Who Performs on Gut Strings Today?

June 15, 2006 at 04:59 AM · I guess using gut strings puts me in a rather small minority, but I think I may have a few allies in this cause here on v.com. If I'm not mistaken, Ilya, Buri and Kevin have all made mention of the subject.

Here (from another thread) is what I use, and why I use them. (I just recorded a CD of the Brahms d minor Sonata + short pieces with this stringing.) Do others like them as well??

Thick Eudoxa wound gut G, thick uncovered gut D & A, Wondertone Solo medium E. This is a stringing which was typical of the early twentieth century, but I don't use it because it is of that era, I use it because I love to play on them!

It would take some getting used to if one is switching from synthetic strings. The art of bowing gut strings is more demanding of the player (especially regarding accuracy of contact point), more based on awareness of the string's inertia, both in setting it into motion and in sensitively "escorting" it out of motion.

**I find the sonority to be richer in complex overtones, more projecting, and more resembling the ideal model of violin tone: the human voice. Even more than the quality of tone, the enormous possibilities for expressive nuance, is what draws me to gut strings.**

Replies (100)

June 15, 2006 at 06:11 AM · Greetings,

Oliver , one of the briliant young German players is using two gut strings now. It might be Zeheitmehr. I will try and check it out. I think he recorde the two Mendelssohns on plain gut d and a,

Cheers,

Buri

June 15, 2006 at 06:13 AM · Not exactly what you asked, but while waiting to read people's answers (my interest is as an amateur using all gut strings except for a steel e), I wondered what gut strings are made of and how. And in googling found this, which gives about as much detail on their manufacture as any violinist would ever want to know:

http://www.daniellarson.com/article.htm

June 15, 2006 at 12:28 PM · Buri,

Interesting. Do you still use them? A local violinmaker told me that when he visited New England Conservatory, violinist James Buswell told him that he not only uses gut strings (Olive -wound gut), but he requires his students to do so. He said Buswell feels that gut strings are better for training the students to be sensitive with the bowing factors, particularly contact point. Also, Stephen Redrobe, a teacher in London who has a wonderful instructional DVD called: "Secrets of the Old Masters", uses uncovered gut strings.

Eric,

Thanks for the Larson link. He makes fine strings. The uncovered gut D that I have on my violin now is by him.

June 15, 2006 at 03:24 PM · I (an amateur) use Eudoxa A, D, and G, and love their depth and color. I recently replaced them with Dominants for orchestra and found the Dominants very forgiving, a reason to switch back. I will try a plain gut A and D soon (I started with these as a kid). I'm happy to hear good things said about gut.

June 15, 2006 at 03:59 PM · I'm dying to try Olivs but they're so bloody expensive....

June 15, 2006 at 04:04 PM · Hi,

I have tried them in the past, but the climate here with its violent extremes makes their use impossible. It's true that the playing is different. I find it easier, not harder actually. That said, I have to content myself with a synthetic alternative.

Players who use gut... hmmm... I know that Kremer uses Oliv D and G with a steel A (the old Russian setup). I thought that Zehetmair used Olivs all the way, but maybe he has changed. Zimmerman uses Olivs and a Hill E. I think that Mullova may use plain gut (at least, she did for a while). Aside from that, I don't know.

Mr. Steiner, I heard clips from your CD and it sounded great. Funny, but I knew after a couple of notes that you were using uncovered gut. That sound you can't mistake for anything else.

Cheers!

June 15, 2006 at 04:17 PM · Christian,

Thank you for your kind words. It is hot and humid for much of the year here in Atlanta, but it is also very well air conditioned in virtually all the homes, stores, public venues and cars. So the violin doesn't get exposed to the hot, humid air.

Maura,

I think that Eudoxas are generally quite a bit more reasonably priced than Olives. On my violin I prefer their tone.

June 15, 2006 at 05:04 PM · What about the great number of Baroque specialists and dabblers in same? Don't they use pure gut?

June 15, 2006 at 05:16 PM · Oliver - why do you not use a gut e?

I am trying an uncovered varnished mid-thickness a-string (from Dlugolecki) for the first time to decide if I want to make a permanent switch. The e-string will be my next experiment (currently Oliv gold-steel, which has a tendency to whistle).

I've noticed 4 things after a couple of weeks playing the gut a at about 90-100 min/day:

(a) the range of audible overtones was immediately noticable and added richness, compared with the Oliv A that preceded it; (b) the string needed to be played in - it sounded better balanced after 3 or 4 days playing, and has held this tonal pattern since; (c) it holds its pitch much better than a new Oliv once it was stretched; and most important for playing (d) shifting is different, requiring a more deliberate and delicate touch. This seems to be because the gut surface has more grip than a wound metal-on-gut surface, so the left-hand finger doesn't slide as easily or smoothly. Have others noticed this?

June 15, 2006 at 06:02 PM · The only reason I don't use Dlugolecki strings today is because I didn't feel that my sound really fit in with the other players I work with around town. The gut strings change my approach to the music so much that there's some serious incongruence with people using synthetics. I love Dlugolecki strings above all others even though I don't use them nowadays.

