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Why are violin strings so expensive?


Carl E
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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W.r.t tungsten being toxic (or not), tungsten or tungsten-alloy shotgun pellets are approved as a non-toxic alternative to lead shot for hunting waterfowl. That leads me to believe that the toxicity (sp?) of tungsten is relatively low.

A URL from a very cursory Web search on this topic is

http://www.cws-scf.ec.gc.ca/pub/hunting/toxic.html

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  • 20 years later...

It takes many hours and experience to make a good violin, viola or cello. It is also expensive to learn how to play them professionally. That said, don't use bad strings, or worn out strings. I hate when I see one of my violas with bad or worn out strings. 

Good strings may be very difficult  and expensive to make, most of them are still being made in old Europe, by the very same companies for decades, perhaps centuries.

If they were easy and cheap to make, the Chinese would be making good, playable strings, which seems not to be the case.

 

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On 5/20/2021 at 12:53 PM, Krystan said:

I thought this then had a think, went and had a look and not all guitar strings are that cheap, as mentioned by others an example is here

You've resurrected a decades-old thread!

And you've linked to a set of 6 (!) strings for £36.  That's about the same price as a set of 4 Thomastik Dominant violin strings.

But they are expensive for guitar strings, I guess.

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A rep from Thomastic told me that it was because they have to very precisely make the wound metal into a rectangular shape to make the end product smooth for bowing, guitar strings are very textured due to cost, it is easy to get round wire and wrap that around a round wire. Different materials (Tungsten) are harder to get into the required shape and therefore adds to price even more. Not to mention the specific levels of polish to the surface texture of different strings determined by research to achieve the desired bowing response model to model. 

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20 hours ago, SAS said:

A rep from Thomastic told me that it was because they have to very precisely make the wound metal into a rectangular shape to make the end product smooth for bowing, guitar strings are very textured due to cost, it is easy to get round wire and wrap that around a round wire. Different materials (Tungsten) are harder to get into the required shape and therefore adds to price even more. Not to mention the specific levels of polish to the surface texture of different strings determined by research to achieve the desired bowing response model to model. 

Interesting, thanks, SAS, and welcome to the board.

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I think the technical demands--both manufacturing and sound production--are higher for violin strings.

Also, there's a simple economic factor.  Violins cost thousands on the low end for something playable up to millions for some antiques.  Cases cost hundreds up to 2000-ish for very high end.  Bows?  Anywhere from 100-100,000 USD, of course that range is huge.  My shoulder rest cost me $300.  It's an expensive endeavor.  I am a hobbyist and I am carrying about 7k of gear in my case, what's $109 for a set of Rondo strings?  I think our scales are different.  I play guitar as well and when I see $20 strings I'm outraged at how much they cost.  But I plunk down 5X that for violin strings without a second thought.

 

 

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On 5/25/2021 at 3:48 PM, dpappas said:

I think the technical demands--both manufacturing and sound production--are higher for violin strings.

Also, there's a simple economic factor.  Violins cost thousands on the low end for something playable up to millions for some antiques.  Cases cost hundreds up to 2000-ish for very high end.  Bows?  Anywhere from 100-100,000 USD, of course that range is huge.  My shoulder rest cost me $300.  It's an expensive endeavor.  I am a hobbyist and I am carrying about 7k of gear in my case, what's $109 for a set of Rondo strings?  I think our scales are different.  I play guitar as well and when I see $20 strings I'm outraged at how much they cost.  But I plunk down 5X that for violin strings without a second thought.

 

 

You live in a very different reality to me.

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7 hours ago, dpappas said:

Not necessarily.  My point is that violins and their accessories are expensive.   The strings would follow suit.   Guitars as a whole are on a lower price point.  

It depends on who you buy from. Violin prices are very arbitrary and always have been. 

 

 

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On 5/23/2021 at 2:43 PM, MANFIO said:

It takes many hours and experience to make a good violin, viola or cello. It is also expensive to learn how to play them professionally. That said, don't use bad strings, or worn out strings. I hate when I see one of my violas with bad or worn out strings. 

Good strings may be very difficult  and expensive to make, most of them are still being made in old Europe, by the very same companies for decades, perhaps centuries.

If they were easy and cheap to make, the Chinese would be making good, playable strings, which seems not to be the case.

 

Good synthetic core strings are made in China, but are not sold separately, you have to buy the complete instrument.

At least that is my experience. 

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On 1/13/2001 at 5:42 AM, Archinto said:

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.)

Also depends on the chemical composition of an individual's sweat. I can make a set.of either fiddle or guitar strings last months on end, (and I play much harder than most blugrass players I've seen on the guitar) and I'll hand an instrument to the "wrong" person and after a half hour of playing they're absolutely shot and need to be replaced. I've gotten very selective of who I allow to use my stuff.

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