Passione/Oliv Gut String in Humid Climate?

March 31, 2017 at 01:09 AM ·

Replies (26)

March 31, 2017 at 01:22 AM · You are probably better off hearing from someone else who is further South, but I live in Baltimore and both Olivs and Passiones have survived quite well here!

March 31, 2017 at 01:54 AM · Obligatos have an average synthetic lifespan -- they're not short-lived the way that the EPs / EP Golds are.

Passiones are fine in a humid climate as long as you don't constantly subject them to changing climate. They are somewhat less stable than Pirastro's synthetics, but I don't think they're really any less stable than Dominants. Passiones have about average synthetic lifespan.

I've not found gut (specifically Olivs) to be all that long-lasting, to be honest.

March 31, 2017 at 03:14 AM · I have used passion, passion solo, and oliv in the last year. I live in Georgia where it gets probably even more hot and humid haha. I've found them to be excellent

March 31, 2017 at 03:45 PM · A vote here for both -- Oliv and Passione. I'm in north-central Alabama, where the warm, muggy weather has already started to return. Summers are long, hot, humid -- and the warm weather here typically hangs on well into November.

Re: Passione -- my preference is for the regular A. For Oliv, I prefer the stiff D-G. Pirastro recommends the stiff versions for modern players, and I have found them more pitch-stable than the regular ones.

Picking up on a previous poster's input: The Olivs are fine, too, in a humid climate, as long as you don't subject them to frequent temperature and humidity changes. Consistent tuning is another factor -- I'm very strict here. Multiple re-checks during a session against the A-440 tuner or tuning fork have shown these strings very reliable here. FWIW, I use them on one fiddle only. The other two have their own Lenzner/Thomastik combos -- steel E and composite-core A-D-G.

March 31, 2017 at 03:55 PM · How well do the Olivs handle routine temperature fluctuations, though? i.e. going from a cold green room onto a hot stage?

I'm curious about the "stiff" versions. I've never tried them. How high is the tension?

March 31, 2017 at 06:56 PM · Pirastro have all the tensions published on the website. It is interesting reading. If you compare oliv with Evah paparazzi you will find that for the A and G strings Evah has higher tension, but for the D string the olivs have higher tension. The oliv G stiff is slightly higher tension than the standard oliv (3.7-4.3 kp vs 3.6-4.1) but the D is considerably higher (5.4-5.7 kp vs 4.7-5.3). There are other strange findings - for instance that obligato D has a higher tension range than Evah and obligato D stark is higher tension than Evah D stark.

I have played passione and oliv for some years now, and every summer for the past 10 years I attended a course in a place that is often very humid in the summer. I have had problems with response of these strings in the high humidity and passione seems to be affected more than oliv. I have been using oliv stiff G and passione solo D and A.

March 31, 2017 at 07:19 PM · I really wanted to like gut strings. I tried Eudoxa, followed by Passione. I found both to be highly pitch-unstable. I found myself retuning them, for example, 5 times during a 1.5 hour practice session. This, even after allowing a week or two for break-in.

By contrast, Evah's stay in tune from one day to the next on my violin, and Dominants are almost as stable.

I know others haven't had nearly as much trouble with Passiones, and I'm tempted to try them again. Could I have done something wrong in the way that I put them on? Or could there be something about my violin's hardware that makes gut strings misbehave?

April 1, 2017 at 09:37 AM · It's interesting that we have so different experiences with gut string stability and lifespan. After initial stretching I find that oliv and passione are very stable unless exposed to large changes in humidity. And they last a long time. I change my oliv rigid G once in the same time I would have changed Evah paparazzi 4 times when I used those.

April 1, 2017 at 01:34 PM · I think that another poster once said something (I think it was Lydia in another thread) that people often misunderstand the break in time for gut strings as pitch instability. Which I 100% agree with. As someone who's been using passione and oliv for a year and a half I can understand why some people might not understand.

Lydia, I'm very much a numbers/objective person but regarding the tension of the oliv stiff g, I think if you like a string that feels very soft under the fingers then it's great. As I have a solo performance coming up soon, I switched out my passione a and d and oliv g for the Pass-solo a and d and PI G. What I miss most about the oliv g (besides the great sound) is the soft feeling under my fingers while playing.

April 1, 2017 at 01:58 PM · Did you feel like that switch of strings made a material difference in volume / projection? What has the sound trade-offs been like?

