Interested in trying gut strings for the first time...

July 11, 2009 at 10:35 PM ·


I am interested in trying gut strings for the first time...I currrently use Obligato strings which I like very much, but am interested in giving the Passiones a try.

How do I determine the correct gauge to use?  What differences can I expect to hear?

Thank you!


Replies (52)

July 11, 2009 at 11:02 PM ·

I switched from aObligatos to Passiones a year and a half ago and will never look back. It aged my violin 80 years at least. Start with a medium gauge, each violin likes different strings and gauges.

Good luck.

July 11, 2009 at 11:26 PM ·

Thanks Ray...that is great to hear!   Are the Passiones darker, or fuller, or sweeter?  What is the magic?  Is the response a lot different?  I am only a modest intermediate player...for now, that is!  : )

July 12, 2009 at 01:40 AM ·

There has been a lot of talk about passiones on this board so I tried them a few months ago.  I don't mean to rain on your parade, but I was quite dissappointed.  I found them slower to respond and more difficult to play.  It was way too easy to crush the notes and produce a scratchy sound.  It may just be that my instrument does not like them, or that I am not good enough appreciate them.  Either way, I took them off after 2 days, just couldn't stand it anymore, and replaced them with Dominants. 

Note: I have since bought a new violin, and now I use Evah Pirazzi.  I will probably try Dominants on my new fiddle, but I think they will be too warm for it.


July 12, 2009 at 02:29 AM ·

I'm trying out Eudoxas after passiones... Eudoxas are nice but the Passiones are much better!!!!!!

July 12, 2009 at 02:47 AM ·

Smiley's assessment is quite substantially correct.  Gut strings are harder to play on.  They require a far more light, elegant, and graceful touch with both left and right hand.  Being animal gut--they are VERY slow to respond at first, you have what was once a living critter and it needs to learn to be a violin string.  On my fiddle Passiones usually took a good 8-10 hours of practice/playing time before they had their tone and response.

The catch being, if one can adapt to the needs of the strings, they can offer a far wider palette of color and tone, and moreover projection tends to be far better than synthetics  I've found it is quite easy with gut strings to project over the Evah Pirazzi Brigades one finds in undergraduate orchestras.


You'll note I said "can".  Some violins don't take to them.  Some violinists' cannot adapt their technique to the much lighter approach needed after years of needing to saw away with Evahs or Dominants.

The other notable catches-they're more expensive and usually only have a narrow window of optimum tone before you can hear them going south.  You'll be sick of the (literally) dead sound of the strings FAR before the metal winding starts to unravel.

The heavy gauge strings are a WONDERFUL thing, at least on my fiddle-YMMV substantially of course...the catch being they tend to be more $$$$ and harder to get ahold of..  I've stopped using Passiones because for the time I need to eat and pay bills in the off season, and not sink $$$ in animal gut.

July 12, 2009 at 07:04 AM ·


not that ayone is confused but I do think it is importnat to kepe clear the distinction between wound gut and plain gut.  For some of us,  saying `gut@ automaticlaly conjures up the image of plain gut.  In my day/neck of the woods we didn`t actually say `wound gut.`  something more like `I use Eudoxa,` which was self explanatory.

Plain gut are difficult to adapt to if one has been using only synthetics. Wound are not so problematic and well worth the effort.  There is,  in my opinion,  a superiro range of colors to synthetics.  The passione sare exceptional in this regard.  Plain gut (which would almost certainly be only the d and a) have even more unique colors which one rarely hears.  The gut e is just beautiful and has a type of sound when bowed near the bidge which was a revelation to me.  Suddenly I could understand the type of image of sound beethoven et all had wneh writing long sustained notes on the e string. Somehting special thta is missing today.  Sadly one would be lucky to get away with using the plain gut e- they break so easily it would just not be acceptable to modern audiences.



July 12, 2009 at 10:48 AM ·

You'll have a great time trying gut strings, they are well worth the pain.  Some things to consider though...

If you are playing a lot of orchestral music you will be unhappy with gut.  The fall out of tune all the time and you will get very annoyed very quickly.  But they are unbeatable for solo things so if you have a period of time when you will not be doing orchestral stuff I'd say go for it.  I always use them for solo recitals and chamber music.

