Kevlar or Nylon

June 7, 2009 at 08:20 PM ·

What's a better violin tail gut and why? Kevlar or the regular Saconni Nylon kind?

Replies (12)

June 7, 2009 at 09:00 PM ·

I use the nylon Sacconi type, it's easy to adjust the string afterlength with this tailgut type.

It seems that it was Frank Pasta (a Sacconi's pupil) who invented this tailgut.

June 7, 2009 at 09:13 PM ·

I have never had a failure with the "Saconni" brand, however similar looking items have failed right out of the package.

June 7, 2009 at 09:23 PM ·

Senior Manfio, you must be having memories of your  Italian years and the wonderful food. A rigatoni-an slip no doubt.

Frank Passa died a few years back. He was quite a personality. He had a woman who did nothing but cut and thread pieces of nylon to make them. He made a nice chunk of change on that idea. Some one eventually copied the idea of course and made cheaper ones that didn't work as well.  

Don't forget real gut. Some folks swear by it.

June 7, 2009 at 09:53 PM ·

If you are talking about those braided kevlar cords, I have found that they are difficult to work with if you are trying to get exact after length.

But for all the work they didn't sound any better than the sacconi tail adjusters.

I'd like to try those gut ones sometime




June 7, 2009 at 09:57 PM ·

Real Gut....

June 7, 2009 at 10:23 PM ·

Hi Eric! Yes, Passa, not Pasta... ...

I make my own pasta: for each egg 100 grams of "grano duro" flour and one teaspoon extra virgin olive oil.  Mix well and let it rest for one hour.  Raviole is my specialty, shrimp or artichoke raviole made with fresh home made pasta.

The problem with real gut tailgut is that it can breake during a concert, it happened some months ago in a concert with violist Yuri Bashmet.

June 7, 2009 at 11:17 PM ·

I agree with Rob, in that the Kevlar tail adjusters are a total pain to fine-tune, and the jury is out on the benefits.

Eric brings up some interesting "inside information" on the late Mr. Frank Passa. On that theme, my own belief is that he secretly wanted to be Frank Sinatra. :-)  When I was about 17, I had  a crush on his daughter, Francine. As I look back on that time, was it really her, or just fantasies about inheriting the tail adjuster dynasty? :-(

Many years later, he asked me to buy his business. Unclear about whether his daughter was to be included in the deal, I was unable to commit..

All that aside, I've never had a failure with a genuine Sacconi tail adjuster, but have had a few with the clones. I'll gladly pay a buck or two more to avoid having a bridge launch into the cello section. ;-)

June 8, 2009 at 12:13 AM ·

As a very general rule on the instruments I work on I prefer stiffer tail support for violin, and more flexible for violas and cellos. I use mostly kevlar on cellos, and nylon on violins, sometimes even copper, in unusual circumstances.

June 8, 2009 at 12:45 AM ·

Yes David, Frank and Francine came to my room at the VSA Convention once to look at my pegs display. Had a hard time keeping my attention on the business at hand. Sure didn't want to tick off Frank though. Did she inherit the adjuster biz?

June 8, 2009 at 01:22 AM ·


the business was the guts of the deal.  The daughter was just the tail piece.



June 10, 2009 at 01:29 PM ·

From my using gut strings, I would imagine that the gut tailpiece gut might be a better conductor of the string vibrations back to the instrument.  Whether this is true, and whether a better vibration conductor is a good thing, I don't know, However I think it's safe to say that when the great masters of eighteenth century Cremona built their instruments, a gut (rather than Kevlar or Nylon) tailpiece gut was part of the acoustical system!  Of those who have tried actual gut tailpiece gut, are there any who feel that there is a tone quality advantage to using it?

June 10, 2009 at 03:05 PM ·

I visited Frank and his family after his stroke and after they had left San Francisco and moved home and business into a one-story mansion in Santa Rosa. He had a large "tail" of white "urinated horse hair" hanging in the family room/kitchen area of the house. Francine did the rehair on my Nürnberger cello bow and Frank fitted some new silver on the frog.

The "Sacconi" tailcord business was still going (in the basement 5-car garage, where lots of maple and spruce wedges and pre-cut pernambuco bow blanks were stored). The wine cellar and other subterrainian areas were used to store instruments that he had not yet sold. This was just about the time the STRAD Magazine published its article about his life and career.

My experience has also been that Sacconi tailcords are totally reliable and the other brands that sold after the original patents expired are very chancy.

I have found the more difficult to adjust New Harmony steel-cord tailpiece adjusters or the contrary Bois d'Harmonie Kevlar cords have generally given me slightly improved tone, when I have been able to adjust them for ideal string afterlengths -- but that adjustment is very contrary. By now, I have the Kevlar tailcords installed on most of my own instruments (the ones I play, anyway).

My violin and cello playing started in the tailGUT days and my first Sacconi (after my last tailGUT had burst) was a very pleasant surprise. I didn't even know that invention existed until the music store said they hand no more tailGUTs - I think it was still in the 1950s. After anticipating flaming the ends and tying it off with thread, those two adjustable screw ends were a real delight. I don't recall the stiff gut gave any better sound than the stiff nylon.


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