Best Viola Strings Review in 2018

As a musician who has performed in a number of orchestras, I can tell you that the right viola strings can make a dramatic impact on the tone and intonation of a viola. The viola section is often the focus of jokes by other orchestral members for being an unwanted instrument due to the difficulty of keeping the instrument in tune, but you can serve as the exception to the rule with the right strings.

Value Section

Best Viola Strings

Choosing the right viola strings isn't a simple matter. With all the materials and specifications available for the many types of strings, it can be difficult to know what criteria are crucial to getting the right sound. These tips will ensure you're knowledgeable and able to make an intelligent decision about the best strings for your viola.

Selection

Know your preferred style of playing before selecting a good set of viola strings. If you're a

classical player, you won't want the same kind of strings as a bluegrass or jazz player. The strings create the timbre and technique that is needed to play the viola. To complicate matters further, you may need to mix different styles of strings on the same viola. For example, many violists will use two types of strings. One set for the lower C and G strings and another set for the A and D strings. It depends on the instrument's characteristics, the performer's playing preference and the particular goals of a piece of music.

Benefits

Having more than one set of viola strings available at your disposal makes it possible to play a variety of styles and customize your strings for each performance. In general, an orchestral player will tend to use the same set of viola strings for each performance. However, a soloist may need more control over their sound and the playing characteristics. This may result in the performer needing more than one type of string. Since strings are relatively inexpensive, it's not unrealistic to purchase several different styles and brand of strings to tailor that perfect viola sound. High-quality strings are also important because it saves you time replacing old strings.

Buying Criteria

There are a few good brands that you should seek out when purchasing your viola strings. Larsen, Spirocore, Jargar, Dominant and Evah Pirazzi. Since the best violists will use more than one type of string to replace individual strings, it's difficult to recommend one brand that will work on every string. Unfortunately, you'll likely have to try several brands in different combinations before you get the sound you want on your viola. There are some suggested sets you can purchase so that you can save a bit of money. These sets will include more than one brand of strings in a combination that matches the most commonly used sets on the market.

Gauge, Tension and Tone

It's important to understand string gauge, tension and the basic principles involved with installing strings. The gauge is the thickness of the string and the tension will determine the pitch and weight of the string. The combination of the gauge and the tension are often referred to as heavy, medium or light strings. Heavy gauge viola strings will have a high tension and thick mass, and it will give you the most volume. Light viola strings require less tension and are thinner. With a light string, the tone will be brighter. Medium viola strings are a compromise between heavy and light, and they produce the most balanced sound. The most commonly used string is the medium string. Start with a medium-grade string to decide what brand of string sounds best on your viola.

String Types and Combinations

Knowing how each string affects the tone of your viola can help you choose the right viola strings for your needs. If you want a basic and common string, go with synthetic-core viola strings. Gut-core strings are ready to play very quickly and will produce a consistent pitch. Steel-core strings are typically thin strings that have a bright sound, but you won't typically get a multi-layered or complex sound. They are great for the highest string on the viola since it will add some brightness to the upper register. The most common combination from the lowest to highest string uses Larsen strings on the bottom two strings and Spirocore Tungsten on the top strings.

Prerequisites

If you're planning on replacing viola strings to fix a problem with loose strings. Make sure the problem isn't with your pegs slipping first. In most cases, this is an easily corrected problem. If the issue is with your pegs, then buying new strings won't fix your problem. It's also important to learn how to properly tune your viola using a tuner. The tuner will ensure you get the right pitch, and it can prevent problems that could result from tightening your strings too much. This point needs to be stressed. Overtightening your strings could result in a broken bridge, string, scroll or even the neck of the viola.

If you don't have the right size viola for your needs, the strings won't matter. Check out this excellent video on choosing the right viola strings.

Five Best Viola STrings

Spirocore

Best Viola Strings

Purchase a set of Thomastik-Infeld Spirocore strings and you'll be in good company with string players around the world. Beginners and professionals alike all choose these strings as their preferred brand of strings. The beginning player should choose to purchase the entire set. An intermediate to an advanced player may choose a single Spirocore for use on the C-string.