Generally I can get about 3 months out of a gut E-string. Still, they can bust on me at any time. That has not been the case when I do baroque tuning - they last and last and last. Unbelievably, I have NEVER busted a Dlugolecki non-E string! I have an A-string on one of my violins that still sounds great after 4 years!

I tried using a metal E with 3 Dlugoleckis, but the high tension of the E compared to the low tension of the other three strings threw my violin and thus technique out of whack.

June 15, 2006 at 06:52 PM · What is "baroque tuning" ?

How often, if ever, are "transposed" tunings used? Like, for example, to play in duo with an instrument of more limited range, or make it easier to play in some oddball key?

What about "dropped" tunings and other weirdness - do they exist on violin?

June 15, 2006 at 07:22 PM · Baroque tuning is when you tune the strings down about a half-step each (usually to A 415).

June 15, 2006 at 07:36 PM · Mike Harris wrote: "What about the great number of Baroque specialists and dabblers in same? Don't they use pure gut?"

They do, but I am opposed to the "original performance practice" way of thinking. I think it is a false philosophy that leads to musically compromised playing. That would be interesting to get into on another thread, but off topic here. The gut strings I use are considerably thicker than those which they use. The guages I use are 17 1/4 wound G, 21 uncovered gut D, 16 uncovered gut A and medium wire E. Look at the record or CD jacket of Heifetz's Sibelius w/Chicago SO. and you'll see them. As to the question: why not gut E, I might try that some day. The thicknesses mentioned above are what I hear from reliable sources, were those used by Erick Friedman and his teacher, Jascha Heifetz. I understand that they were typical of the generation that preceeded JH: Kreisler, Sarasate etc., as well.

June 15, 2006 at 10:42 PM · Greetings,

Oliver, sicne I`m surviuving on very short term isntrument loans at the moment I can`t play around with strings so much. The climate here is virtually impossible for plain gut anyway. However, after two years on Dominats I am so fed up with them I am going back to Olivs as soon as I can rob a bank.

I agree with you completely about gut astrings ncreasing the need for sensitivity to speed, cp, and weight. Its a dramatic differnec eand I do advocate students and even some much more advanced palyers work on them too . It`s a little like dropping the shoulder rest. It`s not everyone`s cup of tea, but it sure as heck changes the way you think about the isntrument....

Cheers,

Buri

June 15, 2006 at 10:50 PM · I'm definitely going to splurge on a set of Olivs next time I get paid for something. :)

June 16, 2006 at 12:58 AM · I have been very interested in gut strings... could anyone give me a good brand.. but inexpensive please? Thanks. :)

June 16, 2006 at 01:34 AM · La Bella has naked gut, at least some strings. Bronze wound G, too. $30/set. juststrings.com. I'd just use Dominants until I went broke (baroque).

June 16, 2006 at 01:38 AM · If one hasn't used gut before, my recommendation would be to start with a wound gut G,D & A and a wire E (and experiment with uncovered gut strings later). A gorgeous combination IMHO is Goldbrokat E with Eudoxa (wound gut) G,D & A. At concordmusic.com this group totals $39.60

June 16, 2006 at 03:11 AM · If you want to try plain gut, Dlugolecki is actually a very good value--a better overall value than the synthetics. Plain gut lasts longer than synthetic--unless you have very wet hands and even then, you can get the "varnished" gut which is quite impressive. My e'' lasted over 6 months, and my d and G are still perfect at 6 months. My a got a bit ratty at 4 months but didn't break. I changed it at 6 when it's sound finally started to go false due to the nicks in it.

So, a regular sort of "set" from Dlugolecki is about $70, BUT you get two (2) e'' strings and two (2) a' strings--and so the effective cost is only around $50-something.

And as Mr. Steiner points out, Eudoxa is a nice starting place, and not expensive.

Somewhere, I posted my own comparisons between dominant, eudoxa, and plain gut. There is more difference IMO between plain gut and eudoxa than dominant to eudoxa. The real big change is the plain gut (G strngs are wound unless you are really going for an early baroque or renaissance feel, apparently), especially the d, and then the a'. The e'' is just plain beautiful.

June 16, 2006 at 03:51 AM · I rarely perform but I use Oliv and will recommend them. As well my friend Joseph Gold uses pure gut strings...check my profile for a link to his playing.

June 16, 2006 at 05:13 AM · Ok thanks for the help :)... I think when I change my strings I will try a wound set of gut strings (i think that would be less of a transition than uncovered guts)

June 16, 2006 at 05:14 PM · I play on gut strings, eudoxa wound G,D, and A, and a steel E. I am thinking about going to unwraped gut sometime. I like the sound of gut strings more that that of synthetic strings, it is a richer, fuller sound with many more overtones.

I have heard hany people complain that with gut harmonics are harder, but I have not had any problems. The other common complaint is that they go out of tune to easilly. I have taken my violin to Italy in the middle of summer (it was very humid)and not had a problem with this. Part of dealing with this is how you string your violin. You have to put the strings on in such a way that they are wraped around the pegs against the outer wall of the peg box, so that the pressure of the string keeps the peg from slipping. After I re-string, my violin is stably in tune after the strings have stretched- about two or three days. Other violinist who use gut: Joseph Gold is the only violinist in the Bay area that I know of, but I have started to run into more students who use gut also.

Kelsey W.

June 16, 2006 at 05:45 PM · You are talking about steel or silver on gut right?

