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How to tie on gut frets?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by stefaniw80401, Oct 12, 2016.

  1. stefaniw80401

    stefaniw80401 Supporting Member

    May 18, 2004
    Evergreen, Colorado
    A couple questions about gut frets on a double bass viol:
    1. What size gut to use?
    2. Do I need to raise my nut and/or bridge to accommodate the frets?
    3. How to tie them on?
    - Mark
  2. If you don't get a better answer earlier, I can measure the fret gut diameter of my cello-sized violone (D-violone but would have been better strung as a G-violone) on Saturday when I'm back home and can also take a picture.
    Sometimes there are horizontal holes in the fingerboard or neck to put the fret gut through, but sometimes the frets run over the back of the neck (which needs better fixing).

    You need to raise the nut. Maybe also he bridge, but it might work without doing that.

    If I take a picture, you can look there or check close-ups pictures of viols.
    I think you would get a better response with that in a viol forum...
  3. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON

    This is a website by an early music teacher of mine. There is a section on tying on frets, and a link that shows a diagram of the knot that is typically used for gut frets that are tied around the back of the neck. Typically you tie it on the neck a little higher up (lower in pitch) and then push it down to where you need it to be so it is in tune. With a little practice it isn't that difficult, and a little bit of paper or a match stick under the side of the knot can help to tighten a fret that is a bit looser than it should be.

    As for the material used, some people have fret gut and some people use an old gut string from a higher pitched viol instrument. I think there are a few different takes on what diameter it should be based on period, country, and current practice.

    If you are "converting" a modern double bass that is set up with relatively low string height, you will likely need to raise the nut and the bridge a bit. If you have bridge adjusters that part is easy. Depending on how permanent of a change this is going to be you could have a new nut cut for your instrument, or you could put a shim under the existing nut. Sometimes if you are going from steel strings to gut strings the reduction in tension is enough to raise the string height enough, but not everyone is that lucky.
    Ortsom likes this.
  4. BTW, you could also use monofilament nylon that you can get cheap, either for your first experiments or to keep permanently if you are not too picky about the original period way.

    Since length is not an issue with nylon, you can start with the first fret, knot on the side opposite your left hand and run the fret string down on the knot side to the next fret position, sling it around and behind the part that was running down and proceed to the next position. That way you only need two knots, one at the starting position and one at the end.
    A gut string from a tenor/bass viol or cello might be to short to do that up to the fifth, but I may be wrong.

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