What tail gut do you use?

September 11, 2007 at 05:32 AM · Does anyone have any tail piece gut suggestions, as in brands. I don't know why I went to Sam Ash for anything, but it seemed like such a basic thing! Apparently not.

The threading on the nylon gut stripped out while I was tuning up! I thought that it was just my new gut strings settling, but it was the tailpiece slowly slipping apart. Man, I so wanted to play! BLARGH!!

Replies (25)

September 11, 2007 at 08:43 AM · I've heard nothing but good things about the Bose Harmonie tailcord.

It seems to be more than just marketing hype. -But as with most things, it may not be best on every fiddle, with every set-up and hardware combination.

September 11, 2007 at 12:28 PM · Wittner and Sacconi tailguts are very reliable. We use hundreds every year with no problems.

September 11, 2007 at 01:07 PM · A Bose dHarmonie tail cord was the most expensive bit of string I ever bought and tried. Its a pain to adjust and setup, There seems to be no benifit in sound over any other tail cord. Just try messing with it to get +- 1mm after length. Good thing they only give you a 6" long piece or I'd be tempted to hang myself with it. All the black coating comes off after a few adjustments making the string look messy.

I like the Sacconi, easy to adjust, reliable, inexpensive.


September 11, 2007 at 01:45 PM · You maybe got a knock-off? The "real" black plastic ones generally last practically forever. Sue

September 11, 2007 at 02:51 PM · My big viola had a piece of real gut. It was dyed black and it would stain my neck.

September 11, 2007 at 10:25 PM · Annabel sez: "A Bose dHarmonie tail cord was the most expensive bit of string I ever bought and tried. Its a pain to adjust and setup, There seems to be no benifit in sound over any other tail cord."

It's true that it is hard to adjust, and that's a serious consideration (and why I haven't tried it yet, hoping they find a solution & start selling a new version)

-But as for sound, the people who tell me it typically improves things are top luthiers and repairment. Annabel probably has one of the violin/ hardware combos that just doesn't mesh well. It happens.

September 12, 2007 at 12:04 AM · My luthier said he'd try one on my violin when he put on the Harmonie tailpiece.

He left it on. I assume that means he likes it.

He's a multiple VSA medal winner so I'm inclined to trust his judgement.

- Ray

September 12, 2007 at 01:48 AM · Quoting Allan: Annabel probably has one of the violin/ hardware combos that just doesn't mesh well. It happens.

Well since you haven't tried one yet you really don't know, and seem to be commenting based on someone elses experience, right?

Give it a try yourself before making any claims or supporting a product. True not everything works well for every situation, which is why you should give it a go. I did, more than once at the request of a customer, all I can do is help them make an educated choice.

BTW, I think my combo mesh's quite well. But if not I have a fair inventory to choose from.


September 12, 2007 at 04:25 AM · The one that came on my tailpiece. ;) I think it's just a run-of-the-mill nylon tailgut (Sacconi, perhaps? They seem rather ubiquitous.), which I think most luthiers and/or set-up shops are using these days for many reasons--the least of which is durability and stability. I honestly don't know if one brand is really going to be any better than another...perhaps only in their adjusters. But don't get me to lyin'! :)

September 13, 2007 at 12:25 AM · Allan wrote: "I've heard nothing but good things about the Bose Harmonie tailcord." and "-But as for sound, the people who tell me it typically improves things are top luthiers and repairment."

Like any single part or material change, it could well be that other alterations (bridge, etc.) might be needed to make in improvement overall. The instrument system is holistic. Change one thing, affect another. There may well be a learning curve involved before one can say the product is "better or worse", and as you mentioned, it could well be better on some instruments and worse on others. In addition, some aspects might be better at the cost of other aspects in the end.

That said, I like them for 'cello, especially when using the Bois d'Harmonie tailpiece, but don't care for them on violin. I know several makers who swear by them, but I don't see or hear an advantage... and in a couple cases, noted some disadvantages. Some of the European makers have even taken to twisting the chord once (so that it’s purchase on the saddle is lessened to what amounts to a single strand), but call me old fashioned… I’m not at all convinced that leaving the tailpiece to float like that is an advantage (and I’ve switched a number back for players who don’t feel that way either).

BTW, Allan, although there is certainly some experimentation, I don't hear of or see the new product used extensively on violins by all that many of the better restorers or high-end shops yet... so maybe you're running in a different circle of "top repairment" than I am.

