Tricolore (Gamut) Strings?

Edited: April 4, 2018, 4:49 AM · Hi everyone! I’ve used the Pirastro gut strings Eudoxas Oliv, and Gold label as well as a variety of synthetics. I absolutely prefer gut, and so far, the Gold Label string set has sounded the smoothest and most beautiful on my violin. I’ve been interested in plain and wound gut from Gamut, mainly their tricolore strings. I can only describe their sound as ecstatic. Does anyone have any knowledge of their playability and response compared to the Pirastro wound gut sets? I know it’s different on every violin but some opinions on the matter could be very useful. Thanks in advance!

Replies (34)

April 3, 2018, 5:17 PM · I tried the Tricolore set in heavy gauge, varnished.

Playability was fine -- they were quite responsive and I was able to "dig in" much like I would with a moderate tension synthetic. The A and D responded differently than the G (which is wound) but this was not a big problem. Playing the bare gut A and D provides some extra "grab" to the bow stroke that metal strings don't provide.

The sound of these strings is sublime -- such nobility and a rich core to the sound.

Edited: April 3, 2018, 6:05 PM · I have used Oliv rigid, Silver D, regular A, Eudoxa Rigid, Passione regular and Solo, and Gold Label. I must admit that the Tricolore are among the best strings in the market at all levels. Sound, playability, all really special. Even the Wound D sounds great (especially comparing it to the more famous Pirastro alternatives.) The pure gut A is "the best" (for me-subjective, but very much my current opinion.)

In addition to being easy to play, they are very powerful, and speak clearly. Of course you can play pp dynamics-true gut after all-but they can really sound bold, which may surprise some players not expecting that much.

They respond better than Oliv rigid IME. The G sounds "strange" when new, then transforms into one of the "best" when properly stretched. No muddiness, but also very rich. It has recently impressed some players in this very forum.

Though I am not in the majoeity, I use Heavy G, Aluminum Wound, heavy D, heavy varnished A, and a medium Goldbrokat. The pure gut D is by all accounts great, but similar to the A, there is a slight period od getting used to them. It is quite a thick string, but tension is great, even at "Heavy". These are not too heavy strings, and respond well even in "thick" gauge (indeed, faster than Oliv.)

I do love Pirastro, and agree the Gold Label is not bad at all, ut the price of a Tricolore set is just a few more dollars (maybe more like $15-20 more.) They are also very, very stable compared to Eudoxa and the others (Passione is more stable, but at a cost-not only price, but you do make a compromise when using that set.)

(Passiones are good-I just prefer Tricolore.)

Tricolore tone is warm but very open and even "bright" (of the good sort.) Not muddy, veiled, or too "quiet" at all.

In short, I deem them "modern" gut strings, and should be at least tried by many of you, IMHO. They are so good they can ruin the "hobby" of trying new strings every once in a while.

April 4, 2018, 1:54 AM · Nice post Adalberto, you have almost convinced me to order a set of Tricolores and give them a try. Since they are thicker strings have you had to alter your nut or bridge to use them?
April 4, 2018, 4:49 AM · Thank you for your responses Adalberto and Douglas! It seems like the tricolores are definitely going to be my next string choice, since I was looking for a little more response than Olivs and like you guys said, the tricolores sound is just sublime. Has anyone tried gamut’s plain gut E strings?
April 4, 2018, 6:48 AM · Mr. Jetson,

My pure gut A didn't need a nut or bridge adjustment. Compared to a wound A, it is indeed "thick" in diameter, the pure gut D even moreso-but I do use the aluminum wound D. Even then, that wound D, while thicker than the Oliv Gold Rigid D, is actually less tense.

If using pure gut D and A, I would just install them, wait for then to settle a bit, and ask a luthier I really trust whether they are too high, etc.

What I like about my current setup is that the A is almost as thick as the G, and the wound D just above the G, so no strings feel too different under the fingers, save the E of course.

I believe that some people make adjustments on their instruments using pure gut strings (bridge, nut, both), but it depends on the player, instrument, and luthier involved. I am sure long-standing Tricolore users like Mr. Robinson could chime in and help you better than I.

Mr. Diallo,

I have not used them but are likely great judginf from the others. I would however only use them for a specific atyle/project (such as trying to reconstruct the music period of romanticism all the way to early 20th century) as *I* do not consider them "modern", for all that is worth. The steel Es are what in my mind separates a "modern" setup vs an "old" one (not synthetics vs gut-feel free to disagree.) They also affect the other strings (as you know), so while using a good gut E you will gain a lot, you will also have to compromise what you are used to that such a steel E used to bring to your playing and instrument.

