Your favorite plain gut strings?

April 18, 2017 at 05:37 PM · Well, while I have enough strings to last for the next 5 years. While I can afford it, and after a bad weather of personal problems, I wish to try a set of plain gut strings.

I have not yet played on any gut string, and I know next to nothing about them other than that often people mention that they go out of tune easily, and best sounding.

If you were to try the plain gut strings for the first time, which one would you go for?

Replies (54)

April 18, 2017 at 07:22 PM · I really like Gamut strings. Daniel Larson is very helpful in answering questions about which strings will best suit your needs.

April 18, 2017 at 08:41 PM · Gut does NOT go out of tune easily, unless you have bad strings (Pirastro Chordas have this instability to a rather large degree) or don't give them time to settle in the environment (15 minutes out of the case should be enough).

Aquilas strings are also the top end of gut, and cheaper too (buy them from Aquila USA to avoid Italian shipping charges and wait time).

April 18, 2017 at 09:47 PM · Yeah, they stay in tune as long as you dont breath and therefore change the humidity. Or you learn to look at a totaly different direction than your violin.

April 18, 2017 at 10:03 PM · Oh, come now. The D and G might gona bit sharp, so you retune with your finger placement.

One thing that gut is very good for, I might add. You automatically adjust to the tuning of the strings after acquiring experience on gut, which your hands never to do if you always use synthetics (since they rarely go out of tune, and when they do, people just stop to tune). :)

April 18, 2017 at 10:15 PM · Stage lights can also do a number on gut, in addition to the humidity changes (into and out of air conditioning, or into differing extent of air conditioning, is the major practical issue).

April 18, 2017 at 10:49 PM · A.O., I played gut long enough and still do on my baroque instrument.

I currently got strings from pure cord, but I dont know about the availability outside of Germany.

April 18, 2017 at 11:38 PM · A. O., I couldn't quite understand your last post due to grammar (speling) errors. Could you please elaborate?

April 19, 2017 at 02:29 AM · Even finger temperature and body warmth affects gut. However, once stretched and properly acclimated, they rarely go out of tune, even for non-Passione.

(Anyone knows of violin shops offering non-baroque plain gut strings in NYC?)

April 19, 2017 at 03:25 AM · What is the proper procedure for stretching / breaking in gut strings? I tried Eudoxa and Passione, and even after a week (and without great variability in temperature and humidity) they still went out of tune every 10 minutes.

As an aside, I've heard that a good violinist should be able to compensate for out of tune strings, but the reality is that we sometimes have to play open strings, and with challenging repertoire, it's hard enough to play in tune even when the strings themselves are in tune.

April 19, 2017 at 05:11 AM · one advantage/disadvantage I've read about is that the gut strings never go bad in term of sound, instead they just break. Is there any truth in that?

April 19, 2017 at 05:17 AM · Jason, if the strings go out of tune relative to each other (in other words, all four strings go out of tune a little flat or sharp to the exact same degree), no problem, unless it's really serious, like a semitone or more too low/high. If gut strings go out of sync tuning wise (e.g one string is significantly off course), there's real problems.

April 19, 2017 at 06:00 AM · In my (admittedly limited) experience, they went about 1/4 tone flat after about 10 minutes of playing. Unfortunately, they didn't all go flat to exactly the same degree, so they would be out of tune with other.

April 19, 2017 at 06:36 AM · Well, if you play gut you need your violin to aclimatate. One of the problems in concert for me is that you enter the room directly before playing.

If you dont play much they can need up to two weeks to settle so give them another chance, Jason.

Out of tune does not have to be bad, but the flagolet for example can become a problem, also the open g string.

Actually they can get a bit uneven in intonation before they brake, so no direct brake most of the times. But yeah, it differs to sythetic core strings.

April 19, 2017 at 10:59 AM · I highly recommend Damien Dlugolecki's strings, they seem pricey but the e and a strings are double length so you get two for the price of one, and if you really want to save money you can use a Eudoxa G instead of the pricey baroque one.

April 19, 2017 at 12:57 PM · I would like to try a pure gut set up sometime. I was just wondering if the gut strings would sit in the nut slot at the right height or would the nut need to be tweeked to accommodate the thicker gut. Would I still be able to us a Hill fine tuner for the E string?

April 19, 2017 at 02:38 PM · @A.O. Well, I went to Aquila's US web site.... strings may be great, but their site looks like a beginner web enthusiast made it some 15 years ago! How did you order strings from them?