What or who is a "repairment" anyway? Is that an apartment that needs fixing up or code for a repair department? I thought it meant the act of repairing, but you seem to have used it as a noun. :-)

Annabel, the ‘cello chords aren’t long enough to hang yourself with either, but if you’re creative, you may be able to fashion a garrote of sorts. :-)

I honestly don't have difficulty in adjusting the length as long as I tie the knot suggested... although it's certainly not as easy as turning a nut.

For violin, I still use the Sacconi adjuster. I'd caution use of some of the "off brands" as I've seen the threads slip on occasion and/or the material be too soft or too rigid.


J. S. Holmes Fine Violins

September 13, 2007 at 07:54 AM · Jeffery,

Two of those repairmen / luthiers hand out here fairly often, and one on Maestronet. Another is one of the top NYC area guys. It's all just opinion, but I'm not making this up. I'd be the first one to assume tailgut doen't make any difference.

A "repairment" pretty much describes where I use to live. Well, maybe a "un-repairment" (g)

I guess is was a sort of freudian slip.

Or maybe I'm just starting to type like Buri. -Could be one of the first signs. Then again, I nevir cood spel.

September 13, 2007 at 01:59 PM · Didn't think you were making it up, Allan... As I mentioned, I see a good many of these new hangers used by makers on violins... but I don't see all that many (I didn't say "none") of the better restorers and high-end shops using them. Eventually, that may change... or not. So far, I don't see a reason to switch, and have some reasons I'd rather not... but it's nice to have options.

I think I lived in a few of those "repairments" when I was attending school in Chicago. :-)

September 14, 2007 at 01:17 AM · I prefer stiffer tailguts on violins (as opposed to violas and cellos)--something like the Sacconi, as opposed to the "modern" alternatives. The tonal requirements for the various instruments are different, in my experience.

There was a period where the taps and dies for the Sacconi adjuster were wearing out and I had many failures with the genuine article. At that time I began to smack the nut with a hammer after I adjusted it, to smash it a bit and clamp it down tightly, and that was the end of failures. I still do that with any brand, and in fact for an emergency repair (permanent, too) of yours, I'd recommend just that--find the place where it was previously set, and flatten the nut with a hammer a bit.

I thought this was my secret, but the other day I was working on a violn I'd never seen before, and the (Schaller) adjuster nut had been hammered.

September 14, 2007 at 02:11 AM · Yes, I remember the faulty Sacconi guts... must have been 7 or 8 years ago? Never thought of hammering them. Effective solution.

I always have melted and flattened the ends after the length is set, though. Others I know set to dropping some super glue into the threads as well.

September 14, 2007 at 12:02 PM · Jeff,I'm curious about the after length and its relationship to plucking behind the bridge.Isn't it supposed to be an octave plus a fifth?If this is correct,how is the sound of the instrument affected if this exact interval is not obtained?

September 15, 2007 at 11:50 AM · If you're out there Mr.Burgess or Mr.Darnton,could you answer this question?

September 15, 2007 at 05:38 PM · Peter, two octaves plus a fifth would get it in the ballpark IF you were using a pure gut string with no silking. Two octaves +1/5th works out mathematically to 1/6th the main vibrating string length, so most people just measure....works out to about 55 mm between the string rider on the tailpiece and the bridge on a standard string length.

The same interval is often used to determine fingerboard length, but on the playing side of the bridge, and played as a harmonic.

1/6th is just a starting point, trial and error beyond that (for me). When it's right,response and sound improve enough that you usually know when you hit it.

Cellos and violas are often set up with other ratios, and sometimes violins can work very well with this measurement way off, if it results in the tailpiece vibrating at a frequency which is symbiotic with other vibrations in the instrument.

I too find adjusting the Bois d'Harmonie to be a nightmare. They claim it doesn't stretch (and it may not) but the knot compresses over time, changing the length. Retying it to change the length is not much better than guesswork. And how extra-short do you make it to allow for future compression of the knot?

Small length reductions can be done with shims under the knot, but I don't think I'll mess with it much more until someone comes up with a threaded end. Improvements on a violin don't justify the grief, in my opinion.

I'm using Bice (New Harmony) or Dungey tail adjusters on cello though, because on a cello, the Sacconi style stretch horribly and won't maintain a set length.

David Burgess


September 15, 2007 at 07:13 PM · Answer to Peter's question: My experiences are similar to David's. 1/6 of the string length and/or tuned to the 2 octaves and a fifth is a good starting point, but you don't always end up where you start.

Funny thing I've noticed... is that the "best" position for sound is very different and harder to "get" if the tailpiece is short in relation to the violin (shows a good deal of the hanger at the saddle) than if the tailpiece end sits closer (2 or 3 mm) to the saddle. Have you noticed anything like that David?

