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Why do most violists prefer steel A strings?

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Poll: Viola A String Preference (3 member(s) have cast votes)

Which type of viola A string do you prefer?

  1. Steel (1 votes [33.33%])

    Percentage of vote: 33.33%

  2. Synthetic (2 votes [66.67%])

    Percentage of vote: 66.67%

  3. Gut (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

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#1 tulip21

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Posted 05 May 2018 - 04:14

Hi everyone,
I'm curious about this. I've noticed that most violists use steel A strings instead of synthetic As. Why might that be? The only explanation I can think of is that a steel A gives a brighter, edgier sound, making it stick out like a violin E string. Any thoughts?


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#2 Flossie

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Posted 05 May 2018 - 19:39

I use Vision Solo strings on my viola and the A is a chrome wound steel core.  The other strings are silver wound synthetic core.  I like the tone and response of the strings.  For both violin and viola I think I prefer a slightly brighter sound than average, but my current viola set up also keeps the depth and warmth of the lower strings.  As I play a small viola (15 inch) projection is also important for the strings. 

 

My choice of strings in based on what best suited my viola, rather than a belief that a steel core A string is 'better'.  My viola originally came with Obligatos, which were also what I had used on my first viola (and they had been good on that viola).  I took them off after a few weeks because it felt like they weren't letting the sound out properly despite my giving the instrument plenty of playing to play it in and open up the sound.  I initially switched to Dominants, which suited the viola better than Obligatos, but wasn't quite getting the dynamic response I wanted.  Someone suggested that the Vision Solos were very similar to Dominants but with an improved core and better response.  I tried them and they just seemed to suit my viola perfectly (and they do better dynamics than the Dominants).  I would have liked to try Evahs, but they are only suitable for violas which are 15.5 inches or more and they don't do them for small violas.  

 

Projection is really important for me with viola strings because some of my playing is with people on electric instruments (guitars, bass, keys).  Someone who was playing mainly baroque/early classical and chamber music would have rather different needs to me in terms of sound and therefore string choice.


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