Pirastro Olive Strings

January 25, 2007 at 03:15 AM · Have just had my violin strung with these as I have been using Obligatos for a long while and wanted to try something new; a gut core string. Just wanting any comments at all on Olive strings; eg: how long they last you, strengths, weaknesses, verdicts, how long after stringing they peak, how long they take to play-in, which styles are they best suited for... anything really! Any comment much appreciated. Thanks.

Replies (33)

January 25, 2007 at 03:38 AM · They take a few days to get to their best sound, but for me at least, they sounded good from right when I put them on. They have a wonderful sound (clear, rich, warm) and feel nice to play. Gut strings, however, demand much more refinement and attention to detail in the bow arm than do synthetics. Olivs are also really @#$*& expensive.

January 25, 2007 at 04:04 AM · In my opinion, the reason to use Olivs is the bottom two strings, which rock. The A is the most fragile string in the set, and is the most unstable in pitch. You'll want to experiment with different E strings, as violins can be sensitive to which E you use in combination with the other strings.

Although the G and D are very expensive, they last a bit longer than synthetics -- I most often use an Obligato A and usually go through 3 or 4 A strings before I feel the need to change the G and D. You can watch the A string die and the E string go false while the G and D keep on ticking. :^) At the moment I'm trying a Larsen A (on the recommendation of people on this site) and it's a very good match once it breaks in (after a few days.)

Olivs take about a week to fully break in. Compared to most of the popular synthetics, they're pretty sensitive to variations in pressure and contact point -- whether you like this or not is a matter of taste.

January 25, 2007 at 04:22 AM · The A for sure is wild, but all in all the set is pretty amazing

I especially liked the goldplated E despite most people complaining of its whistling

all ain all just a great set of strings

January 25, 2007 at 05:07 AM · Peter's post has been wondering about just getting Olives for the G & D. I think I can live with a little pitch wandering if it's not on the A & E.


1: Do others concurr with how long they last?

2: Do they last that long while still maintaining all harmonics, or do they (like many strings) really only sound their best for a few weeks, then settle-in to abou 80% for the next six months?

3: I despise Obligatos on my violin. I need something with a bit more edge. (currently pretty happy with Wondertones) What other top synthetic strings might have a good chance of mating with the Olive G & D?

January 25, 2007 at 04:53 PM · In regards to durability, I kept my last Olive G on for 2 years. My current Olive G is over a year old. I did not notice a big difference when I replaced my 2 year old Olive G. I keep my Oliv D's on until they snap, which can range anywhere from 3 to 6 months. I use a Synoxa A and Gold Label E that I change every couple months.

Most synthetics I used (I ran the gamut of "premium" synthetic strings) sounded like rubberbands after 2 months. So despite the initial high cost of Olives, I find that they are a better investment than synthetics.

Plus, the Olive G and D sound so much better than any synthetic on my fiddle.

January 25, 2007 at 12:05 PM · Hi,

Olivs are great strings. Beautiful sound, nice projection, great range of colours. The downside is price and stability, but that depends on climate. Some suggest that using the thinnest gauge helps with the stability. Have not tried that.

The A is problematical somehow for many. Possible solutions include using a plain gut A or something like the Synoxa or Larsen A which seem to blend in well.

They do last long for many. The downside is that you cannot really clean them with alcohol - it damages the core. So if you have a rather sweaty hands, or very salty sweat, that is a downside.

Beautiful sound though and a range of colours not really matched by anything else.


January 25, 2007 at 03:37 PM · I also found the A string to be very fragile--mine disintegrated after three weeks! I switched to Larsen A which is working fine. I use Goldbrokat heavy-gauge E which balances out the sound very nicely.

January 25, 2007 at 04:20 PM · I really love them on my viola - I used them with a Eudoxa A. They don't last very long though, and I can't afford to get them again.

January 25, 2007 at 05:17 PM · I started using an OLIVE A last September on one of my violins....The first A lasted only two weeks. The outer winding started to separate exposing the gut core this was caused by the nut at the end of the finger board...It's important to make sure the string is running smoothly in the grooves without any rough edges, a little dry soap will help to keep things smooth.These srings are really fantastic tonally on the right violin I would recommend them to anyone who is thinking of using gut core strings.

January 25, 2007 at 09:15 PM · Christian,

if you can't hit gut strings with alcohol, how do you clean-off the built-up rosin? I like my strings CLEAN, and no amount of water & elbow grease does it for me.

Is there an alternative?

January 25, 2007 at 10:05 PM · I've heard olive oil is what they used back in Cremona...

January 25, 2007 at 10:42 PM · If I'm cleaning a valuable instrument I use olive oil to soften the rosin rather than using aggressive cleaners. It works but it takes ages and many applications, it is safe though. Considering the rosin on strings is not oxidised as much I suppose it would be more effective.

