Help! Which strings do I need? Part 3 – Gut core strings
So, we finally come to the original gut strings which have been used for centuries – plain old gut strings. Traditionally these are made from sheep or cattle gut. Up to the beginning of the 20th century only gut strings were played, and even now they remain popular with many musicians. There are two kinds of gut strings – unwound or simple solid gut strings such as Pirastro Chorda, and then gut covered, overwound with some kind of metal. Unwound strings are mainly used today with period instruments, for baroque music. Quite often, too, we have been requested to supply raw gut strings for Hurdy Gurdy players at medieval functions!
Wound gut strings are, however, still used by many players today who have a preference for the rich and full sound they offer. To a large extent gut core wound strings have overcome the perceived disadvantages of plain gut and much research has gone in to achieving this end. That said, in years gone by the Pirastro Eudoxa was our fastest selling string for Violin, which is not the case today.
Musicians that prefer gut core wound strings will give the reasons that they stick to them, viz; Rich and full sound with overtones and colour not found with other strings; Warmer and subtler when used on basically loud instruments; Useful for older more valuable instruments and available with different tensions.
The older perceived disadvantages such as break is time, have to a large extent been overcome by the modern windings. There is some evidence that they react more to change of temperature and humidity and have a shorter life span – but the better tone makes up for any such problems. The most popular strings are Eudoxa, Passione, Pirastro Oliv and Gold label.
Disadvantages of gut strings:
- Usually more expensive than synthetic or metal strings
- Take longer to break in
- Can be affected by chanegs in temperature and/or humidity
- Shorter life span
- Less sound volume than most synthetic and metal strings
Advantages of gut strings:
- Period (baroque) instruments
- Instruments that sound loud or sharp by nature
- Musicians looking for a lovely warmer, more colourful sound