possibly the least discussed string ever

May 30, 2007 at 05:12 AM · everybody has troubles with getting the right e string and getting a good d and g string, but i want a good a string. i am looking for a good match for gut d and g with an oliv e. what is a good a string to match this? nothing too expensive since im actually on a budget.

Replies (34)

May 30, 2007 at 10:50 PM · The Oliv A sounds very good, but unwravels quickly. As a substitute, I've been very happy with Infeld Red. For my taste it produces the warmest, most coloful sound of any non-gut A that I've tried. If you need something bright, try the Infeld blue.

May 30, 2007 at 11:24 PM · The Oliv A sounds absolutely awful on my violin, though I use the G, D, and E strings.

Try a plain gut A. Pirazzis and Tziganes blend in fairly well.

May 31, 2007 at 02:45 AM · If you added a plain gut a you'd be using a Milstein setup. I'm going to sound like a broken record, try Dlugolecki (www.damianstrings.com) plain gut a-strings. I would not recommend getting anything under 16 1/2 gauge. I don't think a synthetic or steel a would blend well with the Olivs.

May 31, 2007 at 07:21 AM · I'll agree with Nate, but bump that to around 16 3/4 pms ( = 0.84 mm ) Much thinner than that will give too much grit, and may not be loud enough for the steel E.

I'll also sound like a broken record and recommend a Gamut: A .82 mm A should work. The sound is smoother & fuller & will probably match the Olivs better. They are slightly less money, as well, which should appeal to your budget.

BTW: Stay away from the varnished gut strings, unless you perspire a lot or have very acidic skin, Dlug says they is no significant sonic difference, but that just isn't so. The varnished are a bit hard sounding, and the intonation is a little off in higher positions. Only use varnished if you absolutely must.

May 31, 2007 at 01:11 PM · Hi,

A gut A at 16 1/2 can be a good match. If you are looking for a synthetic A, then you can try something like the Synoxa which many people used for years in a setup with Olivs on the bottom.

In terms of wound gut, the Gold Label A is a little more lasting then the Oliv (as is the Eudoxa).

Some people like Oistrakh and many Russians used a steel A, which can work OK for some people. Some of the warmer steel A's like Helicore or the new Flexicore are warmer than in the past.

In the end, you have to experiment with what you like and your particular violin.

Cheers!

May 31, 2007 at 01:14 PM · David - you have received some very good, well-meaning advice from some excellent, professional violinists. There is only one problem. None of us can hear your violin with your current strings. Different strings sound different on different violins. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will repeat the advice that I always give to people who ask which strings will work best on their violin: take the suggestions you received to your local luthier who can actually hear your violin and is in a good position to recommend a A string for your current setup.

May 31, 2007 at 01:49 PM · David,

Tom is well-meaning but wrong. We don't have to hear your violin.

Just use whatever setup some famous player used 40 years ago.

Scott

June 1, 2007 at 07:08 PM · ok, to clarify some stuff. my violin is a 1982 (?) homer clark. it is very bright and sounds really bad with steel strings. i tried the tziganes and those were really good, but i am extremely intrigued by gut. since i heard that the gut a's dont last that long (namely the oliv a)i want to get a synthetic a string. i already know that the oliv e sounds best on my fiddle, but what about an a string? im looking for something kinda milky and sweet, but not lacking in volume or power, cause i like that alot. i appreciate the advice already given tremendously. thanks alot guys.

June 1, 2007 at 07:13 PM · also, just looking at allan's comment, i have REALLY sweaty hands and my e strings only last for about a month before they rust. what are some good strings that are sweat resistant/proof? if not, what methods do you guys use to stop sweating? have you tried antiperspirants? thanks

June 1, 2007 at 10:44 PM · The new Passiones are nice. They're a bit brighter than Olivs but not harsh or screechy, and they stay in tune literally as well or better than any synthetics I've tried. The sound on my violin is similar to Tziganes, only maybe a little warmer and with none of the brash overtones that synthetics get for me.

PS--are you the same David Ramos going to Innsbrook next week?

June 2, 2007 at 12:20 AM · Hi,

David - the E strings that least react to sweat are the chromesteel ones like Jargar, Westminster or Pirastro no. 1.

Cheers!

June 2, 2007 at 01:38 AM · David,

In your case you'd definitely want to use varnished gut, if you go with non-wound. I really think, based on what you've written, that you'll be thrilled with the sound. They last a loooooong time, it's only the wound gut A's that go bad quickly.

Be aware, though, as Buri correctly corrected, (g) that these strings will change tuning a lot if subjected to humidity swings.