Edited: April 4, 2018, 7:11 AM · I used a gut E string for a while in a pit orchestra (Rossini). It actually didn't feel too different from a metal E, and it sounded fantastic. It is harder to tune however.
As for modernity, one string maker's website says that many German orchestras required gut E up through the 1920s. Toscha Seidel was also on record saying that you'd have to be nuts not to use one. Of course, he went a little off in his later years, so you have to take that with a grain of salt.
Edited: April 4, 2018, 10:52 AM · On the violin I have been playing the longest (65 years) I used Pirastro gut-core strings exclusively for the first 18-20 years - Eudoxa and Olive (Gold Label just were not right for it). When Dominant became available it turns out they ere not right for it, but Tonica was ---and the story continued on for the next 40+ years through all the major Pirastro and Thomastik strings as well as some others finally culminating in PI, Vision Solo and EP Gold. And then late last year I decided to try a set of Tricolore. I tried the mediums unvarnished/wound G. They took a long time to stabilize and compared to the EP Gold that had been on previously the sound seemed quite weak - so weak that I had to remove the PI Pt E string that I had kept on because it was overwhelming the Tricolore sound. (PI-Pt had been my E string of choice on all my violins for through the previous three string-type changes) and I installed a Goldbrokat medium E which does match the Tricolore set. Perhaps I should have tried the heavier gauge Tricolore as some have recommended!

So I kept the Tricolores on for about a month, but they are now off and I reinstalled the EP Golds and the PI-Pt E string. (Realize it is very important to me to be able to hear myself when playing in orchestra whatever else is going on.) I tell myself I will never try another type of string because these are so perfect --but I've told myself that before, apparently to no avail.

Edited: April 4, 2018, 10:36 AM · I'm also in the middle of a big experimentation-- after doing a bunch of mixed sets, including Passione A strings, I went to straight Dominants (plus PI Pt E) on most instruments. Generally OK, with no real vices, but a little of that "neutral" flavor of cigarette smoke. On two of those violins I've now moved to the Rondo A/D/G, and they are miles better. Probably better, even, than EP Gold, but aiming at the same general thing.

Anyway, there is one violin with Dominants for which I have just ordered Tricolore (heavy). One thing on my mind recently is the tendency for people to endorse modern instruments with composite strings that make them sound "old". That was never an issue the Amati family took seriously, and it may be that part of their instruments' fabulously broken-in sound came from using gut strings for a few centuries. Also, if a new instrument really is as good as a Strad, it ought not need special help from strings. So we shall see how Tricolores perform on a new axe or two.

April 4, 2018, 1:42 PM · Ironic-the Tricolore on my instrument are very powerful. I believe you, though, Mr. Victor. Their power was quite a pleasant surprise, really surpassing all gut alternatives, including Oliv.

Perhaps my instrument just "likes" them very much.

Edited: April 4, 2018, 3:23 PM · Nor was I impressed by Passione, Eudoxa or Olive compared to my most recent experiences with Vision Solos and Evah Pirazzi Gold.

But I don't mean to denigrate these strings because I know from my years of close experience with multiple instruments (all those of the string-quartet family) that these things can be totally dependent on the specific instrument involved.

April 4, 2018, 2:19 PM · Are the Tricolores installed like modern gut strings (i.e., just like stringing Olivs), or is there something different about how you have to deal with them?
April 4, 2018, 2:29 PM · Very normal-just like installing Oliv/Eudoxa. He (Mr. Larson) added that leather washer thingie Pirastro uses in some of their gut sets on the nut end. Basically, put on and play (I guess, stretch and play would be more appropriate); no need to deal with nuts or cutting anything. Tricolore even has a regular wound A, but the pure gut A is spectacular.
April 4, 2018, 4:28 PM · I've been thinking of trying them, but we're approaching the horrible summer swamp season of DC, during which I suspect pure gut strings will be a pain to keep stable. (I usually switch from Passiones to synthetics for the summer.)
April 4, 2018, 4:32 PM · @Adalberto, "Tricolore even has a regular wound A, but the pure gut A is spectacular."

I experience a similar difference between the Pirastro Eudoxa A and their Chorda pure gut A, which has been my A of choice for a few years. Not having ever used Tricolore I'm obviously in no position through my own experience to make any further comparison between the two brands, but it's something I might do when a change of strings is indicated. I'd have to buy Tricolore online because there are no violin stores in my area that stock them.

April 4, 2018, 5:09 PM · Ms. Leong,

Yes, that sounds logical. Also you once mentioned a particular issue with your hand to violin size, and preferring to avoid having to tune a lot. They are VERY stable (more than Eudoxa-really miles more), but fresh from the case, it will take a few minutes to adjust.

