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Strings for Beginners

Strings for Beginners
Demystifying Strings
A message especially for beginning players and their parents...
If you’re a beginning violinist, violist, cellist, or bassist, congratulations! You are embarking on an exciting journey of learning to make music and playing music with others. If you are the parent of a beginning player, you have surely thought about all the great things you have to look forward to – the joy of your child making music, the concerts, and the camaraderie. Of course, in the back of your mind you may be thinking about the complexities of the instrument, questions that will arise that you may not be able to answer, and what to do if something breaks. After all, stringed instruments are complicated and delicate . . . or at least they seem like they are.

Fortunately, there is plenty of help available at SHAR! There is no need to be intimidated by your instrument. Just as for most things, a little bit of knowledge goes a long way.
The most common problem that can happen with a violin is that a string will break. In fact, it’s so common that there is probably no player anywhere that hasn’t experienced it, and likely on numerous occasions. Strings can break for many different reasons, which you can learn about by clicking the button below. Fortunately, replacement strings are widely available, at a very wide price range. Strings for beginners are not expensive, and you can easily replace them yourself. We even show you how!

Why do strings break? How to Install Strings
Beginning Strings

Knowing a bit about the needs of beginning players will help you decide which strings to use. This will allow you to avoid the aggravation of buying strings that might impede learning at this early stage. And you will also avoid spending more money than you need to!

Steel Strings: The Most Recommended Strings for Beginners
Tailpiece Most beginners use strings made with a steel core. This is ideal for beginners for their simple and direct sound, their responsiveness to tuning with the fine adjusters (on the tailpiece), their low cost, and their long life. A full list of steel strings can be found below. If you are replacing an individual string, it’s easiest to stay with the same brand as the other strings. Don’t worry if you can’t figure out the brand -- you won’t go wrong with any of them.

Full list of steel strings
Learn More: The Unique Needs of Beginning Players

Most teachers of beginners will tell you that there are several critical areas of learning for a new player:

  • Learning how to hold the instrument and bow in the correct positions. This is of critical importance right from the start because everything builds on basic proper positioning.
  • Learning where the notes are, which are produced by pressing down on the strings with the fingers of the left hand. The student will be taught to listen for the proper notes, learn the pathways to the proper notes, and understand how the notes relate to each other. It’s complicated.
  • Learning to produce a clean and beautiful sound. This is also complex, involving both the left hand (pressing down on the strings), and the right hand (proper use of the bow on the strings).
  • Learning to play in tune (not “pitchy”, as they say on TV’s “The Voice”!). Once the student learns where the notes are, and how to get there, they must learn how to play each note perfectly in tune.
  • Learning how to tune the violin, using fine tuners. Using pegs is hard to learn, and teachers generally have beginners start with the tuners only, which are easy to turn. This way the student will hear what properly tuned strings sound like (audio below); learning to use the more physically demanding pegs generally happens later.

Why Do Steel Strings Work Well For Beginners?
The way a string behaves is greatly influenced by the material from which it is made. The vast majority of strings for beginners are made with steel as the core (main) material. Steel offers accuracy, pure and direct tone, ease of pressing down because of their thinness, and are designed for use with the fine tuners on the tailpiece. Steel strings are very difficult to tune with the pegs because of steel’s physical properties: Very small changes in string length will result in very large changes in pitch. Most beginners are told to not use the pegs at the early stage of learning – their teacher will help them tune, and the student can make final adjustment with the fine tuners on the tailpiece. Once the student has mastered the basics of playing, there will be ample time to introduce tuning using the pegs.

For the same reason that steel strings work well with fine tuners, most strings made from other materials, such as gut, nylon, and other synthetic materials, don’t work very well with fine tuners; they are designed to be tuned using the pegs. You can learn more about the various string materials below.

Learn more about string materials
Little Girl 2
Especially for Violists, Cellists and Bass Players

While it is true that steel strings work best for beginning players of all stringed instruments, the majority of advanced and professional violists, cellists, and bassists also use steel strings. The reason is that these larger instruments have physical qualities that make them less responsive and clear than the smaller violin. Steel strings work best on the larger instruments, especially for the highest strings. In general, the larger the instrument, the more need they have for steel strings.