June 2, 2007 at 01:13 AM · @maura: yea im in your group, and i still have to practice.......(...) i dont think im going to get passiones any time soon because theyre really expensive. ill wait till they go down in price, or when i have a lot of money to spare.

@christian: i ordered a pirastro no. 1 but it hasnt arrived yet. ive heard very mixed reviews about them. is the sweat resistance the same for all wound e strings?

June 2, 2007 at 01:55 AM · also @ allan: pitch stability is essential because i hate having to tune a lot. plus i am going to meadowmount this summer and it gets really humid up there so the gut a will probably be all over the place in terms of pitch, so a synthetic is probably my best bet as far as a strings go. thanks for the suggestion though.

June 2, 2007 at 03:11 AM · Cool, see you next week! (Now that I think about it, I remember you from last year.) Honestly I just started learning the Brahms today myself...

June 2, 2007 at 05:13 AM · gut sucks.

June 2, 2007 at 03:03 PM · Though he's experimented at different times, Aaron Rosand has used mainly gut strings, including a bare gut A, for most of his career. They don't seem to suck for him!

Heifetz used a bare gut D, as well as a bare gut A.

Another fan of gut strings - wound - is David Nadien.

June 2, 2007 at 05:15 PM · David Ramos wrote (regarding his reluctance to use gut strings):

" i am going to meadowmount this summer "

I went to Meadowmount for six summers. During those summers Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Donald Weilerstein, Paul Rosenthal, Charles Castleman and Kyung Wha Chung studied there. They *all* used gut core strings. Every single one of them. So did Mr. Galamian, Miss DeLay and Mr. Gingold. So did Erick Friedman and Michael Rabin a few years earlier. So what if you tune a little more frequently? Is the convenience of tuning slightly less frequently more valuable to you than the quality of tone and expressive possibilities? I hope not! Give gut a try. After four or five days of playing (depending on how much you practice) they need not be tuned all that much more often than synthetic strings. Sometimes people think that gut core strings need to be tuned *very* much more often than synthetic strings simply because they pass judgement after only a day or two.

June 2, 2007 at 05:43 PM · The reasons that gut was used by lots of famous performers and teachers was that 1. that was the best thing available (so citing what Heifetz used is like saying that a 26-lb steel bike was used to win the 1967 Tour de France so it's fine to use one today and expect an advantage) and 2.

famous people have great instruments. I can only speak for my personal experience: unless you have a really great instrument, gut can make it sound worse. Weak and/or wolfy in the middle position. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that without modern synthetic strings, many of the violins out there--even expensive ones--would be unplayable.

Synthetic strings are, for most instruments, louder, cleaner, cheaper, longer lasting, stay in tune better, and eaiser for manufacturers to make consistently.

June 2, 2007 at 06:36 PM · Well, I have a kind of schizophrenic violin, but gut-core strings make my violin sound *better*. And my new Passiones stay in tune just as well as synthetics ever did.

June 2, 2007 at 07:09 PM · Hey, if it works, use it I say. My only disagreement in general in these forums is that what Heifetz, Oistrakh or Milstein did is not really an argument for what anyone else should do, whether it has to do with strings, shoulder rests, or other equipment.

June 2, 2007 at 08:09 PM · Scott Cole wrote: "My only disagreement in general in these forums is that what Heifetz, Oistrakh or Milstein did is not really an argument for what anyone else should do,"

I disagree in part. No person of integrity would make a decision on the basis of someone else's choice, .......That's the part I agree with. However, if an artist for whom I have *enormous regard* makes a choice (whether it is a choice of the tools of his art or a choice to make a subtle accelleration of beat in a certain phrase of a Beethoven Sonata), I would want to try to understand how his choice fits into what he is doing. I would expect that increased understanding of his choice would be good for my playing, even if the result of this understanding is that I do the opposite. I would want to see what can be learned from exploring that choice. After all, one might arguably say that the art of Heifetz is the sum of his choices. If I believe that a keener understanding and appreciation of his art is beneficial to my artistic development (and I do) then I'll give these choices serious thought and exploration.

June 2, 2007 at 08:10 PM · @oliver steiner: ok, its not like i hate gut, its just that i only want to use gut d & g, just not the a string because thats supposed to be the wild child as far as pitch goes and how long it lasts.

June 2, 2007 at 08:31 PM · Scott wrote, "My only disagreement in general in these forums is that what Heifetz, Oistrakh or Milstein did is not really an argument for what anyone else should do, whether it has to do with strings, shoulder rests, or other equipment."

