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.
There is no one viola string that sounds great on all violas since each viola is unique. We recommend trying several different viola strings to understand which strings make your viola sing. Our list below includes viola strings that are rated highest by players, but you will need to find the best viola strings for your viola from this list.
Viola String Types
Like violin strings, cello strings come in three types as well — Gut core, Synthetic core and Steel core.
These strings are made from the gut lining of sheep. Gut strings were the only strings available for the first several centuries of string instrument existence. Known for having the warmest sounds – and considered the most complex and with rich overtones – gut strings are almost exclusively used by professional classical musicians.
The other side of those rich, complex tones is that strings made from gut take the longest to settle in on your instrument. They are more sensitive to variations in temperature and humidity than other options and are known to slip out of tune easily. If you’re newer to the cello, gut strings are not the best option for you because you need to have a very keen ear and attention to detail in order to manipulate and play these strings consistently and with expertise. Also, gut strings aren’t as long-lasting as steel core or synthetic core options.
Another consideration when it comes to sound is that gut core strings are slower to respond and have much softer tones, which means they aren’t as suited to the cello unless you’re playing a baroque instrument and/or are looking specifically for that sound in your music.
Also referred to as “all metal” strings, steel core strings are made from straight or twisted metal wire. They are the most durable of all the cello string options and are also the most stable. Steel core strings provide stable pitch and are known for producing the highest volume.
They are the preferred string for most jazz, country or folk players – who need a crisp, loud and consistent sound to shine through the other instrumentation. They’re also the ideal choice for electric cellos. Since steel core strings are the least expensive of all the options, they’re also a wise choice for beginning players and students – much easier on the budget.
These strings were invented in the 1970s in an effort to replicate the tones produced by gut core strings without all of their inconsistencies. As a result, synthetic core strings sound wonderful, settle in after just a day or two, and are not nearly as sensitive to temperature and humidity fluctuations.
Synthetic core strings are made using a synthetic fiber, Kevlar, or a type of nylon, Perlon. These materials are wound up outside the core with an amalgam of metals – such as chrome steel, aluminum, tungsten, silver or gold.
Viola String Gauge
Light, medium and heavy are the most commonly made cello string gauges, but some companies offer more variations, using gauge numbers. The rule of thumb is, a thicker string produces more tone, but has a slower response; a thinner string is delivers a faster response, but with the trade off of a thinner, lower volume sound.
Medium gauges cello strings are definitely the most common, but of course every instrument and player is unique, and you must discover which gauge works best for you.
Choosing Viola Strings
In no particular order, these following string set are the most popular ones and should be the first ones you decide to try.
Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Gold Viola String Set
With a core made from modern synthetic multifilament fiber, the Pirastro Evah Pirazzi stands out from the standard Pirazzi due to the powerful, brilliant, and warmer sound that it can create. With this purchase, you will get a wide dynamic range and an emphasis on the individual sound picture of each instrument.
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 Jar-4792 Viola String Set Medium
If you’re looking for a high-quality product that can combine premium features with an accessible price, we believe that the Jargar Jar-4792 is the set that manages to cater to a wider audience without making any sacrifice in terms of quality. It includes a full set that consists of 4 strings that can be equipped to an up to 16.5” viola.
All the four items included in this set have a chrome steel winding with a core that is made of solid steel with removable ball end. This means that you will get a sound that is direct, clean, and with few overtones. These are ideal for non-classical players, and they are also much more stable in pitch.
D’Addario Helicore Viola String Set
This is a string set made for medium-scale violas, with sizes ranging between 15 and 15 ¾ inches. Having a stranded steel core, the strings are capable of producing warm and clear tones, so you will love how your instrument will sound equipped with this kind of strings.
They also make playing the viola easier, as they are more than versatile and comfortable to use. When it comes to price, they are in the affordable range, so you will have no issues getting to this set of strings if you want it. If you are not familiar with the D’Addario brand, you should know that they have stringent quality rules when it comes to manufacturing viola strings.
Thomastik-Infeld 141 Dominant Viola Strings
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.
D’Addario Prelude Viola String Set
There are quite a few reasons that should make you check out this steel core viola string set. The price tag of the set is one of these reasons, as this is one affordable set of viola strings.
Also, in spite of the fact that steel is a rigid material, D’Addario did its best to optimize the strings and deliver an exceptional set of strings for improved sounds. According to many viola teachers, it appears that the brand did it, as this set is recommended to all students due to its accessible price and the fact that it makes the viola perform in a warm and pleasant manner.
Pirastro Obligato Viola String Set – Medium Gauge
The Pirastro Obligato is another premium alternative that seeks to offer only the best experience to both amateur and experienced artists that don’t mind spending the big bucks for a quality set of viola strings. Customers worldwide have nothing but high praise for the range of sounds that it can produce and the complex tone that is rich with overtones.
Another thing that makes this alternative ideal for any kind of artist is the tuning stability which makes playing with these strings easy since you will have to spend less time tuning and more time actually playing your instrument. Add to that the outstanding response and you have yourself the perfect purchase.
Super Sensitive Red Label String Set Medium Gauge
This is another affordable set of viola strings that anyone can purchase. They are made in the USA so you can be sure that, in spite of the accessible price tag, you are not going to buy cheap strings.
In fact, many teachers and orchestra directors will recommend these strings. The core string is steel while the winding is made out of nickel. What does this mean? It means that the tonal quality is superior and that the strings are more stable than they may seem. This makes them great for practicing sessions, allowing you to feel your viola and get used to its sounds and reactions.