Strings for orchestral instruments have a lot of standards to conform to, but that doesn't mean each string is created equal. The differences are all about the wiggle room they have within those standards, and it can be really surprising to see how many varieties of strings are available. Even the subtlest changes can really affect a string's character, not to mention that of the instrument itself - which is probably why many orchestral musicians prefer to choose their strings one at a time. Of course, if you'd rather pick up a whole new set at once, you have the freedom to do that as well. With all the options in this section, you're totally in control of your instrument's string layout.
The first step to locating the best set for your needs is simply to narrow the options down by instrument. With strings for violin, viola, cello, double bass and gamba, there are hundreds to choose from - but you can cut that down to a more manageable number by filtering for one instrument at a time. From there, you'll be ready to decide whether to shop for single strings or sets, and maybe even pick out your favorite brands. If you play a specialty instrument, keep an eye out for purpose-built strings, such as the D'Addario NS610 NS Electric Traditional Bass Strings made specifically for NS electric basses.
After you've trimmed your options to the strings that will fit your instrument, there are two important traits to consider: material and core style. Traditionally, most strings were made with natural gut, but today there are lots of alternatives available. Some are synthetics, which simulate the performance of traditional strings. Others are steel, which lasts longer and is more consistent, making it a solid choice for beginners. Those materials can be shaped in different ways, which determines the core type and affects the sound in turn - for instance, the rope core of the Thomastik Belcanto 3/4 Size Double Bass Strings is dark, warm and resonant while the uniquely-shaped D'Addario Helicore Violin Set Strings are focused on clarity and quick bow response.
Reading up on the characteristics of your top picks is always a good idea before you make a decision. And if you're not certain where to begin, you might want to take a look at the top-selling and best-rated strings and sets for a few ready-made suggestions. The only thing you should avoid is rushing; just take your time and check out all the strings that sound right for you, and you'll have no trouble making the perfect choice for your own personal tastes.