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What are violin strings made of now (are violin strings made of horsehair?)

If you have a violin, or are thinking of learning the violin, you might be interested to learn what are violin strings made up now?

Are violin strings made of horsehair?

This is a common question because there is so much out there about different types of strings and different types of hair that is used on instruments like the violin.

To help you answer this question and to better explain the different components that go into violin strings, we’ve put together this quick guide to explain things in a bit more depth.

Are violin strings made of horsehair?

The short answer is no. The strings on the violin itself are not. 

Violin strings that go on the violin are not made with horsehair. What is potentially made with horsehair are the strings that go on the bow. These are two very different sets of strings.

Your violin bow strings can be made from synthetic strings which often use Hi-Tech nylon or composite and these are designed for beginners with decent responsiveness.

The synthetic formula functions very similarly to horsehair in that they should react with your violin strings very well and respond to the rosin equally well.

Horsehair strings are the original strings used for violin bows.

They don’t actually come from the horse’s head but rather from their tails.

The hairs can come from many different types of horses with the most popular being Mongolian and Siberian.

The hair that comes from Siberian stallions is often considered to be of highest quality.

The type of horse is important because those that live in northern climates such as Siberia are stronger in order to deal with the frigid temperatures in which they live which means that every part of their body is stronger including the hair.

The gender is important as well. Stallion hair is preferred simply because it’s cleaner.

Stallions are less likely to get urine on their tails. Color doesn’t influence how well the bow works but it is a matter of personal preference and is available in white hair or black hair.

White hair is finer in texture and usually reserved for violin bows while the black hair is reserved for cello and bass bows.

The horsehair is prepared so that each hair is the same length and nothing with split ends is included.

The hairs have to be straight with the same thickness all the way down in the same level of strength all the way down.

If there’s any consistency in any of these areas, as you move the violin bow up and down the violin strings, certain sections of the bow might generate different sounds and you don’t want that.

Is horse hair or synthetic hair better?

There’s no one option that’s better than the other. Most violinists prefer horsehair once they reach an intermediate level.

Horsehair has more bite to it which, unlike a real horse, doesn’t actually bite on your violin strings but rather holds the rosin more which in turn helps the strings on your bow hold on to the strings on your instrument.

But synthetic is decent for beginners, has a better life span, and doesn’t need as much maintenance.

So what about the strings on your violin? These can be made from multiple materials.

Types of strings

For violins, there are three types of violin strings, each of which can impact the sound to a certain degree and your learning process to a bigger degree.

  1. Gut strings are the first type of strength, and the oldest. Historically they were made with sheep gut throughout the century and they provide a wide range of overtones. They are not the most responsive because they rely more heavily on your ability to finesse the bow and to apply your skill-set. They also require more maintenance because they are made from natural gut. Natural gut is full of proteins in these proteins absorb water in the air so if you play or even travel through an area with high levels of humidity that means high levels of water molecules in the air which get absorbed by the gut strings, causing the strings to get heavier and thicker in size. This results in them literally falling out of tune because they are no longer as taut. So you have to retune more often. Again, this is better for advanced players in particular.
  2. Steel core strings are the next type of string.  These are made with a steel center and wound with other materials so that they’re heavier. They are much more dense and you have fun or control over things like tone and timber because of this density and the metallic windings. Steel strings will maintain their tuning stability even if you are performing under hot stage lights or in a humid area. These steel strings are better for intermediate players. They are long-lasting, they don’t break very easily and they’re especially popular with any musical genre that has a metallic Edge like jazz or country music.
  3. Synthetic strings are the final category and these are often called dominant strings because of the brand that created them. They have a synthetic design usually made of nylon. They have much better pitch stability than the other strings but they also have much more limited overtones, a complexity to music that won’t bother beginners but would bother professionals. So synthetic strings are a great option to choose for beginners.

Check out this quick video on how to change your strings so that when you buy new ones, you know how to replace them on your violin.

What about wrappings?

Certain strings especially synthetic and steel strings will have wrappings or windings and that literally refers to the material that is wrapped or wound around the core.

Steel strings are typically wrapped with things like aluminum, gold, or silver all of which change the vibrations and the friction you generate with your strings and your violin bow.

Advanced players will find wrappings or windings that match the material added to their rosin, something that enhances friction even more. But beginners don’t need to worry about this as much.

What are violin strings made of now?

No doubt your questions about what are violin strings made of now (are violin strings made of horsehair?) have been answered, but you still need to make a decision as to which strings to buy.

D’Addario Helicore 4/4 Size Violin Strings 4/4 Size Set with Steel E String

As a beginner or an intermediate violinist, these offer a very flexible design and are one of the most popular violin strings.

They are suitable for individuals performing solo pieces or musicians who are part of an ensemble such as beginning students who are taking music classes for beginning adults who are taking private lessons.

This is a full-sized set of strings which means it’s for a full-size violin.

They’ve earned a reputation as being very high quality and very fast in their responsiveness which is good for new players who need strings that effectively make the sound they are trying to produce immediately so that those new players know when something is right or wrong.

These feature a steel core but it’s a stranded steel so the tone isn’t as brassy as you might get with other products and is much warmer.

They are wound with computer control technology that gives a fast response and better pitch stability.

Each of the strings are individually wrapped and sealed so if you are only replacing one string at a time you don’t have to worry about the other strings corroding while they are stored.

View at Amazon for more information on how this product might work for you.

Pros:

  • Versatile strings that are suitable for solos or ensembles
  • Good for multiple skills levels
  • Steel wound core
  • Faster response times 
  • Warmer sound compared to most steel strings

Cons:

  • Smaller string diameter which not every musician likes

Thomastik-Infeld 135B.14 Dominant Violin Strings Set 1/4 Size

Thomastik-Infeld is the leader in synthetic strings. These strings are actually some of the first synthetic strings ever developed for violins so if you are interested in synthetic, this is one of the best places to go.

This set works for beginning players as well as intermediate players with good pitch stability and flexibility.

The strings have a synthetic perlon core.

The synthetic center lets you play much more often before you have to tune which can be very useful for a beginner who isn’t yet comfortable tuning their violin every time they practice or doesn’t practice more than once or twice per week.

These strings last quite some time and they are available in multiple gauges and lengths so if you have a child who is learning the violin, these are not only a good investment for a beginner but you can find versions that will fit smaller violence like half sizes.

You can also find different gauges if you are an intermediate player and you have a preference in terms of the gauge with which you play. 

View at Amazon for more information on how this product could work for you.

Pros:

  • Synthetic perlon core that is available in full size and fractional sizes
  • Stable pitch without needing to retune after every rehearsal
  • Long lasting design, so beginners won’t have to buy new strings all the time
  • Great for intermediate and beginners

Cons:

  • Synthetic core, which not all players like
  • Limited overtones, which won’t really matter for beginners

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