I don't know too many people who play on pure gut strings, except a few EM people (early music).

June 16, 2006 at 09:59 PM · I've used gut strings for years and will probably continue to do so. On my instrument, I've found the best combination to be Oliv G, D, and A, with a Gold Plated E (Pirastro Eudoxa). The Gold E seems to have a much better singing quality than any other E String I've ever tried.

June 17, 2006 at 12:22 AM · Kelsey W. wrote: "I have heard many people complain that with gut harmonics are harder, but I have not had any problems. "

I'm surprised that you've heard people complain that harmonics are harder. My experience is the exact opposite. With gut strings harmonics speak much more easily, and they speak with a considerably fuller and prettier tone. Another indication that gut strings are a healthy choice: Pluck the open strings. It sounds dramaticaly more beautiful on gut strings.

June 17, 2006 at 12:17 AM · I played for about four years on Dlugolecki's varnished but otherwise unwound/ plain gut E,A,and D and with his wound G. LOVED those strings! Played Haddonfield Symphony audition with that set up and got in. Performed graduation recital at Temple in Philly with them. They were thick guage for my modern instrument-- my use of gut was not for period practice. I did find them more demanding for contact point and engagement, but more than worth it in loveliness. Yeah, as they get worn, they get a little rough, and shifting feels that. Sul ponticello on naked gut is more extreme than on wound strings-- awesome, gritty, fierce effect. I often long for gut just for the sul ponticello (for which I find admittedly perhaps too much use....) I even consider that the amplified sound [with Fishman transducer clipped in the bridge, which was my set up at the time] is on average better than with metal or synthetic strings-- my gut years coincided with some of my years amplified in the band Caribou Union. But, because I'll play almost anywhere, anytime, and that means no air conditioning etc., and because of an unfindable burr on my bridge (we suspect) or some wacko streak of strings, or?, there came a period where despite my best efforts, I could not keep an E unbroken on my violin for more than a couple days. Too much grief, instability, undependability-- but I emphasize that what finally broke me away from gut was a combination of poverty, a weird set of bad luck, plus my unusual variety of performance settings, and I love the Buswell training idea and recommend that everyone try gut at least sometime. Gut strings are a joy and an education all by themselves.

June 17, 2006 at 12:55 AM · I'd really like to try the Dlugolecki strings but I've never heard of them over here in Australia. I've been using Eudoxas. Could someone tell me the contact details for Dlugolecki strings?

I used plain gut D and A strings several years ago. They were Pirastro Chorda strings. Are these OK for modern pitch? Also, how do you work out what gauge strings you are using if the packet doesn't tell you -- is there a string gauge you can get?

I found the shifting a bit of a problem sometimes. The string would get dry and rough, and I resorted to putting some moisturiser on my fingers to make gliding along the strings easier.

June 17, 2006 at 02:41 AM · Jon,

Damian Dlugolecki's website is

http://www.damianstrings.com/

June 17, 2006 at 09:32 PM · Forgot to mention this: in last program of ECSO this year, we played Scheherazade, and our Concertmaster Stephan Tieszen for the first time this year was using some uncovered gut strings in his set-up. I'm horrible for forgetting his E string, but the A and D for sure were naked gut. His solos sounded GREAT, and he was thrashing those strings beautifully. Go, gut!!

June 17, 2006 at 09:59 PM · Thanks Larry.

The knot that ties on the gut E is just two half hitches or something similar I guess. Is there a special knot for this? As for the D and A, I used to tie a figure of eight knot and this kept the string in the tail piece.

I wonder if particular types of rosin are better on plain gut.

June 18, 2006 at 02:24 AM · I'm another oliv user. Where I live, it's okay for tuning, though if I lived elsewhere, I may have to switch. Since the e tends to go false extremely quickly, I use goldbrokat e.

I also find them to be much more highly responsive to the bow. The overtones are much more powerful, and complex, no question, and contact point does become important, more so than with other strings I've tried on my violin.

June 18, 2006 at 01:45 PM · I have a collection of violins (-was too late to post on the "what about yours thread"-). In the past I've always preferred wound gut strings, and still do for those of my violins that are inherently strong and focused. I like the gut strings for their greater warmth and complexity. Even within the gut category, I've experimented. Typically I would use a Eudoxa G (-I had problems in the past with Oliv G's breaking quickly, and they are very expensive-) an Oliv D, which gives more focus, and doesn't go false as quickly as the regular Eudoxa, and an Oliv A. I've had problems with Oliv A's - 3 in a row have unravelled quickly. I'll now use for the A, what I find to be the closest substitute for a gut string (-though hardly identical-): the Zyex, by D'adario. I use Zyex on the G, D, and A for one inexpensive violin, which I use at outdoor Summer orchestral concerts. They're more stable in great humidity. One of my violins has a warm, solid and ample sound, but tends to get a bit soft and fuzzy - even when well set-up. For that, I tried a set of Infeld Blue, which did give it the greater focus that it needed.

I know the feeling of being in the minority in liking gut strings. Once I expressed that feeling at the place I ususally get my strings. I was told "You're in distinguished company. David Nadien is on his way here to buy gut strings, and he's very particular about their gauges." A few minutes later the Goliath among Davids arrived! Rosand also usually prefers gut, including a bare gut A, though he's experimented a lot. Heifetz used a bare gut D, as well as a bare A.