April 1, 2017 at 06:50 PM · Lydia, do I remember correctly that you've used Passiones on occasion? What E string do you use? I'm thinking about getting a set to try out gut strings (even if only part gut).

April 1, 2017 at 07:38 PM · Yes, I love Passiones on my current instrument. (They were not good on my previous one, though, unfortunately.)

I've tried both Passione A/D/G with the Warchal Amber E, as well as the Passione D/G with the Warchal Avantgarde A and the Amber E. The former combination has greatest richness; the latter combination has more brilliance.

I'm currently using Larsen Tziganes on the bottom two strings because I wanted the assurance of perfect tuning stability in an environment with a lot of temperature transitions, for a recent performance.

I've been wanting to try Olivs on this violin, and that's probably what I'm going to do next once the Tziganes wear out. (It only took them three weeks to stop sounding great, but at almost two months they're still sounding good, so I'm saving myself a little money and being patient about changing them.)

April 2, 2017 at 12:49 AM · Lydia,

I used to mainly use the pass-solo. When I most recently tried to regular passion with oliv g I loved the set. I've only switched back to the pass-solo and PI G as of 4 days ago. So far, I miss the regular passione set with oliv g. Keep in mind I also used a PI E when I used the regular passion.

April 3, 2017 at 08:29 AM · Let me re-iterate my opinion about using gut strings in changing environment. It is not the string itself, but the mandatory tuning to 440 Hz or 415 Hz what kills them... They stretch, we re-tune... repeat many times and strings are destroyed - literally stretched to their limits.

If not obliged to tune to certain frequency (at home), I just let them be around 430 Hz and they will magically get back to 440 Hz once the humidity is back to normal. Alternative would be to release them after concert / rehearsal for a semi-tone.

If you live in constant, humid environment, with no fluctuations, I can only assume that the 1st stretch will bring them into their optimal condition. No rapid fluctuations in humidity - no problems.

April 3, 2017 at 01:33 PM · Reiterating that an Oliv G at the same tension of a synthetic will still be more pliable. Even Synoxa (nylon), which are rather "heavy", feel easier on the fingers than a few "modern core" mediums.

I admit I am not sure what wakes up the lone wolf at high G string C on my violin-it never happens with gut, when I was using an steel A. I suspect it's tension rather than core material, but the wolf has never come out with gut. With synthetics, some make it more prominent than others (current synthetics, it has been quiet enough.)

I admit to never having used Oliv D stiff, only the Silver, which is an amazing string. It still resists so-called "modern playing" well. The Stiff Oliv G is robust and long lasting, IME at least.

April 3, 2017 at 02:06 PM · I am planning to try the silver Oliv D next time around. I tried the stiff, but liked the passsione solo D better - it gave a clearer sound. The passione is silver wound, so I am hoping the oliv silver will be even better and hopefully a better match with the oliv G stiff.

Moving a gut string into a humid environment should mean that i becomes heavier because it takes up water. When tuning to the same frequency it the tension required is higher. This probably at least part of the reason the response is worse at high humidity.

April 3, 2017 at 02:24 PM · As Bo said earlier, changes in humidity cause tuning instability. But in the USA drying air conditioning is so ubiquitous in public venues that strings that are used in such places but do not live in them full time are subject to great humidity variations.

I found even living in the California's high desert for 33 years, playing rehearsals and concerts in air conditioned venues further dried my instruments that required frequent retuning until I stopped using gut-core strings in the mid-1970s. Even then it was quite remarkable to see what such drying did to bow hair - I even saw someone's bow break because the hair tightened so much during a rehearsal in that hall (you gotta pay attention!).

These things involved very sudden humidity changes. Playing with gut-core strings in summer conditions without air conditioning in the eastern USA through the 1940's and '50s required frequent retuning too, but not as drastically as later when moving from natural to air-conditioned spaces. The humidity changes also affect the ease of turning wooden pegs - so if you still want to go to gut strings, you might consider the advantages of modern geared pegs,such as Pegheds/Knillings or Wittner that are humidity-proof.

April 3, 2017 at 04:40 PM · Andrew, have you tried Passiones? I'd be interested in hearing how they compare to the classic gut strings you were using in the past.

April 4, 2017 at 10:27 PM ·

April 4, 2017 at 10:59 PM · Jason, I did try Passiones for a short time and they did nothing to impress me compared to many brands of synthetic brands I've tried and used for decades. On one violin I was trying to get a little more "umpfff" from I found Pirastro "Permanent-Flexocor" to be startlingly helpful. These are steel-core strings that I decided to try after finding Pirastro Permanent strings and Pirastro Flexocor strings good on different cellos and Pirastro Permanent very good on one viola.

