Best Projecting Gut Violin Strings?

May 11, 2018, 7:18 PM · I am playing Bach E Major No.2 1042 with orchestra; and have never used gut strings before.

Which gut strings project the best over an orchestra?

I do not need a lesson on loudness vs projecting, just suggestions please!

Replies (33)

May 11, 2018, 7:21 PM · Are you using a baroque violin and/or baroque bow? Is the orchestra using period instruments, or modern instruments? And are you tuning A=440 or A=415 (or some other period tuning)?

Also: Unvarnished gut, varnished gut, or wound gut? How period-authentic are you trying to be?

May 11, 2018, 7:27 PM · @Lydia Leong , A440 and a modern violin with a modern bow.
Edited: May 11, 2018, 7:42 PM · Given the modern set-ups: Will the other players be using gut? What are you trying to get out of using gut? Is it a notion of authenticity, or a particular sound?

Also: Concert-hall conditions. Stable temperature and humidity, no hot stage lights?

May 11, 2018, 7:53 PM · Modern logic would be to recommend Passione Solo, but they would not be my choice. Any gut string that's decent will do the job.

You won't like my answer, but it's in your bow arm. And since it's the first time you use gut, prepare for some "shock" if you will be using non-Passione strings (which would be my choice (to use somwthing else)-there's lot of great alternatives, though the Passione are not bad, just costly for the purported benefit.)

Tricolore are the "loudest" ones IME, but maybe you do not need them/they do not suit you. Oliv are supposedly louder than Eudoxa. They are nice and powerful, but a bit more high tension, and Oistrakh had a big tone with Eudoxas just as well (I know, good violin too, but the artist is more relevant unless it's a really poor instrument.) I recommend Tricolore, but maybe Passione are "better" for you to adapt to if the performance is coming up soon.

I have used all of the above save for a few variations, but even my experience can't account for what our different preferences and/or needs may be.

Edited: May 12, 2018, 7:40 AM · How well they project will vary from one instrument to another -- and one player to another. I play daily on three fiddles, and I know from firsthand experience that a great string combo on one instrument can fall short on the others.

I hope you still have plenty of time for a string tryout before your performance. If you do decide to go with gut, be prepared to give them plenty of break-in time to stabilize.

My experience with gut is less than that of the previous poster, but I will share a bit of what I've observed regarding Oliv and Eudoxa: I found Oliv louder and more robust than Eudoxa -- though your instrument and style of playing will factor into how well you project. With these strings, Pirastro recommends the stiff D-G for modern players. I won't use the regular D-G -- my one tryout of Eudoxa regular D-G 12-1/2 years ago let me down. The tone broke -- or crushed -- too easily under intense bow pressure; and, even when it didn't break, it wasn't as robust as I would have liked. Switching to the stiff versions solved both problems -- for me.

Additionally, the stiffs, as I've learned from comparison tryouts, have better pitch stability, once broken in, than regulars have.

The only Passione I've tried so far is regular A. Picking up from a previous point in this thread about Passione: My A did stabilize faster than the Eudoxa stiff D-G that I teamed it with.

May 12, 2018, 7:08 PM · @Lydia Leong, Just for a nicer sound. And a nice, cool atmosphere. Would you recommend the Passione or passione solo?
May 12, 2018, 7:12 PM · Passione / Passione Solo is going to sound midway between gut and a synthetic, basically. To me, they are more synthetic-like than they are gut-like, but I find them to be a good compromise between the richness of gut, and the stability and feel of a synthetic. They're an easy switch from Evah Pirazzi Golds, for instance.

Passione vs. Passione Solo is a matter of how your instrument reactions to tension, and your tension preferences, I'd say.

For a Bach concerto, you should have no problem being heard above the orchestra, so I'd go with sound. A set runs around $125, so you'd be spending $250 to figure out which set works with your violin -- if either set works at all. Passione is great with my current violin, but wasn't good with my previous instrument, despite it being an overall high-quality violin.

May 12, 2018, 7:33 PM · @lydia Leong thankyou very much. I appreciate your intel and knowledge.Are you a performer?
Edited: May 12, 2018, 9:15 PM · Click my name for a bio. :-)

Relevant to this discussion, I performed the Bach Brandenburg 5 concerto (solo violin, flute, harpsichord, with orchestra) relatively recently, on Passiones.