June 18, 2006 at 02:56 PM · Where's Ilya lately? I think I remember him also raving about Olivs on some other thread a while back...

August 4, 2006 at 10:55 AM · Hi,

Which gut string gauges would allow to tune to A=440? Have you tried playing with gut strings to 440? Is the sound more difficult to produce with a baroque bow?

Thanks.

Mariarosa.

August 4, 2006 at 12:02 PM · Dlugolecki sells a wide range of gages--for any pitch standard.

I play to a440 or so on the same gages that Oliver mentioned.

August 4, 2006 at 07:33 PM · I got mine from Dan Larson of Gamut strings. I use his heavy+ gauge and I find them quite easy to play. These have more or less the same tension as a set of modern synthetics.

This enables me to combine with my favourite E string: Jargar heavy E. Works very well and the fiddle is even.

Gut E sounds amazing but I had to tune every 5 min. and the others in my trio were not looking happy. Hence the steel E.

August 4, 2006 at 11:00 PM · I have actually been looking to switch to a new type of string, and have been very interested in gut. Do you guys have any recommendations for which type to go with. I have very little knowledge of strings I have used D'Addario's which i didn't care for at all on my instrument. I have also tried Dominants which didn't really fit either although i love them on almost every other instument, so far the best string in terms of balance has been the Evah Pirazzi, but they sound to shrill, and are not responsive enough (i also don't thik they have a great dynamic range. I am hoping to add a little more warmth and a rounder sound.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks

August 4, 2006 at 11:22 PM · I'd never experimented with strings before (had Dominants my whole life without knowing why) so a few months ago I put on some Eudoxas and hated them...I replaced them with synthetics in a week. But I sent the used Eudoxas to Eileen Geriak and she seems to like them :)

I agree that playing on them is very different from synthetics. I found them to be very unresponsive and gave an overly warm tone, whereas I gravitate toward the more brilliant. I'm much happier with my Infeld Blues for tone, handling, and volume. But then again, I don't have a very good instrument, and when I get around to upgrading I'll try the full gamut again.

August 8, 2006 at 02:11 AM · Well, I'm back from the middle of nowhere and my poor beat-up violin is headed to the luthier tomorrow for a pre-semester tune-up, and I intend to try a set of Oliv strings. Coming soon, my reaction...

August 8, 2006 at 02:30 AM · I play on Olivs with a Hill E. It's a great combination.

August 8, 2006 at 02:37 AM · I think I'm going to stick with my usual Pirastro Gold Label E for now. I'm pretty satisfied with those, but who knows what they'll sound like with the Olivs?

August 8, 2006 at 01:11 PM · A short plug, and then on to the topic: every single person I've turned on to Daniel Larson's http://gamutstrings.com says that they're by far the best gut strings they've ever had on their fiddle, bar none. Several people I've not told have asked "What are these strings!!" when shown my violins. So he's definitely worth checking out.

I've been building baroque and similar stuff lately, and one violin I made was a transitional Strad model for someone with a piercing Pressenda. When he took the transitional violin home he liked it, but he didn't realize how much he was going to, and now he says it's his favorite violin. There's something very seductive about gut strings, and they're well worth trying. When I was in high school I had my cello strung with bare A and D and round wound G and C. Other cellists were always approaching me, wanting to play my cello, not having noticed that the reason for the sound I was getting was the strings, which always surprised them. Anything not-gut is a far second place to gut, tonally.

Back then I never realized there was anything undesirable about tuning them. If you feel like they're too much bother to keep in tune, perhaps your pegs aren't giving you the optimal tuning experience, and need to be adjusted. I notice that more than half the violins brought into my shop have pegs that don't work, but the crutch of fine tuners helps people not realize that.

August 9, 2006 at 04:37 PM · Has any one heard of a string bassest who uses gut strings?

(Just curious...)

KW

August 9, 2006 at 06:16 PM · Every Mexican street band bassist, the last time I was there, and they were pretty neat strings, too--multi-colored, barber-pole stripes!

August 9, 2006 at 07:52 PM · I saw some bows this year with the hair dyed red, white and green (Mexican flag colors) for Cinco de Mayo mariachi gigs.

August 12, 2006 at 11:26 PM · Well, my Dlugolecki A finally busted after 4 years of playing. Our latest climate change in Phoenix finally got it. Obviously, that's a testament to the strength of the Dlugolecki strings that an unwound gut string could last that long.

I'll probably be going back to Dlugoleckis real soon, though I'm going to check out Michael Darnton's link to those other gut strings too.

August 13, 2006 at 12:08 AM · Holy mackerel! It lasted four years?! Talk about getting your money's worth.

