Anyone ever try authentic gut strings?

Choice of classical guitar strings and technical issues connected with their use.

Anyone ever try authentic gut strings?

Post by sgr215 » Sun Mar 21, 2010 3:02 am

Out of curiosity has anyone ever tried gut based strings such as those used before nylon came around? Considering these were the only strings used up until the middle 20th century I'm curious how well they actually sound compared to nylon strings. So, has anyone given them a try? If so, how's the sound quality and how long do they normally last?

You can find them online but they are incredibly expensive when compared to nylon strings. I'm bored though and wouldn't mind trying them out even if it's only for historic purposes unless it's a waste of money of course.


Re: Anyone ever try authentic gut strings?

Post by RBIsaacs » Sun Mar 21, 2010 10:47 am

I tried gut strings ($21.95) because I wanted to compare them with the Nylgut strings ($10.95) made by Aquila. The two were startlingly similar in sound, both to the ear and in waveform.

If you have nails, you should expect gut strings to last nearly a week. I am given to understand that if you don't have nails a set of gut strings could last twice that.

Nylgut strings, which do nick, by the bye, are likely to last you as long as any other string. I find I need to change strings roughly once a month, independent of the string.

Both gut and Nylgut are very bright, which make them particularly attractive to beginners, who, as a rule of thumb, are not yet sophisticated in their hearing. As always, for beginning (and many or most intermediate) students, trying different strings is little more than a hobby, rather than anything actually fruitful, and they would be better served with neutral strings. At the moment I use D'Addario EJ45 Pro Arte strings ($5.99), which are as neutral as they get.


Re: Anyone ever try authentic gut strings?

Post by edwardsguitar » Sun Mar 21, 2010 5:36 pm

The best gut strings I've used come from Boston Catlines, a string business run by Chris Henriksen. He sells them in packed coils, you get about 3 strings from each coil and they run around $30 a pack; so you're looking at $90 (or $10 a string) or so for a set of trebles. There's no question they sound wonderful (to me, of course this is always a subjective issue) and more interesting than nylon. Nylgut doesn't work as well for nail players because they will sound a little raspy; similar (although better) to those wound trebles that Savarez makes. If you play with nails I recommend the varnished gut; they last longer and resist the wear and tear of the nail better. Unless you play too hard and break one they will last quite a while. What happens is they will start to shred where your nail contacts the string most often. The famous Tarrega poster shows a coil of string at the head stock (esp. the first string); when the string starts to shred you simply unwind the coil a little so that you have a fresh point of contact on the gut and retie it. They, at least the strings Henriks sells, have a very sweet sound; vibrato is more effective too for some reason. If you're a performing musician they are not so practical, because they can break, and they are pricey. The main issue I see (apart from price) is that the modern player has developed a very strong right hand technique because the nylon strings will take it. Has anyone ever broken a nylon string from using too heavy a rest stroke? However (and now you've got me thinking about buying some again :)), you could just keep a guitar at home with gut strings for your own pleasure.




Re: Anyone ever try authentic gut strings?

Post by BruceAFrank » Tue Apr 19, 2016 8:49 am

I am a beginner, though I am in my 60s. Played when I was a teenager, but life got in the way and I didn't pick up a guitar again until my mid 50s. Last year I bought my first ever gut strings for my Goya G10. The difference between those and EVERYTHING I'd used before was, to me , like night and day. The gut were MUCH easier to fret and I found I could play for hours after not playing for days with no discomfort. The sound of the guitar was what I would describe a mellow but with excellent volume. I play with very short nails, strictly finger contact. Interesting that the strings squeaked as I plucked them from the friction. I could hear it but listeners could not. I, playing only about 5 to 6 hours a week, got one year form my gut strings. The high E broke and I should have tried to reuse it, but instead I set about to find a new full set. I do not remember the brand of this set, and I have had great difficulty finding real gut. A year ago the full set cost me $35. Since the string broke I have spent three times that trying to duplicate the beautiful sound with "gut like" nylon, nylgut, and synthetic gut, all producing rock band sound and some requiring more pressure to fret than steel strings. I see leads here that I will pursue hopefully at a price near what I paid last year. My experimental searching is getting expensive.

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Re: Anyone ever try authentic gut strings?

Post by George Crocket » Tue Apr 19, 2016 2:00 pm

Hi Bruce. Welcome to the forum. Please introduce yourself here.
2010 Stephen Eden spruce/cocobolo classical guitar
2012 Stephen Eden cedar/IRW classical guitar

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Re: Anyone ever try authentic gut strings?

Post by KaiserMatty » Fri Jan 11, 2019 4:46 am

i have used gut strings in the past i bought from Damian Strings. If you want to use them there are a few things you have to consider first. If you want to try them I would suggest just buying the trebles as a whole set gets expensive.

1. The most important thing is never use nails on gut strings because the fibres will tear and they will break fairly quickly. you can get varnished gut strings that give a little extra protection for the strings but always keep your nails trimmed.

2. Wash your hands! even with nylon strings washing your hands before playing will make your strings last longer.

2. Don't tune them to A=440. A being tuned at 440 is a modern thing, in the past musicians would just tune to each other and adjust their instruments accordingly. Gut strings can tolerate that tension but not for very long. I found tuning down a whole step to about A=390 works. So if you want gut strings but want to play with other musicians you will have to be creative.

4. Gut strings are sensitive to changes in moisture where as nylon strings are sensitive to temperature changes. If there is a change in humidity the strings will expand or contract slighlty. You can lighltly oil the strings, Almond oil is recommended as it has a neutral ph.

5. if you see a string starting to fray, nail clippers work great.

You definitely have to take more care with gut strings. i went a few months without them breaking and playing about 30 hours a week.

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