Thoughts on Picking Strings for your Violin
I get asked many questions about strings. What kind should I buy? How often should I change them? How do I know when to change them?
If you are not sure what to look for, choosing strings can be a daunting task. There are many brands and types to choose from.
Here is some basic information.
There are 3 types of strings:
Gut core strings: These tend to be favored by classical violinists for their warmth of tone. They take some time to stretch and can slip out of tune easily with humidity and temperature changes. They are not as durable as other types of strings
Steel core strings: These are most often used by fiddlers. They are very bright. They tend to not have as long of a break in period as gut strings and generally stay in tune better with humidity and temperature changes. They are often recommended for students.
Synthetic core strings- These are the alternative to gut strings. They produce a warm tone but are more stable, not slipping out of tune as often as gut strings.
I do not claim to be an expert on strings. I’ve used the same ones my entire career since I received my full sized fiddle at age 11- Pirastro Chromcor. They are steel strings and inexpensive (about $30 per set). Despite the different types of strings I’ve tried, they have always worked best so far. These are the strings I recommend to students. Other popular strings used by fiddlers I know include D’Addario Helicore (steel) and Thomastic Dominant (synthetic).
I’m not consistent as to how often I change my strings. It depends on how often I am playing. I change them when they feel ‘dead’; meaning they don’t sound as good as they used to and it takes much more work to play. For me, my experience is that I need a lot more rosin when they have been on for too long. Ideally, I change my strings every 6-8 months, sometimes earlier, sometimes later. How often you need to change your strings depends on the type and how often you play. Gut strings tend not to last as long as steel strings.
When you are changing your strings, remember to only change one off at a time. DO NOT take them all off at once. Because of the loss of tension, this may cause the sound post to collapse.
It’s important to remember that different strings will sound different on different instruments. Depending on your experience as a player, you may want to experiment with different types and brands of strings. Ask around to find out the experience of other players with different types of strings. And of course, your local violin shop will have some good advice.