Certain regal qualities that the violin possesses make it a class of its own. Perhaps that is why violins and violin strings are so expensive and why violinists are often deemed well-off and a bit snooty. Although come to think about it, some people consider even guitarists arrogant.
People often compare the expenses of playing the guitar to those of playing the violin and they find that the latter is much more expensive, which is not necessarily true. For example, people often wonder why violin strings are so expensive, especially when compared to guitar strings. What they often forget is that you need to invest in any instrument you play and that certain gear, such as guitar pedals, for instance, can be expensive too.
There is a variety of factors that determine the price of violin strings, such as materials and unique components used in the manufacturing process, the manufacturing process itself, as well as the distribution process. It is worth mentioning that not all violin strings have exorbitant prices.
The reason why some violin strings are so expensive is simple. Some violin strings may seem costly, but they will ensure playability, as well as the richness and depth of sound. The more delicate and fragile materials used in the multiple winding steps, the more expensive the strings.
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Not all violin strings cost a small fortune
There is a variety of kinds and brands of violin strings and they all come at different prices. The violin itself can cost anywhere from $500 to several million dollars. These three factors have a major influence and can drive the price of the violin strings up:
- Gauge – the thickness of a violin string.
What you should consider before purchasing a set of violin strings is whether you are a beginner, an intermediate player, or a professional violinist. Some of the famous brands, such as Daddario offer a price range from $20 to $100 for a set of violin strings.
How many strings does a violin have?
A violin typically has four strings: G, D, A, and E, in order from the lowest to the highest. These four violin strings are attached to the tuning pegs.
- String G – the thickest string and the lowest one in pitch.
- String D – right next to the G string, the second thickest.
- String A – usually the reference pitch, the first string that violinists tune.
- String E – the thinnest and the highest one in pitch.
However, there are some more complex types of violins that also have additional strings. Five-string violins include a C string and are often used by jazz, bluegrass, or country musicians. There are even 6,7 and 8 string violins, which are typically electric violins that bring the sound of the violin closer to that of a cello.
Types of materials used for violin strings
The material used for violin strings has a tremendous effect on the overall performance. The same stands for the tightness of the strings. Anyway, there is really no such thing as the best type of material, it really depends on what your preferences are and what type of sound you wish to produce. Let’s now dive deeper into the materials used for making violin strings.
Gut strings or catgut strings have nothing to do with cats. They are made from the dried intestines of sheep primarily. Gut strings were predominant in the past. These types of strings create resonant, warm, and rich tones. Different gauges of gut strings have a different effect on the sound.
Nowadays, more advanced players use them and they are not the most suitable for beginners. They are more expensive. Their longevity is greatly affected by weather, particularly humidity and they require to be tunned more regularly than other types of strings.
Metal or steel core strings are the most common choice for beginner and intermediate players. They last longer than gut strings and are the first choice of many musicians, such as electric violin players, and jazz and folk musicians.
Steel core strings produce a clear and well-focused sound and are thinner than gut or synthetic strings. It is easy to keep them tuned and they are generally the least expensive choice, perfect for non-classical players.
Since their introduction in the ’70s, synthetic strings have become increasingly popular, especially among beginner players. They are typically made from nylon or other composite materials. Synthetic strings are quite immune to weather and humidity changes and are more stable in pitch than gut strings. They have sophisticated tonal qualities, similar to those of gut strings.
The crème de la crème manufacturer of violin strings, Pirastro, has made the Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Series with gold steel E and G strings, which are perhaps the most expensive ones on the market.
What are the strings on a violin bow made of?
The strings on a violin bow are typically made of horsehair, which comes from horses’ tails. A violin bow comprises between 160 and 180 individual straight hairs. The process of attaching these to form a ribbon is meticulous.
Due to ethical reasons, a lot of violinists nowadays prefer to use synthetic bow hair. You can buy bow hairs separately from a bow. If some of the strings break, it is also possible to re-hair a violin bow. Even if you can still use your bow after some strings have broken, you should restring your bow as soon as possible. Re-hairing a bow is a craft, as well as a form of art.
The magical substance – rosin
Rosin is a substance that is made from tree resin collected from different pine trees. It creates friction between the bow hair and the strings. There has to be friction in order to create tonal sounds. The right kind of rosin can also prolong the lifespan of your strings.
The rule of thumb when it comes to applying rosin is that less is more. If you are a beginner student, you will most probably apply rosin 2 to 3 times a week. It is also important that you wipe out the violin after every practice, to avoid rosin build-up that can cause damage to the strings.
How long do violin strings last?
The answer to this question may vary depending on many factors, such as:
- The type of strings – certain materials wear out more quickly.
- Your playing habits – the frequency of playing affects the longevity of strings.
- An environment – this goes hand in hand with humidity and corrosive elements in the air.
When it comes to the types of strings and their longevity, steel and synthetic strings have a longer lifespan than gut strings. The frequency of your playing determines how often you will be changing your strings, as well. When you play the violin frequently, you should strive to change the strings every 3 to 6 months.
If you are a casual musician who doesn’t play that often, you should know that infrequent playing has a bad effect on the violin too. You want to take proper care of your strings and you are not sure if you should loosen violin strings when not playing? Make sure to check our article. If your violin has been lying dormant for a while and you were wondering whether hanging your violin on the wall is a good idea, read our article to find out more.
Cleaning your violin strings after playing will also help prolong the strings’ life. Dirt and even your sweat can cause your strings to wear down. The best thing you can do is to listen to your violin’s sound and if you notice unusual, dull sounds, it might be the signal to replace your strings. If replacing the strings is not second nature to you, consult your teacher or another professional to walk you through the process of replacing them.
How long do pure gut violin strings last?
When compared to other types, pure gut violin strings cannot boast their longevity. They are fragile and very susceptible to humidity and thus require a more frequent replacement. Many luthiers recommend that gut violin strings be replaced when played between 120 to 150 hours. There are some estimates that gut violin strings last around 3 months.
Keep in mind that gut violin strings are infamous for their tunning instability, which means that they need more frequent tunning and that creates a hassle for some people. If you are not a professional violinist, you may want to steer clear of gut violin strings, despite their other qualities. Want to compare the longevity of flatwound guitar strings to the violin ones? Take a look at our article.
We hope that we have managed to explain in some detail why some violin strings are a tad expensive. If you are serious about playing the violin, you should think about buying a quality set of violin strings. They don’t all cost an arm and a leg. There are affordable strings on the market that won’t diminish your overall playing experience in any way.
If you are already a virtuoso on the violin and would like to learn how to play another instrument, find out why playing the guitar is so addictive and give it a try!