I had serious problems with intonation between plain and wound strings gut of any brand, Aquila being no exception, but I seem alone in that experience.
You couldn't make it up.
I believe the Aquila strings do come unvarnished.
Oh, wait-- the full set probably includes a G, based on the price. But I don't see one listed for separate sale.
I still think the best wound gut G for my violins is the Pirastro Oliv, even though the price of it is absolutely outrageous…
I just posted their G-string measurements above.
My first impressions of the strings: great warm vocal sound, very stable (even without varnish), wonderful power and response. In short, I’m with Cotton, these are by far the best plain gut strings I’ve tried…It’s like giving my violin 3 shots of espresso or a dose of Viagra.
My only regret is that I did not try Aquila strings sooner. The Aquila strings are made in Venice, Italy. Their violin sheep gut E-strings ($8.55), A-strings ($11.55), and D-strings ($17.40) come double length (2 strings in 1 - you cut them in 1/2 with scissors). Compare these prices to any other gut string retailer and Aquila I guarantee has a better deal.
For anyone who is curious how Aquila strings compare to Tricolores, Aquilas in my opinion are far better now. As I was saying above Gamut has been using beef gut for their Academie and Tricolore strings for a while which is very unfortunate. I think their strings have gone way downhill as a result. One of their recent Tricolore A’s I tried putting on was defective. The A would not tune up and the loop/washer flew out of the tailpiece.
I’m very glad I took the leap and tried these Aquila strings.
It is important to realize the original Tricolore brand never made plain gut strings. They made covered sheep gut (not beef gut) G, D and A and the lapping at the tailpiece end was in red, white and blue spiral, hence the name *TRICOLORE.* There were also Tricolore viola strings (and probably cello and double-bass strings too). If Gamut is slipping into the fine print of their string descriptions that they are using beef gut for their wound gut strings, and they currently sell little to no sheep gut Academie strings, how are we certain that the ‘Tricolore plain sheep gut’ strings are actually sheep gut? https://shop.gamutmusic.com/tricolore-violin-g-4-gut-silver-wound/
I also know from a rather good source Jascha Heifetz almost certainly got his plain gut strings from the William Morris company.
The two flavors of A do sound different although I don't have a strong preference. Just a month ago I swapped to the wrapped A, and loved the sound. If only the metal windings weren't changing color and threatening to unravel...
Stephen, from my experience, plain sheep gut A and D strings offer a superior sound quality and more nuanced tone compared to wrapped gut and especially the wound beef gut which cracks and is less stable. What substance Gamut is currently using for their plain gut is a mystery that only they know.
One thing I’ll say is that the Aquila plain sheep gut strings aesthetically speaking have a slightly yellow tint, while the Gamut plain gut strings have a bleach white color. So it does not appear to be the same substance to my eye, and they feel completely different under the finger. Most importantly both string types sound very different from one another.
Additionally, I do think good plain sheep gut strings are more versatile and can produce a wider range of tones. They also tend to be more responsive to subtle variations in bowing and fingering, making them ideal for expressive playing.
I won't go all the way to plain gut D/A/E, but the current A needs a change and I shall work my way down to see what other changes are afoot.
And don't be shy about experimenting with gauge. It's all too easy to write those off because of that variable.
Pirastro Oliv Stiff G/D is excellent. I’m with you on the prices John. The Oliv G is exorbitant now, even though it’s a great string. I just put on a brand new Oliv G which I had here, but when it expires, I will definitely try the Aquila wound gut G which is $35 as opposed to the $93 Oliv and report back here on what I find.
If only Aquila offered wound trebles I would be all over them.
Meanwhile about 2 months ago I decided to restring my other violin, a 1924 instrument, so I re-contacted that dealer and I selected the Cordedrago "17th-century" set. These are all bare gut (no metal windings), so the twisted D and especially G string might be a little fat.
I brought the strings to my luthier so he could set up that instrument, and he discovered a previously-repaired crack reopened so unfortunately my new set of Cordedrago strings has to wait. Of course I immediately remembered I hadn't set up my vaporizer this year and have kept it steaming in my room ever since. I hope he won't have to modify the nut slots or tailpiece holes or peg holes for those fatter strings, but if necessary then better he than me doing it!
