Expert Opinions on
COVERED GUT STRINGS
The type of string that you use on your Violin, Viola, Cello or Double bass is one of the most important decisions you can make. It is the kind of string you use which dictates, to a large degree, the kind of sound you can expect. While using the best string in the world will not turn a £80 fiddle into a billion pound Stradivarius, using a good and well chosen string will help you maximize your instruments potential; tailor your sound to the genre of music you prefer; and lift your playing onto a different level.
There is a bewildering array of makers, materials and criteria to choose from and sometimes it seems almost impossible to sort out the marketing blurb from accurate feedback. This guide is intended to help you both sort out the basic differences and attributes of each type of string; and provide a professional and impartial appraisal of each string and its performance. All information is based both on our own years of experience with these strings, and the professional opinion of many of the finest players. We also welcome any additional feedback from the public, on any string, and will publish reviews of these products on this website.
TYPES OF STRINGS
STEEL The steel string is suitable for the following: traditional players; country, folk and pop music; and for classical students. There are many makes of steel string - some better than others. The advantage of the steel string is its durability, volume and brightness. The disadvantage is its hardness, lacking the warmth of gut and synthetic strings. It is suitable for traditional and folk, (for which neither gut nor synthetic would be recommended) because it stands up to the repetitive first position playing of these genres.
Steel strings have an immediacy, projecting brightly and loudly into an intimate space around the player, suitable for sessions and jams, for playing in a pub or room or for amplifying by pick-up or microphone.
Classical students, up to (roughly) grade three or four also find a good set of steel strings suitable, as they will extract volume from smaller sized instruments, are a good value choice and stand up to a lot of wear and tear, being easier to tune and less temperamental than the other types available.
Some makes of steel string, (see below), are used even by advanced or professional classical players, although synthetic / gut strings are more popular.
Steel stings are used with low bridge for an easy action, and four adjusters on the tailpiece for tuning.
TYPES OF STEEL STRINGS
Astrea Steel Strings (beginners) The Astrea string is a good choice for the very beginning student, especially for use on 1/16-1/2 violins, or ½ size cellos. They give a clear bright sound and are very hardwearing. They are suitable for beginners-grade one and an affordable option for student basses. (Violin/Cello/Bass)
Thomastik Steel Strings (beginners to advanced)
Thomastik make a range of steel strings, suitable for beginners to professionals and are among the most popular and highly regarded strings in the world.
Their models include:
Pirastro Steel Strings
Pirastro are perhaps best known for their
synthetic and gut models but their steel strings are also
extremely well made, popular with classical, intermediate
students and professional traditional/folk players:
In many ways a new player on the scene, larson
strings have taken off in a big way in the last two years.
Best known for their cello strings, which are available in standard or Tungsten, the larson sting is also available for Violin and Viola, and new ranges include the GOLD E sting for Violin. Strong Cello A's are also available.
These strings have a warm, powerful sound with great depth of tone and are extremely popular as both orchestral and soloist strings.
Daddario Steel Strings
The most useful of the Daddario Steel
strings is the Helicore set, a very popular choice with classical
intermediate students. They are also used by some traditional
players, and combine a warm and clear sound, with a bright,
The Helicore for Cello is an excellent steel cello string, and increasingly popular for advanced students and orchestral use. The Helicore Double Bass set is used by classical students, orchestras and jazz players alike and is available in solist tuning as well as standard.
Jargar Steel Strings
Jargar make a very reliable, pleasant string, suitable for intermediate classical violin and viola students and their Cello strings are very popular for orchestral cello. Their Double bass strings are a very popular intermediate level choice for orchestral playing. The Jargar range are hard to beat for a well-priced string, their cello range being perhaps their most popular.
Prim Steel strings
The Prim violin string is also a very reliable steel string, suitable for the intermediate level player and their cello set is sought after as a well- balanced pleasant student string. (Violin/Cello)
TYPES OF SYNTHETIC STRINGS
A synthetic string is a wound string over a manufactured core; it combines the sound quality of gut with the durability of steel, and are usually priced between the two. It is therefore a good option for intermediate to advanced students who need the tone and sound but cant afford the delicate, expensive gut strings. They are also popular with professional players seeking reliability alongside tone; this is especially true of the new generation strings, with special materials and new manufacturing techniques helping to improve their performance. Many can be used either with adjusters or without, and are therefore comparatively easy to tune
Thomastik Synthetic String
There are several excellent sets of
synthetic strings from Thomastik; like their steel strings, they
are world famous.
