View Full Version : Cat gut vs nylon strings for baroque sound

Dec-07-2006, 7:22pm
Gut vs nylon

When stinging a modern mando for baroque music can you use nylon stings as opposed to gut strings for similar tonal quality

Juststings.com says

"Flamenco and classical guitars were originally strung with three treble strings made from the dried intestines of sheep. These strings were labeled "cat gut" and sounded rich and sweet but weren't very dependable or strong and lost their tone very quickly. Andres Segovia persuaded his friend, Albert Augustine, a string maker, to use a plain nylon developed by Dupont to replace the first three gut strings."

Dec-07-2006, 9:02pm
On classical guitar, I don't know anyone who uses cat gut anymore. Nylon is more reliable and consistent.

I don't know about baroque music, though -- but if people use catgut, I suspect it would be purely a "period music should be played on period instruments with period strings" thing, rather than anything else.

Jim Garber
Dec-07-2006, 11:16pm
For those who want to try gut strings on mandolin -- usually you would use them on what we in the classical board calle mandolino, 6 course instruments tuned more or less in fourths, not fifths -- check out Gamut Strings (http://gamutstrings.com/).
Here is Daniel Larson's (http://www.daniellarson.com/mandolins/mandolino/mandolino.htm) mandolino page.


Dec-08-2006, 12:10am
Yes, gut is almost exclusively the domain of period performance, but it's still used, even on 6-string guitars...sometimes even by me. #I can recommend a mess of recordings of gut on guitars.

There's no way I would string a modern mandolin built for steel in gut. #If you want to string a mandolin in gut, get one built to be strung in gut. #The mandolino to which Jim referred and for which Vivaldi, Scarlatti, etc. wrote was tuned mostly in fourths: [g]-b-e'-a'-d"-g". #The 4-string mandolino Cremonese and mandolino Bresciano were built for gut in typical modern tuning: g-d'-a'-e". #Even the earliest versions of Neapolitan mandolin (i.e., the immediate ancestors of the modern instrument) used gut e" strings because wire that could consistently tolerate tuning to e" at that string length wasn't easy to come by yet.

Catgut doesn't have anything at all to do with cats. #There is some debate regarding the origin of the word. #A couple stories I like are that the word was derived from 1) kitgut, kit being archaic for fiddle or 2) was an abbreviation for "cattle", which was an archaic reference to any ruminant such as the sheep whose intestines made for decent musical instrument strings. #Yes, gut sounds quite a bit different than nylon. #Nylon has a great deal more sustain, especially in higher overtones. #Plucked gut has a really warm, somehow softly percussive, immediate tone with a rapid decay.

Juststrings.com's summary on gut strings is simplified to the point of not quite being useful.

Dec-11-2006, 11:33am
I have 2 instruments strung with gut. I tried several of the synthetics- nylgut, nylon, etc. and find gut to be distinctly different.
I have gotten 4 years+ of playing before I broke a gut string. Prices are reasonable. The only reason not to use them would be ethical issues I guess- then again the synthetics are petroleum based and no doubt there are ethical issues there too.

( the instruments have 5 strings... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif )

Dec-12-2006, 12:41am
Gut-strung banjoists are a rare breed. You're cool, JG! I use Aquila's Nylgut sometimes too. I think it has a sustain and decay very similar to gut, but as you've observed and in spite of Aquila's claims, it's tone quality isn't as "fat" and warm as gut. Nylgut seems much more trebly to me than the real thing. I tend to wear fine gut much more quickly than four years, especially the e" strings on an early Neapolitan mandolin played with quill.