Strings are one of the most important parts of the viola as they, when combined with a bow, ultimately produce the beautiful tones that violas are known for so it is therefore it is vital for you to pick the best viola strings. Given the wide variety of violas available and the uniqueness inherent in each viola, there is no one “best viola string” solution. It is best for you to try out several different viola strings and keep track of which ones make your viola sing. Our best viola strings list below highlights the viola strings that are frequently rated the highest by players and on Amazon, but you may need to try several viola string brands to find the best one for your viola.
Common Viola String Combinations
Many violists don’t just choose one brand of viola strings for all four strings. In fact, violists are the most common string players to combine different brands for their A, D, G, and C strings. To do this, you can find individual strings on Amazon, such as the Larsen A string, instead of buying a pack of all four strings.
Thomastik-Infeld Spirocore steel-core strings are very popular among amateurs and professionals alike. They provide a very responsive sound that is both brilliant and powerful, bringing out the lower end of the viola. If you don’t want to buy the full set, the single C-string pairs quite well with other viola string sets.
Thomastik-Infeld Dominants are one of the most popular strings due to their flexibility and stable, warm pitch. Personally, I use Dominants for my D, G, C strings and combine with a Jargar A. Despite their steeper price, Dominants have a very long life making them a great choice. They come in a variety of lengths and gauges, so again there is a lot of flexibility.
Dominants were the first strings manufactured with a synthetic perlon or nylon core and have become a measuring stick against which most other synthetic viola strings are measured.
Evah Pirazzi strings are definitely on the higher end when it comes to strings. Famous virtuosos such as Joshua Bell (violin) and Kristina Fialová (viola) prefer these strings and as such, the price is definitely higher. Typically running north of $120 for a full set, Pirazzis offer a complex and warm tone with excellent projection and dynamic responsiveness.
Coming in both Gold and Regular styles, the Evah Pirazzi strings are offered in many gauges and lengths.
Jargar strings are quite literally the most interchangeable strings. Although they sound perfectly clear as a set, most violists combine the Jargar strings with some other strings. One favorite combination, and one that I use, is a Jargar A with Dominant D, G, C. This provides a powerfully clear A sound from the Jargar and a rich, deep tone from the Dominants.
Jargars have several advantages over Helicore strings. First, they have a more powerful sound as well as more dynamic capabilities. Second, their silver-wound G and C strings have an unusual warmth and depth.
Helicore strings are great for beginners and students because they have a clear tone and quick response. For their high quality, they are on the higher end of the inexpensive strings sets featured in this list. Over the last few years, they have been gaining a reputation in pop music. Although the tone and quality is not as high as with other string brands, Helicore strings provide a great foundation for beginners and perform far better than Preludes.
Larsen strings are becoming a standard for viola set-ups. They provide a complex and powerful tone that rivals the Pirazzi Gold’s. Moderately priced, Larsens are a solid choice for the intermediate to expert player and, like the Jargar, can be paired with any range of other strings. A common mixed set is the Thomastik-Infeld Spirocore or Dominant C and G-strings with Larsen D and A-strings, though buying single strings can get quite expensive.
Prim viola strings are very inexpensive, but have a higher quality sound than Preludes. Swedish-made, Prim strings are bright and edgy in tone, making them great for popular and folk styles of playing.
With the Passione line, Pirastro has stabilized the gut core to resist fluctuations in temperature and humidity while preserving the complexity of the tone.
The sheep gut core of Passione strings is manufactured and wound in aluminum by hand. Many performers prefer the traditional response of the gut core, but are frustrated by the lack of stability in many gut strings, but the Passione line makes up for that.
Each brand of viola string will bring out different qualities in your instrument and many people like to mix and match string sets.
Experimenting can get pretty expensive, but if you are a serious enough player you will want to find the right fit for your instrument and playing style.
As with violas and bows, viola strings vary on several main factors:
Gauge/Thickness: Viola strings come in many different widths and gauges (thickness) which impacts the tone of the sound. This is one factor you’ll definitely want to experiment with.Thicker strings are usually better for violas as they provide a fuller, richer sound. A violist never wants to be mistaken for a violinist after all.
Ball vs loop end: Strings come with either a metal ball or loop on the end that is meant to connect with the tailpiece. If you have fine tuners, make sure which kind of end your tuners require. If you aren’t using fine tuners, you will need the ball-end variety.A ball-end string can usually be converted to a loop end one by pushing the metal ball out from the end using a needle-nose pliers or fingernails.
Price: Strings are expensive, there’s no way around it. Typically having to be replaced at least once a year and costing upwards of $100 on average for a full set, viola strings aren’t easy on the budget. It’s important to find a balance between sound and price while searching for the perfect strings.
While there are a lot of options for strings and you may feel perplexed at this point, this guide will help you select some starting varieties that will let you experiment with the sound of your viola.