Problems with wound gut strings

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by Adrian Cho, Jan 29, 2005.

  1. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    As many of you know, I have used the Pirastro gut strings for a number of years now - both the Olivs and the Eudoxas. I did try the Pizzicatos and the wound Chordas (A and E) for a very brief time too but most of my time has been with the Olivs and Eudoxas. Currently I'm using a Chorda G (unwound gut), Oliv D, Eudoxa A, and a Superflexible (non-gut) E. I am very happy with the sound and the response of this setup.

    Over the years, I have had several situations where the windings have become separated from the gut cores. In some cases the windings would just spread apart but in other cases (or eventually), they would become totally separated from the cores. In these cases, the outer windings (the silver or chrome-steel bands) would sometimes be entangled with the thin copper wire that is normally underneath.

    I think the first time this happened, I lost an entire set of strings. I had to leave my bass in my office for a few weeks while I was moving house. I was not able to get to the bass for days at a time, and the humidity was very low in the office. I believe, that the cores shrunk and because I could not detune the strings, the windings were separated from the cores. That set (Olivs on the top and Eudoxas on the bottom) was totally unusable. Pirastro did replace the entire set.

    Since that time, I have been diligent about detuning my strings to ensure that they would never be tuned over pitch. I would detune them below pitch if I expected to be away from the bass for more than a day and if I expected the conditions in the room to change. Also, I had been playing the bass in one location and then brought to another and left it there immediately, I would detune the strings since I would expect them to be affected as they would become adjusted to the new room.

    During all this time, many other people, including a number of players here in Ottawa, have told me they have had the same problems. In many cases, their strings fared even worse than mine. I have always thought that avoiding the overtuning was the way to avoid problems.

    Last week, I had to get my fingerboard dressed. When I picked up the bass, the strings were not at pitch - quite flat. My luthier remarked that the strings had been going flat all day. When I brought the bass home, I started to gradually tune up the strings. At one point I heard a snap. I looked done and saw that the windings on the Eudoxa A were really badly separated at the bridge. At first I thought perhaps they had snagged on the bridge but I am quite sure this did not happen as the groove is well rounded and lubricated. The windings on the Oliv D are also separated in two places between the bridge and tailpiece. The A now has an annoying buzz.

    I am not sure exactly what happened. The only thing I can surmise is that the strings did not like being in a state of zero tension while the fingerboard was being dressed. I don't know if perhaps oiling the strings before putting them back on might have helped. I don't know exactly what the strings were exposed to at my luthier's shop. It was unusually warm in there when I dropped off the bass. I did not tell him specifically not to overtune the strings but I know he knows not to do it and in this case the strings were very flat anyway when I got the bass (which would seem to correlate with the warm, slightly humid conditions in the shop although it was not as warm in there when I picked up the bass two days after I dropped it off). I must admit that there might have been some minor separation before I dropped the bass off. In any case, I am sick and tired of this expensive problem even though apart from my first major experience, I've been pretty much problem-free.

    I started to investigate other alternative sources for gut strings. I am not at all interested in using any synthetic strings as they just don't do it for me. I am most intrigued by the strings offered by Dan Larson (Gamut Strings). Especially as he offers copper wound strings that are polished so that the windings are smooth and also offers a range of gauges. He also offers silver-plated windings which are roundwound. More importantly he also offers a rewinding surface which basically gives you a new string at a fraction of the cost (you can do this about three times as they have to tie a knot each time so the string gets shorter with each rewinding). Interestingly, I described the problems I've had with the Pirastro guts and Dan says this is a problem with all wound gut strings on the bass.

    The only thing is that most "real" gut string manufacturers do not offer wound D strings. The standard thing is to offer unwound G and D and wound A and E although sometimes they offer unwound A strings too. Dan says he tried making a copper wound D and it didn't work well. The Oliv D is my favourite string. And it works beautifully with the Chorda G (or an Oliv G). I tried the Chorda D (unwound) and found it quite dead sounding although that was on my previous (deader sounding) bass. I also prefer to have a D that is not thinner than an A.

