The Right Violin String for You
While there are many brands of strings, they fall into three general categories: Gut, steel core, and synthetic core. Which you choose depends on your instrument, technique, and the music you play. A good violin string shop should carry a wide selection of the best violin strings, and help you select the best for you.
Note: Since the terms “violin” and “fiddle” are equivalent, fiddle strings are exactly the same as violin strings.
Synthetic Core Strings
Constructed of various synthetic materials like nylon and composite fibers, synthetic-core strings’ complexity and tonal spectrum fall between gut and steel-core strings. They have much of the warmth and richness of gut, with the stability and durability of steel, which makes them the most popular type for bowed string players.
Even more recently developed are the composite core strings, which combine multiple materials to create denser, stronger strings that are highly resistant to humidity and temperature swings.
Gut strings were the only type available until the late 1800’s. The 17th century ushered in the process of wrapping a gut core with silver; today’s gut strings can be pure gut, or a gut core wrapped with silver or aluminum.
Not surprisingly, violinists playing Baroque and other historical styles prefer gut strings, whether pure, wrapped, or a combination. Gut strings typically provide a complex, rich sound with multiple overtones. However, they can be temperamental; they are the most susceptible to temperature and humidity fluctuations, vary substantially in response and volume, and they must be replaced more often than other strings.
Steel Core Strings
Thinner in diameter than gut or synthetic core strings, steel core strings produce a bright and sharply-focused tone, have a fast response, and maintain pitch extremely well. Their sound tends to cut through an ensemble, which makes them ideal for rock, country, jazz, and alternative players.
Often the preferred electric violin strings due to their brilliance, steel core strings are essential on electric instruments with magnetic pickups, since only steel strings have the magnetic properties necessary for sound transfer.