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How to tie knot for thicker gut playing strings


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Being new to gut strung baroque instruments and a total klutz at tying knots, I am seeking instructions on how to tie the knot for A and D strings for the tailpiece. The E string I just use a quick double hitch which seems to be popular with players, and the all the G gut strings I have come with the knot already done (thank goodness). It's the ones in the middle supplied as lengths with no knots that have me in diffculty. The knots I see seem to be bowlines, but I only rarely see the string passed through the loop as well, and the bowline knot seems to only serve as a stopper for the small tailpiece hole (I am only referring to baroque violins in this post). So I am confused and inexperienced, and wondering why you need a bowline anyway, apart from the fact that it does not slip. Any pointers/videos/diagrams and so on most appreciated!

Aquila has a video of how to tie a bowline, but it's about sailing knots, with thick flexible rope, and I just cant get it on thick gut, which is very stiff.




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A bowline (pronounced bo-lin) is one type of knot that forms a loop.  Since all you need is a stopper, I see no need for a bowline.

I have never set up a baroque instrument before, but I now have a customer's antique baroque viola in my workshop that I need to set up.  I got real gut strings from my brother-in-law who, as Boulder Early Music Shop, deals in modern reproductions of baroque instruments.  I haven't put the strings on yet, but he tells me that a simple overhand knot is all that is needed at the tailpiece.  I asked if softening the gut in water before tying the knot might make it easier, but he said it's not necessary.  I think the strings have enough additional length to allow for some experimentation and cutting-off of any failures.

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I do a basic slip knot. It forms a big enough knot that it won't slip out of most tailpieces (definitely not baroque style ones). I have never had a string come untied in all my days using gut.

To soften up the gut you can curl it around a hard edge, like the spine of a knife. Only do this to the part you're tying, obviously.

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I personally don't usually want a loop in front of the TP that the string passes through and just use some crude know of unknown name to keep the string from passing through the hole in the TP.  Usually the instrument will sound better this way.  Sometimes I'll tie the end of the string around a small piece of toothpick or other small piece of wood if the knots have been pulling through.

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  • Andro changed the title to How to tie knot for thicker gut playing strings

Thanks @jandepora for the remarkable iconographic reference. While it is generally dangerous to rely on paintings, this instance has acutely finely observed detail. These are bowline knots, and precisely identical to what the Aquila website shows in their video for fitting gut strings to a viola da gamba.

I wonder what the G and D strings here have. :-)



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