Master Hand Violin Shop

  • 546 S Main W Street
  • Broadway, VA 22815
  • 630/ 292-2641

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  • By Appointment Only
  • Owner

    Elizabeth Ecklund

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    A Brief Overview of Different Brands of Strings

    String Theory Part 3

    By Diane Bruce

    In part 1 of our String Theory series, we discussed how to change strings; in part 2, we discussed how to narrow down appropriate string choices based on the string core. In this, the third and final installation of String Theory, we will discuss some very basic differences among some of the most popular brands of strings. Hopefully, by the end of this series, you will be able to select strings for your instrument and string it up by yourself.

    Steel Core Strings (Longest Life Span)

    D'addario Helicore -- These are a decent, entry level string. They are brighter than Red Label and work well on softer sounding student level instruments.

    Jargar -- Many advanced violists and cellists like these strings for their boldness and nice tone. Unfortunately, there are limited amounts of these strings produced, and they can be challenging to obtain at the wrong time of the year.

    Pirastro Flexicor -- These strings are exclusively made for bass. These high end strings give basses a deep, gritty, and well projected sound when bowed.

    SuperSensitive Red Label -- These are a nice, entry level string. They are not as bright as Helicore, and thus tend to work very well on bright, student level German instruments.

    Thomastik Spirocore -- This string, particularly the tungsten wrapped C or G, is loved by advanced cellists and bassists who are looking for rich power in their instruments. For a sweeter tone, these are frequently used in silver wrapped G & C's with Larsen A & D's.

    Gut Core Strings (Shortest Life Span)

    Kaplan Golden Spiral -- These are moderate grade gut strings. They have a medium to sweet tone and work well on instruments from the late 1800's/early 1900's.

    Pirastro Gold Label -- These are advancing level gut strings. They work well on bright instruments, and the gold wound E adds volume.

    Pirastro Eudoxa -- For a long time, many considered these among the best gut strings available, although there are many competitors now. These are a very sweet sounding string. These strings work very well on older instruments that have no tendency towards dullness.

    Pirastro Oliv -- These are a top level gut string, which, similarly to Eudoxa, sweetens the sound of the instrument. These are brighter and more responsive than Eudoxa, especially with the powerful, gold wrapped E. They work very well on instruments that are already fairly bold.

    Synthetic Strings (Medium Life Span)

    Larsen -- These are many cellists' go-to string, especially as an A & D. They are sweeter than many of the steel core strings frequently used on viola and cello, but consequently are not as bold. These work best on bold instruments.

    Pirastro Evah Pirazzi -- This high end synthetic string has become many players favorite string. It brightens instruments and helps older instruments project very well. It can be too much for naturally bright and commanding instruments, but instruments with average projection usually benefit.

    Pirastro Obligato -- This high end synthetic string has a composite core (rather than perlon) and has a more mellow, sweet gut sound to it than Evah Pirazzi. Obligatos are good on bright sounding instruments, particularly many German instruments from around 1900. Note that these strings are long lived.

    Pirastro Tonica -- These strings are Pirastro's answer to Dominant. They have been recently reformulated to be similar to a Evah Pirazzi at a cheaper price. On most instruments, they are brighter than Dominant, but some people find them warm.

    Thomastik Dominant -- The original synthetic string. This string is a good first string if you are looking for a moderate tone and haven't started experimenting with strings yet. Note that these strings have a shorter life span than many synthetic strings.

    Thomastic Infeld Red/Blue -- These are similar to Dominant strings, except that the Red strings are warmer and the Blue strings are brighter. These two strings are only very subtly different from each other and work well on most instruments.

    Thomastik Peter Infeld (Pi) -- As Thomastik's newly launched answer to Pirastro's Evah Pirazzi, this is a high end, very bright and responsive string. It works well on older, dull instruments, but it can be over-powering on brighter instruments.

    Thomastik Vision -- These strings are also similar to Dominant strings, except that they are brighter and add more projection power to the instrument. These would also make a good starting point string.


    There are several other strings on the market that we have not covered today. If you have interest in discussing other strings, please feel free to leave a comment below. And as always, the above comments are just guidelines we have found in our experience with several different strings and instruments. It is impossible to know how a string will sound every time on every instrument, and there are always surprises. On my personal violin, Dominant sounded better than Evah Pirazzi - go figure!


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