Violin Strings: Everything You Need To Know

The strings of the violin are arguably the most important aspect of the instrument. This post answers the most frequently asked questions about violin strings.

Can You Use 4/4 Strings On A 3/4 Violin

It is possible to use full-size (4/4) strings on a fractional-size (3/4) violin. But, for the best results, you should use 3/4 strings on your 3/4 instrument.

When you use 4/4 strings on your smaller violin you may find that it is harder to maintain the necessary tension in the strings. You may also experience that there is not enough room in the pegbox to turn the string around the pegs.

It is very likely that you will need to trim down the 4/4 string at the peg end of the string. Because of the problems associated with using these larger strings on a 3/4 violin, doing so is not recommended as a long-term permanent replacement.

Can A Violin Have 5 Strings

Violins can certainly have five strings. 5-string violins combine the ranges of the violin and viola by adding a C string to the common violin string set-up.

You generally think of 5-string violins in the context of electric violins; however, there are traditional wood violins specially made with a 5th string.

These violins are great for playing pop, jazz, and rock music but most violinists find that it’s better to use a traditional instrument for slower classical and romantic music.

In general, having five strings on a violin makes it more difficult to avoid playing an adjacent string. This is usually okay with faster, improvised pieces but is not considered acceptable in the world of classical music.

Watch this video demonstrating the versatility you can add to your violin’s sound with a fifth string (C string).

Do Violin Strings Come In Sizes

Violin strings (on Amazon) come in different sizes including 4/4, 3/4, 1/2, and 1/8.

What Are The Strings On A 4-String Violin

The strings on a four-string violin are G, D, A, and E.

Are Violin Strings And Mandolin Strings The Same

Violin strings and mandolin strings are not the same. Violin strings have a metal outer layer with a core that is either steel, gut, or synthetic polymers.

Mandolin strings, on the other hand, are generally made of phosphor bronze, nickel-plated steel, stainless steel, or chrome steel.

Despite this difference, a steel core violin string may be substituted for a mandolin string if necessary.

There is also a difference in the size of the strings. Mandolin strings are longer than violin strings and the gauge (diameter/thickness) of the mandolin strings is larger than that of the violin.

Can I Use Guitar Strings On A Violin

Generally speaking, guitar strings don’t work well as a substitute for violin strings. The proper tone for the violin is created through proper string length and tension, as well as by having the proper string gauge. It is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve the desired tone with the typical guitar strings.

Since guitar strings are not made to be tuned the way violin strings are and are not made to be bowed, it makes sense that they will not produce the same sound as violin strings do.

In addition to the poor quality of sound produced by guitar strings on a violin, doing so can cause you bigger problems. Potential issues with using guitar strings on your violin include:

  • Damaging the bridge of the violin;
  • Damaging the violin bow; and
  • Damaging the string.

How Violins Sound With Guitar Strings [Video]

The video below demonstrates what violins sound like with guitar strings installed. Guitar strings are either round wound or flat wound. If you want to try using guitar strings on your violin, choose the flat strings used on jazz guitars instead of the round guitar strings.

Using flat guitar strings on a violin is preferable to using round strings. As you can see in this video, the flat strings are more in tune than the round strings, they are easier to play, they respond more quickly and they don’t have the harmonics generated by the round strings.

In contrast, round strings produce harmonics on open strings; they are hard to tune; and the strings don’t stay in tune.

How Long Does It Take For New Violin Strings To Settle

To achieve the sound you want from your violin, your violin strings have to be broken in. Determining how long it will take for your violin’s strings to settle, is best done based on the number of playing hours. The more you play, the faster your strings will settle.

Sometimes violinist try to get faster results by tuning the instrument, pulling on the strings, or heating the strings up. It is not recommended that you “force” the strings to stretch faster than they naturally would over time with ordinary use.

How quickly violin strings settle can also depend on the brand of the strings. For example, Dominants have been known to take longer than other brands, requiring 4 to 6 hours of playing or practice time to break in.

Most synthetic brands of violin strings take 2 to 3 hours of playing time to settle. Steel strings settle even more quickly.

Another factor that can impact the amount of time it takes for your strings to settle is the climate.

Should You Loosen Violin Strings When Not Playing

It is usually best to leave violin strings tuned when storing for a short period of time (like overnight). Loosening the strings between every practice will require you to stretch the strings every time you need to get the violin back in tune. Of course, this will cause your violin’s strings to wear out and break faster than they would if you left the strings tuned.

However, since violins can be impacted by shifts in humidity and temperature, it may be best to loosen the strings if you know that you will be storing the instrument in a place that is prone to significant climate changes.

When it is necessary to loosen the strings when storing your instrument, be sure to loosen them just enough to reduce the tension that would be placed on the strings and on the bridge of the violin.

Be careful not to loosen the strings so much that the soundpost falls or shifts out of place.

How Often Does A Violin String Break

It is not uncommon for violin strings to break during tuning or while playing. But, if the strings are installed properly, the strings should be able to last for up to 120 hours of playing time.

Some common causes of violin string breaks include:

  1. Over-tightening during tuning;
  2. Not cleaning the strings after each use;
  3. Improper installation; and
  4. Ordinary wear with use.