Which viola strings are best?
The viola is an integral part of the string section in an orchestra, with its distinct tonal character compared to its smaller cousin, the violin. As with all stringed instruments, a good set of strings makes a big difference in terms of sound and playability. This results in an all-around better experience for both the viola player and the listener. Strings need changing, often due to breakage and gradual wear. It’s a good idea to keep a ready supply of high-quality strings like the Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Gold close at hand.
What to know before you buy viola strings
Choice of string gauge
Violas are larger, and viola strings are heavier in gauge than violins. This helps to give them their distinctive deeper tone, along with the fact their strings are tuned one-fifth lower than violins. A medium gauge set of strings gives an excellent tonal balance throughout the fingerboard. These are the most popular gauge of string, with lighter strings sounding brighter but thinner and heavy gauges giving the viola a fuller sound with more volume.
Learn to tune your instrument properly
Over-tensioned strings can damage your instrument and place unnecessary strain on the viola’s scroll, neck and bridge. Use a digital tuner or another reference, such as a piano or set of pitch pipes, to determine the proper pitch to tune to and ensure your instrument remains close to standard pitch when stored. Digital tuners make a highly effective, compact and inexpensive addition to your musical accessories, and no violist should be without one.
Finding the perfect fit
While viola strings can be expensive, it’s worth experimenting with different brands and combinations to see which you find to be the most agreeable in tone and feel. It’s also a good idea to consider your preferred style of music. Jazz and country players may require a different timbre to classical players and vice versa. Additionally, many players mix and match string types to suit their unique preferences.
What to look for in quality viola strings
The best viola strings use a high-quality steel core on the top string and gut cores on the lower strings. Gut cores create a consistent pitch with a complex sound, whereas steel core strings are bright, durable and respond quicker. It’s worth experimenting with different combinations to see which string materials you find to be the most agreeable in tone and feel.
A well-packaged set of strings improves their longevity, especially as they can sit on the shelf for months at a time. This is all the more important if you live in an area with high humidity. In this instance, look for strings properly packaged in a foil or plastic outer sleeve and a paper envelope. Always store them in a dry area once purchased.
Different brands use different manufacturing methods and materials for their viola strings. As a result, they produce different timbres, even among those of a similar gauge. The best viola strings maintain their brightness of tone for longer and need replacing less frequently. You can often find video demonstrations online using various brands, which can save a lot of trial and error when considering different manufacturers and string gauges.
How much you can expect to spend on viola strings
Viola strings are fairly expensive and even a set at the cheaper end of the scale costs around $20. A midrange set costs around $50, and a high-end set of four strings can cost well over $100.
Viola strings FAQ
How often should I change my viola strings?
A. Strings either need replacing one at a time following a breakage or in unison at regular intervals. This is largely dependent on how much you play your instrument, but tension alone causes degradation over time. Expect to change your strings at least every nine months, with regular use.
Can string breakage lead to injury?
A. While there have been documented reports of violinists and violists being injured by flailing broken strings, this is highly unlikely to happen. Even less so nowadays, where modern manufacturing methods ensure better string consistency that is more durable and can withstand higher tensions.
What are the best viola strings to buy?
Top viola strings
What you need to know: This high-quality set expands upon the popular Evah Pirazzi line by adding a contemporary twist.
What you’ll love: The strings incorporate a synthetic multifilament fiber core that introduces a warmer tone than the brand’s standard Evah Pirazzi strings. The A string has a steel core, wound with chrome steel and a removable ball end for extra versatility.
What you should consider: While these strings sound excellent, they don’t have the longevity of some less-costly alternatives.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top viola strings for the money
What you need to know: This USA-made set from globally-renowned D’Addario is very popular with players of alternative and traditional music.
What you’ll love: The strings feature a stranded steel core that improves playability and enhances the tone with a rich and deep timbre. They settle quickly, making them well-suited to players who perform regularly.
What you should consider: These are medium-scale strings and do not fit violas of 16” and above in length.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This is an ideal option for the practicing musician who needs a reasonably-priced set with good longevity and regular use.
What you’ll love: These strings are manufactured by the Danish company Larsen and have full-sounding tonal qualities. These are popular with beginners and performing musicians alike due to their versatility and durability.
What you should consider: Except for the A string, these have loop ends and are not a good choice for those who prefer all their strings to have ball ends.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Luke Mitchell writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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