Your violin strings influence the sound that your violin is able to produce. Although they aren’t solely responsible for the resonance, projection, and playability of your particular violin, they do influence those qualities in very specific ways. Many times, a great set of strings combined with a careful professional set up can make your instrument sound completely different. New strings won’t actually make a bad instrument sound good, but they can transform a quality model violin, making it sound superb.
For beginner violin students, choosing the best set of violin strings can be a little confusing. Three different attributes influence the type of sound and playing characteristics a set of string has, and consequently, the responsive and tonal qualities you’ll achieve on your violin. The design of the core material, gauge (thickness), and tension characteristics effect the qualities of the string itself. And, knowing how to distinguish which types work best for your playing preferences will help you sound your best.
In addition to the sound and responsiveness of your violin strings, the type of string you play with will sound different on different instruments. For example, if your friend owns a different model violin, then the strings on his instrument won’t sound the same on yours. Much of the sound quality you’re able to produce comes from the instrument itself, but the right set of strings has the power to enhance all the best features of your particular violin. These three tips will help beginner violin students make the best string selection.
1. Understand String Basics before You Buy
You don’t want to waste your money, so knowing how the different string traits influence the sound you want to create will help prevent choosing strings that you don’t like. The basic attributes include:
Core Material—this material can be gut, steel, or synthetic nylon. Each type of core impacts the tonal quality of the string. Since the first string instruments all had gut strings, made from sheep intestine, they deliver the classically evocative, warm tones, widely associated with the violin family of instruments. Later, the gut was wound with some type of metal to increase the pitch possibilities and longevity. Steel strings were a revelation for their ability to resist climate changes and retain their tune for longer periods of time, but the sound produced by steel core strings have more brilliant tones. Innovation has now produced synthetic core strings, and because they combine many of the best characteristics of steel and gut, they are the preference of many beginner violin students.
Gauge—the gauge of the string is its actual thickness. It influences the tone in a specific way. Thicker strings deliver more robust volume, but are less responsive. This means that they require more pressure to depress the string on the fingerboard and a heavier bowing stroke to set them singing. Thinner violin strings will have a more responsiveness, but less projection. Beginner violin students often benefit from medium gauge strings.
Tension—the tension of the string refers to (what is wire tension). This has a big impact on the tonal qualities produced. Higher tension creates brighter tones, while low tension has more warmth. Steel core strings tune best with higher tensions, which is why many violinists use a steel core E String.
2. Know Which String Will Match Your Style
Although beginner violin students are still learning the basics, most students know which type of music they want to pursue. The type of strings you use will eventually depend on the type of music you want to play. For example, Country and Jazz style violinists typically choose steel core strings for their brighter tones, while chamber musicians choose gut or synthetic core for the mellow, rich sounds they produce.
Beginner violin students do very well using synthetic core strings. The combination of warmth, projection, and responsiveness make them a joy to play. Moreover, after a small adjustment period, synthetic core strings retain their tune longer and are less susceptible to environmental changes.
3. Purchase the Strings you Love
Your instrument will influence the strings you choose, so pick a set or a combination of strings that sound the way you want them to sound. It may take some time. First, try a set of Alphayue strings made by Thomastik-Infeld. These strings are affordable (around $20) and are perfect for beginner violin students because they offer great playability, volume, and tone. In fact, just changing from steel to this set can have an incredible impact on your tonal quality.
Buying the right set of strings for your violin just takes a little practice. As you make progress, you may want to experiment with different string type combinations in order to customize your individual sound.