April 19, 2017 at 04:54 PM · @Jeff - you wouldn't need a fine tuner for gut E, maybe for gut G.

April 19, 2017 at 08:45 PM · @Rocky: You send an e-mail saying what you want to buy (via paypal).

@Jeff: Gut needs widened slots, or it will be pinched, thus tricky to tune (and prone to breaking more easily).

@Steven: Gut loses its sound very gradually, but once it does, it doesn't break, but simply sounds soul-crushingly dull (and becomes unreponsive and produces very odd noises). :)

@Ella:Edited post, and pure gut all goes out of tune at the same pitch (bar wound G) because it's all the same material in different thicknesses. :)

@Marc: It is probably the Chorda that make you out of tune all the time. I found them to have the same problem, but the better strings like Dlugolecki hold pitch much better after the violin adjust to the room, unlike Chorda's constant retuning (and sound quite a bit better too). :)

I apologize if I've evolved into Proto-Buri, it's my phone's touch keyboard. :D

April 19, 2017 at 09:00 PM · I dont play Chorda ;)

I can handle the gut string but will never put it on my main instrument. You can do as you wish.

April 19, 2017 at 11:49 PM · Hi A.O., thanks. I am not sure if I would want to altar my nut to accommodate gut strings as much as I would like to give them a try some day. I am puzzled because Bud said I would not need an E string fine tuner but a G string fine tuner might be beneficial, is using gut strings that different?

Mr. Brivati is is the best typist of all the posters on violinist .Com and is unbeatable.

April 20, 2017 at 12:53 AM · Gamut or Dlugolecki are excellent. I tend to use a Eudoxa G though... I have tried a pure gut G and it was too weird, raspy and almost pitchless! I think the G string itself wasn't really useful until covered strings were wildly available.

April 20, 2017 at 02:32 AM · @Jeff: Cannot use a fine tuner one a gut E, the bottom section underneath will slice right through it. You need a tailpiece like a plain wooden one that can simply have a fine tuner put on/taken off. :)

@Paul: Yup, pure gut G's are only for early Baroque, where they were, if used, rather uncommonly for a rather hauntingly beautiful bass line, in first position only.

Beyond first position they rapidly loose any volume and discernable pitch, but the raspy grit is SO lovely in the works it was meant for (and I want to try one just for the lovely sound).

Of course, such a thick string doesn't work properly unless you have the rather slanted back angle of the neck and smaller bass bar, otherwise the tension would completely kill the minimal usefullness of said G (if it didn't crack open the top first) *Cringe painfully* :)

April 20, 2017 at 08:55 PM · When Paganini played his Moses do you think he played on a pure gut G or a metal covered gut string?

April 20, 2017 at 11:12 PM · Wound, recorded that he wound his own strings (which was usually done by the musician back then).

I've heard Paganini Sul G passages on a plain G, it was a miserable failure:

There are 3 more caprices by the player if interested, in his YT video list. :)

April 21, 2017 at 09:35 AM · When did wound gut D strings start becoming more commonplace?

April 21, 2017 at 10:47 AM · I would guess not long after 1800??

April 21, 2017 at 12:29 PM · 1930's or so, wound in aluminum because the plain D has a weaker tone compared to the others (because it is on the edge of effectiveness compared to a synthetic due to being so thick).

The volume and tonal colour is more limited (listen to any Heifetz recording), and the string is very picky about exact bow control, because it needs the most adjustment to make it speak clearly.

This is solved by buying historically accurate gimped or multiple twist string styles such as Venetian, but they didn't have those back then. :)

This is especially true of any plain gut in the frog area, they are extremely sensitive to the extra weight needed for a smooth bow change. One of the reasons why gut improves bow control (and intonation, since it is not covered by metallic sheen),and sounds extremely dead if not pretty much exactly in tune.

Surprisingly, same for vibrato. Use the wrong speed for the dynamic or too wide (read: anything past 1/5 semitone), and the sound flies out the window.

April 21, 2017 at 01:21 PM · Maybe I misunderstood, but I don't think Mr. Heifetz had a limited tonal palette (or necessarily weak tone) due to his "old" plain gut D. Recordings, at any rate, will never tell the whole story (especially the older ones.)

Not meaning or wanting to start a petty argument-just think the message is probably not clear. Also, I like modern gut strings anyway.