There is gut and then there is gut.  I've recently changed my strings to pure gut (unwound) and let me tell you, it is different.  Stick with wound gut for a while but I would suggest trying real gut strings at least once.  It makes you into a completely different player.  Wound guts are made by Eudoxa, plain gut you can find by Gludolecki.

July 12, 2009 at 12:58 PM ·

I found that link in google search thought it was worth sharing. 

You have made me curious now! I want to try out some Gut strings aswell.

July 12, 2009 at 03:55 PM ·

I gave up on Passiones because they got woofy in damp or rainy weather.  I liked everything else about them.  I went back to Obligatos,  which offer a nice sound without so much frustration.  Go ahead and try the Ps though, you might find they are right for you.

July 12, 2009 at 04:05 PM ·

Just wanted to mention that the pitch stability of gut strings (once they are broken in) is dependent on temperature and humidity fluctuation, especially the latter. In the relatively constant low humidity of Los Angeles my Passiones and pure gut A are surprisingly stable - they have even been known to stay in tune from the prior day's practice session. I'm about to try a plain gut D as as well. In addition to the enhanced color palette, I like how plain gut challenges me to use a lighter touch - it' seems to help me lose tension throughout the body.


July 12, 2009 at 09:37 PM ·

I would of thought it was good practice to retune your instrument every hour or so?

July 12, 2009 at 09:45 PM ·

Well, that is certainly is what all the greats of yore did. 

July 12, 2009 at 11:13 PM ·

To clarify, I use a digital strobe tuner tuned to perfect fifths to check my ear. I also retune as often as necessary during practice which may mean tweaking anywhere between every 10-30 minutes or so. But on more than one occasion I would put the violin away for the night and find that it was still perfectly in tune the next day. My point is that once they are broken in, if temp and humidity are relatively constant, the pitch stability of my Passiones and pure gut A is very similar to what I experienced with Dominants before switching. So if you live in a low/constant humidity type of climate without a whole lot of temp fluctuation , the horror stories you've heard about gut string pitch instability may not apply.

July 12, 2009 at 11:04 PM ·

Thank you everyone for your feedback...most of my playing is practice or lessons, and my only orchestra playing is in the youth orchestra (with my kiddos, who are MUCH better than I am) so I can always tune if need be.  The comment about needing to stay relaxed and soft is interesting to me, epecially since I am working on relaxing my left hand and working on using I think that would be a plus.  At this point, I do want to give them a try.  I still have a lot of life left in my Obligatos, and by fall the humidity here in the south should fall to tolerable levels, so that would be a good time to try the Passiones.  

July 12, 2009 at 11:07 PM ·

@Marc never mind the greats :P

@Anthony it makes sense, I live in a very erratic place, sometimes its very humid, sometimes its very dry. Gotta love Australia. I hope they do sell Gut atleast, I've ever noticed it before :(

I am sick of steel strings though.

July 13, 2009 at 01:56 AM ·

I think passiones are wonderful strings. I startled on the medium gauge and start to tune to my needs. Now I use the heavy gauges. They don't respond as quickly to my obligato stark but feel the same imo. However the sound is noticably different.

July 13, 2009 at 06:07 AM ·

Let's also not forget Olive strings, I believe are the superior of all the wound gut out there.

My Set-Up with gauges:

Olive Gold/Silver G - 16 3/4

Olive Gold/Aluminum D - 17

Corelli Alliance Vivace A - Forte

Olive Gold E - Thick

You can experiment with different A strings, any plain steel or try vision titanium solo, dominant, or I hear infeld blue is good too.

July 13, 2009 at 09:50 AM ·

For your 1st time, IMHO I think you should use Eudoxas.  They are lower in price than Passiones, and will tell you if you and your violin are suited for gut.  They are very well balanced for sound and action, and produce the classical sound of guts.  For more info, see Christian's personal review of strings.  Be prepared for a very long stretch-in time!

They do indeed require a bowing action different from that needed for synthetics.  The attack especially.

I find they are not so much affected by temp as they are humidity.  With A/C on, they will become higher in pitch as the room air dehumidifies. I find they sound best with some humidity in the air - they sound worst for me in winter, when the air is very dry.

I love the feel of these strings: low tension, and soft smooth windings.  Very easy on the left fingers and hand.

For life, they last me almost 1 year!  The sound brilliance reduces steadily, but the strings themselves just keep going. So, a good value overall.

