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Have you tried all-gut strings?


HuangKaiVun
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First I lost the shoulder rest, then I lost the chinrest, and now I'm thinking about all-gut strings.

Has anybody tried them?

It was Aaron Rosand who strongly advised that I check out gut strings, though he had Eudoxas at the time. I think I'd like to try strings that aren't wrapped with metal and see what the response is like.

To my old-fashioned ears, the recordings of yesteryear feature a different kind of technique than that exhibited today. I vastly prefer the softer and yet more resonant sound produced by such strings - as well as the increased agility and accuracy demanded of the players that played them.

The last time I tried all gut strings, I was

impressed by how easy it was to get around on the neck. There's a different kind of traction that takes place on gut as opposed to metal, obviously. On the other hand, one has to REALLY play in tune to make gut strings sound.

Do any of our own Maestronet sponsors sell all-gut strings? I'd order from them out of loyalty to our board.

Otherwise I'm going to order strings from Damian Dlugolecki (profiled in "Strings" Magazine).

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HKV -

Try 'em! They're great fun on violin, 'though I think the viola needs overspinning. My advice is to buy a few extra e- and a-strings at first, since they break often. Also, the Pirastro Chordas are much better than the LaBellas (duh).

I had a good experience with them, but I don't play violin often enough to get more than one or two uses per set.

Good luck!

Altgeige.

[This message has been edited by altgeige (edited 07-17-2001).]

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I think it would be fascinating to play with such strings...I'm using Olivs, now, and I like them very much. I would like to try all-gut strings, as my violin is very loud, and I think it would be amazing...By the way, HKV (I know these questions could seem rather silly, but I'd like to have an answer, because I'm pretty ignorant...) why do all-guts demand more than metal-wrapped? And why playing in tune becomes more important?

Marco

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Dear HuangKaiVun

I am a fan of yours since I have been reading about your dedication and high level of skill playing the violin. (do you have any mp3 files on line so I can listen to your playing?) I am a late in life student now beginning Suzuki book 4 and with a wonderful teacher for the past 5 years. A few years ago I heard Monica Huggett give a master class in our city where one of her subjects brought in several violins with gut strings each tuned to various string pitches to play the Biber Mystery Sonatas. I fell in love with the music and the sound of the gut strings. So now, my "best" violin is a 1740 J Bland model with all gut strings. I can only tell you that it is without a doubt the most enjoyable experience to play. This link will lead you to the source for gut strings that I highly recommend: http://www.macsolve.com/aquilausa/

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My experiences with gut strings is limited to all gut on a Baroque violin. The difference in the neck angle reduces the overall string tension. I don't think the strings would fair so well on a modern violin at the higher 440. I do recommend using a baroque bow with the gut strings. The heavier tip of a Tourte style bow tends to make the gut strings squawk. And nobody likes a squawking violin! It is also my experience that the strings need a little more of a "shove" to get the sound going. It is a whole different animal! I prefer it.

It is amazing, I work on the Sonatas and Partitas on the Baroque violin and switch over to the modern one and it's a breeze! It's like training with weights.

Yes, the strings are and always have been made of sheep gut. I'm not sure where the term catgut came from.

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"I work on the Sonatas and Partitas on the Baroque violin and switch over to the modern one and it's a breeze! It's like training with weights." - very well said. There is much "steering" that needs to be done with the bow when using all gut strings. I use a transitional baroque bow with the gut strings but my violin neck and set-up is modern style. I will leave the strings at 1/2 step down from 440 as this has always seemed about right to me - like 440 would be stretching it too much. Thanks for your input on this dmgardner.

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Why should unwound gut demand more agility and accuracy than either wound gut or synthetics?

You definitely get a tonal difference with wound gut vs. synthetics for different degrees of getting the bow 'deep' into the string, but arguably this is sound production technique that is valid no matter what you play.

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Wound strings offer a precise surface that gives a more regulated, reliable and predictable response to the bow hair being drawn across it. A varnished gut string is irregular in it's surface shape and in it's organic makeup and wants to be "romanced" into producing sound and even music if you have the steadiness to persist. With gut strings I know of one performer at least who has stopped his performance and offered a refund or raincheck on a to be announced future performance because his "strings were behaving badly."

