Saturday, March 6, 2010

String Tension

One question I am often asked is about string tension. What is it? Why is it important? Why do string manufacturers offer strings in different tension grades, such as light medium and heavy?

The string playing tension is the force along the length of the string and is determined by the amount of mass (material) wound on the string. It is also determined by the string length and vibration frequency, but these are typically fixed for standard instruments and tunings.

String tension affects the response and playability of the string, as well as the sound. Higher tension strings will sound louder and can be played louder, but they are less responsive. They are more difficult to control, especially when played softly because they have more mass. While lower tension strings cannot play as loud as higher tension strings, they often have a larger tonal palette than higher tension strings.

Contrary to popular belief, higher tension strings are not necessarily brighter sounding. The opposite is often true. Since higher tension strings are inherently louder, players often bow further away from the bridge and use less bow pressure, which produces a less bright sound.

We offer most strings in light, medium and heavy tension grades. Other manufacturers may use terms such as soft and strong, or dolce and forte, or weich and stark. The medium tension is what works best for most players and instruments. However, your particular instrument and playing style may work better with light or heavy. In addition, your instrument may work best with a mixed set of different tensions. Don't be afraid to experiment!

There are no standards for tension, so one brand's "medium" tension can be different than another brand's medium. All of our string tension specifications are listed on our website:

I will discuss some additional issues and myths about string tension in a future blog.


  1. Is there a difference in Violin or Viola G D and A strings? Some company's string violas with violin strings and I was wondering if there really is a difference for the student player.

  2. Our viola strings are not just longer versions of violin strings. A violin string used on a viola may have the wrong playing tension or the wrong playing characteristics. Therefore, all of our viola strings, as well as all our fractional sized strings, are optimized for their instrument and size. There are some violin strings that happen to work well as fractional size viola strings, but we don’t recommend this unless you are willing to experiment.