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Choosing Strings: Types of Strings

Types of Strings

Synthetic-Core Strings are made from various types of synthetic materials, including nylon (from which perlon and stabilon are made) and composite fibers. They tend to produce a richer, fuller, and warmer tone quality than steel-core strings. They also generally have greater complexity and a wider spectrum of tone colors, and are capable of more subtle tonal effects than steel. Many have been developed to assimilate the desired warmth and feel of gut-core strings, but, unlike most gut strings, their pitch tends to stabilize fairly quickly after installation. Because of the above qualities, they are the most popular type of string for bowed string players. The volume and response of the strings can vary, depending on the instrument on which they are strung. Composite-Core Strings are synthetic-core strings representing the latest in advancing string technology. They are made with new types of synthetic materials combined in new ways to create denser, stronger strings that are immune to temperature and humidity changes.

Gut Strings provide warm, rich tone quality, and complex, colorful sound with the plentiful overtones produced when played. Gut strings come in either plain (pure) unwound gut, or as a gut-core string wound with metals. They come in various gauges and can vary greatly in volume and response, depending on the instrument they are strung on.

Steel-Core Strings are thinner in diameter than synthetic or gut strings. In general, they have a simple, bright, well-focused sound, a very quick response, and they maintain good pitch stability. The volume they produce depends on the instrument they are installed on. In general, they will give a well-adjusted instrument an edgy, thin, and cutting-through quality of sound. They are often used by string players who play jazz, country, bluegrass, rock, and alternative music.

Next Section: Synthetic Core Strings

Notes About Strings

  • The most popular strings are the mid-priced synthetic-core strings.
  • Using gut-core strings can warm up an instrument instantly; the Passione brand stabilize in pitch very quickly compared to other gut-core strings.
  • Players often start with the medium gauge or tension of strings (when offered a choice) to see how their instrument responds to the manufacturer's generally balanced tension, before experimenting with different gauges and tensions.
  • If you have remaining questions about which strings might be best for your instrument, please contact us and we will be happy to help!

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Additional Resources

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Johnson String Project

A charitable foundation whose goal is to provide high-quality instruments to children who live in under-served communities and who are participating in El-Sistema-inspired programs in Massachusetts.

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