Pirastro Synthetic Strings
Pirastro do several ranges of synthetic strings, all of them very well regarded and many used as mixes with the covered gut range. They include:
Corelli Synthetic Strings a popular synthetic string, not in the league of the Pirastro synthetic but a reasonably good version from the makers of Savarez.....these are popular mainly with intermediate level students rather than professionals as they can be slightly weak or thin in sound, lacking the rounded upper register of the Pirastro or the dark/bright highlights of the Thomastik Infeld.
COVERED GUT STRINGS
Covered gut Strings are the province of
the classical professional, along
with some of the sets above. The Pirastro Eudoxa Covered
Gut and Olive Covered Gut sets are the
two most famous and well-liked sets. The Eudoxa set is a
favourite of both advanced students, and professionals; while the
Olive set, is used by professional players mainly.
These strings should not be used with adjusters; and require a higher bridge: on the one hand they are delicate and require the instrument to be extremely well set up, and should be stored and used at a stable room temperature; on the other hand, they are the epitome of classical sound, and few synthetic varieties can really compare to this.
They are designed to project sound in a wider radius than the steel; newcomers to covered gut strings sometimes complain that they are quieter or have less power than their steel or synthetic counterparts. This is largely an illusion. The steel string player will sound very powerful to their own ears and to the audience surrounding them but the classical covered gut user will project sound and tone to the back of a large concert hall.
The above strings are by no means the only options available but are generally considered the best in their price range and class.
How to choose STRINGS FOR GUITAR, MANDOLIN, MANDOLA, BOUZOUKI, and UKULELE
There are a great many choices available
in strings for guitars, mandolins, mandola, bouzoukis, and
ukuleles. Listed below is merely a sampling of the most popular
and well-known ranges.
Guitar players can choose between an almost bewildering array;
Darco a cheap but useful brand, reliable and clear toned for steel and classical
Dean Markley ..a warm country sound, steel string and a bright toned classical string
Martin ..the single most popular medium-price range steel string available, extra light to medium gauge. The Martin SPs are an up-graded version of the standard Martin set; they give a good warm sound, with good tone, although this effect isnt long lasting enough for professional use. The Martin range also includes Silk & Steel, a very popular folk guitar (steel) set and their 12-string brand, a very reliable choice.
Ernie ball Slinkies a great electro acoustic steel string, with a vibrant tone.
Daddario .Steel and classical strings a very well regarded range with excellent tone and volume. The classical strings are the most popular in the medium price range. Their 12-string set in phosphorus bronze is extremely popular.
Thomastik .The classic N Thomastik ranges, while very competitively priced are a very popular set with a classic tone and good projection The Fiametta Jazz String is a world-wide favorite, one of the best available, and perennially popular The Spectrum is the round wound steel set, a professional level, warm and lively sound with great tonal depth and projection. The Plectrum is the renowned flat wound steel string, the professionals favorite; with an easy to play quality unrivalled by any other make, the plectrum flat-wound string has been top of the league for many, many years. Its long lasting clarity of tone and intonation married to its quality sound, will ensure its popularity for years to come
Mandolin, Mandola, Bouzouki and Ukulele sets include:
Martin , Darco, Daddario and Dean
Markley Mandolin sets- all very reliable and well-liked medium
price range sets, the most popular being the Martin and Daddario
Thomastik Mandolin sets (Ball and Loop end) are the most popular professional level set, and are famous for both their tonal quality and the fact that they retain their quality of sound for a long time. Jimmy Moon custom made Mandolin sets are also popular with professionals. Both makes are equally well liked for their Bouzouki and Mandola sets.
Daddario Bouzouki sets are a good quality alternative to the Jimmy Moon sets (above) and are popular as a hardwearing but pleasant string.
Both Mari and Roma (German) Ukulele strings combine a very good value price with a clear and pleasant sound, the Roma having more depth and warmth of tone.
Pricelist for Strings