Edited: May 13, 2018, 7:41 AM · I was playing in a concert last night, the programme being Verdi's "La Forza del Destino" Overture, Borodin's "Polovstian Dances" and Rimsky-Korsakov's Symphony No 2 the "Antar". I used my usual Chorda A and D (plain gut), Chorda silver wound gut G, and steel Obligato E. I've been using this gut set since December with no problems. They were in tune at the start of the concert, remained in tune throughout, and are still in tune today. I would normally have used the plain gut E, but the practicalities of the programme in today's concert environment dictated otherwise.

Incidentally, the Rimsky-Korsakov 2nd Symphony - which does not have the usual symphonic structure and is effectively a symphonic poem - is rarely performed, and last night's performance is believed to have been its first in my part of the country, certainly since before WW2. The audience may therefore be forgiven for being a little baffled by the symphony's very subdued ending, not realising that it was actually finished until the conductor had turned round and bowed to acknowledge the applause which then came!

My next concert with the Long Ashton Orchestra is Beethoven 9, for which I’ll probably revert to a gut E. Rehearsals start this week.

May 16, 2018, 3:41 AM · From the "They Don't Make 'Em like That Anymore" Dept.

A Chorda gut E that I've been using since the beginning of December last year died on me last night during a rehearsal of Beethoven 9. Fraying suddenly started along the whole length of the string and continued as I was playing. So I immediately removed it before it got round to snapping in my face, replaced it with a used spare and continued with the rehearsal.

The string I replaced was quite playable right up to last night when it decided enough was enough, with only the minimal and almost invisible occasional fraying over the last few weeks. Six months use of a gut E isn't bad value, given that I normally replace them after about 2-3 months, but I won't let my next new E go past 3 months again.

Based on previous experience, I expect to get at least 12 months use out of the three lower Chorda strings. The CM (a retired pro) of my Long Ashton Orchestra uses Eudoxas and enjoys a similar life span from them.

Edited: May 19, 2018, 6:34 AM · Having looked at the recent violino thread (#2531), I wonder if the sudden demise of my gut E may be due to the nut-bridge length of the violin on which it was fitted. That violin is an 18th c copy of the long pattern Strad design, with a nut-bridge length of 331mm, whereas my Jay Haide, a standard size 14" violin, the n-b length is 325mm. Both violins have been set up by luthiers.

The almost 2% increase in string length of the long pattern over the standard length implies a corresponding increase in tension at the same tuning pitch, and I would suggest that this accounts for the rapid failure of the gut E over its length. I have now replaced the gut E with an Obligato gold E, which turns up in some other Pirastro string sets, a string I am familiar with and enjoy.

The main playing difference between the long pattern and the standard length violins I find is that the 6mm extra string length of the long pattern makes excursions (thankfully rare) into the 3rd octave of the E "interesting", shall we say ;)

Edited: May 19, 2018, 7:00 AM · Sadly, experimentation may be in order. Among standard brands, Passione is a good choice, but there are many widths to choose from. I once tried the Passione Solo and found that, while they seemed to produce a little more volume, that they were more one-dimensional and harder to play.

In the older crew, there are Oliv and Eudoxa. Again, different flavors within each.

I have one violin set up with Tricolore wrapped G and D, plus a Dlugolecki varnished A. Very nice, and I got a pleasant shiver of recognition when listening to a recording of Albert Spalding playing his Strad. Even there, though, there are different thicknesses to deal with.
Also, I found that the Tricolore A (unwrapped) was very thick and simply never got moving properly. So back to the Dlugolecki and-- maybe-- a wrapped Tricolore.

If you don't mind having a struggle tuning accurately, Dlugolecki's varnished E makes a lovely sound, with no real sacrifice in brilliance or volume.

May 19, 2018, 7:07 AM · Trevor, technically, the string tension, right from peg to tailpiece, depends only on the vibrating string section, provided the string slips easily over both nut and bridge as we bring it up to pitch.

Apparently the nut-to-bridge distance is greater on the Strad long pattern, but is the vibrating section longer too?

