A violin is a small wooden, hourglass-shape bowed string instrument. It contains the soundboard, bridge, back, neck, maple ribs, two end blocks, soundpost, and strings. Optionally, it can also feature chinrest.
The number of strings is not strict, especially if you want to purchase a contemporary instrument. Keep in mind that you need a traditional violin if you are a beginner. Once you master it, you can experiment with models, shapes, and strings. So, let’s see how many strings does a violin have.
The Number of Traditional Violin Strings
Most violins have four strings, which produce so-called perfect fifths. It is a musical interval that fits a pair of pitches with a 3:2 frequency ratio. You need to tune your instrument with G3, D4, A4, E5 notes to achieve this.
Even though the four strings are a standard, its number can vary depending on the violin size. You can also find violins with five, seven, and eight strings. Those extra strings are always lower than the G-string in pitch.
Most experts agree that seven strings are the maximum number for a violin. It would be impossible to reach the eighth one with the bow correctly. Even violins with seven strings are extremely rare.
Jazz and folk players prefer violins with five or more strings. Some of them have custom-made violins with extra strings. They can’t bow them, but these instruments can sound gently and warm-hearted because of other strings’ vibration.
The Number of Electric Violin Strings
Since there is no need for string tension and adequate resonance to improve its sound, the electric violin can have more strings than traditional models.
Most manufacturers offer five-stringed electric violins with an extra-low C string. Moreover, some of them produce seven-string models, as well. These three extra strings are the lowest ones. Musicians who play jazz fusion, like Jean-Luc Ponty, often choose this particular instrument.
The Most Common Violin Strings
You can find a violin with more strings, but four is a standard number. They are arranged from high to low (E, A, D, G) tone.
It is the violin string placed on the leftmost side when you look at the instrument with the head that points towards your chin. This string produces music you get after pressing it with the index finger.
It is the second left string next to the E one, which produces a bit lower sound in pitch. It is necessary to press it with the middle finger to get the desired tone.
Since it is the third left string, you should use your ring finger to press it and produce music. This second thickest string is right next to the string A and placed on the inside.
It is the last, fourth, and thickest string of the basic violins. It is the lowest in pitch and produces an entirely flat sound.
Most violins don’t have this fifth string, but it is not rare in professional instruments. It is optional, and only virtuoso players use it to add additional value to their performance.
The Influence of Strings on the Violin Sound
Although numerous factors affect the sound of this instrument while playing, strings undoubtedly have the most significant effect. However, they can’t make a fundamental change to the sound quality related to the basic violin construction.
It is possible for the top-quality set of strings to partially improve the sound quality if you have a poor-quality violin for beginners. Unfortunately, strings can’t significantly affect a high-end professional instrument’s sound no matter how good they are.
On the other hand, a low-quality set of strings will notably hinder the tone of a top-notch instrument. Therefore, you should purchase the best strings you can afford, regardless of the quality of the violin you have. That way, you will shape the produced tone the way you desire.
Keep in mind that quality strings will also positively affect:
- Volume and depth
- Warmth and brightness
- The level of effort you need to use the bow
One more thing! It is crucial to find an adequate set of strings that fits the type of music you play.
Violin String Types
1. Gut (animal) strings
Traditionally, string makers make them from the sheep, preferably wethers’ (castrated rams) intestines. After twisting the guts between two hooks, they get strings of different diameters. Basically, the thickness of each string directly depends on the number of fibers the particular intestines contain.
For top-quality, highly-flexible, so-called High Twist strings, it is necessary to twist guts as much as possible while still wet. Once strings become dry, it is essential to polish them. That way, they become attractive and with improved vibrational trueness.
Unfortunately, polishing breaks some fibers, which will decrease the overall strings’ strength. Nowadays, real virtuosos avoid these strings since they are not powerful enough for modern compositions. They are also sensitive to temperature and humidity changes.
2. Metal wound gut strings
Wound (covered, over-spun) strings are a separate version of gut strings with wound metal wire over the inner core. There are two primary types, close and open wound.
In the 19th century, manufacturers used the silver, copper, or silver-plated copper winding. Contemporary winding is made of aluminum or steel.
3. Metal strings
At the beginning of the 20th century, violin makers started to produce strings made of steel wire. Nowadays, manufacturers make violins that contain stainless-steel, flat aluminum winding on steel, chromium-steel, and gold-plated steel strings that are corrosive resistant.
4. Plastic strings
Nylon is a suitable material for making violin strings. It can entirely replace guts and provide stable support to metal wound strings.
5. Metal wound plastic strings
This string type features a plastic (perlon) core with an outside metal winding. This middleweight material is stable, consistent, humid-resistant, and long-lasting.
6. Synthetic strings
These strings appeared in 1990 when the LARSEN Strings company from Holland set up trial production. Right after them, the Italian company D’Addario introduced ‘Zyex’ violin strings with a synthetic core. This ultramodern material is resistant to humidity and extreme temperature changes, but too expensive for most violinists.
Violin strings may look the same to amateurs, but they differ in size, shape, material, and dimensions. Their number can vary, but most violins have four basic strings that are enough for talented players to produce desired musical sounds on this beautiful instrument.