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Choosing Strings: Gut

Gut Strings

Gut strings provide warm, rich tone quality, and complex, colorful sound with the plentiful overtones produced when played. Gut strings come in either plain (pure) unwound gut, or as a gut-core string wound with metals. They come in various gauges and can vary greatly in volume and response, depending on the instrument they are strung on.

Plain (pure) gut strings (unwound) are used on stringed instruments with Baroque set-ups (the E, A, and sometimes D strings on violins; the A and D and sometimes G of violas and cellos). Occasionally (but rarely), a player will use pure gut on the upper strings of an instrument with a modern set-up. Jascha Heifetz used plain, unvarnished gut A and D strings (and a Goldbrokat steel E-string)! He believed that a player could develop a more individual sound using gut for the middle strings.

Wound gut strings (with aluminum or silver) are often used on the lowest strings of instruments with Baroque set-up, and are used on instruments with modern set-up by players seeking the deepest, most colorful effects from their instruments. The volume of gut strings depends on the instrument they are strung on. While quiet on some instruments, on others they can actually create a more projecting sound than synthetic or steel-core strings. The brands differ in response and tone and come in different gauges or tensions. Experimenting with different gauges on your instrument can be very illuminating.

Chorda by Pirastro for Violin, Viola, Cello and Bass. Chorda sets include plain, or pure, gut strings with a mixture of wound gut core strings. These strings are often used on instruments with Baroque set-ups for the upper two strings. Some Baroque players use wound gut core, like Eudoxas or Passiones, for the lower strings while some Baroque violinists also use the plain gut D Chorda rather than a wound gut D.

Eudoxa by Pirastro for Violin, Viola, Cello and Bass. Dark, mellow, and warm wound gut core strings with a slower playing response than Oliv. These strings are not as projecting as Oliv or Passione on most instruments. They come in several different gauges for each string. The violin D and G strings arevoften used with a Baroque set-up.

Gold Label by Pirastro for Violin, Viola, and Cello are reasonably priced wound gut core strings with a very nice, balanced, and rich tone midway between the other Pirastro wound gut strings. The violin steel Gold Label E string is popular for its brilliance, we use it to create the JSI Special Violin Set.

Oliv by Pirastro for Violin, Viola, Cello and Bass are moderately brilliant sounding wound gut core strings with rich and complex overtones due to the low tension. The most popular wound gut string before the introduction of Passione, they are at once brilliant, beautiful, and warm. They come in different gauges for each string. Professionals often mix and match the Olivs with other strings on their sensitive instruments to find a particular balance of sound.

Passione by Pirastro for Violin, Viola, and Cello are wonderfully full, round, sweet, and warm-sounding wound gut-core strings with plenty of projection. Passione strings have a very colorful, dynamic sound and are an instant way to warm up any instrument. The pitch stabilizes quickly and in fact faster than any other gut core string. They are offered in thin, medium, or thick tensions. These are considered the best violin, viola, and cello gut strings for tone quality and pitch stability.

Passione Solo for Violin by Pirastro have characteristics similar Passione wound gut core strings but with more depth and focus for the soloist. Slightly less colorful and complex than the Passione strings on some violins, while on other violins they are equally complex with additional projection.

Next Section: Steel-Core Strings

Notes About Strings

  • The most popular strings are the mid-priced synthetic-core strings.
  • Using gut-core strings can warm up an instrument instantly; the Passione brand stabilize in pitch very quickly compared to other gut-core strings.
  • Players often start with the medium gauge or tension of strings (when offered a choice) to see how their instrument responds to the manufacturer's generally balanced tension, before experimenting with different gauges and tensions.
  • If you have remaining questions about which strings might be best for your instrument, please contact us and we will be happy to help!

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Additional Resources

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A charitable foundation whose goal is to provide high-quality instruments to children who live in under-served communities and who are participating in El-Sistema-inspired programs in Massachusetts.

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