One of my guides for happiness with strings has been being able to hear myself in the cacophony of a full orchestra - so I may have different criteria than some other people.

April 5, 2017 at 12:12 AM · Lydia,

Thanks for sharing some combos you've tried.

I was doing some research in the process of buying a few sets, and holy smokes that Amber/Avantgarde combo really adds a lot of tension to the mix! The Passione G/D plus Avantgarde A and Amber E is 53.4 pounds. A set of Evah's are only 51.6 pounds. Your new violin must like high tension strings=)


Thank you for replying given your extensive experience with gut strings. I'm interested to see if the Passione with Amber E sounds much different than my normal synthetic set of PI G/D, Vision Solo A, Jargar Med. E despite a twenty-five dollar premium, but it sounds like I'm going to not get much of the real gut sound. I suppose I'll have to try Eudoxa or Oliv once just to see what it's like for the few glorious weeks before the strings break down.

April 5, 2017 at 02:49 AM · Actually, my violin hates high tension, at least on the lower strings. The less tension, the more resonant, as a general rule. I got it initially with EP Golds, but I noticed the instrument always sounded better when the strings had slipped down to a lower pitch, and my luthier really felt the tension was not a plus on this violin. (PIs are godawful on this violin. The various flavors of Infeld, Vision, Larsen Virtuosos, etc. are also no good on this violin. Fortunately I discovered that using test strings without shelling out for them.)

I originally went to the Amber E to get rid of the occasional whistle. Then I went to Warchal's Brilliant Vintage on the A/D/G, and then to Passione D/G with the Avantgarde A, and then Passione A/D/G (and back to the previous combo), and now Amber E, Avantgarde A, Tzigane D/G. Interestingly, the Brilliant Vintage is remarkably close to the Passiones, but the Passiones are better.

I may marginally prefer the sound with the Passione A over the Avantgarde A, but I find it annoying to not have a really stable A, and the big plus to the steel is that it is really, really stable. I rarely have to re-tune the A (although tuning it without a fine tuner is kind of a pain).

In general, I'm not really looking for strings to optimize the sound of the violin. I'm simply looking for strings that allow the natural qualities of the instrument to shine through. This is a marked contrast to how I've shopped for strings for previous violins.

April 5, 2017 at 03:07 AM · Hello, Ms. Leong: do you indeed not use a fine tuner for your steel As? Was wondering, as the main reason I have not used steel As for some years is that I didn't want to deal with an additional fine tuner anymore. Maybe the two Warchal options are flexible enough, but it seems you have tried them, and had trouble without the tuners.

I don't have trouble with my gut or synthetic As on my violin, but steel As are an interesting option I enjoyed using for some time. Even Prims can be nice.

Best wishes, regardless.

April 5, 2017 at 03:19 AM · My luthier feels that the tailpiece weight change with the addition of a fine tuner is a bad idea, since my violin is incredibly sensitive to anything which equates to a set-up change. The Avantgarde A stays in tune well enough that it only occasionally needs re-tuning, so I live with the annoyance.

April 5, 2017 at 03:23 AM · Also, some mutes, notably the Alpine, had trouble with my ex-fine tuner A (slipped down due to uneven string levels.) I know several artists like Chang, Mutter, et al use these, but they can get in the way of some violins.

I also wanted to prevent further changes to the setup. Thanks for letting me know how it's working out for yourself.

April 5, 2017 at 08:47 AM · Jason - I think you will get much more than a few weeks out of the olivs. At least for the G and D. The stiff G can last a year or more for me without any signs of problems. The last time I changed it the old string was more than a year old and I did not notice a big change in sound. I practice on average 1 hour a day and add quartet and orchestra rehearsals to that and a few weeks of playing 10-12 hours a day on courses I can say that I get way over 500 hours of playing time out of that G string. It is really a wonderful sounding string (on my instrument at least) and if you can keep humidity relatively constant stability is not an issue after the first week or two. I cannot speak of the oliv A's lifespan since it has been many years since I used. I do have one in the mail now together with the silver D so stay tuned (pun intended)....

I tried the Avantgarde A but prefer the sound of the passione solo. It is very stable even right after mounting, though, so I keep it as an emergency string in my case.

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