The single most influential factor (after skill and technique) of sound quality produced by a stringed instrument is your choice of strings. There is not a correct type of string for all players under all circumstances. Each string type has qualities that make it more appropriate for different situations (i.e. solo vs. orchestral performance; country vs. classical performance). Other factors such as cost, the player's individual preferences, and the way a particular string sounds on an individual instrument also come into play.
Thomastik Dominant 4/4 Size Violin 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.
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 end or a simple wire loop end at 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.
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Violin E-strings, and some viola A-strings, are offered with either a ball end or a loop end. There is no real difference in terms of sound production. The major factor determining whether a ball end or loop end string is needed is the fine tuner. If all four strings have fine tuners, and they are all the same, you likely will need a ball end E-string. A ball end E-string is also needed if the fine tuner has two prongs or a post with a slit in the center. If only the highest string has a fine tuner and it is shaped like a hook, you will need a loop end E-string.
Fine tuners are mechanisms attached to the tailpiece and assist tuning an instrument's strings to the correct pitch. Fine tuners are used for instrument strings made of steel. These strings react with large changes in pitch to very small changes in tension, and fine tuners are used to make these small changes in tension.
Plain Steel Core String:
Made from a strand of various alloys of steel wire, these instrument strings are generally wrapped in a thin metal winding. Steel strings tend to be long-lasting and are relatively unaffected by changes in temperature or humidity. Most violin E-strings are steel then plated with other metals. Some feature metallic winding 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 plain steel strings.
Rope Core Steel String:
Made with multiple strands of steel wound together like rope, these instrument strings have a warmer sound than plain steel strings and quicker response than strings with a synthetic or gut core. They are favored by fiddle players for country, Celtic, bluegrass and jazz as the tone tends to be bright and complex with an immediate response. Cellists and bassists often prefer rope core strings for their clear attack and responsiveness.
Gut Core Strings
Made of thin strands from sheep or lamb intestines, gut core strings typically have a richer, warmer sound than strings made of other materials. 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.
Synthetic Core String:
Made of a strand or strands of synthetic materials, synthetic strings are engineered to have the flexibility of natural gut, without the sensitivity to temperature and humidity. These strings are the most popular category of string for experienced string musicians. The most common core material used is perlon. Because of the material properties of synthetic core strings, sound quality can vary widely. When tuning synthetic core strings, they tend to stabilize rather quickly and become reliable in a matter of days instead of weeks like strings with a gut core.
In choosing orchestral instrument strings, you need to consider your musician's age and skill level, and the kind of use (school band, orchestra, etc.) to which they will put their strings. If for school, consulting with the band teacher is a good idea.
Whatever strings you select, The Woodwind & Brasswind's 45-Day Lowest Price Guarantee means that if you find the same strings advertised for less elsewhere, we'll make up the difference. When you buy your strings from The Woodwind & Brasswind, you can buy with complete confidence.*
*Strings are a non-returnable item.