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Carl E

Why are violin strings so expensive?

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Carl E   

I have played the guitar for years, and even the very best guitar strings are far less expensive than middle of the road violin strings like Dominants or Helicores. Any idea why? Guitar strings are much longer, and there are six of them in a set, yet you can by a premium set of guitar strings (steel) for less than $10 from a discount string place. I can understand gut being expensive, but steel core or perlon (nylon)? The only plus is that violin strings have a longer life than guitar strings.

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Archinto   

Violin strings are more difficult to make than guitar strings. That, and the materials are more costly. They use all the way from aluminum to tungsten. Aluminum and silver are the most common.

Many brands of better quality strings are handmade as well

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Steel guitar strings are cheap because it is easy to make. If you were to buy a good set of classical guitar strings, you may have to pay $30 or more. I wouldn't say that the violin strings have a longer life-span than guitar strings. I usually feel that I need to change my guitar strings every four to five months. The strings are at best within the first two weeks. My violin strings go flat within four to five months.

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Ole Bull   

quote:

Originally posted by Archinto:

Violin strings are more difficult to make than guitar strings. That, and the materials are more costly. They use all the way from aluminum to tungsten. Aluminum and silver are the most common.

Many brands of better quality strings are handmade as well

That's interesting they use tungsten. I heard that this is a highly toxic metal. I wonder if we should avoid tungsten strings, or if this has been considered...

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Archinto   

quote:

Originally posted by Ole Bull:

That's interesting they use tungsten. I heard that this is a highly toxic metal. I wonder if we should avoid tungsten strings, or if this has been considered...

They generally use tungsten on cello strings. I don't even know why I mentioned it earlier. I guess I was just ansy to leave the house to attend a banjo lesson and was hurried. Oh well, Now ya know! smile.gif

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Archinto   

illuminatus,

I know of people who have burned out a set of guitar strings in about ten to fifteen minutes! Thats amazing that you get em' to last so long. (these people are hard core bluegrass pickers.)

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Oldbear   

Ole Bull, I've never heard anything about tungsten being toxic. Are you sure? I think they use tungsten because it has a very high density, that is, high mass per volume. Silver does also of course, but it seems like silver wound cello or bass strings could be pretty expensive. Dart players have their dart shafts made of tungsten for the same reason of high density giving thin shafts that are heavy.

[This message has been edited by Oldbear (edited 01-13-2001).]

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crystal   

quote:

Originally posted by Carl E:

I have played the guitar for years, and even the very best guitar strings are far less expensive than middle of the road violin strings like Dominants or Helicores. Any idea why? Guitar strings are much longer, and there are six of them in a set, yet you can by a premium set of guitar strings (steel) for less than $10 from a discount string place. I can understand gut being expensive, but steel core or perlon (nylon)? The only plus is that violin strings have a longer life than guitar strings.

Most violin players are much more anal retentive (I am including myself in this) about their strings and the manufacturers know this. There are also 10 times as many guitar players out there than violinists or fiddlers.

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Carl E   

I don't buy the argument that the materials are what cause the higher price (sorry Archinto!) Aluminum is a very cheap metal as compared to the bronze with which steet guitar strings are wound. As far as silver goes, a silver wound D string is usually only a little bit more expensive than an aluminum wound D string. Maybe the manufacturing process is more labor intensive for violin strings, but its still the same basic construction - metal wound around a core. Maybe the process has to be more precise due to the string being bowed vs plucked or strummed. ??????

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Ole Bull   

re. tungsten: I heard this on the radio in connection with this depleted uranium question, so this is hearsay. However, I looked it up on the OSHA website, and it seems that it can be highly toxic in certain chemical forms - in particular, soluble compounds:

http://www.osha-slc.gov/dts/chemicalsampli.../CH_274600.html

It's not clear to me whether or not such compounds could form say as a result of reaction with sweat or moisture, but perhaps it's worth considering

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The retail price of a product is determined less by the cost-of-manufacture than by the price that consumers are willing to pay and the degree to which the market is open to entry by new producers who will sell at a lower price. So we can ask whether each of these factors would be expected to act in a way that causes violin strings to be more expensive than guitar strings.

Are violinists willing to pay more for strings than guitar players? On the average, I would suspect that they are.

Is it harder for a new brand to break into the violin string market than into the guitar string market? Well, I'm sure it would be very hard indeed for a new brand of violin strings to get shelf space and market share. I don't know enough about the guitar market to say whether this would be equally true for a new brand of guitar strings.

Finally, as someone pointed out you must compare apples to apples (so to speak). The steel guitar strings that a typical recreational player uses are probably comparable to the el-cheapo steel strings that come standard on under-$500 chinese fiddles. In the guitar market, the high-end picky consumer who play classical music and is comparable to most serious violinist is probably a very small portion of the consumer base.

One could go into a bluegrass music shop and ask for the prices of a professional-level set of steel fiddle strings and similar steel guitar strings. That would probably provide a good apples-to-apples comparison. Than again, I could ask my luthier who in a former lifetime was a professional acoustic guitar player and now works on violins for a living.

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