Cello Zone! String Recommendations

“Which strings should I get for my cello?”

It’s a common question to receive as a cello teacher and quite honestly, a difficult one to answer.  The gauge, tension, materials, and action of our strings make a significant difference in the tone and sound production of the cello.  Each instrument has a different voice, which requires experimentation in what type of string is best to use.  The same brand of strings on two different cellos will ultimately yield unique results.  “String-Brand-A” may sound excellent on my cello, but be a totally wrong for yours….  With so many brands and prices, which one do you choose?  Thankfully, Johnson String Instrument Shop has made it easier for me to share cello string combinations via student wish lists!  Here are three sets/combos of strings to get you started, in order of low to high price.

** All string sizes listed below are 4/4 Full Size.  If you need to order 1/2 or 3/4 size cello strings, be sure to select that option when ordering (start from this page, click below)! ⇓

Click image to go to String Size Selection Page.

Book a Cello Zone Lesson with Brian!

Live in Sun Prairie?

email Prairie Music & Arts:  info@prairiemusic.org,

cc: bgrimm@prairiemusic.org

Live on the west side of Madison?

email Monroe Street Arts Center:  info@monroestreetarts.org

cc: brian@monroestreetarts.org


 D’Addario Prelude – reliable set on a budget or backup strings

Pros:  Affordable, yet still sounds good and plays well!  I use them on my homemade electric cello (#frankencello) and I find them to be flexible and reliable.  They have stood up to some extreme playing conditions encountered during gigs.

Cons:  Not as pitch stable as Kaplans or Helicores.  The “center of pitch” feels slightly mushy… this is hard to describe and may be due to the nickel winding, which is on all strings.

Set Includes:

  • Prelude 4/4 Cello Set A, D, G & C – nickel wound / steel core: Medium

Prelude (D’Addario) – solid steel core string that is durable and not affected by temperature and humidity changes. Prelude strings have a clear, bright sound without the shrill sound of traditional steel strings, and have a quick bow response.


Brian Grimm D’Addario Kaplan-Helicore Combo

Pros: Great for multi-style playing.  Holds tuning very well.  Quick response.  Fairly loud sound production.  This has been the string combo on my concert cello from 2013 to 2017. They have proven to be suitable across many genres… however, I’m now moving on to some other brands of strings in search of a richer, mellower sound.

Cons: As the Kaplan A & D strings age, they get a bit metallic and scratchy sounding (especially in the high end).  Not as subtle as Jargar, Larsen, Pirastro strings.

Combo Set Includes:

  • Kaplan Cello A – titanium wound / steel core: Medium
  • Kaplan Cello D – nickel wound / steel core: Medium
  • Helicore Cello G & C – tungsten-silver wound / steel core: Medium

Kaplan (D’Addario) – strings offer a beautiful, rich tonal palette and superb bowing response. They provide clarity and warmth across the registers and throughout the dynamic range.

Helicore (D’Addario)  multi-strand, twisted steel core strings have a small string diameter, providing a quick bow response. Thanks to special manufacturing techniques, Helicore strings have a warm, clear sound with excellent pitch stability and longevity.


Janet Marshall (My Classical Teacher) Jagar-Larsen Combo

aka “The Denmark Combo”

Pros:  Powerful low end sound.  Beautiful rich tone.  I very much enjoyed this combo when playing Brahms and other Romantic era pieces.  Jargar has since come out with two new lines of string that I haven’t tried: Thin/dolce & Thick/forte. There isn’t a huge price jump on those and are worth trying, depending on your #soundgoals.

Cons:  Larsen strings are costly, you pay for that good sound; the C string itself is $100.  Sometimes my Jargar A & D strings would be a bit unstable & drop pitch over the course of a piece.

Combo Set Includes:

  • Jargar Cello A & D – chrome wound / steel core: Medium
  • Larsen Cello G & C – tungsten wound / steel core: Medium

Jargar – Bright, full sound, quick response. Made in Denmark, these steel core strings are favored by many solosits. Jargar strings are known for their powerful, well-balanced tone.

Larsen – Made in Denmark, Larsen strings are aimed at soloists in need of a string with projection.


Additional resources on selecting strings:


Find out more about Cello Lessons with Brian Grimm

Cellist Brian Grimm is a composer, performer and teacher based out Madison, WI.  Though Classically trained and studied in Jazz, Brian also grew up surrounded by Chinese instruments.  This has pulled him into a life passion for learning music from all around the world.  Brian’s teachers include members of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad Ensemble, the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, the WuJi Ensemble (Hong Kong), the Buselli–Wallarab Jazz Orchestra, & Sitar virtuoso Pt. Sugato Nag (India).