The sound of these strings is bright and cutting. Because they are steel strings, they have a very quick response and are perfect for playing fast and light passages. A heavier string would make it more difficult to play effortlessly. The lower end of the instrument would benefit most from this string. The strings are robust and will last a long time. Steel strings are essential for the player who wants a reliable and cost-effective string.

These strings will play responsively whether you are playing arco or pizzicato. The strings will also vibrate longer, which can help improve the overall tone quality. Additionally, since the strings are steel-based, they have a long period of vibration to provide a full and evenly-balanced pitch. The core of these strings is based on an advanced technology that will help players to get a more responsive bowing, a long string life and some of the most stable tuning possible.

  • Set: Includes four strings in the set so you can get started right away
  • Strong: Steel strings won't break easily and you'll be able to enjoy greater tension
  • Sound: A balanced sound helps to cut through any ensemble and emit a full tone
  • Uses: Steel strings may not be suitable for every string on the viola, which means you may have extra strings
  • Sound: While full and balanced, these strings may result in the viola leaving some of its deep timbre
  • Vibration: Long lasting vibration could cause some issues in faster-paced music

Lars​​​​en

Best Viola Strings

If you're looking for a good standard string, Larsen strings really can't be beaten. You'll get a rich, full sound that projects well in the concert hall. These strings are cheaper than the Pirazzi's, but they compete remarkably well. These strings are most commonly found in the intermediate to advanced player's viola. Partly due to the affordability of the price and the excellent tone production, these strings work well in pairings with other strings.

Common pairings for Larsen strings include the Jargar, Spirocore and Dominant. Typically, the Larsen strings are used for the top strings since they provide a dominant and bright sound. Spirocore or Dominant C and G strings are often used in a pairing with Larsen. However, most viola players will reserve at least two adjacent Larsen strings. The main reason for this is because purchasing strings a la carte can quickly run up a high tab, and the benefits aren't really worthwhile.

This particular set is nice for its delicately balanced strings that help to bring out the unique characteristic sound of each string. The full set includes an all ball-end steel A string, an aluminum D-string, and synthetic G strings. The strings are all medium gauge, which is the ideal gauge to try out the brand. These strings will also work on a viola up to 16.5 inches, so they will work for a large number of players.

  • Gauge: Medium gauge strings offer a balanced, even tone
  • Versatility: The strings fit up to a 16.5-inch viola, making them extremely versatile
  • Set: The complete set includes a carefully constructed collection usable right out of the box
  • Timbre: Using the same type of strings on a single viola is uncommon
  • A-String: The top string tends to be overly bright
  • Cost: Purchasing as a set isn't cost-effective if you plan to substitute other brands

Dominant and Jargar

Best Viola Strings

This set is a great option for violists who want to try out a combination. The inclusion of three lower Dominant strings and one high Jargar A-string offers an ideal complement of strings for the violist that wants a dense and powerful sound. Jargar strings are bright and able to maintain their tone for long periods of time, and they also tend to run more expensive than a Dominant string. The Dominant strings are more affordable, but they still provide a consistent and balanced timbre.

The strings use a synthetic core, which helps to keep the cost down while maintaining a quality sound. When it comes to synthetic core strings, Dominants wrote the book on the topic with the creation of the very first strings that were manufactured with a synthetic core. This makes the company well-positioned as one of the authority manufacturers on synthetic-core strings. Other companies are often measured against the quality of Dominants product line for this reason.

These strings are great when you need a string that is flexible and able to meet the demands of orchestral workhorse repertoire. The pitch tends to be very warm and stable, which is ideal for a middle orchestra instrument. While the sound may not work for a musician who needs to perform as a soloist, it works great for ensemble playing. The strings are really designed for the intermediate player or the professional who needs a reliable string for less intensive performances.