Actually I disagree. There is a reason why gut was the choice of lots of the greats including Szeryng and Rabin to add onto that list. Synthetics were widely available during their careers. We can put the notion to rest about gut being the only available material thus making it the reason of choice. Synthetics cannot sing in my opinion like a good set of gut strings. The violin was designed by these great Italian makers to be played with gut strings. As far as shoulder rests go that's a completely different topic but similar in that they can change the way an instrument rings. There's nothing wrong with synthetic strings or shoulder rests, they just make a player sound different.

June 2, 2007 at 08:46 PM · wow this is a lot more philosophical than i intended

June 2, 2007 at 10:12 PM · Nate - with all due respect (you are a far better violinist than I could ever hope to be), I agree with you that the old makers made violins for gut strings, but we ain't in the early 18th century at this point. Thus, it is relevant to take into account whatever advances there have been in string making. There are some very good synthetics out there, and I don't think you can simply dismiss them by stating that the greats made their violins to be used with gut.

I also disagree that synthetics were widely available during the lifetime of violinists like Heifetz. As I undersstand it, not much in the way of synthetics was available until the very end of those violinists'lives. So, the fact that they chose to use gut says very little other than that they did not choose to use Dominants.

June 2, 2007 at 11:51 PM · Tom,

Good points here. I'd also like to add that instruments weren't designed to be used with gut, but rather that there simply was nothing else! AND...pitch was lower, which does change the response of the instrument (and tension in general was lower due to other structural differences). When I've used gut at 415, my instrument sounds resonant. At 440, it's totally different.

My main point here is not to totally throw out everything that Heifetz et al did as worthless, but to point out that his fanboys tend to justify all of their choices by what he did. It reminds me of the viola joke: "how many violists does it take to change a light bulb?" Answer: "One to change the bulb and all the rest to argue how Primrose would have done it." For every Heifetz and Rosand who use plain gut and no shoulder rest, there's a Hillary Hahn or Josh Bell who use synthetic strings and shoulder rest.

June 3, 2007 at 03:09 AM · Hi Tom, points well taken. I don't necessarily know if synthetics are a complete advance from gut strings. They just produce a very different kind of sound. Synthetics are a bit more stable in tuning, however I remember when I used Dominants, there were times that they could be very unstable.

To me, synthetics lack certain tonal colors that gut strings I think are able to produce. Yes I agree there are some very good and bad synthetic strings on the market, just as there are good and bad gut strings. There were alternatives to gut before the 1960's, players like Oistrakh used steel strings at times

June 3, 2007 at 03:20 AM · Scott, now that's just an assumption. There are many people that use gut strings (including period baroque players) not because Heifetz happened to, but rather, because they have a beautiful sound. It is an artistic choice to use these strings.

One rather well known luthier I went to in NYC recently, after finding out my string set up said to me, "Those strings produce the best kind of sound."

June 3, 2007 at 12:18 PM · @David Ramos - the steel E's I cited are not wound E's but plain steel - just chromesteel. I eat through strings quite a bit, and these E's hold up better. I like the heavier gauges too.

As to strings and choices. Everything is choices like Mr. Steiner said. Understanding a choice is important.

Every instrument react to strings differently. So, like many things, in the end you compromise with the choices you want and the goals you seek, which should hopefully be the same - a resonant instrument (rather than loud) with the possibility of using a lot of colours of sound in different contact points to produce a phrase that is clear to yourself and the audience, and true to the music you are playing.

Cheers!

June 3, 2007 at 12:51 PM · I've actually become increasingly open-minded and experimental with regard to string choices. I have a collection of instruments, and have used different strings on different fiddles, depending on what I want to try to bring out of them. Note that in my first posting here I recommended Infeld. My problem is with someone making a blanket stement like "gut strings suck". Yes, Heifetz has been dead for more than 20 years, but he made his choices at a time when there were certainly other choices available to him, if not quite as many as today. And Nadien and Rosand are still alive and kickimg. It makes more sense to say something like "I tend to like or not like this or that type of string based on my particular taste, playing style, and what seems to work with my instrument."

June 3, 2007 at 01:40 PM · Nate - your response raises an interesting question since different strings sound different on different violins. You undoubtedly have an excellent, top tier violin. Most of us do not. I wonder if gut, on average, sounds better on the best violins and does not make much difference on average on lesser instruments. Or whether it simply makes more difference for better players. I do not know but would be interested to hear about others' experience.

June 4, 2007 at 04:02 AM · Tom,

Hopefully we can all agree that each instrument is different. Actually, I really like the way gut feels under my fingers. Unfortunately, every time I've tried gut on the violins I've had it's introduced more problems. The only time I've really liked them was on instruments that were superior.

June 4, 2007 at 04:27 PM · After years of experimenting with strings, I've settled down with Dominant "mittel" (medium tension).

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