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I just spent a week at an early music workshop and changed my d, a, and e to gut strings. I also played w/out shoulder rest (with difficulty!) and had the opportunity to try out a Baroque violin and bow.

Back home (with modern violin and shoulder rest) and given my interest in early music, my teacher has encouraged me to keep the gut strings for a while and explore some Telemann fantasias along with my other studies.

With a modern bow hold, I'm finding an increased "crunch" factor, especially on sustained notes on the e string. This seems to be alleviated when the hand is further up the bow, in Baroque fashion. I also experience more difficulty with vibrato--it feels "stickier" (on the positive side, no more black fingertips!).The gut strings are a much mellower sound and work well when I play Baroque duos with recorder; they also invite use of the open strings. I have noticed that after not much practice time at all, my e is already frayed; I imagine it doesn't like the vibrato I've been adding.

[This message has been edited by fofancy (edited 07-17-2001).]

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I play exclusively on all gut strings and a Baroque Violin and bow at Colonial Williamsburg. I have been using strings made by Damian Dglugolecki for years now. I chose the varnished ones as they hold up better in the humidity and playing conditions of Williamsburg. I have been VERY disapointed with the large name strings. Gut strings have a definite shelf life and I have never had a big-name e-string last longer than a few days. Damian's last for months sometimes. I have all unwound strings except for the g-string. I found through research that wound G's were pretty common in the 18th century. I usually change my e's about every 2 weeks, my a's every month and my d's and g's last about 2 to 3 months. I would love to change them more often, but the cost is prohibitive. I use a Pirastro gold g-string since they are a bit cheaper than Damian's. The sound is great overall! Check out the sound files on my website. www.davidgardner.net

P.S. I vary my tuning from 415-440 all the time, and the strings hold up fine.

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HKV has heard my opinion before but I’ll put it in public just for fun. Synthetic strings are a late development and as a violin returnee they amaze me. When us old folks were kids, all that was available was gut and steel strings, only fiddle players used steel, and gut came in a variety of quality, some really bad. I don’t really miss them but I haven’t played on unwound gut since about age 10.

If you go natural then you want quality and you want to buy them from someone who sells a lot of them. Gut strings go bad in storage. As far as I know, the low quality gut isn’t on the market anymore. I would lean toward buying Piastro Chorda’s from Shar on the theory that they are a large seller so they should be fresh. If there is a firm specializing in supplies for Baroque players they would be a good bet. Gut is easier to tune and you will get lots of practice tuning them. The feel of the bow on the string with an unwound gut string is different. Maybe you will like them.

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Wow. Nice site. Enjoyed the Flora Macdonald .wav file but was not able to access the historical page. I will be attending our local Highland Games this weekend to attend the Fiddle workshop, ralley and watch the competition. My question has always been that the workshop is held at 440cps but I have always tuned the gut strings to 1/2 step lower so I have always only used my modern violin at the event. If your experience is that you can tune the gut strings to 440 with no appreciable loss in string life or quality or other damage then I should give it a try.

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I use all gut on my classical setup violin (I use this one also for baroque as there is so little difference between baroque and classical set up). It certainly has a different feel to wound strings but a feel that I like and feel comfortable with.

I also prefer to use Dglugoleckis. The only thing I don't like about the natural gut strings is their relative reactivity to humidity/temperature. I enjoy the luxury of not having to retune synthetics on my modern instrument every few minutes. However I guess there is a good and a bad to everything, so there's no use complaining. I wouldn't consider not using gut strings or playing only modern setup because of this.

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I have had VERY bad luck with Pirastro Chordas. I don't know if they were old or what, but I have literally never had a Chorda e' last longer than one week. I love the Pirastro brand, but I just cannot recommend the Chordas.

I understand the comment about the strings not behaving. I can usually tell when the relative humidity is changing drastically. My strings just don't sing like usual.

Has anyone noticed how difficult it is to get the d'-string in tune? It can be a bear sometimes.

I find that the varnished strings fray alot less than the unvarnished.

Another note, if you have trouble holding the instrument, try resting the instrument on the collar bone WITHOUT touching the instrument with your chin. If you do have to clamp down on the instrument, for instance to shift down from a higher position, try placing the chin on the e-string side instead. (here begins the chin-on, chin-off debate!) smile.gif

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