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I want to put new strings on my viola, as the current ones are more than five years old. I think the current ones are D'Addario Helicore for C, G and D, and Jargar medium for A (I tried to lookup the silk colors). These are the strings the builder put on the instrument.

The instrument itself is for students, my technique is not great, and I play for my own pleasure only. So I'm looking for robust, responsive strings that are not too expensive. I'm quite happy with the Helicores, but the A string sounds a bit too bright for my liking. I don't know if that is because of the string or also because of the instrument, but I guess the builder had a reason for using a different A string.

If I replace the A string with a Helicore, will that make the A sound less bright or brighter? What other strings are there that might suit me?

(Added later, in response to comment by Bob Broadley) How does string type (polymer core, steel core, winding, ...) influence the sound and the responsiveness of the string? Are there any general rules of thumb concerning that?

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    Hey there. Shame about the close votes; our community is a bit quick to jump on off-topic questions sometimes. We don’t do purchase recommendations here, BUT if you rephrase your question to ask about the TYPE of strings that would suit your requirements, this question will stay open. And be useful for future readers. +1 BTW. May 1, 2021 at 17:43
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    @BobBroadley - the trouble with this type of question is that there is no good answer, even without the product recommendation part. If it's a dull instrument, it will probably need bright strings or vice versa. This really is one of those "the only way to find out is to try it" questions. Possibly helped by a visit to a store - play it at them, see what they say.
    – Tetsujin
    May 1, 2021 at 18:03
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    @Tetsujin that the answer to the question is perhaps not precisely what the asker is expecting isn't a reason to close the question. In fact, your comment would make a fine answer to the question; why not post it as such?
    – phoog
    May 1, 2021 at 19:28

3 Answers 3

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There is no definitive answer to your question. Which brand of strings suits your instrument best is not something we can tell you. Different strings work differently on different instruments. More advanced players often go through periods of changing the brand of strings they use regularly because they are not 100% happy with the current sound.

The strings which I think sound great on my instrument may not sound great on your instrument in your opinion. As an amateur, your opinion of what sounds good is the most important opinion. My opinion is not worth that much. I'm not the one who is going to hear you play. That person is you.

The best advice anybody can give you here is to read the reviews (to be honest this is for placebo effect, you won't really be much wiser) and then buy a set of strings which suits your pocket. If you really like the sound then next time your strings need to be changed then stick with your original choice. If not then try something different.

Finally I don't think can make any judgement on the merits of 5 year-old strings. How a 5 year old string sounds to you now is no guide to how the same brand new string will sound.

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For my instrument, a rather large 16.5 inch instrument, I use D'Addario Helicore Viola String Set, Long Scale, Medium Tension (found on Amazon). I like the tone on all four strings, but I am an amateur, and it probably sounds better to me.

For my violin, for reference, I use Prim Strings (again on Amazon). These strings are also available for viola, but they're expensive (when they're available).

The two sets of strings above are similar in tone, but I think that it really comes down to personal choice. What tone you want determines whether you want gut, synthetic, steel-core, rope-core or another type of string.

In my opinion, older strings do not sound as good as a brand new set of strings, but that is only my opinion

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Jargar A will probably be very marginally brighter than the Helicore A. The other answers gave the standard advice which is broadly correct - your instrument has too many things that could be different and will likely change the answer a bit, but ... There are a few resources which can help you make your decision. First, here is a research paper that examined this exact question. On page 43, it shows that Helicore open A is significantly brighter than the other Helicore strings (meaning you probably noticing something that is real), but on the same page, it shows that the Jargar A is also brighter than the other Jargars - but with a bit more high frequency response than the Helicore.

In the same paper, there was some discussion (on page 49) of responsiveness, but no real experimentation to back it up. Check out this site for a 2 dimensional plot of different violin strings which may also help.

As for how core material impacts the sounding of the string, the main rule is that gut strings sound great, but are touchy (break-in slowly, change pitch with humidity) and not as durable. The marketing folks want you to think synthetic core strings have all of the advantages of gut with none of the drawbacks, but both steel and synthetic core strings can have very different properties depending on the manufacturers' goals and how they interact with your viola.

A lot of experimentation is probably needed to get a really good answer, so just experiment on the one(s) you don't like. New strings every year or so (unless you start playing more) will be better than old ones unless you get a string that really isn't suited for your instrument.

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