Violin Strings: the ultimate buying guide

with violin string comparison chart

Choosing the right violin strings can have a great impact on the sound your violin, the response and the feeling under your finger tips.

Violin String Comparison Chart

This violin string chart will save you a TON of money on strings that aren’t good fit

Hover over the violin string icons to see the brand and type. Click on the icons to buy them.

 

What violin strings to buy in 2022?

Bright violin strings have a brilliant, clean and crisp sound. Paired with a bright violin it could become shrill.

Warm violin strings have a deep and dark sound. Paired with a warm violin it could become muddy.

A clean sound is focussed like a laser beam, powerful and with fast response.

Complex sound seems to consist of different colors, rich, but it can also be cloudy.

The strings you choose depend on the sound character of your violin, the playability you’re looking for (higher or lower tension, thicker or thinner strings), the sound you’re looking for and your playing style. It’s a highly personal choice and often a result of lots of experimenting.

Frequently asked questions about violin strings

What difference do violin strings make?

Choosing the right violin strings makes a difference for:

  • The sound you make on your violin and complexity in sound colors
  • The feeling under your fingertips and whether it’s easy to press the string on the fingerboard
  • The response of the violin: fast or slow

Besides that there are different quality levels of violin strings. Some will be a little more expensive, but will last long. Cheap violin strings can snap early, loose their sound or become wobbly in intonation (as if playing in tune on the violin isn’t difficult enough as it is).

What are the best violin strings to buy?

Super Quick Buying Guide

No time to waste? Here’s a digest of what’s about to come in this article:

D’Addario Prelude are the warmest sounding affordable steel core violin strings out there.

Thomastik Dominants are the standard recommend by a lot of violin teachers (and used by Hilary Hahn).

Pirastro Evah Pirazzi violin strings are most used by professional violinists: soloist as well as orchestra members.

Basic facts about violin strings

The violin has for strings tuned in fifths. From low to high: G D A E. There are also 5 string violins, mostly electric, that have an extra lower C string. In this way you have the tuning of a violin and a viola on one instrument.

When to replace your violin strings?

Don’t wait until your string breaks. Then you’re often too late. Way before that the string already starts to waddle in pitch and loses their initial brilliant sound.

Watch my close up video on how to replace your violin strings right here.

Here’s a guideline to when to change your violin strings:

  • Play violin 1 hour a day: replace your violin strings every 6 to 12 months
  • Play violin 3 to 4 hours a day: replace your violin strings every 3 to 4 months
  • Are you a pro who plays all day? Change your strings every month.
  • Are you Ling Ling and do you practice 40 hours a day? Change your strings daily ;).

It all depends on how intensively you play, what the quality level of your violin strings is and how ‘picky’ you are as to the point your strings don’t sound as good anymore

What are violin strings made of?

The core of violin strings is synthetic, steel or gut. The winding is made out of a mix of materials like metal, aluminum, silver and/or gold. More on that below!

How much do violin strings cost?

A decent set of steel core violin strings, for example D’Addario Prelude, costs around $ 17. A good set of synthetic core violin strings, like Fiddlerman Strings, starts at $ 30 for a complete set. Professional level violin strings, like Pirastro Evah Pirazzi, start at $ 90 for a set. Gut core violin strings, like Pirastro Eudoxa, start around $ 100.

What are the most popular violin strings?

D’Addario Prelude and Super-Sensitive Red Label are the most popular affordable violin strings.

Thomastik Dominants are the most popular synthetic core violin strings amongst amateurs as well as professional violinists and soloists. Hilary Hahn plays Dominants.

Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Green are the most popular violin strings amongst professional violinists in orchestras over the world as well as soloists.

D’Addario Helicore is a popular choice amongst top fiddlers.

Do your strings turn grey and wear down quickly because of sweat?

Avoid aluminum strings and choose for silver wound violin strings instead.

How to Choose the Right Violin Strings for You?

The search for the right violin strings that match you, your violin and your bow can be endless. The enormous number of violin string brand and types can leave you overwhelmed and confused. Not to mention broke from buying violin strings that aren’t a good fit.

Some violinists use the same violin strings for decades. Other experiment all the time. Maybe you have bought your first violin and you’re replacing your strings for the first time.

This article will help you understand more about what violin strings are made of, the materials, string tension and tonal and playing qualities that should match you and your violin.

Are violin strings really made out of cat intestines?

The truth about gut core violin strings…

The name catgut is confusing. There are two explanations for the mix up.
Catgut is an abbreviation of the word cattle gut. Gut strings are made from sheep or goat intestines, in the past also from horse, mule or donkey intestines. Whatever was available if you were a budding 17th century fiddler.
Otherwise catgut could be from the word kitgut or kitstring. Kit meant fiddle, not kitten.
Gut core strings are the oldest type of violin strings, but they are certainly not outdated. A lot of violin players, certainly in the historically informed performance movement, play with gut strings. Usually they choose for the unwinded gut strings, like used in the past. Modern gut strings have a winding and are more similar to modern strings.

Pros of gut core violin strings:

  • Low tension and different winding method, so they are comfortable under your finger tips
  • Complex, often warm, tone that’s typical to gut
  • Rich with overtones

Cons of gut core violin strings:

  • Slow response
  • Need more tuning, especially if there are rapid changes in temperature or humidity
  • Not suitable for vegetarians or vegans

Click here to listen to modern gut strings compared to synthetic strings.

Interested to buy gut core violin strings? Here’s my top 4:

Pirastro Chorda are great pure gut strings with a warm sound for baroque instruments.

