Violin Strings Overview
What are violin strings made out of? Violin strings are made out of three main materials: synthetic, steel and gut. Although violin strings once were made solely of gut (from sheep intestines), all-gut strings are rarely used today (they're expensive and rapidly go out-of-tune). Differences between various types of strings are briefly described below.
Synthetic Core These strings are designed to replicate the rich sound of gut strings, and feature a warm, bright tone without requiring the frequent tuning of gut-core strings. Synthetic-core violin strings use a core made out of a durable synthetic product such as Perlon, Kevlar or other composites, and are wrapped with metals such as aluminum or silver. Brands such as Thomastik’s Dominant strings were the first synthetic string made, and still enjoy wide popularity. If you buy a set of synthetic core strings, most of these sets include a steel violin E string. View Synthetic strings.
Steel Core Steel-core violin strings are often described as having a bright, loud and direct sound, and many fiddlers and jazz violinists prefer steel strings. These strings are thinner in diameter than synthetic-core or gut-core strings, and are wound with various metals such as nickel, silver, titanium or steel. Steel-core strings remain in tune better than other strings because the steel core isn’t impacted by humidity and temperature the way gut-core or synthetic-core strings are. For this reason, steel strings are often used for young violinists (brands such as Super-Sensitive Red Label are popular inexpensive options).View Steel strings.
Steel E strings Most violinists use a steel E string in combination with synthetic-core or gut-core for their other strings. The three main types of E strings are: plain steel, plated steel and wrapped steel. Popular brands include Pirastro’s Gold’s E ( tin-plated carbon steel E), and Optima’s Goldbrokat Steel E (Optima acquired Lenzner). The Goldbrokat Steel E now comes in several versions: the original plain steel with no plating or wrapping (used by Heifitz), and a few other versions such as a premium steel, brass-plated E, and gold-plated E. Beginners sometimes favor wound E strings because they don't whistle as much. Examples include Thomastik's Dominant Wound E (aluminum wound over a steel core).
Gut strings Gut violin strings have a rich, warm sound and come in either plain, unwound gut (often used for Baroque instruments), or as a gut-core string wound with metals such as aluminum or silver. Gut-core strings are not as durable as steel or synthetic-core strings, and since they’re more sensitive to humidity and temperature changes, they often require more frequent tuning than other brands of strings. Most gut-core violin “sets” include a steel E string (G, D and A in these sets are gut-core). Popular brands include Pirastro’s Gold Label and Passione. For early music musicians or those playing Baroque instruments, plain, unwound gut strings are also available such as Pirastro’s Chorda (which does include a gut E in their violin set). View Gut strings.
What’s the difference between an E string with a ball end or loop end? Ball end strings require a fine tuner with two prongs, and loop end strings are designed for one prong tuners, but often can be used with both one and two prong fine tuners. You may want to check to see how your violin is currently strung before ordering an E string. Although some E strings have removable balls, it would be safest to order the E string ending designed for your fine tuner. There also are ball-end adapters which enable ball end strings to be used with single prong tuners.
The violin strings listed on this page feature some of the most popular brands (additional brands are available). Strings may be purchased in sets containing all 4 strings or as individual strings, and most of the strings listed are for 4/4 full-size instruments. If you're a beginner and your violin did not come with fine tuners on every string, you may want to consider adding fine tuners to your violin tailpiece to assist in tuning.