for where these fall in terms of sound. I can tell you that the Vision and Vision Orchestra land in the mid-price square at under $60 usually. All in all, Thomastik makes excellent strings, and if you like this brand, you’ll find a string that fits your violin.
For Soloists and Professionals
If Dominant strings are a Toyota Camery (a great all-around car), these strings are a Porsche. They carry a high price to go along with their high performance. Evah Pirazzi strings by Pirastro are the most popular of the expensive strings. Believe it or not, at $80-$90, they are not the most expensive string out there. They are a great solo string, providing power, clarity, and a beautiful tone. I bought these strings for the first time about six years ago to bring clarity to my muffled violin sound and unfortunately fell in love with them.
A newcomer to the upscale string category are the Il Cannone strings by Larson. These have only been on the market for a few years, but they have made an impression. Named after Paganini’s violin, the “Il Cannone” Guarneri del Jesu, they offer clarity and power. Maybe not as refined as the Evah Pirazzis, they are still a great treat for any violinist looking to enhance their solo sound. They cost about the same as the Evahs too. I have used these a few times and have been very happy with them.
Additionally, there are two string sets I want to mention. First is the Obligato strings also by Pirastro. These strings have the same directness as the Evah Pirazzis, but with tremendous warmth. With tremendous warmth comes a tremendous price tag, about $100-$120 per set. These are also very popular with soloists. Finally, we have a set of gut strings by Pirastro called Eudoxa. All of the above strings are either steel (the cheaper ones) or synthetic gut wrapped with aluminum. These are pure gut strings, popular with Baroque string players. They give a very pleasant and warm sound without much power. They run about the same price as the Evah Pirazzis.
The Violin String Chart
One of my favorite places to buy supplies for my violin is Shar Music. I’ve been buying my stuff from them since I was 5-years-old (technically, my mom bought the stuff back then). They are terrific and have wonderful customer service. Quick story – my dog (now sadly deceased) peed on the bag for a music stand I bought from them. They asked me about my order and asked if I didn’t find something I was looking for. I said I need a replacement bag for my Peak music stand. They replied that they don’t sell the bags separately, but they had one laying around and would send it to me. Love it!
The image below is on the Shar website. It is an incredibly valuable tool for choosing strings. If you want a certain sound from your instrument, look at the chart and choose a string that works for you. You won’t be disappointed.
Thanks for reading. See you next time!