I'm slowly getting used to playing on gut strings. (I'm using Eudoxas right now but I'm planning to switch to Olivs as soon as my trusty luthier gets some in the shop.) I like the sound, and I'm noticing everything that Mr. Steiner said at the beginning of this thread, about how gut strings are much more demanding. It's actually a similar experience to when I first ditched my shoulder-rest last year: all of a sudden I have to pay much closer attention to details and little nuances of technique--then it was posture and shifting, now it's bow arm stuff. Off with the training wheels! :)

MG

August 13, 2006 at 03:22 AM · 4 years is indeed excellent, Kevin. My Dlugolecki A isn't up to 4 months yet, but doing fine. The extreme heat/humidity that we've had two bouts of here in the midwest this summer did in a Dlugolecki e after only 5 weeks (though I didn't expect a long life from a bare gut e-string). If it's any help to you, I replaced it with a similar gauge Larson varnished gut e-string and found them comparable in tonal quality and projection. Both stringmakers give good service in shipping. If you ask them to cut and tie knots in the strings before ordering, they'll do so (otherwise you'll get double length e strings and have to tie the end knot yourself in all strings).

On the basis of 3 weeks on my violin, I can highly recommend Larson's (Gamut Strings) "Pistoy" D, apparently a process he invented to produce a tightly wound gut string. It replaced a Eudoxa on my violin and changed the whole character of tone in that range - noticably richer and darker.

However: switching to bare gut strings has changed the tension enough on my instrument to affect the bridge (I haven't had a luthier look at it yet, but I am guessing that the lower tension is allowing the bridge to flop). I may have to have a new bridge fitted.

Finally, Maura, if you think changing to wound gut strings (Eudoxa and Oliv) is a big switch, wait until you try switching from wound gut to "bare" gut (strings made by Dlugolecki and Larson, both good). That's what I've been doing string by string progressively since May (I had used Oliv and Eudoxa for decades). Not only is sound quality different (and I completely agree with Oliver Steiner in his post to start this thread), but technique changes are called for in how the finger makes contact with the string and changes positions. I have found I have to be more precise, and my intonation has benefitted as a result. I have enjoyed every minute of using gut strings, others (including my teacher) can hear the tone quality improvement, and so I plan to stay with bare gut indefinitely (unless I can't solve my bridge problem).

August 13, 2006 at 01:06 PM · I'm sorry, four years? Here are some things I've never had past 4 years:

a computer

a relationship (soon to be off this list, I wager)

a suit

a place to live

a job

And this is an A string?

We just had a cellist in the orchestra break a C (a C!) in performance, and when we all got downstairs they were clapping him on the back and he was shouting, "I guess I'm a REAL man now!"

September 18, 2006 at 12:27 AM · Hi,

I am currently trying some plain gut and will be using strings for a program of 19th century music (including a gut E). Mr. Dlugolecki has made me some excellent strings with gauges similar to those used by Joseph Joachim - quite heavy.

These strings are quite different than wound gut, so comparisons are hard. A whole new world of sound though... Funny how now so many markings make sense and are possible. I guess that Mr. Bilson is right: Knowing the score is all the difference.

Cheers!

October 22, 2006 at 08:44 PM · Dear people,

14 years ago, still a violin student then, I started to experiment with plain gut. I played much viola and I discovered that the C string sounded better when I didn't use a steel A string. At first I replaced the A by any kind of non-steel string, later I tried the plain gut. I was very enthiousiastic about the sound color posibilities and the projection qualities of plain gut. And what an attack! At the same I found it more difficult to play on. But I started to learn it, and I got addicted to it. They are not easy, but if you do well, they give great musical happiness and real violin playing.

At the present I always use them, on my violin and my viola. My favorite brand is Aquila (www.aquilacorde.com), but, in my opinion, the most important critics are: thin or thick, varnished or not varnished. You have to experience. I like better rather thick. At the moment I use:

G pirastro eudoxa, a middle size -D Aquila 1.08 mm -A Aquila 0.79 mm -E Aquila 0.62 mm, or just any kind of middle size nice steel E, when I have a riskfull performance to do (live recordings or so). I find plain A and D guts very reliable. No big tuning problems and never breaking.

But at the moment I am not sure what kind of rosin to use: which brand, hard or soft.. has anyone a suggestion?

October 22, 2006 at 10:34 PM · I asked a London baroque specialist shop what rosins the UK baroque people are using, and they told me: Kaplan Artcraft Dark, Liebenzeller, or Aquila's 'historical' product.

I picked up some Kaplan Artcraft Dark and I'm fairly happy with it, I very much want to try the Aquila stuff at some point.

October 22, 2006 at 11:26 PM · I've heard that dark, sticky rosin works best for gut strings. I use Eudoxas and the Pirastro Oliv/Evah rosin (a very dark and sticky but smooth rosin, quite nice) works well.

October 23, 2006 at 02:48 AM · FWIW, I noticed a few weeks ago that Viktoria Mullova's web site reports that she'll be doing the Brahms Violin Concerto on all gut strings for the first time next spring (maybe it was June) in Europe.

October 23, 2006 at 03:07 AM · Greetings,

I think she has been recording on them recently,

Cheers,

Buri

October 23, 2006 at 03:16 AM · Wow, is this a big trend or something? I feel like I've jumped on some sort of bandwagon. :)

October 23, 2006 at 03:47 AM · Reading all these comments, I am very interested in trying gut strings again.

Do any of you have ideas/comments about finding a slow response from gut strings? I tried Eudoxas several years back and found the response extremely slow-- slower than the most worn-out synthetic string. I was also very disappointed with the sound-- the strings sounded very weak and thin to me. Add to that the problem of needing to retune every ten minutes, and I got too frustrated and gave up. I had a fairly decent student violin at the time, a turn of the century French workshop instrument.

