Sunday, May 13, 2007

Buying Guide for Choosing Strings

Buying Guide for Choosing Strings


Strings for violins, violas and cellos can be identified by the silk windings at the peg and tailpiece ends. Most strings, other than the E-string on a violin, are produced with a “ball-end” at the tailpiece end. This ball-end slips down through the appropriate hole in the tailpiece so that when the body of the string is slid up into the slot, the ball prevents the end of the string from coming through.

Because the sound produced by a string is a complex interrelationship between string length, string mass, tension and material used, fractional size instruments should be strung with strings specifically designed for that size instrument. Using strings designed for other size instruments will not produce a desirable result.

On a violin, the E-string usually is offered with either the ball-end or a simple wire loop-end at the tailpiece end. Nearly all E-strings are steel and react with large changes in pitch to very little change in string tension. For this reason, most instruments have a mechanical fine tuner mechanism attached to the tailpiece to accomplish the small changes in tension needed.

On a viola, the A-string is occasionally offered with either the ball endor a simple wire loop endat the tailpiece end. Some viola A-strings are steel, and react with large changes in pitch to very little change in string tension. For this reason, some instruments have a mechanical fine tuner mechanism attached to the tailpiece to accomplish the small changes in tension needed.

Fine Tuners

Where the string attaches to the fine tuner is one of two designs:

* A simple round shaft or hook over which the simple loop would be placed, or…
* Two vertical prongs between which the string winding is placed with the ball preventing the string from coming through.

The following categories are a general guide to initial string selection. The player is encouraged to experiment with different strings to find the one that is best for them.

Gut Core String – Made of thin strands from sheep or lamb intestines, they typically have a richer, warmer sound than other strings. They also respond slower and take longer to stretch and stabilize when replaced. Gut Core strings are sensitive to temperature and humidity changes and require special care and attention. Most modern gut core strings are wrapped in a thin metallic winding to improve playability and increase their life expectancy. Because of the amount of stretch needed to change the intonation of the string, fine tuners at the tailpiece are not used. Most of the time, Gut Core strings are used by pro’s looking for a very specific sound. They are usually 3 times the cost of Synthetic Core strings and commonly have about 1/3 the lifespan.


Synthetic Core String - made of a strand or strands of synthetic materials that are engineered to have the flexibility of natural gut without the sensitivity to temperature and humidity, these strings are used by 99% of the more experienced players. The most common core material used is Perlon. Most modern gut core strings are wrapped in a thin metallic winding to improve playability and increase their life expectancy. Because of the material properties of Synthetic Core strings, sound quality can vary widely. Tuning wise, they tend to stabilize rather quickly and become reliable in a matter of days instead if weeks. (Like Gut Core)


Steel Core String – Made from a strand or strands of various alloys of steel wire, these strings are generally wrapped in a thin metallic winding on the lower strings on a violin. They are favored by “fiddle players” as the tone tends to be simple and bright, and response is nearly immediate. Steel strings tend to be long lasting and are relatively unaffected by changes in temperature or humidity. Most violin E-strings are steel with various coatings or metallic wrappings occasionally used to tone down the inherent tendency to hiss as well as produce a defined tone. Steel strings tend to be lower priced due to the materials and manufacturing methods used and are recommended for beginners due to their price and stability. Fine tuners at the tailpiece are a necessity because of the lack of stretch in steel strings.

Buy Violin Strings