April 21, 2017 at 06:13 PM · @Adalberto: I love Heifetz, it is the strings that are to blame, no matter the player. :) Compare when he goes from the rich and bright gut A to the D, and you notice a considerable drop in projection and power (but not expression).

Again, this is simply because the string is usually too thick when made as a straight gut (having used the norm and the gimped equivalent< this is very true and obvious).

This is why, historically, gut D's were often roped or gimped to overcome this lack of flexibility (Paganini's A and D were roped, for example).

But of course, such knowledge didn't exist back when Heifetz was around, so he made do with the older form of the D string (but it still sounds beautiful, just weaker than the other gut strings around it).

Although, I always find the D weak on any modern instrument (and often old ones too!) strung with synthetics, always too light and lacking in power (except on the Omobono Strad I had the fortune of trying- that one was perfect in carrying power, if not exactly what you would call "loud"). :D

April 25, 2017 at 09:00 AM · Despite some of the great responses here, I think I am going to ask my luthier which gut strings, and end up getting what she may recommend.

After experimenting with the strings. I am noticing one thing for sure.

More frequent changes with less-expensive strings is just not the same as keeping good set for longer period of time. After I run out of my stock. I'm likely going to go for more-expensive strings and keep them for longer. Right now, Warchal Brilliant Vintage, Obligato and Infeld Rod take the synthetic cake. As for Gut, I also want to explore and compare.

April 25, 2017 at 09:54 AM · Unless your luthier specializes in baroque violins, she may not be an authority on which string to use.

April 25, 2017 at 12:34 PM · Also that gut strings for a modern setup may not be what usually works on an actual baroque instrument.

Unless your luthier has a lot of Heifetz imitator customers, they probably have no experience with plain gut on a modern instrument, so it falls to you to experiment. :)

April 25, 2017 at 12:44 PM · Larsen and Dlugolecki are the top two makers in USA, you'd be better off talking to them about what are the best strings if you intend to use it for modern set up as I'm sure they have options that would work for you, one thing for sure I would not recommend Pirastro Chorda.

April 25, 2017 at 03:40 PM · Agree with Lyndon, but also add AQUILA as the top-tier of gut, and they also sell the thicker gauges used historically too (E up to 0.75 mm). :)

April 25, 2017 at 04:05 PM · edit

April 25, 2017 at 04:27 PM · I think there is something to be said for specializing in gut strings and not just making them as a sideline to your more conventional strings. Dlugolecki only makes gut strings, Larsen makes gut and Larsen synthetic strings, Pirastro from what I have heard has some quality control issues with their gut strings, even with Eudoxa gut core.

April 25, 2017 at 08:14 PM · @Lyndon: Lol I meant Aquila strings, have fixed my post (the Chordas are weak sounding- esp the D, and CONSTANTLY go out of tune).

Yuck... :D

April 25, 2017 at 08:27 PM · That makes more sense, my own experience is with the Dlugolecki strings, I haven't tried Larsen or Aquila, but others speak well of them, not so Chorda!!

April 25, 2017 at 10:21 PM · Lyndon I think you are mixing up Dan Larson who makes Gamut strings with danish Larsen Strings.

April 25, 2017 at 10:33 PM · I guess I am, thanks for pointing that out, my mistake.

April 25, 2017 at 11:39 PM · Well, could someone clarify this statement:

Plain gut string never goes bad, it can only snap, as to synthetics and metals just go bad over time?

April 25, 2017 at 11:45 PM · Plain gut strings can fray to the point where they are unusable, without actually breaking.

April 26, 2017 at 12:00 AM · Varnishing-- often frowned upon by the purists-- increases durability.

I second all the recommendations for Dlugolecki and the Heifetz setup shop, and against Chorda.

A.O.'s comment on intonation also squares with my experience.

Worth remembering: not only did Heifetz have his students use gut D and A, but a pupil of Oscar Shumsky said that Shumsky insisted on pure gut As. I can't remember if he used them himself in concert later on, but they doubtless taught his pupils a lot of things about technique.

Moving on to gut E's: Toscha Seidel thought you'd be nuts to use anything else. After a while, he might not have been the best one to make that particular argument, but his sound was certainly lovely.

I've wondered if there were some sort of device like a leather or metal "O", that could slide down to the knot of a gut E and make it tolerate a fine tuner without getting sliced apart. That would make swapping back and forth between gut and Gold Labels a little simpler. Anyone experimented in that direction?

