Gut strings and the wolf

March 4, 2013 at 07:07 PM · Yesterday I bought a new violin. (For those who are interested, here's the link:

It's a very reasonably priced instrument, and I wasn't expecting too much. I only wanted a decent fiddle for classroom teaching, busking etc. where I don't want to bring my concert instrument.

The fiddle comes set up with passiones. I bought a coda diamond gx bow with it, and so I had a complete new set to get aquainted with.

First impression: Man, that simple fiddle has a kind of warm and complex sound, and this from the low g up to the highest notes. No breaks between the strings.

I'm used to the easy handling of dominants, and the way the passione got out of tune all the time was new to me. I decided to be patient and give them a try.

Today I played some hours. I found that there was a serious wolf note on the a' on the d string. I wondered why I hadn't found this earlier, but I hadn't played the d-minor-sonata by Brahms in the shop...

I adjusted the too short after string lenght (from 4.5 cm to 5 cm), it seemed a little bit better, but after some trying out I noticed that double stops on g and d sounded very wobbly. The tone broke away when they weren't hit perfectly from the very start. No forgiving, no chance to use some minor changes in intonation.

At this point I was very disappointed and thought of giving the fiddle back. Then I decided to attach a new set of dominants. Guess what: All wolf tones are gone, every note is clear and defined, the overall wobbly feeling is gone.

On the other side the violin seems to sound a little bit less powerful, the astonishing warmth and complexity that I noticed in the beginning is reduced to "normal" (what is still very fine).

I don't know if I should have given the passiones some more days to settle, but I felt the instrument sounded worse than in the very beginning. Now it's fine - I don't have to fight against it any more, it's response is already quick and even (it's only one week old!).

This experience doesn't make me want to go back to gut strings. Maybe I'll try a set of wondertones next time, because I found them to be warmer than dominants, which could be nice with the new instrument. But first I'll let the dominants settle for some days, as well as the fiddle.

Replies (22)

March 4, 2013 at 08:43 PM · Newly-installed Passiones will stretch hugely the first few hours they're on the violin, and somewhat over the next few days. They need about a week to settle tonally, and by that point, they're about as stable, tuning-wise, as a synthetic. (I'd say that they're as stable as Dominants, but not as stable as Obligatos or Evah Pirazzis.)

March 7, 2013 at 08:36 PM · There are quite a few variables that can bring out the wolf sound; string selection is just one of them.

As you have already noticed, you lost a bit of sound with changing from one brand to other, and that may be the price you have to pay to avoid the wolf coming back. Some people just choose to live with a wolf because they do not want to miss all the goodies.

Passione's are just one of many gut string brands, probably the most powerful of all. Perhaps you can explore some other brands before you give up and loose the richness only found with this material. You can also try out a set of thinner Passione (light gauge).

March 7, 2013 at 08:54 PM · I've put on Dominants recently and regret it as all strings seem to have aquired wolf notes where they have never been before, and they sound dreadful on this instrument as well.

March 7, 2013 at 09:29 PM · Well Peter, the wolves had to go SOMEWHERE. All's balanced in the universe...

Now you change strings and some other poor schmuck will be howling with them...

March 7, 2013 at 09:34 PM · I have av violin that reacts the same way to Passiones, the A on the D string getting wolfy and so on. The Wondertones work well with that particular instrument. Interesting to hear about someone else having the same experience with the Passiones..I have used them a few times on that fiddle despite of those issues but gave up on them after a while.

March 7, 2013 at 11:22 PM · Well, some days later (fiddle is now ca. 14 days old) I still use the dominants, and I have installed a better bridge. The fiddle just sings, i can't put it down. Perfectly even over the whole range.

Maybe I'll test the spare passiones on one of my old german fiddles.

I suspect the maker used passiones and a rather hight bridge to give the fiddle a strong first impression.

If so, this was not a good idea - it didn't work for me, and the instrument is great without these tricks.

March 8, 2013 at 07:33 AM · We are now working on a new synthetic core formula, which should be able to provide the same (warmest) tone quality as the best gut strings. The result is very promising so far and the development is really exciting. There is no a sign of metallic edge, which has been typical for synthetic strings.

In a few weeks or months time we might be able to release a few sets for testing to professional violinists, maybe members.

