Good (natural) gut strings for modern playing?

October 6, 2018, 11:36 PM · Hi all,

I'm an amateur violinist wanting to experiment with gut strings for modern playing. Currently, I have a Tricolore varnished natural gut A with Olivs on the rest. I really like the sound of the Tricolore with the Olivs; it blends in perfectly with the other strings. However, they have been used for about a year now, and are in need of a change. I really want to experiment with some other natural gut strings, but the only gut string meant for modern playing that I can find on the net is Tricolore.

Does anyone have a good recommendation for gut strings for modern playing?

All thoughts are appreciated!

Replies (12)

Edited: October 7, 2018, 8:51 AM · Pirastro Chorda. I'd say they are a good all-round string, used by professionals as well as amateurs. I used a set (with a steel E) for a performance of Beethoven 9 in the summer - no problems with tuning stability.

Chordas are easily obtainable, designed for A440, last well (I get 9-12 months out of G, D, A), have been around a long time, and are not expensive as good strings go. Just don't use a gut E, because they don't last, unless you need it for specific Baroque performance.

Chordas are the string I go back to when I've had my fill of synthetics.

Edited: October 7, 2018, 9:00 AM · I've had really negative experiences with chorda. Weak sound and they broke on me in less than a month both times I tried them. Plus, they feel like stale spaghetti. Stiff and so easy to fray! My Tricolores are coming up on two months of intense use and are still pure as crystal. Chordas are opaque out of the box.

There are plenty of other brands of plain gut. Which to choose depends on how much dough you've got. Some names I've heard thrown around include Aquila, Dlugolecki, La Folia, Kurschner, and Toro, among others. Haven't tried most of these.
Edited: October 7, 2018, 9:14 AM · "really negative experiences" - that is a little surprising.

"Weak sound" suggests a set up issue - bridge, sound post, tailpiece? Or bowing technique.

"They broke" - more than one? And within a month? Depends where they broke. If at the bridge or nut then too much friction and the string is binding in a groove. If elsewhere between nut and bridge then it's a bad batch or a player problem. I'm excluding the gut E from this because two months is about the time when fraying becomes a nuisance on that string.

October 7, 2018, 9:18 AM · Broke in first position around second finger. Made numerous adjustments to tailpiece, gut, and bridge.

It was the string.

October 7, 2018, 9:35 AM · The Pirastro Chordas I’ve tried are very problematic from my experience with tuning and the gauges available are too small for my violin. Tricolores are the best pure gut I’ve tried along with the Gamut Academie sheep gut A which come double length (2 strings). So you need to cut them in half with scissors when you first receive them.
Edited: October 7, 2018, 9:45 AM · I've tried Chorda, Gamut, Aquila and Dlugolecki, and all of these strings will eventually play sharper than what they are supposed to after only a few days EXCEPT for Dlugolecki beef-gut strings. I've only tried Dlug's E (A and D coming in the mail soon) but I think his strings may have ever so slightly higher twist to improve intonation. I could be completely wrong though! Sound-wise, Gamut sheep gut 0.62mm or 0.64mm is the most powerful and resonant, an absolutely incredible experience, so it's a shame their intonation is faulty...

A lot of people say they don't experience any problems with strings sharpening, but I invite you to conduct the following test: play a perfect fourth using the G and D string in 4th position (use F# and B with 3rd and 2nd finger). Get it in tune, then move your hand over to the D and A strings and play the same interval in the same position. Repeat for A and E strings. If the intervals are not all the same then your strings are gone (assuming you really play all the intervals the same and accurately!) I believe this to be the most scrutinizing test possible for accurate intonation of gut strings, and only Dlugolecki passes it which is why I have to recommend his strings.

I agree with Cotton in saying that Chordas are weak, at least in comparison to the other brands. With Chorda's maximum gauge of E 0.59, A 0.74, and D 0.99, this is far too thin compared to the my view of the ABSOLUTE MINIMUM gauge required for a healthy projecting sound which is E 0.60, A 0.78 and D 1.04).

October 7, 2018, 9:56 AM · I have zero problems with Tricolore pure gut A going sharp, and at the very least, has not been a practical problem. Some players use Eudoxa, which do change more often in pitch, in concert-Tricolore are rock-solid in comparison.

Despite Academie/pure gut Tricolore being the same, I like the convenience of the string being "ready to play" out of the ziplock-like bag.

The wound Tricolore I tried before were excellent, by the way.

The Tricolore/Academie are so vibrant and powerful, I see no point in purchasing synthetics for more theoretical "power", as any possible "gains" come with their own set of cons I rather not have (which doesn't mean it's "wrong" to prefer synthetics.)

October 7, 2018, 10:00 AM · The Tricolore D and A go slightly sharp for me, but it's well within an acceptable range. Barely noticeable. Easy to compensate.
My biggest issue is these wound gut Gs going flat over time. Haven't used one that doesn't yet.
Edited: October 7, 2018, 12:23 PM · I agree with Adalberto Valle-Rivera. I have never had any issues with tuning using Gamut strings, neither have any of my many professional friends and colleagues that I personally know, who use their strings. I’ve used Gamut’s sheep gut A&D strings for over a decade now on 4 instruments (including a Guadagnini and Grancino). All of the strings have been top class and stay in tune.

Beef gut is a less expensive alternative to sheep gut and not really as good a substance as sheep gut in my opinion. When I used Dlugolecki strings, they reacted to humidity and went false a lot. They were not good enough for me to use in a professional setting like a recording session (where you’re expected to sound great on the 1st take). I’ve never had any of those issues with Gamut strings; I find their strings to be more stable in pitch and brilliant sounding even when compared to Pirastro Oliv and Eudoxa strings. I find Tricolore or Academie strings by Gamut to be actually more powerful and vibrant than synthetic and wound gut strings on my violins.

Edited: October 7, 2018, 1:40 PM · Just out of interest Nate, why do you not use a gut E, if you prefer gut A and D to synthetic A and D? The .64 is definitely as loud as a steel E and you get that beautiful gut sound too :) just wondering, since I see in many of your previous posts that you favor plain gut D and E.
October 8, 2018, 8:50 PM · Thanks for everyone's reply and recommendations! I plan to purchase Dlugolecki's heavy gauge A string for now, as it seems to be reasonably priced and comes with a good reputation. My Olivs seem to hold out fine after a year, so I won't change them as of now.

Thanks again for the replies!

October 8, 2018, 9:57 PM · String sharp? Switch to piano!

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