I bought them because I wanted to lower the volume and brilliance of my violin.  People were telling me it was overpowering and harsh.  The Eudoxas give me the woody sound I like, with full overtones, rich, and lower volume.  

My violin is particularly bright on the E, so I chose the Al wound E string.  This is an excellent E string, and gives a sweet sound on my violin.

After install, I tinkered with the bridge and discovered the guts on my violin sound best with a new bridge that is about 2mm higher than the one used for Dominants.  Also, the sound post position was adjusted.

So, now I'm hooked on them.  Sure, tuning every 15 min is a pain, but everything else is very positive.  I think the sound can't be beat.  

good luck!



July 13, 2009 at 10:46 AM ·


Ron is correct- it is humidity that is the main factor in gut instability. Personally I would strongly advise against trying to use synthetic strings with wound gut strings and definitly not with plain gut.  The use of the bow is so different ,  especially with strings like Vision and Infeld that one may become in the position of jack of all trade sand master of none.  Very unsatisfactory and possible confusing to your ear and sense of touch over time.



July 13, 2009 at 03:57 PM ·

Passiones work well here in Laramie, Wyoming U.S.A. They stabelized quick and would only need minor adjustments in tuning.  I'm using Eudoxa and they do need retuning often, however we go from very dry to afternoon thunderstorms so I echo the Australians laments.  the 10 hour rule seems true, they are now seasoning to a beautiful sound!  Not as complex as the Passiones (or at least, "Not Yet"), but very pleasing to the ears!

July 13, 2009 at 04:21 PM ·

I've had my Pasiones on for almost ten months and they still sound great and I do practice a lot.

You can write Pirastro and ask for a Passione sample set and try them out that way.

July 13, 2009 at 05:17 PM ·

With regard to humidity...if I am only playing inside, is this a huge factor?  Yes the AC and heat are on in the house at different times of the year, but it's only outside that things get crazy (like 100 degrees outside and raining, etc.).

Buri: if you were talking about mixing string, that's way too complicated for me!  I was just thinking a whole set of gut core wound strings...I would happily sacrifice projection for overtones and fullness..which is why I was intriqued by all the lovely comments about the Passiones from violinists who seemed to like those qualities... I never really like a focused sound anyhow (you won't find me with Evahs or Visions, for example....)

July 13, 2009 at 06:10 PM ·

If you want to give gut the best chance, try Passione strings.  Eudoxa gut strings are wonderful and warm, but in my experience they do not do well on all violins, and can be quite muddy on some (but when they do work, they work very well!).  I have yet to see a case of the Passione set not doing well.  Better still are the Oliv's (with the silver brilliant D), but they are even more expensive, and rather costly for a first go-around.

As for tuning stability, don't worry about it.  Just give them a week or so to break in (sometimes less) and you'll be fine.  Eudoxa, plain gut (varnished), Passione and Oliv, I've used them all and each is plenty stable.  So much is made of this, tuning stability, but in the grand scheme it ranks near the bottom of the list because it is just not nearly the issue it is made out to be, and the voices you will realize with gut is more than worthy of any such inconvenience!

July 13, 2009 at 08:45 PM ·

Thanks Chris!  Gut demystified!  : )

July 13, 2009 at 10:26 PM ·


in my opinion there is actually a rather interesitng issue here which is not raised too often.  Apart form the elite of the elite I get the distinct impression that the majority of today@s poayers rely greatly on practicing to hit the same spot as though intonation was a function of learned physicla accuracy. Of course this is parlty true but  intonation is also about hearing first, listenign and rapid adjustment.  The reason such an approach has crept in s the incredible stability of modern strings,  as though this latter were a great virtue.   But the players of yore had to cxope with -slightly- less stable strings (or just plain awful) and as a result ,  I think,  had better control of and sensitivity to intonation. Innumerable anecdotes exist of grewat teachers and players detuning their instruments and playing diifcult works in tune. The Heifetz master class writing include such an ncident.  Milstein also used to demonstartethis to studnets.

So,  If you are retuning the isntrument every ten or fifteen minutes (irrespective of what string you are using) you are probably not doing yourself much of a service.. Come to think of it , Galamin says the same thing in hs book.

Something to chew on between Buribars,



July 14, 2009 at 01:16 AM ·

That is interesting Buri.  One of the things I have been working on is hearing a definite note in my head of what I want the next note in a scale to be and with that note in mind, finding it on my violin.   Of course, there is lots of target practice too, and I have been trying to be more accurate the "first" time instead of adjusting.  However, I did not think about what intonation would mean using a string that was in "flux" during playing. 