What is really surprising for me - the new formula is really the wolf tome killer. I am really looking forward to get feedback from more players.

March 8, 2013 at 08:11 AM · Count me in for testing!

March 8, 2013 at 09:55 AM · My contemporary Italian violin only likes certain strings and has certain wolf problems and metallic edginess with strings like Dominants.

So yes, I would be interested in testing a new set of strings in my home studio and when playing duos with piano and in quartet chamber music etc.

March 8, 2013 at 10:57 AM · I'm interested too. My contemporary violin has a couple of wolf spots...

March 8, 2013 at 12:15 PM · Watch out that the wolf does not consume the lamb ...

It could even be a wolf in spotted sheeps clothing ...Grrrrr

My violin always sounds bad after I've wolfed down my dinner ...

March 21, 2013 at 12:25 PM · I've been playing on the new Evah Pirazzi Gold but have had wolf notes on the upper D string - actually not that upp - B an C, which really interfere with playing.

Sometime ago I went to the low-tension Obligato G to avoid the same problem so I thought it worthwhile to try the D too - and why not the A while I was at it. Bingo! No wolf notes except at high C on the G string. And what a treat it is to get responsive strings back on the violin to boot.

March 21, 2013 at 05:59 PM ·

March 21, 2013 at 09:36 PM · Eugenia - thats how I started (I know the luthier that made it) - he suggested the low tension G. This is the best its been and to be honest I don't notice any loss in volume but maybe I need someone else to listen for me.

March 21, 2013 at 10:43 PM ·

March 22, 2013 at 12:17 AM · I have never had any wolves on my 2002 Jay Haide, which btw is rapidly developing into a very useful orchestral violin, not matter what strings I use, which currently are Larsen Tzigane A, D and G with a Goldbrokat E.

My anonymous 18th century violin (I don't believe the label) is rather susceptible to wolves just above the octave on the G string unless I use a gut G, both Eudoxa and Chorda being good at chasing away the wolves, with the Chorda being significantly better at it. This violin is currently strung with Goldbrokat E, Chromecore A (steel core), and Eudoxa G and D, all new strings.

March 22, 2013 at 07:41 PM · At the speed I play I can truthfully say I have never been embarrassed by the type of string.

March 22, 2013 at 09:00 PM · Eugenia - can't say I've noticed yet. Perhaps I'm the same as Trevor :)

I'm not even sure why string tension should affect speed - is it possible the 'give' in the string limits the bow changes? My bow has some bounce to it so I wonder if that compensates - also it could depend on the type of rosin...

Either way, if its string tension the speed effect should not be observed near the bridge where there is very little 'give'... needs some thought! Maybe its own topic...

March 22, 2013 at 11:08 PM · I've been wondering why the Chorda gut G is significantly better than the Eudoxa gut G in getting rid of the wolves I referred to in my first post of March 22. They're both by Pirastro and have similar tension feel under my fingers, but one, the Chorda, is apparently designed for Baroque playing.

The visible structural difference between the two strings is this: the Eudoxa is flat wound, whereas the Chorda is wire wound (as on the lower strings of a nylon-strung classical guitar). The sound is different, the Chorda being richer in tone than the Eudoxa. The Chorda is certainly my preferred G, and now replaces the Eudoxa on my old violin.

I'm inclined to suspect (but have no technical proof) that the wire winding is responsible for getting rid of the wolves. Any comments from string experts on this?

March 22, 2013 at 11:22 PM · Regarding speed of playing on gut, for a good example you need look little further than Simon Standage playing the last movement of Haydn's Gmaj vc.

March 23, 2013 at 07:26 AM · Trevor - had a listen because I used to play that little Haydn concerto. Simon and I were students together way back ... he used to even dep in studios using a normal fiddle - even on one occasion playing light music. A nice guy and just about one of the best 'Baroque' players around with good intonation and good technique. (No surging through the bow!) Well, he was properly taught!

I don't know how he manages to play this concerto at around a semi-tone flat though, he must switch to another part of the brain for Baroque.

I haven't seen him for years - don't mix in too many circles these days.

January 3, 2014 at 02:09 PM · Simon was pretty good performing a Prokofiev violin concerto when an undergraduate. Talking of Prokofiev, Peter, with a name like that, what made you think you'd escape wolves?

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