September 16, 2007 at 02:42 AM · Thanks for that David and Jeff!!

September 16, 2007 at 02:50 PM · If the tailpiece is in the "right" place, as a clue that you're there you get a pleasant and resonant jingle that adds depth and complexity to the sound. If you were to look at the sound with an FFT processor, you'd see a heightened peak around 3000hz, more or less. This adds quite a bit of life to the sound.

An afterlength of 54.5mm is a good starting point, but this depends on the tailpiece and the instrument, which can change the exact spot you need to find--one violin /tailpiece I adjusted needed a 62mm afterlength! Depending on the extent to which a violin has that on its own, tuning the afterlength may sometimes (though not usually) be negative rather than positive.

As Jeff says, using shorter tailpieces than necessary isn't a good thing on violins, though it works extremely well on violas and cellos. I think this relates to why Sacconi tailguts work better than kevlar ones on violins--the material, the free distance ahead of the saddle, and the spread of the gut on the saddle (and the distance between the holes for it on the tailpiece) all affect the extent of free rocking movement for the tailpiece. In *general*, violins do not like free movement there, where cellos and violas usually do. If you hang a short tailpiece between long, close, flexible tailgut and long afterlength, that's about the worst thing you can do for the sound of a violin. This is a different issue from the tuning one, though.

A third consideration here is tailpiece resonance, which can be reinforced or decreased by afterlength tuning. Often this doesn't coincide with the "right" afterlength adjustment, and you have to choose, or pick a different tailpiece.

September 16, 2007 at 04:24 PM · Personally, I have liked the result I've gotten with the Bois d'Harmoniie cords on (some) violins as well as cellos. But I certainly cursed the process of getting them there.

Not every violin was improved with the BdH cord. I would think that some of the experts might be able to tell before trying just which instruments could be improved by trying a BdH cord.

What I hear with the BdH cord, when the string afterlengths are properly adjusted is just a bit more of that extra resonance from the high overtones on certain notes - when I hear it on a particular instrument at all. I suspect that in addition to string afterlengths, and flexible tailcord, one will also ahve to have the right mass of tailpiece - and compatible soundpost and bridge, etc., etc.

New Harmony, a few years ago, also produced a plastic-coated steel-cord "tailgut" that I thought was an acoustic improvement over the Sacconi on some instruments. But it too was harder to adjust than just turning a round nut.

September 16, 2007 at 05:39 PM · What I hear, consistently, from lightened and more flexibly-restrained tailpieces is a lack of body and density in the sound. On furry-sounding cellos, and especially violas, that's often an asset; on violins (the ones I work on, anyway) it's always a liability. I guess it could work on diffuse-sounding violins, but I don't often see those.

September 16, 2007 at 05:48 PM · Thanks for all of your responses. I ended up purchasing two new synthetic Wittner hangers (one backup – if I experienced a second failure). I haven't encountered any problems.

The synthetic that I usually purchase come with either:

1- two cylindrical nuts

2- two long conical nuts and two flared female grommets

I had a failure on the second kind. Ideally the chord and strings would pull at the nut and jam it into the tapered grommet, which would force the nut to clamp onto the chord. Unfortunately, the nut was machined too large for the grommet (a case where quality control went out the window), and the nut remained un-pinched... slid over the nylon threading... stripped it out.

Michael's idea of crimping would have been a good quick fix solution.

On a related note...

I've noticed that older neglected violins almost always have fairly large splits on the top, running between the bass bar and the saddle. I was reading somewhere that these cracks were caused by the saddle not distributing the force of the tail gut properly (sales pitch for a larger sloping saddle), but what about chinrests? I think that lots of people seat their chinrest incorrectly.

September 16, 2007 at 06:01 PM · Saddle cracks more likely come from a saddle that's fit too tightly. The top shrinks across with age, but ebony doesn't shrink in length to compensate. The result is like putting a little jack in the hole and cranking until something cracks. Many modern makers now leave a small space at the ends of the saddle, perhaps filling it with something like wax, or nothing.

But yes, it's still important to fit chinrests properly, so that they don't press where they shouldn't, and not too much.

September 16, 2007 at 05:08 PM · I don't like the idea of a over flexible tailgut too.The extra mobility in that area may act as a vibration damper.my favorite tailgut now are a titanium tailgut,like Micheal say "you get a pleasant and resonant jingle that adds depth and complexity to the sound."

I first doubt it being "metallic" sound,but none of those negative impression i got.

I have also tried with steel wire but that didn't work.

Might be the "Titanium" not just a magic word for sound,it is really somthing.

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