There are several aspects you have to take into consideration when choosing your strings, amongst which the most important are your playing style and the instrument’s qualities. In the end, however, it all depends on the sound you want to hear.
Usually, the luthier that made your electric violin is able to tell you which strings are optimal for your instrument. It is best to follow this advice.
Keep in mind that not all string types are compatible with all pickups: for example an electromagnetic pickup can only be played with metal strings!
Violin players can choose from three types of strings: synthetic-core strings, all-metal strings and gut-core strings. We cover the three types here, but don’t forget the compatibility issues.
Synthetic-core strings are usually made from perlon (nylon) and they are actually substitutes for the gut-core strings.
Although not providing the same sound as the gut-core ones, synthetic-core strings have a good, clean sound and are easy to play providing quick response. After installation, these strings will usually take a day or two to stabilize completely.
- Thomastic Dominant.
Probably the most popular synthetic-core strings out there, Dominant strings have a bright sound and are very responsive.
- Pirastro Tonica.
Brilliant sound, rich overtones, they tend to have a long life and quickly stabilize once they are installed.
- Corelli Crystal.
Warm, full sound, the Crystal strings are fit for instruments with a bright sound.
- Corelli Alliance.
Better sound than the Corelly Crystal stings, very well-priced, they have a kevlar core. They provide richness and complexity to the sound and are known to have a longer life than most of the other synthetic-core strings.
All-metal strings or steel-core strings have simple sound, well-focused, less complex than that of the synthetic-core strings, but much more powerful. They provide very quick response.
However, these strings will provide a very low level of complexity to your music. Metal strings are usually preferred by country, folk and jazz musicians who are looking for a clean, simple and loud sound.
Here are some of the most popular all-metal strings:
- Thomastic Spirocore.
Provide a bright sound. Spirocore bass strings are usually used by musicians who play pizzicato.
- Thomastik Ropecore.
These strings are recommended by Zeta for their electric violins. They offer a warm, dark sound that might not sound so good on some instruments.
- Pirastro Chromcor.
A bright sound mainly recommended to students who don’t own an expensive instrument.
- D’Addario Helicore.
Very good for electric violins with a clean, warm sound matching that of the synthetic-core strings.
These strings have been around for many years now and they are preffered by many musicians as they provide a very warm sound, brighter than most all-metal strings.
As expected, the gut-core strings provide the best sound out there in terms of richness and subtlety. The complexity of the sound cannot be compared to that of the all-metal steel and is definitely higher than that of the synthetic-core strings.
They’re usually preferred by classical professional musicians looking for a warm sound with rich overtones.
However, these strings are sensible to changes in temperature and take about a week to stabilize after installation.
They are easy to snap and are more expensive than the other ones. Gut strings are probably rarely used for electric violins.
Some of the most popular gut strings include:
- Pirastro Olive.
Premium strings providing a very complex sound with rich overtones and fast response.
- Pirastro Eudoxa.
These strings were very popular before synthetic-core strings were introduced. They provide a warm sound and slower response than the synthetic-core strings.
Changing violin strings
Another aspect you should really look at is the frequency of changing your strings. It is recommended that you do it at least every 6-8 months if you really want to have the best sound your violin can give.
If you want to change all the strings on your violin the best way to do it is to progressively remove the old ones and install the new ones.
Do not remove all the old strings at once as you risk losing your soundpost due to the lack of tension. You might also cause the bridge to move from its correct position.
So the best way to change your strings is to remove one a time and to change it while the others are still up to pitch. Do not tighten the string to much.
This is the theory. The only way to really find out which type of strings really works with your instrument is to try them all out.