There are basically four strings in a violin, and each of these four strings is generally tuned to G, D, A, E. These four strings are attached to the base to the wooden bridge of the violin. The other ends of the strings are also connected to the pegbox situated at the top of the violin. There are four tuning pegs at the top of the violin, and these tuning pegs are mounted sideways via the holes in the violin’s pegbox. There is also the bridge that keeps the strings in place. The pegs, however, keep the right tension for producing sound vibrations.
The Sound that the Violin Produces
Most of us are quite familiar with the sound that the violin produces. Most of us likewise know that the sound of the violin is awesome. Yet, how does the violin produce such fantastic sound given its not so bulky frame? The answer lies in its built. Its arched shape, its wood thickness, and its physical qualities generally determine the sound it gives off. The violin, however, consists of seven core parts, namely: the bow, the strings, bridge, sound post, body, bass bar, and F holes. These different core parts contribute together to the production of the sound of the violin. At present, however, let me content myself by discussing the strings of the violin.
The strings of the violin undoubtedly play a crucial role in the sound produced by the violin. It determines how the violin vibrates, and this vibration creates the magnificent sound of the instrument. There are, however, factors that may be crucial to the quality of sounds produced by violin. These factors include the mass, length, and tension of the strings.
The frequency of the string’s vibration, for example, is primarily determined by the length of the string. The frequency produced, on the other hand, partly determines the pitch of the vibration. If you would use shorter strings, for example, you will create a higher pitch, and if you use longer strings, you end up with a lower pitch when you slide the bow along the string.
The vibrations of the strings, moreover, is partly determined by the mass of the strings. If the strings are more massive, they vibrate slowly. Thinner strings, however, vibrate more. Another factor is that of the tension. The string’s tension can influence the pitch of the violin. If you tighten the strings, you would create a higher pitch, and if you loosen it up, you will generate a lower pitch.
Basic Materials that Made Up Different Types of Strings of Violin
There are three basic types of violin strings, namely: synthetic core strings, gut strings, and steel core strings. Each of these types of strings has different characteristics. Moreover, the use of each of these types of strings carries both some advantages and disadvantages. Hence, at the onset, it would be good to differentiate these different types of strings.
1) Gut Core Strings
In the early days of violin, the strings of the violin were fashioned out of the intestines of sheep. The gut core then was sometimes enveloped by a silver or copper wire. As the manufacturing of violin strings progressed, the gut core strings were gradually replaced by steel core strings and synthetic core strings. At present, there are still some who make use of gut core strings, though its use is no longer prevalent. Yet, some classical players of violin still make use of gut strings because they deem this type of strings as producing warmer and more complex tones.
The use of gut strings, however, is fraught with disadvantages. One such drawback is the susceptibility of the gut strings to weather changes. If there are sudden changes in humidity and temperature, the gut strings readily react and usually go out of tune. Thus, they require frequent tuning. Moreover, they need more time to stretch out and settle down once they are set in the violin. Furthermore, they are a lot more expensive than other types of strings. Moreover, they are not known for the longevity of use.
The available gut strings nowadays have gut cores. They are no longer wholly made of gut. Moreover, threads of wires are wounded around the gut core to create equal tension that is similar to the tension that a gut string has. Another aspect of the gut strings that needs to be noted is the longer time it takes to stretch it. Once stretched, they act with stability. But the changing weather and humidity may readily destabilize its stability. Thus, gut strings require frequent tuning as compared to the synthetic strings.
2) Steel Core Strings
Another type of violin string is the steel core strings. This type of string is also called metal strings. The metal strings are the usual choice of most violinists. They produce bright and full sound if you know how to play them properly. Many musicians like those who are fond of folk and jazz music prefer this type of strings over other kinds of strings. Their reasons include these strings’ durability and volume range. Non-classical violinists definitely prefer this type of strings over the gut strings. These strings produce clear and direct sound with few overtones. They exhibit better stability, and they usually last longer than the gut strings. They also produce a thin but bright sound.
3) The Synthetic Core Strings
Many violinists welcomed the introduction of the synthetic core strings in the early 1970s. It was Thomastik-Infeld that began the production of the revolutionary Dominants. The Dominants are made from nylon called “Perlon.” After that, many more manufacturers experimented and produced different brands of synthetic strings using composite materials and hi-tech nylons.
The sound characteristics of the synthetic strings is warm. Yet, the synthetic strings last longer and offer more stable pitch. Beginners usually prefer the synthetic strings because these strings are characterized by quick response time to any applied pressure.
What is the Ideal Material for Violin Strings?
It isn’t easy to pinpoint the ideal strings that you should use in your violin. The reason for this is that there are several factors you need to consider to zero in on the ideal strings. First, there is your playing style. If you are fond of the old school of music like the baroque type of music and other classical music, you surely would prefer the gut core strings. Moreover, your needs may also play an important role in your choice of the type of violin strings.
Your level of proficiency in playing violin may also play well with your choice. Plus, each violin responds differently to different types of strings. Additionally, your financial capability to buy expensive strings may also have a bearing on your choice of strings.
The prices of violin strings drastically differ from one type of strings to another. Thus, when you shop around for strings, you will readily notice that the gut core strings are really expensive. But they easily get affected by the vicissitudes of the weather and so they get out of tune more often. If you have a limited budget, you may as well not buy this type of strings. On the upside, the natural gut strings without metal windings are not as expensive as those with metal windings. You can check out the E and A strings of the natural gut strings for this matter.
The synthetic core strings, on the other hand, are less expensive than the gut core strings. If you are an intermediate player or just a beginner, you will surely find this type of strings more affordable and suits well your status and capability. The steel core strings, however, have the lowest price.
Additional Tips on Finding the Right Type of Strings
The ideal strings, therefore, should be a right mix of longevity, quality of sound they produce, and responsiveness to pressure. The different types of violin strings sound differently. The strings’ sound quality can be subdivided into steel, wound gut, artificial gut, and plain gut. The steel strings and plain gut can provide bright sound with full overtones. The wound gut, on the other hand, tends to create mellow sound.
It is also important to note that certain types of strings are ideal for certain styles of music. Classical music, for example, like that of Baroque style is best played with plain gut strings. Folk music is best played on steel or all metal strings. Orchestral or solo is best played on the wound (gut or artificial).