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Gut strings? What are those?


Deo Lawson
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I really want to try gut strings so I can have that "enlightened, authentic, historically informed playing experience" and immediately fall into ecstasy the moment my bow touches the strings.
I have two problems.

1: These things are so bloody expensive!
2: String oil? Why would I want to put oil on my strings? That's completely opposite to my instinct. Then again, I've used synthetics all my life.

There are a lot of people writing passionately about the superiority of gut strings and about all the changes you have to make to your setup to have them sounding "as they should", but not much information on why I actually need string oil, or anything like that.
General thoughts and advice on gut strings?

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What kind of strings you got? there are varnished and not varnished possibility. You can oil not varnished strings with virgin olive oil, as well as some other staff, but it is not necessary, just to prolong their life.  There are several brands available, quite different sound and quality. I like La Folia, but you can try Dlugolecky, Toro, Kurschner and Aquila. Worst scenario is to use Pirastro chorda. If you are seriously attached to that, sooner or later you'll find personal maker making gut string for you personally, what is probably best scenario, but it is not cheap.

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Here's a good choice. Gold label g, or g and d, plain gut for the rest. Gamut treble gut, just start off with a medium guage. I dont do varnished or use string oil. If you get frustrated with the e, you can go steel and have a early/mid 20th century set up.

I love gut strings, but it can eat into your wallet. But you might be surprised how long a plain gut d and a last. The e goes fast though.

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I have been historically informed!!

I started playing as a "toddler" in 1939. The only strings I remember were gut and gut-core until the early 1970s when I started to make the move to synthetic-core strings, but I did make several excursions back to gut and gut-core strings over the next 4 decades: Eudoxas and Olives. I still even have a straight set of Olives in the cylindrical tube in my violin case. Even tried some Passiones. Most recently (just a few months ago) I tried a set of Tricolore strings with Goldbrokat E - gave it a few weeks and went back to my set of Evah Pirazzi Gold with my irreplaceable Peter Infeld platinum E I had been using. Truly, my fiddles have never sounded better!

I think I am finally finished wasting money with that game!

If you are unhappy with your sound and  have the bucks to spare - it's your choice!! That's for sure!!

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  • 5 weeks later...

To get closest to the Period sound, there are several things you would need, such as a period setup, guy strings, a period bow, and a good understanding of the style.

For fun, you can try the gut strings or a baroque bow on a modern violin. Those things will be steps in the period direction, but they won’t necessarily give the full experience.

If you’re serious about getting into period music, I’d recommend investing the money so that you can have all the things in the first paragraph. If it’s just a fun experiment, I’d just get what’s easy to find and relatively inexpensive.

I haven’t put oil on gut strings before, but I have heard of people recommending it. I don’t know if it helps or not. 

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20 minutes ago, The Violin Beautiful said:

Those things will be steps in the period direction, but they won’t necessarily give the full experience.

Depends on what period you want to experience. Keep in mind that plain gut strings were used into the mid 20th century by all players, with modern bows and setups. Heifetz hung on to plain gut A and D and he was probably a more "modern" player than current soloists. Actually Gamut has reproduced the Tricolor G so you can reproduce his set up.

 

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5 hours ago, JacksonMaberry said:

I spend most of my time around early music professionals, and I don't know a single one that oils their gut. 

I can think of one very good reason not to oil gut or any other strings:  The oil would get on the bow hair, and then you have to replace or clean the hair.  That is my conjecture.  I've never oiled the many gut core strings (metal wrapped gut) I used a lot decades ago, and that is the reason why.

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7 hours ago, deans said:

Depends on what period you want to experience. Keep in mind that plain gut strings were used into the mid 20th century by all players, with modern bows and setups. Heifetz hung on to plain gut A and D and he was probably a more "modern" player than current soloists. Actually Gamut has reproduced the Tricolor G so you can reproduce his set up.

 

 I’m well aware of Heifetz’s string setup and that gut stayed popular well after the baroque period, but I think it was clear that the OP asked about HIPP, which suggests an interest in the baroque specifically, which is what I responded to. I would still say that if you wanted to emulate any player, you’d need to be familiar with the style of playing. My point here is that just using the same equipment and the same arrangement by themselves won’t create the full effect. 

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On 6/23/2018 at 9:45 AM, Deo Lawson said:

I really want to try gut strings so I can have that "enlightened, authentic, historically informed playing experience" and immediately fall into ecstasy the moment my bow touches the strings.
I have two problems.

1: These things are so bloody expensive!
2: String oil? Why would I want to put oil on my strings? That's completely opposite to my instinct. Then again, I've used synthetics all my life.

There are a lot of people writing passionately about the superiority of gut strings and about all the changes you have to make to your setup to have them sounding "as they should", but not much information on why I actually need string oil, or anything like that.
General thoughts and advice on gut strings?

Never oil my gut strings.

I'd say the best ways to inform your period practice is with gut strings and a baroque bow.  Taking off chin and shoulder rest is the next step along with studying a number of the "rules" that have been reconstructed from Leopold Mozart and J.J. Quantz and other assorted texts on phrasing and ornamenting.

Finally, I think it's a good idea to explore music by lesser-known composers from the era.  Very little of the repertoire made it into the canon... we are so familiar with Vivaldi, Bach, Handel, Purcell, Corelli, Telemann that we sometimes have a hard time identifying what musically identifying features are personal and which are temporal/geographical.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Bowbrand. They only do the plain strings, no wounds. They are largely aimed at harp players but I've used them on both violins and guitars, perfectly good gut strings and I've tried just about every commercially available gut string going. They are sold in long lengths.  Your wallet will thank you. 

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You want the gut to look somewhat transparent. The main thing is that if it has been sitting around somewhere dry, it could be brittle and break. So soak in oil, then salt it off where the bow will be playing. If it is wound, look where it is not or perhaps it came with an A that isn't. As far as sound, there is nothing sweeter than gut. They can sound great on a nasal instrument. Also, there is the twist, which you absolutely have to experience.  I enjoy them in the morning, as the humidity in the air decreases. Steel and synthetic are better while it increases in the evening. I wouldn't leave gut on a gigging instrument though. You will find yourself tuning mid-song.

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