String Selection Chart from Shar Music
It’s a fact of life: violin strings wear out and must be periodically replaced. Often student instruments are fitted out with the most inexpensive strings, which have a thin piercing tone that doesn’t do anything to improve the student-violin’s limited tonal range. When students ask for recommendations on replacement strings I usually try to steer them a grade or two up from the cheapest strings so they’ll have a better-sounding instrument.
Finally someone has taken the guesswork out of deciding what type of strings to buy! Past Shar Music catalogs have featured a grid-graphic that places different brands of strings along two axes: Smooth/Textured and Subtle/Direct, forming 4 quadrants. My favorite strings for my 100-year-old German instrument are Pirastro Obligatos, which are in the Subtle/Textured quadrant. No wonder I “hate” the sound of the cheap standby “Red Label” strings which are far off in the opposite quadrant, Smooth/Direct!
Here is the quadrant graphic so you can search for your own preferences (click to enlarge; I also have a hard copy at the studio and can help you identify the different brands):
SUMMER 2014 UPDATE:
Shar has revised their strings chart by changing the axis directions and qualities. It’s a little confusing if you’re used to the old chart, but by combining the two you’ll get a pretty good idea of where different strings lie. The new chart also includes some recent string additions like the Warchal line — quality similar to Pirastro but much less expensive.