May 19, 2018, 9:32 AM · Mr. Symchych,

I am surprised that Tricolore A didn't move for you, as it has not been the case for many of us. I was also using Heavy, Varnished. At least you found an A that works for you.

The Tricolore wound options are underrated due to the just reknown of their pure gut D & A, but I find they are not 'inferior" to any other currently available option from Pirastro (Eudoxa, Oliv, Gold Label, or Passione.) I still find the wound A unnecessary due to the greatness (IME-not in your case, though) of the pure gut A, but maybe it's good to try in the future, as it will likely be at least more stable than Eudoxa/Oliv As.

Edited: May 19, 2018, 1:17 PM · Adrian, the tension of a vibrating string is proportional to:
1) the square of the fundamental frequency,
2) the square of the vibrating length, and
3) the mass of the string per unit length.

Putting the nut-bridge dimensions that I gave in my previous post (331 and 325 mm) into the above relationships, the 2% difference in vibrating string length translates into 4% difference in tension between the two violins; which goes a long way to explaining why the gut E failed so dramatically. This can of course be compensated for by using a thinner gauge string (lower mass per unit length), or by lowering the violin tuning (e.g. from A440 to A432), or both.

I'm not sure I understood your second paragraph correctly. The nut-bridge distance is the same as the vibrating length of the open string, making allowance for the relatively small "dead" portions of the string immediately adjacent the nut and bridge. If you were thinking of the after lengths between the bridge and tailpiece then on my two violins they are the same (55mm), but then I have two different designs and lengths of tailpieces - the Jay Haide had a Wittner with built-in micro tuners, and the Strad copy has plain traditional ebony. The strings are different - the Strad copy currently has a steel E and gut A,D,G, and the Jay HAide is set up with steel strings for my folk music activities.

Edited: May 19, 2018, 1:54 PM · Hi guys,I am quite sure you will not be neeed to play on gut strings soon. We have made an exciting discovery. I know, this is not place for any advertisement. When the project is ready, we will buy the banner and will communicate it by the official way here of course. Just to let you know in advance, that we are now able to achieve exactly the same sound timbre, playability as we as the feeling of the best quality gut strings with even more power. The tuning stability is just a bonus as usual with synthetic core strings.

I am looking forward to lauch the first samples soon.

May 19, 2018, 3:29 PM · Interesting Bohdan! How about the lifespan of those wonderstrings?
May 19, 2018, 4:24 PM · Much respect, but it is quite an undertaking.

Additionally, is the emulation Eudoxa low tension wound gut, Tricolore/Aquila/Dlugolecki/et al pure gut, Oliv tighter tension wound gut, etc.? See what I mean? There's not even one sort of gut sound within the gut realm (which is why Obligato "fails", IMHO, as far as gut emulation is concerned, and in addition to the higher tension.)

Maybe a low tension can be emulated, but will the feel under the bow be similar? "Same" attack at the beginning of each note?

Longevity with synthetics can be an issue. Gut doesn't really have poor longevity, so I am not sure where gut users get this idea from when they ocassionally comment on it negatively on the internet.

Best wishes-hoping my pessimism can be proved wrong. We do need better synthetics, rather than just louder strings, so I approve of the project- even if I am not so easily convinced these lofty goals are even achievable.

May 19, 2018, 5:57 PM · Okay, I'm super curious. :-)

Warchal's Brilliant Vintage actually sound pretty similar to Passiones on my violin.

May 20, 2018, 2:32 AM · Adalberto, I am not sure we should go down with the tension and match exactly the same (low tension) of gut strings. There is no much sense to make any "substitution"for gut strings, since they have been still available. With full respect to gut strings sound quality and trying to avoid beeing bold, I would like to say that we aim to bring more than gut strings sound.

You certainly know the history. The about 1920 - 1970 was the darkest era of violinmaking. At the beginning of 20-th century metal strings were invented and she sale started with massive advertising (the inventor even published the book in order to promote them). Metal strings would never work with such low tension, so the strings tension literally doubled overnight. The violin makers got puzzled and tried to accomodate. As a result, they started to make much heavier violins with much thicker plates.