    Although I do live in a city where the climate ranges from really hot and humid in the summer to very dry and cold in the winter, I really do make a lot of effort to minimise the effects on the bass and the strings. Perhaps in the end I will be forced to give up on gut strings because of this problem - that would be sad. Or perhaps I just have to face the fact that the life of the string is defined by when the windings come apart and not when it starts to sound dead. Dan Larson says the gut core improves over time so that a rewound string should sound just as good if not better. Hopefully that option will ease the pain to the pocket.
  2. Sorry about these hassles w, the wound guts Adrian, I had to post as I am using Olives on a big bass of mine [G and D] and I love the sound ,but have noticed them going crazy in pitch from day to day.Sometimes real sharp ,sometimes flat.
    Yesterday I noticed on the G string that the windings are separating half way up the string.Am I haveing a simarlar problem? I have the string oil Pirastro sells and put some on the 2 strings last night.Prolly to late, but is this commion w. the dry weather or is it quality control on the part of Pirastro?
    I hate spending big bucks after only 2 monthes of haveing the strings.I think we have a common problem here and its to bad its on thier most expensive string!
  3. Francois Blais

    Francois Blais Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 1999
    Québec, Canada
    Although I love the Oliv G's tone, I stay away from gut for the reasons Adrian and yourself are giving.
    I think it's not unusual to get this behaviour from wound gut.
    The core doesn't react the same way as the metal windings are.
    I also live in an area with drastic weather changes, and this is a nightmare with gut strings.
    Forty or fifty years ago, gut strings were the most popular and quite affordable, but today, they're so expensive that we have to get other alternatives.
    Fortunately, today we have more choices than ever before.
    Many choices in steel strings, but also in synthetic cores; Obligatos, Sensicores, Innovations, Velvets.
    Did you try some of them?

  4. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    Unfortunately this is the same problem. There are other players in my town that have the same problems too. I really thought I had solved my problems by detuning the strings. However I think the truth is that once they are installed, they really do not handle excessive deviation in tension whether it is up or down. If you have not taken the strings off as I did when the fingerboard was dressed, I would suggest that you monitor your tuning so that they do not go over pitch due to changes in the environment between playing sessions.
  5. I have tried all the synthetic choices except Innovations.I use Obligato's on my other instruments,but this particular bass is very bright and sustainy even for Obligato's.
    The Olives have been the best choice for the top 2 strings on this instrument.I may have to go back to plain guts,except the arco thing goes out the window.

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    I gave up on gut strings for those reasons, as well as the intonation problems associated with them. I can't afford to replace an Olive G twice a year because the windings separate and eat my fingerboard(and hands!) up. It could very well have a lot to do with the climate we live in. I am still looking for the right string. For now I am back to Obligatos.
  7. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I have had zero problems (tuning or breakage) with the Velvet Garbo guts and I even do slapping with them, but I seem to recall you had already tried and not liked them.

    The very fact that your set consists of four different strings suggests you are way pickier than I would ever be :bag:
  8. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    I haven't tried the Garbo but I played on the Animas for a while. The unbowable G on the Garbo rules them out for me anyway. I need a set that I can play both Baroque and jazz on.

    Despite all the problems I am absolutely still sticking with gut but perhaps I will stop using the Pirastro guts. Next time I change strings I will try the Larson strings.
  9. Francois Blais

    Francois Blais Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 1999
    Québec, Canada
    The Innovation braided solo-tuning G I have on right now is the closest to an Oliv G I know. And once it's stretched, it's stable.

    When did you last try the Sensicores?
    They have been completely redesigned.
    I got a used G a few years ago.
    It was very thick, with an aluminum wrap.
    Tone was dead.

    The new one I bought last year (or two years ago?) is thin like a steel G, and sings!
    Obligato fans should try these strings, IMO!
  10. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    I've had similar problems in the past using Eudoxas and Olivs. They would either unwind after a while at the bridge or somewhere over the fingerboard, or both. This was bad because after a while they would cut into the fingerboard on my bass, and eventually I had to get it redressed.

    For a while I was using Chordas for the E, A and G string, and a plain D from Lemur, the brand was Efrano I think. I used the Velvet Garbos for a while too, but eventually switched back to my previous set up.

    Right now I'm using Pizzicato's for the E and A, and the D and G strings (plain gut, with loop ends instead of knots) were made by Damian Dlugoleki ( The Pizzicatos get that same kind of growl that the chordas give, they stay in tune far better than any gut string I've used, and they seem like they'll last for a while. The D string is a little dead but does the job. The G string is a dream.

    As far as bowing, I love the sound of plain gut bowed, which I know a lot of people can't stand, but I think it's a beautiful sound. If I played in an orchestra, which I have in the past (using steel strings), I would probably switch back though because guts just don't project the way steel strings do.