Click on my beard to book a Cello Zone Lesson!

7/15 | Lovely Socialite and Left Field Quartet double release show @ Art In

click the pic and RSVP on our facebook event

DOUBLE RELEASE SHOW

Sat, 7/15  |  @ ART IN   1444 E Washington ST, Madison, WI

730p doors // 800p music

$10 gets you into the show

OR $15 gets you in + both CDs!

1st AND ILLUSIONS

2nd LEFT FIELD QUARTET – Please Take Us Seriously release

3rd LOVELY SOCIALITE – DoubleShark EP release

Lovely Socialite performing at The Shitty Barn in 2016. Photo by Connie Ward (c) In The Rushes Photogaphy

 🔗 Tone Madison Podcast: Lovely Socialite get leaner and louder

Lovely Socialite (lovelysocialitemusic.com) “DoubleShark” ep release
Lovely Socialite, formerly Lovely Socialite Mrs. Thomas W. Phipps, is a Milwaukee/Madison-based six-piece that combines the aesthetics of modern jazz with contemporary classical, driving rock, and hip hop. Lauded for their bold and intricate compositions, the group often draws comparisons to Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. The band’s original music combines strict notation with moments of improvisation and maintains a healthy balance of dark and heavy rock grooves with quirky jazz obscurities.


Left Field Quartet at UW Madison, where they met and cut their teeth together on Jazz.

 🔗 Tone Madison premieres Left Field Track “Straight Ahead F Blues”

Left Field Quartet  “Please Take Us Seriously” album release
Left Field Quartet is a collaborative group of Midwest-raised musicians specializing in eclectic, original music. With a unique and versatile tone, the group has scored plays and politically-charged events in the local community. What makes Left Field work so cohesively together is their adventurous desire for creativity in all of its multifaceted forms. “Please Take Us Seriously” is the band’s first official album release which combines gritty and fiery grooves with a personal touch and a playful sound.

And Illusions
And Illusions is a collaboration of local experimental musicians Emili Earhart and Michael Groome. With a focus on the psychedelic and long patient song structures, And Illusions occupies a wonderful space somewhere between noise music and kraut rock. It is at once meditative and soothing, a balancing act of angular and rounded tones.


 

7/11 | Jonah Parzen-Johnson + BC Grimm @ A+LL

Pre-order the new album!

Tues, 7/11 | 8p $8adv/10do @ Arts + Literature Laboratory

2021 Winnebago St, Madison, WI 53704

JONAH PARZEN-JOHNSON (Brooklyn, NY)

BC GRIMM (Madison, WI)

Brooklyn based saxophonist and composer Jonah Parzen-Johnson performs at Arts + Literature Laboratory on Tuesday, July 11, 2017, with Madison multi-instrumentalist Brian Grimm opening. Tickets are $8 in advance online at http://parzenjohnson.bpt.me/ or $10 at the door. Online sales end one hour before the show.

Jonah plays lofi experimental folk music for solo baritone saxophone and analog synthesizer. Imagine the raw energy of an Appalachian choir, balanced by a fearlessly exposed saxophone voice, resting on a strikingly unique combination of analog synthesizer components sitting on the floor in front of him. It all breathes together, as Jonah uses his feet to weave square and sawtooth waves into a surging base for folk inspired saxophone melodies, overblown multi phonics, vocalizations, and patiently developed circular breathing passages. Every element is performed and recorded at the same time, by one person, without any looping, overdubbing or recorded samples. “I want to make music that has texture, and depth, but most of all I want it to be direct and grounded. Touring and playing solo is all about being connected to the folks listening. I want you to feel like I’m looking you in the eye while I’m playing.”

Click for Tix!


In BC Grimm’s solo set, you may hear dances of the unaccompanied Bach cello suites; ever popular melodies of the Erhu Chinese fiddle adapted for cello; as well as original compositions from his dance/theatre scores & solo albums. Cellist & composer Brian Grimm grew up surrounded by Chinese string instruments of every sort. After initiating lessons in with virtuosos Yang Wei (pipa) & Daxun Zhang (bass) of the Silkroad Ensemble, Brian was lucky to continue his Chinese music studies on guqin (zither), pipa (lute), gaohu (fiddle) & daruan (bass lute) in Hong Kong with members of the 香港中樂團 Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra & Wuji Ensemble 無極樂團. Over the last 15 years Grimm has developed a deep language of Free Improvisation & Composition with groups such as The Brothers Grimm, Lovely Socialite, and Brennan Connors & Stray Passage.

BCG @ Milwaukee Release of “Orbis Obscura”