I assume Buribars are made with prunes, btw?

July 14, 2009 at 01:22 AM ·


well, then you have repetition hits. See Drew Lechers blogs.  The Buri bar is a genuine dyed in the wool power vbar for extreme sports and possibly the vTchaikovsky violin concerto.  If you want the recipe simply go to my blog on the subject.



July 14, 2009 at 02:02 AM ·

Erica:  You could try also the Kaplan guts.  I see them advertised at a lower price.  I have not tried these, and hear they have a few disadvantages vis a vis the Eudoxas.  But, they would be a lower cost entry for you.  

Chris:  agreed.  1) Guts are not for everyone and every violin. I have not tried guts with say 100 various violins, but of the ones I have tried IMHO the violin must be a pretty darn good one to respond well to guts.  2) The violinist must have the patience, and will, to adjust to guts.  example: my prof has neither, so he dislikes them.

Buri: agreed, emphatically.  Too much is made of "tuning".  I am but a mature student, with a lifetime yet of learning before me.  I started on a different instrument with a SO, long ago.  How well I remember the comments of a visiting and rather famous concert master (deceased), when he became frustrated with all the tuning antics of the string players.  His exact words: "why don't you learn to play in tune?"  I never fully comprehended this until recently, after reading some books and now your comment.  How well I understand now, and marvel more at the skill of that master.  This is not about intonation after tuning, but of intonation despite tuning. I suppose the gift of perfect pitch helps greatly, inter alia.

BTW Buri, do you ever right click on the words underlined in red?  :-) 


July 14, 2009 at 03:56 AM ·


can`t do it on a Japanese school computer.  Probably needs tuning.



July 14, 2009 at 04:42 AM ·

Buri - I hear what you're saying, but does this mean that when the strings start drifting out of tune one totally avoids playing open strings? How else to play in tune?

July 14, 2009 at 05:52 AM ·


interesting point.   Open strings can be tunes with the the first finger played very close to the nut if necessary. One may use this tehcnique on longer notes ,  especially at the end of pieces. DOn@t wnat to send peole away with a bad memory.   Of course there is the fourth finger but also differnet positions.   Perhaps you do end up playing an open string which sounds out of tune. So be it.   That really isn`t any difffernet from hitting a wrong note whkich we all do from time to time.   That doesn`t initself count as bad intonation.

But one also presumably has the ability to quickly remedy a serious flaw in performance by being skilled at using pegs?   In the old days players had to plan in advance inc ertain piece shwere they weer going to do a quick retune.  The Chaconne included!   Its always fn to watch Milsten surreptitiously tuning in the loud orchestral tuttis.

One thing that really gets my goat that modern palyers don`t seem at all concerned with is tuning loudly to the piano (see recent QE competition for example).  This used to be a no no.  Casals was a real bugbear on this subject,  insisiting that it detracted from the enjoyment of the music.  I often wnat tos tart applauding as though someone has just finsihed a work when a player spends times repeatedly and loudly retuning their instrument on stage before beginning.



July 14, 2009 at 02:59 PM ·

You mentioned Milstien tuning durring the Tuttis, I believe there is a Youtube of Ferras doing this also?

July 24, 2009 at 12:38 AM ·

Well, due to the generousity of a fellow violinist.commer, I was able to try a set of almost new Passiones.   They are beautiful: warm, full, elegant, strrong, alive.  How difficult it is to describe!  Amber  honey with diamond dust inside?  I am excited to show my teacher tomorrow.  A bonus is that they are very pretty with the brown and white winding!  Thank you all for your input.  I am so happy!


July 24, 2009 at 01:25 AM ·

Ah yes, Passione strings are astoundingly beautiful, especially the D string!

They sure are expensive though - I haven't seen them go for cheaper than $70 a set.

July 24, 2009 at 03:11 AM ·


These strings are just wonderful to work with. They sound beautiful on my instrument and now I fianlly know why they cost so much...

"Amber honey with Diamond dust" !

July 24, 2009 at 01:03 PM ·

Cris: I think your instrument is just a tad bit more fancy than mine!  *smiles*


July 24, 2009 at 02:59 PM · fav string of all time. has the best price and availability and super-speedy shipping...and no I don't work there, I just love them.  Also I've heard a few complaints about the weenie E string that comes with the set but I love it personally... J

July 24, 2009 at 07:09 PM ·

I love the Passione's "E" string also.