It could be that I was simply clueless about how to adjust my bowing technique. Or perhaps the instrument was not the best, or the setup was wrong? Any ideas?

October 23, 2006 at 05:13 AM · The setup was probably a bit off, especially if you changed from high-tension strings (such as Evah Pirazzi.) They really do take some getting used to as far as bowing goes, but for me it's been worth it. I love the sound (especially now that I got the setup fixed.)!

October 23, 2006 at 08:22 AM · I recently starting using gut strings again.Dominants have been my choice for the last fifteen years.About two months ago I bought an old violin; some work needed doing: higher bridge,fingerboard elevation.I put Eudoxas on the G and D, and pure gut A on the A string. The pure gut A is made by DAMIAN DLUGOLECKI.The size of the string is as follows.2/15 V....A' vn 15 varn.The tone and response is superb, with lots of fizz and overtones galore!Remember, it's all about matching the strings the instrument.

October 25, 2006 at 03:57 AM · There are wound metal on gut strings (e.g., Eudoxa, Oliv) and "bare" gut strings (Dlugolecki and Larson in the US). In switching from the former to the latter since June (progresively) I've found big differences. The bare gut strings are clearly tonally superior - more complex and tonally richer (IMHO). Once carefully stretched (follow the maker's recommendations, especially lifting the string at the bridge to distribute the tension), they are very pitch-stable - I have to retune my Dlugolecki A maybe once a week (I practice 2 hrs/day). You may have to have the notches in your bridge enlarged so the thicker gut string doesn't catch on it (especially D and G). Some people may find some versions of D and G strings too thick under their fingers (I did, am still using a wound Eudoxa G).

Never having used synthetics I can't speak to response time. But I've been playing Brahms chamber music on bare gut and getting compliments (remember, I'm an amateur, I didn't say "good reviews"!). So it isn't just a baroque thing! I do not feel limited by gut strings, and would never consider going back.

BTW, I too recommend Dlugolecki's bare gut strings; the thicker e (I forget the gauge) is especially good.

October 24, 2006 at 06:12 PM · I started using gut strings after I first red this thread--Kaplan + a Hill e. Aside from the fact that they whistle a trifle easier if I am not careful--I LOVE the sound. Much warmer and fuller than the Dominants i had been using.

October 24, 2006 at 06:44 PM · Hay Eric,

I use Dlugolecki plain (varnished) too. Mostly Bluegrass Fiddle and improv.

I use the Dlugolecki Silver wound G, rather than the Eudoxa G. The Eudoxa G is easier to slide on, but the Dlugolecki is worth trying. very rich sound.

The plain D is the most difficult string for me from a sound standpoint. I am curious about it. both what the roped and the demifilee would do, and what higher or lower tension would do, but also what my technical deficiencies are in this respect.

I carved my own bridge for these. Used the ebony insert type. So far so good. Definitely lift the strings at nut and bridge during the tensioning-up. (Notice how the string goes transparent as it goes over the nut? You can see blackness right through it).

As far as whistling goes, I find less of that on the gut E than I had on the steel, except in summer. But maybe Kaplan feels different, or maybe the varnish.

I use 12.5 gage on the E. My son uses 12.0 on the E on a 1/2 size. Problem is, there is a big change in sound going onto the Helicore A :-(

Of course at some point I want to experiment wit hteh extremes of gage.

I find that the gut forced me to be more precise wit my bowing. (I still suck but I think I am getting better:-)

October 25, 2006 at 06:10 AM · Today a very good violinist showed me some passages from Last Rose of Summer... the part with the harmonics... he said for the touch 2nd and 3rd harmonics, it almost only works well with gut strings.

October 25, 2006 at 03:29 PM · Hi,

A comment on response and gut... I don't get that. Bare gut strings are quite different from the wound gut.

One of the biggest differences though is that most people don't use the right gauges. Like in the project I mentioned above, Mr. Dlugolecki recommended gauges that would be used by a 19th century soloist. They were much bigger and higher tension than I had assumed.

E = 13 1/2

A = 16 3/4

D = 21 3/4

Silver G = 18 1/4

I just got the recording. Very nice. Different sound and range of colours. Very vocal. The Dlugolecki strings are fantastic.

I think that if one wants to do the experiment, I would suggest getting strings from Mr. Dlugolecki or Larson with the gauges used by soloists of the past.

Cheers!

October 25, 2006 at 05:01 PM · FWIW there is apparently some evidence that Paganini used a 14 to nearly 14 1/2 gauge e’, and a 17 1/4 gauge A, etc. (See Mimmo Peruffo’s article at the Aquila Corda web site.)

October 25, 2006 at 07:43 PM · Indeed string gauges seem to get bigger the further back in time you look. I found this chart showing some historical sources for string gauges. http://violadabraccio.com/images/gut-strings.png. I just bought some even larger guage strings (18 gauge a' string, 23 gauge d' string) from Gamut after looking at the chart.