    Has anyone tried the Jargar Dolces? They're supposed to be the closest to gut sounding steel strings out there.
  11. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    I love my Chorda G even with the bow. The buzz on my Eudoxa A has settled down and is not giving me much trouble now and the state of the windings on that string and the Oliv D have not deteriorated any further. However at some I suspect these strings will die. I'm planning then to try Dan Larson's G and D with a Superflexible A and E.
  12. classicalband


    Feb 18, 2005
    hey there,

    Larson Gut is very good.

    i play on gut by dlugolecki strings. I am very happy with the two high strings d and a ( i play tuned in fifths) and i usually use a wound gut Low G by damian as well. For a while I had a wound Gut low C on. amazing sound but slow response.I have found that they last a long time when maintained and work great for Bow and pizz. I should mention that Damian has always been helpful in altering diameter, tension etc.

    He recently sent me a new type of wound gut Low A for viennese tuning. double twist....or something. very nice.

  13. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    So it sounds like you prefer Damian's strings over Dan's? If so can you explain why? Thanks.
  14. fraublugher


    Nov 19, 2004
    ottawa, ontario, canada
    music school retailer
    it gets extemely dry indoors in the winter in canada.

    dryer than a desert [im not kidding]so a humidifier is needed
  15. Paul Dwyer

    Paul Dwyer

    Jul 31, 2003
    Tokyo, Japan

    I used to use a Superflexible E & A with plain guts on the the D & G. Unfortunately I don't know what make the guts were but for me this was a nice combination in terms of tension, sound and manageable transition from one to the other with the bow or pizz. Had no major maintenance problems.

  16. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    I have Dlugoleki plain D and G on my bass (1939 Kay), and for the E and A I'm currently using Pirastro Pizzicatos. I like the sound these 4 strings get together, though sometimes I wish there were more of a deeper low end comming from the E strings, like how I would get when using Chordas as E and A. I had a used Dominant E and Chorda A on there for a day or two a couple weeks ago, and they defintely gave a deeper low end to it, but the sound was a little less focused than the Pizzicatos.

    The Dlugoleki D is a little dead in certain spots, eventhough I got them not too long ago. I emailed Damian about possible getting a lighter gauge on the D to see if that would make it sound a little brighter and focused, like the G, but he said that it wouldn't be wise to go any lighter than the gauge I got it at (55). I have the Pizzacato Nylon D and G's sitting here, which I'll use after I'm done with the Dlugoleki's, since they cost me an arm and a leg.
  17. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    I thought that the post before this one that I did hadn't gotten posted, thus the redundant post above.
  18. classicalband


    Feb 18, 2005
    hey adrian,

    The reason I like damians strings is mainly due to the sound. I find that they sound great on my instruments. The top strings ( d and a) have always been very responsive to the bow providing both clarity and richness in slow playing and especially fast playing.
    As I mentioned i use a wound Gut G sting down low and have been very happy with it as well. In the winter months the clarity seems to diminish a bit. I have in the past put on a dominant F# string tuned to G at a=415 or a=440 as a replacement.

    I have also found that the high a and d strings that damian makes me are suited for tuning up to 440 as well.
    I know this is not ideal but it works and saves me owning more than 2 sets of gut strings at all times.

    With regards to The Low C. I have dominant on right now. The wound Gut low C is amazing for slow bowing. however the responce for faster work iis limited and pizzinfg can be difficult. for certain things i would use the Low wound Gut C and for other things I would not. I am always experimenting with Low C. strings.

    A far as string life goes. i have never really felt that the sound of damians strings diminish any faster than steel. I will occasionally use almond oil to oil the strings.

    I look forwrad to hearing back,
  19. tsolo


    Aug 24, 2002
    Ft. Worth
    I hate to read this. How much time are you talking about - installed? playing?. I've had a full set of eudoxas for a bit over a year and haven't had a problem. I average about an hour a day playing time. I love the sound. I'd thought about getting another set before they really are unaffordable. Maybe I'll find something else.
  20. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    I think the big issue is the removal and reinstallation of these strings. Everything was fine and then I took the bass in to get the fingerboard dressed and when I got it back and started tuning it up, the windings separated.

    I'm pretty sure at one stage that Pirastro did tell me that the strings do not like being uninstalled and reinstalled.