Gut core strings were the original strings used on all orchestral string instruments. The earliest evidence of gut strings was the discovery of an Egyptian Lute dating back to 1500 BC. The metal windings used on today’s strings were not developed until the time of Stradivarius in the mid 1700’s.
Known for their rich warm and nuanced
tone, gut core strings set the standard that
all other strings are compared to.
Gut strings are made from a natural material (typically sheep intestine) and are prone to stretching as well as temperature and humidity changes.
Gut strings are very time consuming to make. It takes about one year to properly cure and stretch a gut double bass string.
Gut core strings are commonly used by professionals and amateurs who appreciate their unique sound and timeless beauty.
Gut core strings are popular with Baroque, orchestral, and studio musicians on the violin, viola and cello.
Plain gut G&D strings are also commonly
used by Jazz, Rockabilly, or Slap bass players.
Solid Steel Core
First introduced around 1900 solid steel core strings were developed to provide better tuning stability and faster break in time than gut core strings.
Solid steel core strings are known to have a superior tuning stability and very easy or quick bow response.
Solid steel core strings are constructed using a single strand of steel at the core with one to six outer windings or wraps.
Most solid steel core strings are relatively easy to manufacture and are popular with beginners as well fiddlers.
Most modern professional cellists use solid steel core A&D strings.
Almost all popular violin E and viola A strings
are either plain or wound solid steel core
Stranded Steel Core
First introduced around 1950 stranded steel or rope core strings were developed to provide better flexibility and a wider variety of tonal possibilities than solid steel core strings.
Stranded core strings are made by using multiple strands of steel that are twisted like rope to provide different tensions. The more the core of the string is twisted the greater the flexibility. The variations in the twist give strings a different feel, tone, and bow response.
Different multiples of steel strands can also be used to vary the tone and feel of a string.
Some strings use as many as seven strands while others use as little as three.
Depending on construction stranded core strings are played by beginners as well as professionals.
Stranded steel strings are most commonly used by professional double bassists and on the cello G&C strings.
Nylon core strings were first introduced in the 1940’s as a mono filament classical guitar string.
The first orchestral nylon strings were introduced in the1970’s and were developed as a professional alternative to gut strings by providing better tuning stability and breaking in time.
The core of the string is made up of multiple nylon filaments which makes the string usable on bowed instruments and more flexible than stranded steel core strings.
Nylon core strings have the playability and are more similar in tone to gut strings but are not prone to temperature and humidity changes.
Nylon core strings are used by beginners as well as professionals in all styles of music and are most commonly used on violin and viola.
Advanced Synthetic Core
Advanced Synthetic strings were introduced in the mid to late 90’s. This new synthetic material was originally developed by the aerospace industry to resist heat and friction.
Advanced synthetic core strings have the playability and a tone that is closest to gut strings combined with the tuning stability and break in time of a steel string.
The core of an Advanced Synthetic string is stranded similar to a Nylon string and its improved durability makes it possible for string makers to provide players with an even wider variety of tonal possibilities.
Depending on construction Advanced Synthetic strings are very popular with student and professional musicians in all styles.
Advanced Synthetic core strings are commonly used on violin and viola but have also gained popularity with hybrid style double bassists.
The metal windings or wraps are used on every core type and provide the string makers ways to customize the tone of individual strings.
Manufacturers can change the tone of a string by using different metals or alloys for the outer windings.
Heavier or dense metals such as silver or tungsten are used to create a warmer tone with greater projection, while lighter or less dense metals such as aluminum or nickel are used for brighter tones.
Nickel – An inexpensive alloy primarily used on solid core strings.
Chrome steel – Also known as stainless steel is a durable metal which is used in some form on almost every string instrument set.
Aluminum – Light and bright sounding metal used mainly on violin and viola A&D strings.
Silver – Dense and warm sounding metal primarily used on the lower strings of the violin, viola, and cello.
Tungsten – Dense and powerful sounding metal mostly used on cello G&C strings.
Titanium – A light alloy usually combined with silver on viola and cello strings.
Gold – Heavy and warm sounding metal used on higher end violin and viola strings also used to coat violin E strings.
Multiple layers of flat or round wire are used in the construction of stings. Violin strings can have as little as two layers while bass strings can have up to seven.
String makers can also affect the tone and bow response by polishing or not polishing the flat windings of strings.
Damping materials are typically found between the core and the outer metal windings of a string. They are used to control the amount of harmonics or overtones a string produces.
Traditional materials used for damping included silk and cotton thread.
Synthetics like nylon have also been used as damping material on more modern strings.
Most recently newly developed liquids have been used for damping strings.
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