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Strings that would have been around in 1850?


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I have sold an old mid to late 1700's violin I have to a museum to be used in a static display of the mid 1800's time period.

The violin is a very nice sounding instrument that is set up with modern strings. The strings need to look like what would have been on a fiddle in the mid 1800's

Any suggestion? Do any of you Baroque or period players have any old take offs that would look "right"?

I am a violin maker and do not usually try to set up a violin for that time period.

Any help or suggestions would be appreciated.

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My understanding (and others may disagree which is fine) was that in the ninteenth century unwound gut strings were most common. In the mid to later half of the century windings began to appear on gut strings. I have no idea when the steel E string was invented, but it did not become popular until very early in the 20th century, as did full sets of metal strings slightly later. If this info is true, a set of unwould gut strings would plausably be historically accurate. But as far as I can see, unwould gut strings are no longer being made by anyone (but again, others my know more).

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I'm not positive they're period-correct for the mid-1800s but you can certainly still find unwound gut strings--Pirastro Chorda is a brand that's pretty common and reasonably inexpensive, for example, and the strings I used when I set up a fiddle to take along to US Civil War reenactments. One thought is that gut is somewhat prone to breakage due to humidity/temp changes, and thus may not be the best choice for a violin on static display, unless the museum has good climate control.

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I second the recommendation to contact Damian Dlugolecki. Alternatively, there is a school of luthiery associated with Indiana University in Bloomington, and it seems to me that there might be someone there to visit with about this, as well.

I don't mean that there's a shop there; rather, they offer a degree in luthiery there at the school, and since they have a world-class program in Early Music (and a DMA), they might be a good resource.

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Gut strings are actually mummifed material, so last forever if they are not used. Most baroque violinists I know play with at least a silverwound gut g-string, and for cello winding of the lower two strings was standard in th 18th century, so I'd say you could get at least a wound g string on that violin for 19th century setup. Bare gut strings are way cheaper though. Aquilacorde are good strings (for bare gut on cello in my opinion the best strings around) and really quite cheap, especially compared to Pirastro Chorda, but also to Dlugolecki. But I'm in Europe, things may be different in the USA, pricewise.

If the violin is good sounding then I think it actually is a shame it ended up in a museum.... There are so many crappy sounding ones which look great, which is all that matters in a museum, ain't it?

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