Do the sensations of playing with your electric violin seem to be not as good as before? Sounds have become fuzzier and the electric violin seems less reactive? Perhaps it is because the strings of your electric violin are worn out and it is now time to change them. What are the most suitable strings for an electric violin?
Which strings should I use on an electric violin?
Violinists know that strings are very important and delicate part of an instrument. You can use all types of strings on your electric violin, including classical violin strings. All classical violin strings are compatible with an electric violin as long as you respect the type of end of the string used by your electric violin (ball end VS loop end).
As for 3Dvarius electric violins, any ball string is compatible.
You can consult our article on how to safely replace your acoustic or electric violin strings.
The special case of the MIDI electric violin
MIDI electric violins require the use of steel strings. This difference is due to the type of pickup that is used. The pickup is the element that transforms the vibration of the strings into an electrical signal which is then amplified and made audible.
MIDI electric violins use a magnetic pickup (instead of the piezoelectric type used in other electric violins). In the absence of a steel string, the magnetic pickup is unable to detect the signal generated by the vibration of the strings. This is one of the minor disadvantages of MIDI electric violins as there is a smaller choice of compatible strings.
Steel strings can therefore be used on electric violins equipped with piezoelectric or magnetic pickups. On the other hand, non-steel strings will not work with magnetic pickup violins (MIDI violins).
What characteristics should I look for when choosing my electric violin strings?
The acoustic result (?)
There are hundreds of strings made by dozens of different brands and sold at very different prices. All the strings you know and use with your classical violin can be used on your electric violin.
On a classical violin, the installed set of strings will change the sound of the acoustic violin. Each violinist has his preferences depending on the style of music he/she plays, the gauge (low, medium or high), the rebound, the resulting acoustics (warm, bright, clear sound, etc.).
Some violinists even go so far as to choose each string individually to achieve a specific sound.
The string set used on an electric violin will not really have an impact on the sound it produces. The changes are barely noticeable, they are not really audible to the instrumentalist or the audience.
If you enjoy specific strings, try them on your electric violin. Maybe you will like them on your acoustic instrument, but not on your electric one… That’s happened! In this case, buy another pack, try it again. The objective is to find strings that you like on your electric instrument.
It is important to remember that the most important factor in the sound of an electric violin is its pickup. The better the quality of your pickup, the better the sound of your violin.
Read our article on what are the differences between an acoustic violin and an electric one?
How do I determine if the pickup on my violin is of good quality?
It’s clearly your hearing and feeling that will tell you that! Low-end electric violins very often use lower quality pickups, which makes the sound very fuzzy and piercing. There are single sensor pickups and pickups with several sensors per string. Of course, with more sensors, there will be more audio accuracy.
The sensors are actually piezos. These are small objects that can detect vibrations and transcribe them into an electrical signal, which is then amplified. The quality of the piezos has an impact on the sound transcription. The higher the quality, the more responsive they are.
For comparison, it is like using a single microphone to record 4 instruments; you will be picking up background noise. If, conversely, you use a microphone for each instrument, you can work with greater clarity. The same goes for sensors! A sensor per string guarantees a greater fidelity of the produced sound, as opposed to a single sensor for all strings…
All our electric violins are equipped with a pickup that uses a sensor per string. Here is an example of the 3Dvarius being used during a concert in Paris.
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Violin looper ‘Feeling Good’ by Nina Simone performed by @bernadacviolin He’s playing his 3Dvarius, a complete transparent electric violin. That’s why lights are reflected inside the violin body. #electricviolin #violinist #electricviolinist #violoniste #violonelectrique #violinista #violinplayer #バイオリン #keman #skrzypce #violinelectrico #geige #violinplayer #violon #violine #violino #скрипка #fiddle #fiddleplayer #electroviolin #elettricviolin #viulu #viool #fiolin #fiol #3dvarius #violinlooper #looper #looperpedal
As we have just seen, when it comes to strings, the needs of an electric violin are not really about the sound produced, but rather about the way you will play. The characteristics of the strings you choose should allow you to highlight your technique and dexterity.
When playing the electric violin, it is necessary to adapt your technique. In fact, the techniques studied on the classical violin will not always work in the same way. We are referring especially to certain pressure effects performed using the bow on the strings. The result is different for both classical and electric violins.
You should therefore consider these differences when choosing your electric violin strings.
At 3Dvarius, we have chosen strings that offer an interesting rebound and responsiveness. The objective is to be able to change the playing style through the bouncing of the bow on the strings. We generally prefer to use synthetic strings with a medium gauge. Note that these two aspects are the ones we have chosen. Your way of playing is essential in the choice you make! You must be as comfortable as possible.
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A few string sets
We had the opportunity to test several types of strings and we liked the:
- Vision – Thomastik-Infel (synthetic strings, available on our shop)
- Vision Solo – Thomastik-Infeld (synthetic strings)
- Peter Infeld – Thomastik-Infeld (synthetic strings)
- Sencicore – Super-Sentive (synthetic strings)
And, we have very good feedback from customers on the:
- Helicore – D’Addario (steel strings)
- Pirastro Evah Pirazzi (synthetic strings)
Super-Sensitive was shut down mid-2020. Most of their strings are now out of stock in the world. The company was bought and is now part of D’Addario. Their aim is to relaunch the strings production. However, the Sensicore range was not relaunched for the moment. D’Addario schedules to do it in the future years.
It is important to note that, according to the place where the strings are made, prices can drastically vary from one continent to another. Thus, the Thomastik-Infeld strings are more affordable in Europe than in the United States because the company that produces them is based in Austria. Conversely, the Helicore D’Addario strings are more affordable in the United States because the company is based in the United States.
Which 5th string (C or Do) should I use on my electric violin?
If your electric violin has 5 strings, it may be a little more difficult to find that fifth string. Most string manufacturers offer 4-string sets: E (Mi), A (La), D (Re) and G (Sol). These 4 strings are identical to those of a classical violin.
Some manufacturers offer 5-string sets specially designed for electric violins. On the other hand, if the C string (Do) does not exist in your favorite series, you will have to consider viola strings.
Each string is usually sold separately, and you will be able to find a C (Do) string in the viola version in your favorite series. Don’t worry about the tension of the string, it will necessarily be lesser than on a viola, but it will sound perfectly on your electric violin. The manufacturers themselves have oriented us towards viola strings as a standard for our 5-string electric violins.
In relation to the strings mentioned above, here are some suggestions for what you can do for the 5th string:
- Vision – Thomastik-Infeld
The C Vision string (Do) is available in this series. Note that the 6th Vision string, F or Fa, is also available. However, you will need to buy them separately. There are no string sets that contain 5 or 6 strings.
- Vision Solo – Thomastik-Infeld and Peter Infeld – Thomastik-Infeld
The C (Do) string in violin format does not exist in this series. However, it is available in viola version and you can buy it separately.
- Helicore – D’Addario
4-string and 5-string sets are available for sale.
- Sencicore – Super-Sentive
This series offers all strings, from the 4th to the 7th string. However, you will need to buy a 4-string set and then buy the other strings separately.
- Evah Pirazzi – Pirastro
4-string and 5-string sets are available for sale.
Sources & Images: 3Dvarius, strings makers.