As always when you try these things-- don't forget about after-length. An unwrapped string going straight into the tailpiece, with the knot on the other side, will behave differently than a metal-wrapped string that has its gut or filament double back on itself, then covered with metal and silk thread.

April 26, 2017 at 12:01 AM · A further thought about practice and training-- it is true that gut strings can change pitch based on temperature and humidity.

It is also true, however, that a well-trained period violinist will reflexively force his or her eardrums and auditory nerves to make a complementary adjustment.

Which eliminates the need to worry about intonation!

April 26, 2017 at 12:01 AM · Usually, they fray to the point where the bowed area cannot be played on properly anymore because of all the hairs that have been previously clipped off.

However, plain gut usually starts to sound intolerably dull a long time before this (except the E, which does it about a week in advance, but E's never last past an average of about 6 weeks anyway). :)

BUT, Aquila,Dlugolecki and Gamut both sell E, A and D in double-lengths, so plain gut is actually the cheapest option for time-sound quality ratio (I usually use G and D for 6 months, A for 3 and E for 1 before experiencing noticeable tonal loss, which happens very gradually).

Oh, and oil the fingerboard area when it dries out (with a dab, the strings become clear and unresponsive, and squeek much more easily when they need oil).

April 26, 2017 at 01:23 AM · What really attracts me the most to plain gut is that if my sources are correct, they will sound good new-and-old until they are physically damaged due to usage/age etc. This is because I am really getting tired of synthetic strings sounding really good for 2 weeks then going completely dull after.

Which has been the case from my experience with Obligato and Infeld Red so far. Other strings, more gradually deteriorating, but basically one day I decide that I don't enjoy the sound from my violin at all, and I switch it.

April 26, 2017 at 02:08 AM · It sounds like what you're hearing is the break-in period of the synthetics. After 2 weeks they start sounding like their normal selves.

April 26, 2017 at 02:20 AM · I'm not even sure.

Obligato and Infeld red to me sound terrible after 2-3 weeks.

Dominant and Tonica sound terrible for the first month then 'tolerable' for the next few months.

April 26, 2017 at 04:33 AM · I have discussed in the past that I think I am most fond of the strings prior to break-in period, and somewhat confused with the sound I get from steel strings.

Steel strings gave me that sound I wanted, but it was just too simple and lacked the complexity I would get from say Obligato before it broke in.

April 26, 2017 at 12:27 PM · I know of a few big name soloists that change their strings quite often. One of them every week, the other 24 hours before every performance.

It also depends on how you play. A student that isn't really digging in much puts a lot less stress on a string that someone playing Tchaikovsky Concerto, for instance.

All strings are a compromise -- synthetics, gut, and steel. The perfect string would have the nuance and color of the best plain gut, the flexibility of Dominants, the power of Evah Pirazzi, and the stability and longevity of steel. This doesn't exist yet.

April 26, 2017 at 02:12 PM · Actually, pure gut is the most flexible string and has the colours, and has resonant power that carries instead of simply penetratint through because it is bright and loud.

So, all we need to add is the longetivity of steel, which is pretty close for G and D anyway (I get about 240 hours before I change them to tonal change, 120 for A, 60 for E). :)

So, you just need extra E's (which only last a short while at A= 440, but considerably longer at A= 415 and lower pitches).

Makes me feel for the violinists that had A= 492 in their town!

April 26, 2017 at 04:23 PM · Some gut strings are bright and loud-just also richer than synthetics. The player, bow, and even rosin can contribute to this.

I never found EP Greens to be that bright-loud and brilliant (perhaps too much so for some violins), yes, but their palette is, IMHO, not all about high mids. Maybe I have not tried them in the right, wrong violin.

April 30, 2017 at 08:51 PM · In the 'FWIW' department: some notes about the evidence regarding historical gut D strings. According to Mimmo Peruffo's extensive research (which you can find in the Research section at the Aquila Corde site):

Even after wound strings became available in the late 17th c., the evidence points to violin D strings of high twist pure gut in Germany, Italy (including samples associated with Paganini), and IIRC England at least in the 19th c. There is apparently just one French source that mentions winding the D also.

April 30, 2017 at 09:44 PM · Yup, the Frech adopted the wound D earlier (maybe b3cause they usually had lower pitch), everywhere else in general only started in the 1920's (bar Heifetz, Milstein and Toscha Seidel- Milstein later switched to woujd Eudoxa A later on).

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