  • Pioneering: Dominant strings were the first to use synthetic cores
  • Sound: A warm and rich sound is produced by the Dominant D, G, and C strings
  • Mixed Set: Includes a Jargar A-string for a brighter and more vibrant sound
  • Cost: These strings are more costly, but the reliability and flexibility pay off over time
  • Synthetic: While synthetic cores are commonly used, they don't provide the absolute best sound
  • Professionalism: These strings are very good for a beginner or intermediate, but may not work for a professional

Dominant

Best Viola Strings

For the purist, a complete set of Dominant strings can help you save a bit of money. You'll get a full set of strings that are carefully balanced to provide a uniform sound with a slightly brighter A-string. The A-string uses a ball-end design, which is pretty common throughout the industry. The strings are also suitable for violas up to 16.5 inches, so these strings will work with a wide number of instruments. The strings are also of a medium gauge, which will give you a good balance of tone.

If you own a cheaper viola, these strings will make you think you purchased an entirely new instrument. You'll get a deep, rich and powerful sound that will make you the envy of the orchestra. While these aren't considered professional strings, they are perfect for the performer who wants a solid string that will perform well in ensemble playing. Even the professional will sometimes turn to Dominant strings to get a brighter sound when needed.

While the sound of these strings is usually cited as one of the main reasons to purchase them, they are also highly reliable. They tend to last twice as long as the more expensive strings, and they will provide a fast response that isn't always possible with the higher-end strings. These viola strings produce a nice ring that will help to project the sound of the viola. While the professional may want to switch strings for a major performance, these strings offer a great string for developing technique and general playing.

  • Quality: Dominant strings have a long-life
  • Cost: Affordable strings that will work perfectly for most ensemble playing
  • Set: Complete set of Dominant strings will provide an even sound throughout the range
  • Intermediate: These strings are suitable for intermediate players and may not work for a professional
  • Lackluster: While the strings are solid, there isn't enough to make them stand out from other high-quality brands
  • Options: Since the strings come as a set, it's more costly to mix and match with other brands

Pirastro Passione

Best Viola Strings

For the price, these strings offer one of the best options for a professional violist. They aren't much more expensive than the lower-quality Dominant brand, and they use premium materials that have a direct impact on the overall sound. These are medium-grade strings, so you'll get a string that is suitable for a wide variety of styles. The sound quality is noticeably better than other brands, and you'll likely find yourself itching to practice.

One of the great features of these strings revolves around the use of a gut-core. These cores provide one of the best timbres, but they also are notoriously finicky. The company has managed to provide a stable gut-core that is more resistant to environmental temperature and humidity changes. The strings offer a multi-layered sound that is dense and complex. These strings will provide one of the best sounds you can get out of your viola, and they aren't much more expensive than other inferior brands.

These strings are ideal for the performer who wants to maintain a consistent tone and pitch throughout a performance. Synthetic strings are often preferred in certain volatile climates because they resist changes in pitch and intonation more readily. These gut-core strings are engineered in a way that addresses these problems so that you can worry about performing without fiddling around.

  • Professional: High-quality strings are made with a sheep gut core
  • Stable: The core has been stabilized using advanced engineering to address traditional gut core limitations
  • Aluminum: Gut core is wound in aluminum for a lightweight string with good response
  • Cost: Pricier than some of the other available brands
  • Durability: Won't last as long as steel-core strings
  • Response: Not as responsive as synethetic or steel-core strings

Conclusion

When it comes to viola strings, the choice for your instrument is highly personal. However, given the reasonable cost of the Pirastro strings, we recommend you purchase a set to try them out. The strings will provide you with an exceptional sound that resists environmental changes. Regardless of the quality of the viola, these strings will improve the sound. Lower-quality brands may last a bit longer, but the materials on lower-quality brands will also reduce the overall tone. This is a complete set of strings that will give you a full and robust sound throughout the registers. You'll enjoy a deep, rich timbre. These strings are suitable for the intermediate through the professional player, and they are affordable enough to make replacements less of a concern.

Stephanie Su
 

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