Early Guitars and Vihuela

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I have LaBella vihuela strings on my 56cm string length instrument, tuned i A. But I have alsways felt that the strings on the 6th course were dull and lifeless. Well, I thought there was nothing to do about it, and that this was natural for such a small instrument. But today I replaced them with Pyramid strings meant for the 5th course of an 8-course lute, and this made a huge difference, the sound became crisp and full of life. Therefore I am interested in good advice regarding vihuela strings from other members of this forum.

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I would like to bump this question back into the light and ask other vihuelistas out there what strings they are using. I'm experimenting with strings on the vihuela I finished building last summer and would like to know what other folks are using.

So far I have used Labella Renaissance Vihuela strings (unison set) which are ok, and by far the most affordable option. I just received a set of gut from Bob at Sierra View Acoustic Instruments and I haven't tried them yet, though I was planning on saving the "real thing" for recording. I cobbled together a set of Savarez Alliance KF"carbons" using an online string calculator for the gauges. I'm not at all impressed with them. They are essentially fishing line. Clear, slippery and sound like plastic. I don't get the suposed improvement over nylon there. Nylon, carbon, still sounds like plastic to me.

I emailed Curtis from Aquilacord (US distributor) to order a set of the new "brown" Nylguts, but I haven't received them yet, so if anyone is using them, please chime in.

An additional note regarding string prices: There is a huge range of prices out there for strings. I just bought a set of gut from Sierra View Acoustic Instruments for $51.22. This is an all gut set for 6-course vihuela 60CM string length.

A quote for Nylgut from the only US distributor for Aquila is $51.90.

My old standby of Labella VLG1A (nylon trebs, wound silver basses) is $8.65 from Elderly Instruments, $17.38 from Juststrings.com, and $24.50 from Labella!

I haven't tried the guts yet, but if they are good, the only reason to go with nylgut would be for longevity, I guess.

As far as the Savarez "carbons" I would just buy fishing line. It's much cheaper. I think "carbon" is just a marketing thing anyway. Carbon is black. Carbon fiber is black. These strings are crystal clear. I think they are in fact fluorocarbon, like....fishing line. I may be wrong, but they behave and sound like it to me.

For cheap everyday practice strings, I will stick with Labella VLG1A from Elderly.

Mark, this was interesting. It's good to have several options.


I once broke a first string and had no extra strings.  Since there is just no way I could get a thin nylon string in here, I plugged the numbers for fluorocarbon in the equations.  Got the right diameter and went to buy fishing line.  It looks terrible, but it sounded  pretty much the same as the usual nylon strings. It feels weird on your fingers, though.

I use fishing line on the first course of my lute. It's great but don't get the "invisible" stuff. I used it once and kept thinking my first string had vanished...threw me right off.


Nah, just kidding. But I do use fishing line and did do a little research a while back to find that the better brands of fishing line are using the same formula as many instrument strings and appear to maintain equal , often better, quality control measures. Those serious fishermen don't take it too kindly if the "big one" gets away because of flawed line.

What gauge strings did you get for each course of your 60 cm SL?  Yeah, I'll fess up...I'm new to all of this...


-Adam C.

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He gives the diameter of various brands of line of various "lb test", which in the States anyway, is how they gauge fishing line.

I once read somewhere that all nylon string is manufactured by fishing line manufacturers (nylgut excepted I'm sure) and that musical instrument string manufacturers obtained their stock from them and ground it down  or "rectified" it to various diameters we use for strings. I can't vouch for this, I don't remember the source, but I would not be surprised if it were true. An amazing profit margin when you think about it.


Juan, I felt the Savarez "carbons" felt weird to me too. They felt like fishing line. Kinda slippery. That was why I was quite disapointed after paying over $3 per string when I could buy a 25 ft spool of fishing line for each of the first three courses and have a lifetime supply!

Virtually all of the nylon and flurocarbon strings from named string brands are fishing lines. They just measure and select, or rectify the fishing lines to make them into guitar/lute/vihuela strings.


By the way, the string tension could be way too high if you would string a 56cm instrument with gut and tune to A.  If "A" is 440Hz. 

The website of Bernd Kürschner has suggested stringing for many instruments. He has an example list for a vihuela in a=440, with a 60 cm stringlength, here: http://www.kuerschner-saiten.de/english/start.php?spr=e

He gives gauges for nylon, gut and carbon. There is also a baroque guitar stringing on the site somewhere that some of you may find useful. 

Maybe that is helpful as a starting point.


I have new nylgut, and put the 6th bass in Savarez KF (to avoid metallic strings) and the result is quite good. Close in touch and sound to real gut strings.


I am a lautenwerk maker and have used the fluorocarbon strings as an alternative to gut.  They do have a metallic brightness not found in the real gut.  I recently discovered a simple and easy way to knock down the brightness so that the strings sound nearly identical to gut.  I put a real gut right next to one and I could not tell the difference. Get some "Cork Life" from Birkenstock.  It is used as a finish for cork and dries soft and rubbery.  What I do is apply a somewhat thick globule very near the vibrating end of the string at the bridge end.  Let it dry an hour and buld up the glob some more.  2 or 3 applications and it will sound like real gut when dry.  If you don't mind the feel of the fluorocarbon, this is a much cheaper way to go than the nylgut. 

     I also use Cork Life to tone the brightness down on the copper-wound strings.  Here you apply a thin layer to just 1 or 2 inches of the string.  I have been using the Zaya-Ruzo copper-wound strings and liked them so much, I am taking over the business.  If any of you would like to try these strings, I could send some free samples.  Go to www.lautenwerk.com and print out the calculator to select the size. 

That might work on a lautenwerk where each string only sounds one note, but on a fretted instrument it will affect the intonation, I would think...


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