Plain gut going false

May 2, 2018, 3:03 AM · I recently switched to plain gut strings but have noticed that the D string goes false very quickly, like after a week... I use the unvarnished medium gauge atm, should I try light or heavy? I was using the heavy plain A thinking that heavy = more tension = more power, but the sound just choked and medium was actually much freer and louder. Also, the varnished strings don't sound as clear as unvarnished for me. Anyone have any experience with plain gut D?

Replies (14)

May 2, 2018, 3:37 AM · James,

I have discovered that different people mean very different things when they describe a string as "false". Can you be more specific? I was just reading here in much older posts about people using the same unwound/plain gut string for many years. (one pro was using the same d after 4 years - my current d is 3 years old) Plain gut does not (usually) quickly degrade in tone or response like synthetic strings do. What are you using to oil your strings? And how often are you oiling them? (obvious reminder to avoid oiling where your bow makes contact with the string!) Also, some people claim no difference between varnished and unvarnished and others claim a huge difference.

Cheers, Eric

May 2, 2018, 7:53 AM · By false, I mean that if I were to play an open D, the resonance does not match the playing pitch. Also makes tuning a bit annoying. Apart from that, I agree that the string sound quality lasts a long time.
I haven't oiled my strings at all... tried to look for almond oil but haven't found it yet.
I definitely can hear a difference with the varnish. I think I might practise on varnished, then before a big performance switched to the unvarnished.
May 2, 2018, 8:42 AM · who made your strings??
May 2, 2018, 10:22 AM · They are from Gamut. I have ordered a gimped string to see if that works better. I'm assuming the added wire will make it sound more 'modern' and approachable rather than gut-like and slow?
May 2, 2018, 11:30 AM · Pirastro Chorda are well spoken of by those who know (I use them too, on the basis of that expert recommendation, and do have a fiddle with a Chorda D, thicker than normally sold but available to special order).
May 2, 2018, 2:56 PM · I use gamut gimp D too, and they start going a little false 2-3 weeks or a month in, and usually by 3-4 months they are so intolerably false I can't play fifths on it and the ring is so high compared to the played pitch, I have to change it.

I have some colleagues who play on the same set of gut strings for like a year...I don't know how they tolerate that, it's a mystery to me.

May 2, 2018, 4:46 PM · Dorian, why do you use the gimped D, is it because you don't like the sound of regular plain D or pistoy D? Just curious... I also ordered a gimped G, pray that doesn't go false in 2 weeks!
May 2, 2018, 10:16 PM · Thick strings do not behave like the imaginary ones in a book on physics!
Due to their stiffness, their overtones are less than "harmonic": usually too high. There is a reason why the lower strings were gimped..
Edited: May 3, 2018, 3:26 AM · You can also use olive oil to oil your strings. I used olive oil exclusively from about 1969 to 1982, and I used olive oil simply because everyone else I knew used olive oil. (After 1982 I went synthetic). Now that I am back to using unwound gut I alternate almond oil, olive oil and cocoa butter. I hear a slight difference in tone/response between the three oils. There is also a difference in the feel of the string under the finger between the three oils as well. Cocoa butter has the slickest feel under the finger - olive oil is the least slick. You can adjust the slickness of the string with cocoa butter. With a bit of experience you know just how much cocoa butter (if any) you want to use. It is kind of like rosining your bow - you can have too much or too little and only experience will tell what that sounds and feels like. You can use cocoa over (on top of) olive or almond.

As a public service ;-) I will describe how I personally oil my strings. I dip a new q-tip (ear-bud) into the cap of oil and then rub the q-tip up and down the string. (avoiding the bowed area!!!!) I use a lot of oil and let the oil soak into the string for several minutes. I do this before I play. Then, just before I tune up, I take a cotton cloths and run it under the strings (between finger board and strings) and then on top of the strings.

Oiled strings are more stable. My own assumption is that a string is either going to absorb oil or moisture from the air - the oil, you can control. An oiled strings responds differently (better) than dry stings. Oiled strings also do not fray as much. If a string frays enough the thickness of the strings is not consistent along the vibrating length and then of course it is going to be false. Never pull a thread off of the string, it only makes things worse!. Instead, CAREFULLY trim the thread flush with the string using a fingernail cutter or a small scissor. Keep a small quantity of cocoa butter in your case at all times. Cocoa butter is a solid at room temperature; so it is very convenient to use (just rub it over the string) in situations that don't allow for bottles/ ear buds and rags.

It is a mystery to me as to why your string is going false in only 3 weeks! Many people would tell you that the string has not really fully settled before 3 weeks. I too use Daniel Larson's strings (on a modern set up) but I have never had this problem.

And regarding Dorian Fu's comment. Perhaps you are assuming that your colleagues' strings have gone false or lost their tone in the course of a year, however, this may not be the case.

Oh and e strings are a different world unto themselves. NOTHING I have said applies to them. Gut e strings are capricious little creatures whose sole purpose is to be beautiful while tormenting us with their lack of stability and fragile/brief lives.

May 2, 2018, 10:46 PM · Almond oil is sold at your local apothecary, chemist shop, drugs store, or health food store. You can also buy it on-line. One small bottle will last your entire life (if you don't spill it).
May 3, 2018, 1:15 AM · Thanks for the advice Eric, will get some cocoa butter today! Which gauge E string do you use? I've heard that I should avoid light gauge since it will break more easily.
Edited: May 3, 2018, 3:56 AM · Hi Eric,

Regarding some of my friends leaving strings on way past their shelf life, by their own admissions their strings have gone false, but they have much higher toleration for that than I do...

Um, if you can find me a string that doesn't go false pass a year(!?), I guess they are made of unicorn gut...and I'll pay you a lot of money for it. Seriously.

James — I use gimped D purely out of habit and because I ordered too many and have enough to last me two years. When I first started out in early music everyone around me used gimped D, and I was just being a monkey and did what they did. I like plain D as well, but have found the Gamut gimped D to be really stable for my particularly violin/environment, and I don't want to mess with it.

Edited: May 3, 2018, 3:29 AM · - Hello Dorian,

"by their own admissions their strings have gone false..." well then, I stand corrected!

- Hello James, I am playing on a modern set up and am using a light gauge Goldbrokat e with light gauge Tricolore a,d, g. In the past I have really liked the Gamut medium + e or heavy e (still on a modern set up).

May 3, 2018, 7:25 AM · Gut can last and last; the claim by many-including storefronts and string manufacturers-that they don't last long has never been personally observed (wound or pure gut-not including the E). I wonder if the false D was harmed by taking overzealous care of it. I use *nothing* on my Gamut A, other than a soft cloth to clean excess rosin (granted, it is varnished, which is probably not the case for all of you above.) Although there was a slight bit of fraying on my first one, the second is still clean after 6 months! And NOT false at all (I am changing it in a few days because I should, but I am sure it would have lasted longer.)

I am lucky that I can't complain abut varnished strings' clarity, response or tone. Using Tricolore pure gut A "varnished". Gamut's remanufactured Tricolore are great strings for the "modern" player, in my very strong opinion (definitely moreso than the non-stiff, lightest Eudoxa gauges, although these are also good and could be used normally today by some players.)

If the string went false on its own after 3 weeks, at least I would communicate with Gamut/Mr. Larson about it. Best wishes, and hope you can solve your problem soon.

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