I have been using Eudoxa mediums (non-rigid, normal gauges) for some time now, following the advices of viola da players and treating my strings with olive oil prior to installation and continuously maintaining them. Despite the common complaints of gut strings (wound and plain) being difficult to keep their pitch, short tonal longevity and easy to break, I have encountered none of the problems. Bear in mind that I reside in Hong Kong and my local humidity can fluctuate between 50% to over 90% fairly rapidly, never mind the temperature differences which is the bane of gut string stability.
My maintenance to my strings are as follows:
-olive oil bath for 24-48 hours before first installation (letting the gut cores thoroughly soak through)
-break in period of 1-2 weeks after installation, stability is NOT expected during this period
-weekly or biweekly olive oil rub across fingered areas (to further protect the windings from oxidization, also applicable to plain gut strings to maintain their oil content)
-washed hands and trimmed nails before every playing session (everybody should be doing this, gut strings or not)
-repeat oil bath every several months, until the strings sound dead enough that even oil baths cannot rejuvenate
The theory behind oiling gut strings is that the oil will protect the gut core from moisture and humidity changes, since the oil soaked into the gut core will occupy spaces that are otherwise filled or vacated by moisture. This should in theory lessen or eliminate the effects of humidity on gut strings, with the side effect of slightly darkening the tones of the strings from the added mass.
The caveat of course, is that such maintenance routines require time and patience. Synthetic strings don't nearly require as much maintenance as gut strings, trading superior tonal qualities for ease of use and consistency which are also important qualities to a lot of players.
As far as I know, I am one of the very few gut string users in my local community who experience no gut-related problems with my instrument, sometimes even less so than synthetic string users as my strings outlive theirs by considerable margins. This got me thinking, are the usual complaints against gut strings due to neglected maintenance?
Note: the low tensions of gut strings very likely contributes to their longevity over synthetic strings, but that's more of a technical advantage over maintenance I think.
Google-fu references from a viola da gamba player:
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