Strings Attached: Strings for Orchestral Instruments

by Christian Wissmuller • in
  • June 2019
  • Survey
• Created: June 5, 2019

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With nearly 65 percent of participants in this month’s dealer survey reporting that sales of orchestral strings are either up or level when compared to past years, this would appear to be a fairly static market segment. “Violin family instruments are not affected by current trends,” observes Jeff Elias of Interesting Music Shoppe (Cannington, Ontario, Canada). “It’s a small part of the MI industry, but is quite stable.”

“Static” does not necessarily equate to “strong,” however. As with many accessories, margins are relatively low and online competition is particularly challenging for retailers when it comes to these strings. “They buy on the Internet at the price which we dealers get charged by the wholesalers,” opines Rodica Brune of Greeenwich, Connecticut’s Atelier Constantin Popescu.

Other trends that are affecting the market include the advent of synthetic-core strings, which allow for quality product at lower price-points, and the emergence of newer players into a once fairly monopolized field. Indeed, Thomastik (long the leader for orchestral strings) is the best-seller for 73 percent of this survey’s respondents – second to D’Addario’s 82.5 percent.

As David St. John of Music & Arts – Glendora (Glendora California) notes, “D’Addario has taken over more of the lion’s share.”

More suppliers in the mix can allow for greater opportunities for both customers and retailers. “Players seem more willing to try something new (like D’Addario, Kaplan) than they have been in the past,” says Jeff Simons of Davis, California’s Watermelon Music. “Thomastik Dominant no longer rule the roost.”

 Have you been noticing any current trends when it comes to strings for orchestral instruments – either on the supplier or consumer side (customer buying preferences or habits, materials/ techniques being used by suppliers, et cetera)?

 

“Gone are the days of voluminous SKUs and [selling] high-end strings out of a glass tube. Orchestra programs in schools are decimated and our pro clientele has diminished as well.”

Jerry Veseley

Veseley Music

Parowan, Utah

 

“Customers are preferring perlon core over steel core strings.”

Ed Intagliata

Cassell’s Music

San Fernando, California

 

“Customers tend to err towards the cheapest string. Also, the strings market is so competitively priced, there is barely any margin to these items. Coupled with a high cost, makes it very difficult to stock a variety of strings at our stores, and have had to stick to just a few manufacturers/SKUs.”

Walter Crisp

Schmitt Music

Brooklyn Center, Minnesota

 

“[A] public school elementary instrumental music teacher sending beginning students to a clown music store causing us to lose $300,000 in rentals the last two years.”

Gus Rieckhoff

Quincy School Music Center

Quincy, Illinois

 

 

“Thomastik for violin and viola, plus Jargar for cello. These have been our recommended choices by our award winning orchestra program for many, many years.”

Jerry Besser

Tone Music

Owatonna, Minnesota

 

“People want to know what the best bang for their buck is. If they are looking for a good string at a good price, we steer them toward Super Sensitives. For a step up, but not too pricey, we go with any number of D’Addario sets. If they want nicer strings and are willing to pay a little more, we set them up with either Zyex or Dominants.”

Nathan Jamieson

Walton Music House

Walton, New York

 

“More single string purchases, fewer sets – cheaper brands preferred.”

Jo Julier

Cerdd Ystwyth Music

Aberystwyth, Ceredigion

Wales

 

“Customers are going longer between string changes due to cost increases.”

Cassandra Thuneman

Cassandra Strings

Algonquin, Illinois

 

“Not really. Most of my customers are school kids. I’ve been selling the Supersensitive Reds for 12 years now and haven’t had any requests for anything else. Ditto rosin by the way – again pretty much the Supersensitive, though the older students have been getting the Hill’s. Sales of supplies in general have been fairly level the past three or four years. Rentals and repairs are where the growth has been. Rental growth has been a slow but steady rise. Repairs have grown at a faster clip as more people find out that I do repairs.”

Richard Hannemann

Hannemann Music

Los Alamos, California

 

“A move to more affordable synthetic cores.”

Amanda Rueter

Springfield Music

Springfield, Missouri

 

“Customers buying online, and bringing it to us to put on.”

Mitchel D. Banks

Don Banks Music

Tampa, Florida

 

“D’Addario has been our big seller for the past five-plus years. Very consistent and great company to deal with.”

Kevin Walters

Central Penn Music

Palmyra, Pennsylvania

 

“The easy access of social media, YouTube, et cetera [means that] the packaging is less important. If a product is ‘out there’ with a quality perception the manufacture can focus more on product less on ‘eye candy.’”

Dan Patterson

Roger’s Music

Fort Payne, Alabama

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