January 25, 2007 at 10:49 PM · How do Olivs and Eudoxas compare? I'm interested in trying gut strings, and the only reason I haven't tried Olivs is the price. Right now I'm using Evah Pirazzis which are great, but I wanted to try gut strings too because I heard they were very warm. Do Eudoxas work on new violins? My violin is made in 2006 and has a very sweet tone.

January 25, 2007 at 11:27 PM · To remove rosin build up on strings I have been using Eau de cologne for years with no problems up to now.A word of caution make sure you put a cloth under the fingerboard and bridge area so as to protect the varnish!

January 26, 2007 at 12:38 AM · John,

Eau de cologne is alcohol based.

Probably smells nice, but are you doing this with gut strings?

January 26, 2007 at 01:04 AM · Thanks everyone this is great advice. Ummm just another little question.... I asked my sister to close her eyes and listen for the point at which i moved from the A to E string and she could pick it immediately as all strings tend to be more reverberant than the oliv A. What is the best A string you have found to use with the Olive G, D and E strings? or do you prefer a different A and E string to use with the Oliv G and D?

January 26, 2007 at 04:31 AM · That's basically the same question I asked a few posts ago. So far the only suggestion has been Obligatos, but I hate Obligatos.

I'm thinking of trying Larsen Tzigane, Corelli Alliance Vivace, or maybe even Evahs again. - I don't mind their short life-span if I'm only replacing the A & E strings.

January 26, 2007 at 03:43 AM · The A strings that have been suggested so far are Larsen, Obligato, and Synoxa. I can personally vouch for Obligato and Larsen; it's been several years since I last tried Synoxa and I don't remember it that well.

Evah Pirazzi doesn't work for me in combination with Oliv. When I tried the Evah A, it was pretty bright/edgy at all contact points (on my already soprano-sounding violin.) Olivs are edgy close to the bridge but you can take the edge off by bowing close to the fingerboard.

Olivs have more edge than Eudoxas.

I have a question too. Has anyone noticed a difference between the silver Oliv D and the gold-aluminum D? I've always used the silver D...

January 26, 2007 at 05:02 AM · The aluminum is supposed to be brighter (and thicker) but I have no personal knowledge of this.

BTW- I am a little weirded out by the idea of using oil to clean a string, since it will attract dust & dirt between the windings, and thus cause the string to go false. However, I found the following in my records, possibly even taken from this site:

'Some players use olive oil on gut strings to extend their playing life, and improve tuning stability by reducing the strings' sensitivity to humidity."


January 26, 2007 at 06:30 AM · I stopped using Olives a few years ago, after I discovered Evah Pirazzis. The Olives were too soft and not articulate enough for my taste and I was looking for a new sound. The sound of the Evahs is much more vibrant, clear, powerful and very musical, and they virtually NEVER go out of tune. After only about two days of break in, they literally don't go out of tune for me - I may tune once in a week or two. It's amazing. For example, I have been very busy with moving and other business over the past few months and I haven't had the fiddle out in all that time . Tonight I took my violin out and only the A string was low, and only by about a quarter step - the other strings were right there. Of course, when it comes to what string sound you like, it all depends on one's instrument and personal taste. You may or may not like them. If you want to try them out, I got my first set for free. I just went to Pirastro's web site and wrote to them, requesting a set for evaluation. In a couple of weeks they were delivered and I haven't looked back. My 2 cents about strings. Good luck!

January 26, 2007 at 07:53 AM · I tried Pirazzi's on my violin and found them interesting under the ear. When listening to a recording of the violin I not pleased with the sound they produce. Very thin pointy sound. I know several players who have gone back to dominant after listening to themselves on recordings. (When I say dominant I always refer to the combination with Jargar forte)

I find that Oliv Rigid G and D work very well with Gamut plain A medium plus and the Jargar E. Oliv A is not a success

January 26, 2007 at 10:59 AM · Hi,

Allan - Pirastro apparently makes a cleaner for gut strings (don't know if they still do) that works. I have tried ethyl 70% alcohol on occasion and it was OK, but still the string deteriorated. Isopropyl alcohol is a no-no. So, I don't know... After shave or cologne might be better because the alcohol concentration level is lower. That is why it was used in the past.


January 26, 2007 at 12:03 PM · I don't find that the Oliv A is too problematic, except if it's very hot or humid outside. However, I think using Oliv strings is worth the slight slipping around in pitch.

The challenge that I find gut strings present is the fact that there are small grooves in the strings, which make it a little more difficult to shift around accurately. As opposed to smooth synthetic strings, this can be frustrating sometimes. I find that I have to practice shifting more carefully and know EXACTLY where I need to get to. But sometimes your finger will get caught or slowed down in a certain part of the string, no matter how much you practice, so this lends an element of frustration in performances. However, I think the sound quality is worth the difficulty, and the longer I play on them, I notice this less and less.

Anyway, I definitely prefer the sound quality of Oliv strings to any synthetics that I have tried. I like the Gold E as well, and have never had any trouble with squeaking, luckily.