Fortunately synthetic core strings appeared about 50 years alter and they became popular quite quickly. They had reduced tension, but the general level of string tenson never dropped to the original level from the beginning of 20. century. People got simply accomofdate to louder sound meanwhile. Than, at the beginning of 21. century there was a trend of tenson increase again started by some string makers. We have never followed this trend and tried to keep the tension as moderate as possible.

But we have to be aware of the current neeeds and taste of the players. The headline of this thread describes it perfectly. Musicians would like to return to the gut sound and feeling, whilst having as much power as possible at their disposal.

The power of real gut strings is enough if they are played on highest quality old Italians, but not every violinist possess such an instrument. Moreover, even soloists playing old Italians only rarely deny 20% more sound if they can get it "for free" (I mean whithout extra effort).

We have already managed to get close to the gut sound with Amber set, and we have received really lot of feedbacks saying many pleyers have switched from gut. But the projection of Amber is very similar to what gut strings offer and such projection level may be not enough for some synthetic users to convince them to swith.

Now we are going to come even closer to the gut strings feeling and sound, with more volume and projection. For me personally, supervising this project is really amazing job :-)

May 20, 2018, 3:32 AM · your post shows a lot of modern prejudices about gut strings, for instance gut strings are not lower tension than modern synthetics unless they are of insufficient diametre.
May 20, 2018, 7:50 AM · Does that mean you're making a higher-tension synthetic, or you've found a way to get a gut sound at the lower tensions of Warchal strings to date?

(Brilliant Vintage + Amber E is great on my Vuillaume, which appreciates the lower tension. I use Passiones most of the time these days, still with the Amber E, though, in large part because it's hard to get BVs; they're frequently out of stock in my local violin shops.)

May 20, 2018, 11:10 AM · There is quite a large range between the common gut strings tension and so called "modern synthetics" tension. We are definitely going to roam within this range. We have never made any extremes.
May 20, 2018, 11:20 AM · @Bo, lifespan is on of the features we are constantly working on. We aim to deliver the highest level of quality in all parameters with the new set. Moreover, we try to educate the public how to protect strings and keep their original quality as long as possible, (our recently published articles about string maintenance and cleaning). Such articles may guide all string users, not only our customers in particular.
May 20, 2018, 11:49 AM · My gut string supplier, Damien Dlugolecki recommends very high string tension diametres for Gut strings, Higher than Evah Pirrazi for instance, when I order I order similar tension to Dominants, and that's what he would call medium or low tension for Gut, I don't know where you get your misinformation about Gut strings, perhaps you're thinking primarily of Pirastro Chordas, which tend to be lower tension than Synthetics and are largely behind the times in string technology.
Edited: May 20, 2018, 1:15 PM · Mr. Taylor,

There's evidence string tension was lower for a time also given Eudoxa regular, non-stiff. Though they are not the oldest (most other old gut string brands are out of production), they canbe relatively super low tension. So even if during baroque strings were heavier, there was a period of low tension string playing during the 20th century, if not also earlier.

The Gold Label set is balanced-low tension, but not too low. So do many of the higher tension Eudoxa strings.

I am assuming then that even though heavier gut strings may have been the norm somewhere around the 17th-19th century, low tension gut, wound or otherwise, became popular, and contemporary to the higher tension "steel strings" period Mr. Warchal refers to. I have had this question myself for a while-when did the very low tension Eudoxa/Chorda began to be manufactured? We may be too young to know.

The Tricolore Medium (standard) are low but not too low tension. Old school, but 20th century strings. Not super high either, however, but Higher than regular Eudoxa.

The Oliv are more "modern", and highest in tension, but they don't match the highest tension of old-school steel and some (actually, many "modern") synthetics. Only the 17.5 Oliv Gold/aluminum rigid D, perhaps.

In short, I think one can believe both Mr. Dlugolecki and Mr. Warchal in this issue. The low tension strings still exist and are being made, so I doubt Pirastro would have designed them that way without any sort of realistic demand (as you know, they now have a more "modern" approach in making their strings, which tend to be higher in tension than during their Eudoxa/Chorda period.) I believe that at least Eudoxa is a 20th century invention, and many players still play "loudly" on them, despite the lesser tension.

