Finding the right string for your instrument and style of playing can turn into a lifelong quest. I know musicians who are constantly changing their brand of strings, falling in love with one brand and out of love with another.
But for most of us, choosing strings is kind of a “set it and forget it” proposition. Depending on the style of music, there are certain brands that work well for most players most of the time. So if you’re looking for your first set of strings for fiddling, here’s a short list of brands to consider.
If you’re playing traditional Irish music, you might also check out some of the brands I recommend for violin players here.
The standard string for most bluegrass and old-time players. Helicores are relatively inexpensive, they respond quickly and easily and give fiddlers just enough of the bright overtones they need but with a strong, warm-sounding fundamental tone. Helicores go for around $30-$40 a set.
If you’re new to bluegrass and old-time and looking to try a more fiddle-friendly string, I’d recommend starting with D’Addario Helicores in medium tension (note: I’m not affiliated with D’Addario, or with any other brand for that matter).
If Helicores don’t work, consider some of the other brands on this list.
Prim is a Swedish steel strings. They seem to be more popular among old-time fiddle players. The tone can be bit bright on some instruments, but if your fiddle has a darker tone, you have some leeway. Prims have a very light touch and play easily. They’re in the same price range as Helicores, around $30-$40 per set.
Evah Pirazzi strings are used mostly by classical players. They’re synthetic-core strings, wrapped in steel and tungsten. They sound a bit warmer than Helicores and Prims but respond a touch more slowly, like a synthetic gut string would. At around $80 per set, Evahs are far and away the priciest string on this list. Another downside is that Evahs tend to be heavier, higher-tension string, so you may have to build up a little muscle (or have your bridge re-cut) to make these work, especially if you’re used to easier action.
If Helicores are too bright for you, you might give Zyex a try. They’re a composite-core string made with a synthetic polymer originally created for NASA (no kidding!). If you like your action on the low side and prefer easier-playing strings, go with a lighter tension string than you would normally use. A set of Zyex is around $40.