The light D replaced a Tricolore silver wrapped D, also light weight. Much thicker also, and a thicker, shaggier sound. Then the G went on.
So far, it is taking a lot of getting used to. Definitely not for those who want synthetic response, it feels a bit like walking in a trampoline. But we will let them break in and see what happens.
I also have a Croen Guarneri model that seems to be more tolerant of high tension strings. That might be a better fit, but one thing at a time.
The gut takes a day or two to break in but they’re remarkably stable so far - much more so than the Tricolores I just had on. I have also found that varnish is not necessarily as important for Aquila’s sheep gut since they do a good job pre oiling the strings.
The Aquila sheep gut strings have a very different feel and a much more superior sound compared to the faux sheep gut (beef gut) strings and actually tune up to pitch right away unlike a certain place I was getting my strings from. The beef gut requires more varnish because it breaks down way faster than sheep gut and is a cheap substitute for the traditional sheep gut string.
Plain gut A's were a common music store item then and you didn't have to order them from anywhere. On the other hand, plain gut D's were already very uncommon and had been superceded by aluminum wrapped gut D's.
I was in correspondence this morning with Mimmo Peruffo, head of Aquila Strings in Italy. He informed me that the Aquila string design is a more traditional one. They use unsplit whole lamb gut which was always the Italian method to make gut strings from as far back as the renaissance through the 1920's. This method of making was recently re-discovered after 39 years of research by Aquila.
Outside of Italy, gut strings were always made according to him from gut strands after splitting the gut in half with a device. They had to do this outside of Italy because the lambs were bigger than the ones in Italy. But this deeply impacted the sound quality. Mimmo mentioned how he studied and followed the original design of Paganini’s gut strings after he examined some of Paganini’s strings on a trip to Genoa years back.
He advised everyone using Aquila strings *not* to varnish their strings! He said if you add varnish or lacquer, ‘You will lose sound quality while the stability is already good. The string lifetime can be of months anyway.’ They also do pre-oil the strings which adds life to the string and I can attest to how stable they are without varnish.
Mimmo also mentioned how a lot of the common gut strings available on the market today are made following the modern way of splitting gut with a device. As a result, they are stiffer and less functional, and many of the strings are actually beef serosa instead of lamb intestines.
Aquila produces a real replica not only of Paganini’s setup (he studied) but also the setup of Jascha Heifetz, whose strings he also examined in person, which comprised of “steel for the 1st; 2nd and 3rd stiff gut and the the G with round silver wire.”
Aquila says, “All strings less than 0.50mm are low twist. Strings greater than 0.50 mm in diameter are exclusively high twist, though the twist increases with diameter, to ensure maximum elasticity and the best acoustical performance, ease of attack and long playing life, as proven by many acoustical and wear-and-tear tests.”
For Custom HU unsplit lamb gut: https://aquilacorde.com/en/early-music-strings/unsplit-lamb-gut/unsplit-lamb-gut-strings-type-hu/
What makes Aquila different from other modern gut string makers is that they take a more historical approach to string making. Their manual polishing technique prevents the string from fraying as quickly. I can attest to the fact that these strings do not need varnish unlike some other brands.
Another interesting description of their method from their website:
“Plain gut strings are now exclusively half rectified twisted unsplit lamb gut (HU). This is the traditional string making method used in Italy for hundreds of years, but was lost with the demise of gut stringing in the late 19th century, and now has been re-discovered by Aquila Corde.
The surface of the HU/HV strings is only partly rectified, imitating the manual polishing technique of earlier times to obtain a string that is true in it's vibration. With this method the amount of fibers damaged by the abrasive action is noticeably reduced as compared with strings rectified with modern procedures.”
@ Nate and Stephen, please let us know how your new Aquilas continue to settle in.
Incidentally, he has a fascinating way of classifying synthetic strings. Not to spoil the whole argument, but he basically likes Dominant and EP Green, but finds most other labels designed to have erratic pitch when played. Including Dominant Pro. Some violinists learn to adjust, and/or make it part of their technique/sound. But he is very skeptical of a lot of the new brands and models.
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