Despite the qualms of some, I think a varnished version of any of the pure gut strings will help its durability and stability, and is what I would recommend for you to try first. Mine (the A) seems impervious to wear so far, and the sound is so good, I am not kept wondering about the unvarnished version. I inquired to Mr. Larson once about this, and he stated that the varnished vs unvarnished difference is more noticeable on thicker strings, and that in a violin it practically won't be audible.

The wound G and D I use have almost Passione levels of stability during playing situations. The pure gut A is just slightly less stable, but once retuned, boom, it rarely goes out of tune until next session. Impressive, given the "old tech".

In summary, Mr. Larson's only additions to the old formula apoear to be the leather washers, the varnished strings (optional), and the choice of tensions. I started and still use "heavy" because they are not really very tense, and the violin still sounds and plays great. If in doubt, the "medium" would be more "historical" regarding the Tricolore brand (some were thicker than others back then, and there was no gauge indication.)

April 4, 2018, 6:30 PM · I won't add much more to Adalberto's excellent descriptions, except to say that everyone should try them. Even if you don't use them regularly (I do not), they give you a different perspective on tone and response that is unmatched by mainstream gut offerings.
April 4, 2018, 8:16 PM · What's the difference between Tricolore's wound gut, unvarnished gut, and varnished gut?
Edited: April 5, 2018, 8:54 AM · Wound means it has a wire winding on it. varnished has a coat of varnish on the bare gut string and the other is obvious.

In general, the G string would be too thick without a metal winding, my Tricolore strings came with bare A and D but had silver-wound G.

If you saw the movie "The Red Violin" on a large enough screen you might have noticed that at some point in the violin's history it had "wound gut" on the lower string even way back then - must have had a technical expert looking out for such things (I noticed that on the movie screen - couldn't see it on my TV at a slightly later viewing).

April 5, 2018, 6:50 AM · Anybody try their viola offerings?
Edited: April 5, 2018, 8:35 AM · Mr. Jennings,

Some older soloists like Mr. Rosand have used the Chorda pure gut A. I bet it's easier to play and more stable than the wound gut Eudoxa A, which is not as popular as the G & D.

The distribution for Tricolore strings is limited even in NYC-Gabriela's Baroque only carries the "regular" Gamut Academie strings (should be good as well, but I bet different.) I also have to order online in this big city with so many violin shops-which I do not prefer, as otherwise I like getting what I want from the shops, in person.

April 5, 2018, 9:12 AM · Thanks. I've read about the differences in string composition, but how does sound, response, and longevity differ between the Tricolore types?
April 5, 2018, 12:21 PM · I've tried the Heavy wound G, wound d / plain d varnished, and varnished A.

Response: They all respond well, but I found the plain gut to have a more immediate and distinct "grab" against the bow hair.

Longevity: I think the reason the plain gut maintain their sound so long is because they are simple. There are no windings to get distorted, or to build up with debris. While the G still had a good long life, I found the varnished D / A to sound the same a very long time.

Sound: They all sounded great. I preferred the plain gut D to the wound D, but on a different instrument I could go the other way. It depends.

April 5, 2018, 1:07 PM · Mr. Rivera, Mr. Rosand actually plays with a Damian Dlugolecki plain gut A when he is using gut. He believes in using a very light gauge (14 1/2 PM).

Mr. Heifetz as you all know used Tricolore plain gut D&A which I also use. I think plain gut has a more penetrating voice like quality (especially when doing portamento) than wound gut D&A. They also have a bit more 'bite' in spiccato and other bow strokes requiring a strong consonant as Douglas Bevan alluded to.

April 5, 2018, 6:06 PM · Mr. Robinson,

Yes indeed-I think I am just remembering an article where he mentioned all that he has used. Likely he doesn't use the Chorda A anymore.

Penetrating is an apt word for the Tricolore pure gut A. It sings boldly and beautifully. It is indeed my favorite A ever, without question.

The Tricolore are really special, wound or not. Hopefully more players get to know/"rediscover" them in due time. I agree they should at least be tried once.

Edited: April 5, 2018, 6:52 PM · The unwound, varnished pure gut strings are indeed remarkably stable. I found them to hold up pretty well through long (and warm) opera performances. Of course, good strings do help. I had a stand partner lose about one A or E string per night-- actual breakage. He was using the infamous Pirastros, and also said his sweat was kind of toxic.

Back before I switched to Dominants and Tonicas long ago, the conventional wisdom was that wound gut would go false because of moisture. The core would get wet from sweat or humidity, and then swell up, which put stress on the metal windings. After the core shrank back to rest state, the windings would become less perfectly aligned than before. Enough rinse & repeat cycles, and you had something looking like an old Slinky toy rattling over the gut core.

Anyway, I did order both wound and varnished D strings. There will be no chance for properly controlled tests, but I shall see what I find.