Also, there is an interesting article about early gut strings here: http://www.themonteverdiviolins.org/strings.html

October 26, 2006 at 11:05 PM · Hey guys,

I just heard from a luthier/dealer I know that gut strings of any sort are totally inappropriate for playing auditions or competitions, because you can't play loud enough on them to impress a panel of judges. Is that true?? I've been really liking my Eudoxas and don't want to switch back to Evah Pirazzis, but I have conservatory auditions coming up soon and don't want to sabotage myself--your thoughts please!!

October 26, 2006 at 11:21 PM · not true

IG

October 27, 2006 at 12:07 AM · Good to know. That's what I suspected but just wanted to be sure. :)

October 27, 2006 at 12:37 AM · Maura wrote:

"I just heard from a luthier/dealer I know that gut strings of any sort are totally inappropriate for playing auditions or competitions, because you can't play loud enough on them to impress a panel of judges. Is that true??"

I would not go to that luthier, as his comment betrays a serious lack of understanding about tone, An amateur singer who hasn't a voice technique may shout and scream in an effort to produce a powerful voice. If you stand near him you would want to cover your ears fom the pain. Howerver, if you are in the back of a concert hall you wouldn't hear him above the orchestra. In contrast, if you would stand near Pavarottti you would not want to cover your ears, and you would indeed hear him over an orchestra in a concert hall. This is because the screaming amateur is loudly making a tone that is deficient in overtone energy, while the professional opera singer is producing a tone which is very rich in overtone energy. This richness acounts for the beauty as well as the carrying power. The same goes for gut strings. People who don't know what they are talking about often go for the violin or string selection that sounds the most repulsively loud (like a loud necktie!) People who are more experienced hearing great violins and great singers do not confuse this irritating quality with carrying power.

October 27, 2006 at 12:52 AM · Someone mentioned that gut strings don't work in certain climates. What's better? I live in LA where it is very dry most of the time... is that better or worse?

October 27, 2006 at 01:29 AM · better,

Buri

October 27, 2006 at 06:02 AM · Maura, I've been getting alot of the same from one of my luthiers and somewhat form my teacher. In my experience, plain guts strings can be played even louder than synthetics, and I've never had anyone comment that my sound is weak or especially quiet. I went up to another luthier, and he says all of that is completely untrue, and loves the strings.

October 27, 2006 at 06:20 AM · I have a collection of violins. (Some are for sale - hint, hint!) I used to have a 'one-size-fits-all' approach. But I've become more open-minded and experimental recently, and have tried different strings on different violins. On violins that have both strength and good focus I've always preferred gut (-by which I mean gut wound with metal-) strings at least for the G and D. I find them warmer, more complex, and I can somehow knead them more in my vibrato, and play more expressively.

I usually use a regular Eudoxa G, and an Oliv D - which gives more focus to the D, and is slower to go false. I like the sound of the Oliv A, but I've had 3 in a row unravel on me. I find the Zyex A to play closer to gut than other non-gut strings, but I'm willing to experiment there.

Some luthiers have an approach to cutting the bridge in which they will make it just a bit higher if you tell them your preference is for gut, in order to give more positive tension to the string. But in any case, you can play with brillliance and presence with gut. It has a lot to do with the player, violin, bow, etc. Listen to Heifetz! He used a bare gut A and D. Two of my teachers, including the great Aaron Rosand used a bare gut A - although in recent years Rosand has experimented a lot, and has even used Dominant. I once came in to my usual place in New York to get strings. I told the proprietress that I was beginning to feel like a dinosaur, getting gut strings, and wondering if I was almost alone in this. She said "Not at all. In fact, David Nadien is on his way to get gut strings, and he's very particular about the gauges." A few minutes later Nadien did show up. Not bad company!

October 27, 2006 at 01:20 PM · Hi,

Maura - Ilya and everyone is right. I think the comment from that luthier isn't all that great, but Mr. Steiner hits on a point that can explain such a comment. It's the colour of the sound. Plain gut has it's own colour and wound too. Modern synthetics do have a certain brightness and metallic edge.

I am using Vision Titanium (given for free by a luthier) and while I appreciate the tuning stability they are killing my hands and the lack of colours is impossible for me.

It is not just an issue of projection but one of colour.

Cheers!

October 27, 2006 at 02:02 PM · I'm pretty sure that I had a more "brilliant" sound (and by putting that in quotes I mean brighter, more metallic and purely louder) with Pirazzis but Eudoxas not only feel better to play, I'm more satisfied with my sound and the dynamic/tone color range I can get. (Haven't tried bare gut yet! :)

Thanks for your advice/commentary, guys, I had my suspicions but it's nice to see them confirmed. :)

October 28, 2006 at 12:24 AM · Just out of curiostity... how does everyone feel about the fact that sheep are killed so their guts can be used as strings? I wonder if PETA will ever say anything about this.

October 28, 2006 at 12:32 AM · as long as I get some lamb chops out of it on the side

IG

October 28, 2006 at 03:20 AM · The sheep are not killed FOR the strings, the gut is a byproduct of the meat industry as I understand it.

In any case, I personally am completely fine with it.

Bow hair mostly comes from dead horses, so it's not like the issue is restricted to gut strings.

October 28, 2006 at 03:41 AM · what really IS a problem here is de-forestation

Curtain

October 28, 2006 at 07:36 AM · Andres, that's true, but as of now horse hair is the only solution for bows that actually works, whereas there are alternatives for using the guts of sheep that work fine.

