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Viola strings can significantly affect the sound of your instrument. You may want to experiment with different brands to determine the sound you like best on your viola (the same string can produce varied results on different violas). Strings are made of several different types of materials: all-metal, synthetic-core and gut-core (gut-core and synthetic-core strings are wound with metal). Although strings once were made solely of gut (sheep or lamb intestines), all-gut strings are rarely used today (they're expensive and rapidly go out-of-tune). For directions on how to change strings, visit our Changing Strings page. The following section highlights differences between various types of strings.

Synthetic Core These strings use a core made out of a durable synthetic product such as perlon or kevlar, and are wrapped with metals such as aluminum or silver. Synthetic-core strings are designed to replicate the rich sound of gut strings, and feature a warm, bright tone without requiring the frequent tuning of gut-core strings. Brands such as Thomastik’s Dominant strings were the first synthetic string made, and still enjoy wide popularity.

Metal Strings All-metal strings are often described as having a bright, loud sound. These strings generally have a steel core, and are wound with various metals such as silver, titanium or steel. All-metal strings often remain in tune better than other strings (the steel core isn’t as impacted by humidity and temperature as gut-core or synthetic-core strings). For this reason, all-metal strings are often used for student violins (brands such as Super-Sensitive Red Label are inexpensive options often used by student violists). Some violists also use “A” strings made of titanium or steel such as Kaplan’s Solutions or Jargar in combination with synthetic-core brands for the other strings.

Gut Core Strings Some professional violists prefer gut-core strings because of the rich, warm sound they produce on their instrument. These strings are not as durable as metal or synthetic-core strings, and are more sensitive to humidity and temperature changes (thus requiring more frequent tuning than other strings).

How do I know which size viola string to buy? Viola string sizes should match the size of your instrument. If you aren’t sure what size your viola is, measure the length of the back of your viola (don’t include the neck, scroll or end button). Although violins and cellos have standard sizes, there are no standard sizes for full-size violas. Full-size violas range from 15”-17” with typical sizes being: 15,” 15-1/2,” 16,” 16-1/2” and 17” with 16” being the average. Sizes for smaller violas include: 11,” 12,” 13,” 14” and 14-1/2.”

The following sampling of viola strings features some of the most popular brands (additional brands are available). Strings may be purchased in sets containing all 4 strings or as individual strings, and most of the strings listed below are for full-size violas 15 to 16-1/2.” Viola strings for full-size violas are also sometimes labeled as full-size “medium scale” for violas 15-16,” and full-size “long scale” for instruments 16-1/2” and longer. For small violas, some brands such as Red Label have categories such as: Intermediate= 14” violas; Junior= 13” violas; Mini= 12” violas; and Sub-mini= 11” violas.

What’s the difference between strings with a ball-end or loop end?Ball-end strings require a fine tuner with two prongs and loop-end strings can be used with both one and two-prong fine tuners. You may want to check to see how your viola is currently strung before ordering strings. There also are ball-end adapters as shown below (these enable ball end strings to be used with single prong tuners).

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