June 18, 2007 at 03:51 AM · Just dug this old thread up. I agree with a few of the other posters above who suggested olive oil as a good cleanser. I used a tiny bit of olive oil today after a concert to clean some rosin build up. It does the job completely, just make sure to wipe off any extra oil. I also oiled my plain gut d&a strings, and the results are magnificent.

June 18, 2007 at 04:53 AM · Nate,

I'm glad you posted this. I had been hesitant to try olive oil on my pure-gut strings, as I don't find rosin build-up to be a problem.

However, I was told that gut strings prefer high humidity (constant, that is) since the moisture improves their elasticity and hence tone. Well, I keep my studio at around 45%, which is perhaps a bit low for gut. It seems to make the sound more strident and scratchy.

So, as an experiment, I just rubbed-down my strings with olive all, the entire length & underneath as well. I wanted to see if a little olive oil might act in the same way as humid air.

It sure does! The sound got a tiny bit mellower, which is not a great thing with the Gamuts, but the improvements far outweigh this slight dulling:

1: The tone got fuller & sweeter.

2: A HUGE amount of scratchiness and bow noise went away.

3: The timbral-depth of the string improved a little bit. They are a tad more expressive now, giving a wider color-range when staying within one lane.

4: I can play quite a bit closer to the bridge without that "gut squawk." I like having that lane as an expressive option, and non-oiled pure-gut makes that impossible.

I like this VERY much. It might be time to consider a brighter string, such as Eudoxa or the Passiones (if they ever get here) with a liberal dollop of oil to knock down the HF. THis is getting interesting....

June 18, 2007 at 04:31 AM · I usually used Eudoxas, but used Olivs once or twice. The most distinguishing thing about them was they cost more than the car I was driving.

June 18, 2007 at 04:34 AM · Ouch, that must have been an interesting car...

June 18, 2007 at 04:43 AM · Allan I assume your using the Gamut unvarnished string? I actually removed the d&a strings to oil, which I think is a lot better than trying to oil with the strings on the violin, you can also oil the back of the string this way. I'm using them now too, and enjoy their sound. Have you tried the Pirastro Gold Label g?

June 18, 2007 at 05:06 AM · Yes, Nate, unvarnished. I dislike the Gamut varnished and hate the Dlug varnished more than I hate my mother-in-law. (OK, I'm not married, but if I HAD a mother-in-law....)

Never tried the Gold Label on violin, though that's all I ever used on cello (years ago) I prefer to stay with a handmade string as far as pure-gut. With wound strings, I believe at this time that the big companies have better quality control, but time will tell.


Anyway, more experimentaion:

I tried my "favorite" carbon-fiber bow (is that an oxymoron?) with the oiled-gut, in hopes of brightening them. Nope, just made a strident, oily mess. (sonically speaking)

Then I tried my old, beloved tartini "solo" rosin. I had switched to the softer Tartini "orchestra" for gut strings, as they tend to be scratchy. However, with the olive oil removing so much of that noise, the Tartini "solo" once agin shines, and YUP, it adds just enough brightness tothe tone to compensate for the oil's slight damping effect.

Life is good!

June 18, 2007 at 05:59 AM · The only problem I have with unvarnished gut is that they fray a lot quicker because of my perspiration. The sound of unvarnished I agree is great. I completely agree with you Allan on how Pirastro is probably better with the wound strings. I use a Gold Label Pirastro G. It is excellent. The Gold Label g is more powerful on my fiddle than the Eudoxa, I haven't tried the Oliv G yet, but see no need to really after finding this string.

June 18, 2007 at 01:17 PM · Hi,

Nate, the Gold Label G lies somewhere between Eudoxa and Oliv in terms of sound. If you like it, you might find the Oliv to have a little more punch, but it depends on the violin. I found the Oliv G to be slightly more stable than the Gold Label.

Rosins - you know, for me, after trying so many, I have settled on the Salchow rosin for a lot of reasons: it tracks well, does not build up on the bow hair, or on the strings and you get little surface noise. I would recommend it as it seems versatile for any kind of strings (since it is made from the standpoint of a bow maker).

About varnished, unvarnished - I have tried both, but the perspiration killed the unvarnished in my case. I found the varnished to last longer in this regard. Strangely, the sound difference seemed better with the varnished, but that may be because the varnished gauges were better suited to my instrument.

I am doubtful about using a CF bow with gut. Gut sounds best with a bow made from natural wood, whatever it may be.


June 18, 2007 at 03:12 PM · so now we know how Olives got their name?

June 19, 2007 at 04:49 PM · Hi Christian, thank you for the info about Olivs. I decided I will switch back to varnished gut. I've never had a problem with the Dlugolecki varnished gut fraying, and I think I could have been perhaps a bit neurotic suggesting that there was a huge difference in sound between varnished and unvarnished. I do have an acidic touch and it absolutely kills unvarnished plain gut. That is perhaps why (unvarnished) Chordas did not work well for me. Plus I live a couple of blocks from the water, so it is extremely humid in this area.

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