October 28, 2006 at 08:24 AM · Enosh,

"whereas there are alternatives for using the guts of sheep that work fine."

Alternatives would be irrelevant if one's only concern was to avoid causing the killing of sheep.

In any case, I'll stick with gut strings, horsehair, hide glue, my real leather violin-holding chamois--the works. :-)

October 28, 2006 at 02:14 PM · Mmmm..................... lamb chops................ gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarlllllllllllllllllll.................

October 28, 2006 at 01:38 PM · Huh? Bow hair comes from dead horses? I always assumed some horseman on the steppes of Central Asia was just giving his horses haircuts every now and then, leaving the horses themselves intact.

As for sheep gut, I wouldn't USE gut strings if the animals were killed only to make strings. But people, including myself, EAT sheep/lamb meat, so the strings are and have always been a byproduct of meat production, as far as I know.

October 28, 2006 at 07:32 PM · Maura - think Ilya's comment (about lamb chops) and The Simpsons...

October 28, 2006 at 08:01 PM · I want to try gut strings but the weather here in Montreal is so unpredictable that it's probably pointless.

October 28, 2006 at 08:09 PM · Pieter wrote:

"I want to try gut strings but the weather here in Montreal is so unpredictable that it's probably pointless."

I wouldn't be discouraged by that. I trust that you don't keep your violin outdoors. The indoor temperature and humidity (where you keep your violin) is more controlled. Many generations of Montreal violinists played on gut strings before synthetic strings were invented. Why not give them a try?

October 28, 2006 at 08:15 PM · The weather in Oklahoma, where I currently live, is pretty bizarre as well--hasn't bothered the strings too much.

October 28, 2006 at 08:11 PM · I would give them a try anyway Peter they will give you so much more colour and freedom. In my experience they are actually quite stable once settled, this may take up to 3 days though.

Just put a new set of Gamut on the fiddle, this time with medium+ tension. Sounds great. I had heavy+ before and it choked the violin a bit.

Dan Larson put a set of Tricolore in the mail to try. I will get back with more info later.

Kristian

October 28, 2006 at 10:27 PM · I'd just like to add from my earlier post on gut strings and the concerns about the weather.I live in Cardiff UK,at the moment the weather is very damp and wet and I find that once gut strings settle in they are very stable, and stay in tune.I've found wound covered gut take about three to seven days to settle down.I put a pure gut A on in the morning and in the evening played in a public concert just for hell of it.When I came off the stage I checked the A and it was still in tune!So all you would be gut users go for it.Remember before Perlon and metal hit the scene players were using gut quite happily on a daily basis.

October 28, 2006 at 11:28 PM · It took my Eudoxas about a week to settle in, and now they're fine. They do go out of tune more than synthetics, but it's nothing I can't deal with. Go for it, would-be gut users! :)

October 29, 2006 at 01:02 AM · Ok fine I'm going to take the risk.

I think I like heavy guage strings because I have big strong sexy hands. I am using Vision titaniums now but the sound is so bland.

Should I go for a full set of guts or keep my Jargar E?

October 29, 2006 at 01:39 AM · go for three Olivs and Goldbrokat E (0.27). Use smallest gauge available, especially important for the A. See how your sexy hands feel.

IG

P.S. Could anyone recommend a good synthetic A to go with Olivs for summer months? Dominant doesn't work well at all...

October 29, 2006 at 02:09 AM · Why the smallest guage Ilya? I have hands like an ogre. They shall destroy the dainty little strings.

As for an A, I actually liked using this Helicore string. I know a very good violinist who uses fiddling strings...

October 29, 2006 at 02:31 AM · I like how Obligato A sounds but they break really fast.

October 29, 2006 at 08:15 AM · Pieter,

They go less out of tune and are generally more responsive. don't u worry about your hands.

IG

October 29, 2006 at 08:24 AM · Good because if this violin thing don't work out I'm looking to become a hand model for women's fine jewelry.

October 29, 2006 at 10:16 AM · ewww..horsehair is from dead horses???Even I presumed something similar to Maura's idea :)

Anyway...responding to this particular topic..I use gut strings and fortunately,my violin has almost always had gut on it.But ..those Olivs are costly ...

AN

October 29, 2006 at 11:03 AM · I don't think that bow hair is actually from dead horses. I recently saw a documentation about purses that are made from horsehair and the horses weren't killed, they just cut the tail.

As for gut strings, I've never tried them and probably never will. I just wouldn't feel comfortable playing on the guts of a dead animal.

T

October 29, 2006 at 02:01 PM · I thought that "PETA" stood for:

People

Eating

Tasty

Animals

But seriously, sheep are not an endangered species. In fact, domestic sheep wouldn't even exist if people hadn't engineered and kept on breeding them. And they're not killed just, or even mainly, for violin strings. If we're to be concerned about the environment, both as citizens and as violinists - and we should be - I think we should be more worried about deforestation, and particularly, about the depletion of the more rare pernambuco wood used to make fine bows. In fact there is something called "The Pernambuco Initiative" begun, I believe, by concerned bow makers just to address that issue.

If someone holds to a higher standard than mine about this sort of issue, I will respect that - so long as they don't own a single leather belt, or even one pair of leather shoes!

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