April 6, 2018, 4:58 AM · I have a full Chorda set on my old violin, a copy of a long pattern S. The set was installed by the luthier as part of my instructions when I had to have the instrument seen to as a result of the bridge collapsing catastrophically early in December last year.

Now, in early April there is no significant wear on the strings, including, remarkably, the E. Usually, I get about 6-8 weeks out of a Chorda E before the fraying becomes an irritating nuisance, necessitating replacement. Surprisingly, the new E shows no fraying after 4 months, which includes 3 concerts and associated rehearsals, other orchestral rehearsals, playing every week for folk dancers, and general playing and practice. I wonder is it me, the new setup (I had the violin taken back to near to its 18th century configuration) - or have Pirastro done something?

April 6, 2018, 4:45 PM · I bought a set of Tricolore strings about a month ago, but I was unable to install them. The end of the strings had a loop and a washer. The washer was not metal but a more flexible material, which did not remain secured in the tailpiece as I tightened the pegs. I think one of the washers even tore off. I've always had ball ends for all 4 strings. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find Tricolore strings with a ball. What am I doing wrong? Is the washer supposed to function the same way a ball would? Can a ball be added?
April 6, 2018, 4:49 PM · sounds like the slots in your tailpiece are too wide, if he supplies it with a knot and loop that should be sufficient for a normal tailpiece.
April 6, 2018, 7:27 PM · Adalberto, how long did it take for your Tricolore G to start speaking properly? On one of my violins, I have a Tricolore unvarnished A and wound D, which are amazing, but I couldn't get the Tricolore G to sound, so I put on an Oliv G. Maybe I was too impatient. Was there really that noticeable change in responsiveness and sound after your Tricolore G settled in? And how long did that take? ;)
Edited: April 7, 2018, 7:00 AM · I think it needs its tension to be fully settled in. For about a week or less, using it a lot. At first it sounds a little too dark and dull, and the artificial harmonics are all over the place. It will also be less resistant to pressure. Then it becomes really great-alive, rich but clear. I have the wound D as well, and they become a superb pair together. Once in its best state all of those high sul G passages will sound amazing.

The Rigid Oliv G is great, but slightly darker, and a bit tighter in feel (for better or worse, depending on who you ask.) The Rigid Oliv D is also much darker than the Tricolore wound D, a nice but thick sound. The Silver Oliv D is thinner sounding than both (rather obviously perhaps), but it's beautiful sounding too. The Tricolore Wound D is more powerful than either IME, and combines richness with extreme clarity and tone quality when playing in the usually difficult-sounding, highest registers of the D string.

I do agree that at first the G seems off vs the rest. This does change in my experience. Of course the Oliv is good too, but I feel I am being fair in saying that the price difference doesn't determine a lower quality in the Tricolore-just a more expensive technology used by Pirastro, for reasons they alone know (nothing personal, I like Pirastro.) They sound different, but the Oliv must not be the "best" for each violin and/or player.

Best of luck-hope the newer Tricolore G works for you, but otherwise, you are still using another great G string.

Edited: April 7, 2018, 9:35 AM · Adalberto, thanks for your astute feedback! I agree with all your observations about how the Tricolore D compares to the Olivs. Right now the rigid Oliv G works great, but...if it can sing like the TD in the upper positions, it might be worth the pain of breaking it in ;). Thanks again!
Edited: April 7, 2018, 4:10 PM · So the Tricolores arrived today. I had Dlugolecki (not too heavy gauge) on A and G, with a leftover Dominant on D. Gold Label E.

I replaced the G first, because it was quite flabby and weak. WOW. Heavy-gauge Tricolore sounded amazing. Massive volume, easy response, good color.

Then, on to D and A (heavy, varnished). Not so impressive---yet. The G actually sounds less impressive now, and the pure gut strings are really twitchy in their response. Too much pressure and they crack a little, but it's hard to play them more horizontally and have them work. Also, the heavy A is hard to tune. Turn, turn, turn, and then suddenly the pitch jumps too far-- so you let it off and it maybe settles into the correct spot.

Anyway, we've all been warned that it takes 3 days to have the magic appear. So we'll let the strings and violin get to know each other.

I also have a heavy wrapped D, which I'll try next week if there isn't sufficient improvement on that front. And I see that Tricolore has a range of wound A strings as well.

The other obvious thing would be to try medium A and D (gut or wrapped). But there is time for that. In the meantime, my main axe is happy with Rondos.

April 8, 2018, 3:52 AM · I wouldn't expect the Tricolores to be any better than Damien Dlugolecki's strings, in fact I recommend his strings.
April 8, 2018, 6:01 AM · Unwrapped, yes. But the wrapped G was at a very different level.

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