Pirastro Eudoxa have a beautiful warm sound and also come wrapped for a more modern string experience.

Pirastro Gold has a more neutral sound. The E string is very popular also combined with other strings.

Pirastro Passione are more brilliant gut strings with great tuning stability.

Steel core violin strings

In the beginning of the 20th century it became possible to make steel strings. Steel strings tend to have a quick response and a clear, focused, brilliant tone. Don’t expect a great deal of depth and tonal complexity from steel core violin strings

Pros of steel core violin strings:

  • Quick response
  • Focused bright tone
  • Good tuning stability
  • Relatively cheap
  • Great for fiddle music (bright sound)
  • Great for fractional (children’s) violin sizes as they bring out some more sound and are cheap

Cons of steel core violin strings:

  • The sound can be harsh, too bright with little tonal complexity, depth and warmth
  • They are often high tension and feel uncomfortable under your finger tips

There are plain steel, plated steel and wrapped/wounded steel core violin strings. Plated means there’s a layer of tin, gold or platinum. A lot of violinists like the sound of a gold plated E string as it has a brilliant and pure sound. Unfortunately gold is soft and wears down relatively quickly. Combined with the high price, you might choose a different material. Wrapping usually happens with chrome steel. This makes the strings a bit warmer sounding and slower in response.

Some great steel core violin strings to buy are:

D’Addario Prelude are the warmest sounding affordable steel core violin strings out there.

D’Addario Helicore is used by top fiddlers and has a brighter sound.

Thomastik Infeld Spirocore have a bit lower tension and warmer sound than many steel core strings.

Pirastro Piranito are one of the most affordable Pirastros with a bright sound and long durability. Ideal for school instruments.

Super-Sensitive Red Label are the industry standard of fiddlers and school instruments. They’re very affordable, durable and have a bright sound.

Synthetic core violin strings

40 Years ago Thomastik Dominant violin strings changed the world of violin strings and possibly violin playing in general. The advantages of synthetic strings is that they have the tuning stability and durability of steel strings, but the warm sound and nice finger tip feeling of gut strings. They have a sound with more depth and rich overtones than steel strings. They are the best of both worlds and are the strings that are most used today. However gut string adepts still claim that there’s nothing that beats gut in terms of sound complexity and overtones.

Thomastik Dominants are still the gold standards and used by Hilary Hahn and Anne Sophie Mutter. However, a lot changed in the last decades and there are a lot of synthetic core violin strings to choose from.

Pros of synthetic core violin strings

  • Rich sound colors
  • Low tension and flexible feeling under the finger tips
  • Great durability
  • Great tuning stability

Cons of synthetic core violin strings

  • More expensive generally than steel core strings
  • Gut string players will say they don’t come near the complexity of real gut

Great synthetic core violin strings to buy:

Pirastro Evah Pirazzi are the most popular violin strings amongst soloists and professional orchestra players. They have a bright sound, fast response and long durability.

If you want a more warmer tone, choose Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Golds.

Pirastro Obligato is a great choice if you want a warmer sound.

Pirastro Tonica are a great alternative to Thomastik Dominant violin strings. They sound a bit warmer.

D’Addario Zyex, the choice of Lindsey Stirling, are also a great alternative to Thomastik Dominants, a bit on the brighter side. The strings settle very fast and have a well rounded sound.

Fiddlerman strings are an affordable alternative to Thomastik Dominants: many can’t even hear the difference and they feel just as comfortable.

D’Addario Pro Arte are great strings if you’re looking for affordable strings with a warm tone.

Corelli Crystal are dark and warm sounding strings comparable to Pro Arte. They can be a bit dull, but work great on bright sounding instruments.

Larsen Tzigane have a big warm sound with large resonance and low tension.

Warchal Amber strings are also low tension, have a gut-like warm sound and feel very smooth under your finger tips. The E string is very interesting if you’re looking for a non-whistling E string.

Hi! I'm Zlata

Classical violinist helping you overcome technical struggles and play with feeling by improving your bow technique.

Choose the right string tension

Almost all violin strings are available in different tensions: light, medium and heavy. Lower tension strings are easier to press down to the fingerboard. Also you won’t get calluses or tired fingers as fast.

In general gut strings have a lower tension than synthetic or steel strings. Steel strings tend to have a high tension. Warm sounding synthetic core violin strings have a relatively low tension.

When you search to buy violin strings, start with medium. First search for the brand and type you love. Then experiment with higher or lower

String tension relates to the gauge (thickness) of the strings. Thinner, ‘weich’ or ‘dolce’ strings tend to be lower tensions. They sound brighter with a faster response, but have less volume. A thicker, ‘stark’ or ‘forte’ violin string gives you a darker tone with a slower response.

Gut strings in general are thicker and have a lower tension. The material behaves differently at the same tuning.

What are your favorite violin strings?

Share it in the comments below! I’d love to read what strings you all use.

2 Comments

  1. elisabeth latenstein

    Hi Zlata,
    Great to read some more about strings. I like to experiment about with them. My violin is on the warmer side. It came with PI’s but they sounded far to loud for my ears when practising. Vision Solo already improved this. Dominants were sounding extremely boring on it. But my latest strings change was to Charm. And this sounds great! Interesting sound, refined, and a comfortable volume for my ears. Good feeling below the fingers, nice and stable. Think I’ll stick to them for a while.

    Reply
    • Zlata

      Thanks for sharing, Elisabeth!

      Reply

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