July 24, 2009 at 07:58 PM ·

On my old violin Olives were awful, but I tried them on my new one (Darnton, 2008) and they are very fine sounding.  I didn't have an "A" so I ordered a Passione "A" and just put it on - it sounds vastly better than the fill-in Dominant that was on it  in quality and the a-string now sounds balanced with the D and G Olives, being much fuller and more robust.  Does anyone think there is a significant difference in response between the Olives and Passiones? 

July 24, 2009 at 08:24 PM ·

Better response with Passiones for me, 1806 Wagner and 1780 Chappuy...and I absolutely love that I can get the nice rich gutsy sound without tuning every five minutes!

July 24, 2009 at 09:09 PM ·

The only way to truely know is to try a set or two.


July 24, 2009 at 10:12 PM ·

I was wondering how the response would be since it sounds like many gut core strings are said to have a slower response.  The Passiones felt great to me (but again, I am a relative newbie).  I had the added pleasure of listening to my teacher play my violin during the kids' lesson today...that was quite nice to hear!  Very, very nice strings.  Now I am hooked on even more expensive strings than the Obligatos *sigh*   So far, they have not gone out of tune more than a normal newish set of synthetic cores...we shall see.  : )


September 6, 2009 at 01:12 AM ·

I have had the Passiones on for about a month, and I absolutely LOVE them.  It is an pleasure to play on them, and when I am in tune (not always easy for me, but getting better) they "tell" me.   I highly recommend these strings! 

September 6, 2009 at 01:28 PM ·

Always wonderful to find the right strings, bow, rosin, etc.  Congrats!

January 1, 2012 at 01:22 AM · Replying to my very old thread...used a few sets of Passiones, tried a sample set of Peter Infeld, just took off Obligatos, to put Passiones back on, and now I remember why I loved them so much. Delightful. :)

January 1, 2012 at 07:39 PM · >Replying to my very old thread...used a few sets of Passiones, tried a sample set of Peter Infeld, just took off Obligatos, to put Passiones back on, and now I remember why I loved them so much. Delightful. :)

Erica, in your original thread you asked what gauge Passiones you should try.

Which gauges did you try and what were the results with each?


January 1, 2012 at 10:42 PM · I have only tried the mediums on any string I have used. :)

January 2, 2012 at 11:44 AM · Thank you very much for this topic. Are gut strings typically better for old violins? Can you hear that much of a difference as a beginner? Is it better to just work with what you have for awhile and then switch to a different type next time or better to find the best fit for your violin to begin with? My old violin sounded strange at first because it had sat for more than 40 years before it was given to me. I have gotten the brand new synthetic strings past the squeaky break in stage and they do sound pretty good but my violin's voice is still waking up. Should I take it into my local (well-respected) shop and ask about gut strings? Or wait until I am a better player?

January 2, 2012 at 02:38 PM · Alicia: you might want to wait until you have had a little more experience. Playing on gut core takes a little more finesse with the bow, pressure and speed MUST agree, and you probably don't want to deal with the tuning issues. I think that as a beginner you want to have really stable strings so your fingers will learn just where to go. Even though the Passiones are stable, they are not as stable as synthetics, and I don't think you want to have to mess with recongnizing the tuning on top of everything else when you are just learning. I would splurge on a set of Obligatos and enjoy them! Save the gut for later. Just my 2 cents from another adult starter (played 6-7 years now...)

January 2, 2012 at 04:21 PM · Thanks for your advice. That sounds reasonable. :)

January 2, 2012 at 05:31 PM · Spend the time practising the fiddle and worry about strings later. Obligatos are fine - you just need to improve tone production. Strings will mostly only make a small difference to one's sound, even with a highly trained professional player.

You need to do the spade work.

January 3, 2012 at 12:47 AM · What Peter said ^ (and I am sort of a string junkie, yet I was the one who said to wait).

You'll have a better appreciation for what you are looking for. And Obligatos are a great, warm, rich string, and they stay in tune! Soon you can become a string junkie too...and you'll have more appreciation for the less-forgiving gut strings should you want to go that way.


BTW: there is a Facebook group: Adult Starter - Violin/Fiddle you might enjoy in addition to the great peeps on

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