As for me, I prefer not to go any less tension than 4kp and 3.9kp on the G&D strings, respectively. Higher is OK as long as it doesn't go into "higher tension than EP Medium" territory. My violin speaks better with moderate to low tension strings.

(Note that I *believe* Mr. Dlugolecki's higher tension pure gut strings are not that high tension compared to say, an Evah Pirazzi Green Stark set.)

Any of you who knows more about this and the history of string manufacturing during the 20th century, feel free to add and disprove what little I know in the subject.

Edited: May 20, 2018, 1:27 PM · Lyndon, you are speaking about "string tension diameters". I do not understand what do you mean. We are either speaking about tension or diameters. There is no correlation between diamater and tension, unless we would compare solid steel E strings or pure gut strings (always strictly within each group only of course).

I have just tried to refer Mr. Dlugolecki website for fresh info. He does not seem to be making any wound A or D strings e.g. There is no information about tensions, but comparing diamaters does not give you any relevant data.

Moreover, I admire the trust some members
do have to string manufacturers data. We do state tensions in Newtons which is the only correct unit for measuring force, but I noticed members used to compare kp mostly, so I will follow. The typical "modern synthetic" violin G string with declared tension 4,7 has the tension in the range 5.0 - 5.15 in most cases. I do not why they distort the data such way, but they do. So I am speaking about real data, not declared ones.

However, if we want to question any disscussion post, we can do it of course. Gut strings are sold in vas variery of diameters beeing cut, so I can put 6.5 kp violin G pure gut (probably 3 mm thick) and declare that no any synthetic core G string does match such a tension theoretically.

On more note, there are no tensions on Mr. Dlugolecki website, only diameters. But even vibrating length is missing, so it is unclear whether the strings are intended for modern or baroque setup. Unles we define all these key parameters, there is no chance starting any disscusion about tensions. We would bring just more mess instead of clarification. Now I am leaving for our lab again, so excuse me for a few days or weeks time please.

May 20, 2018, 1:31 PM · i'm sure Mr Dlugolecki would supply you with tensions if you asked him.
May 20, 2018, 1:37 PM · Trevor, I was confusing nut and saddle! Silly me!
May 20, 2018, 5:14 PM · Mr. Warchal-all measurements are ok. I am doing it for convenience. I usually google a converter to translate your measurements in Newtons to Kp or lbs. Pirastro, Thomastik, and yourselves all have your favorite method. I used Kp as I am used to it. Lbs should be more "logical" for me but I am used to Pirastro's standard (for better or worse.) Newton is perfectly fine.

We often really believe "by faith" all of what the manufacturer states, because I have no way to measure tension myself. The feel under the fingers and how they sound are the final judges. Hopefully they are all being "honest" (I know better not to trust humans too much-too bad it must be this way.)

What I trust less are grandiose statements by the marketing department of some big string manufacturers. They don't really *describe* the tone, but speak in superlatives that cannot be objectively quantified ("golden tone", "exuberant lustre", "just listen!...", etc. I do love said brand generally speaking, but such statements I do not trust at all.) I prefer "brighter", "warmer", "less/more brilliant" than all of those high-hype phrases.

"The soloist's strings!" :P

No offense was ever meant to be sure. Good luck on your work.

Edited: May 21, 2018, 12:09 AM · Call me "Bohdan" guys :-). I am a violin player as you are.

@Adalbetto: You have described it perfectly: "The feel under the fingers and how they sound are the final judges." You do not need to measure tensions neither get obsessed by manufacturer data. You do not need to read the marketing agency descriptions at all. A good violinist can easily judge the quality of the string by a few minutes of playing. However, you need to learn the quality of various strings by experimenting with them, which may be a bit costly nowadays I admit...

Edited: May 21, 2018, 6:53 AM · Adalberto even calls me a Mr.!

Cost is why I switched to using primarily Warchal strings which are priced lower than most of popular brands discussed here on this site. The lower cost and superior sound is why I am their biggest fan and real excited to install my new Ambers!

And I wish to thank Mr.Warchal for putting all his research out there for us on string maintenance and care. The rosin preference test is also of interest and fun in a way.

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