Early Guitars and Vihuela

A network for historic guitars and vihuelas

Hi all...

So where do you go to get strings? And what "brands" do you prefer? Also, how much success have you had with various materials. I have a new baroque guitar, and have already blown out one of the bordones. (Is that Karma, or what?) I need to start thinking of a source for strings... In the New York area, if you know of any.


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First, do you have gut strings or nylon ones in mind. If nylon (which I don't recommend), then the "only game in town" for a quick and easy fix is a set from La Bella (in upstate NY) from their website at www.labella.com. Ask for their String Catalog for Early Instruments from which you can buy ready-made sets in medium or light tension. But getting strings by the set is only good for one's beginning experiments, the gauges are never what they are labeled to be! You need to know the vibrating string length of your instrument, and from there you can calculate the gauges for each individual string or get (from their catalog or elswhere) suggested gauges in order to get individual strings. It takes much experimentation to get the right strings for your guitar.
Once you get experience with gauges, etc., you should try gut strings, which always sound much better, and though more expensive and the thin ones wear out more quickly, are still superior. Try going to Gamut Strings at www.shop.gamutstrings.com to get and idea about gut. Various gauges of lute strings are used to string a baroque guitar properly.
D'Addario is one of the least expensive and fastest ways to get strings. The rectified nylon is about a dollar a string. You can order them online and turnaround is very fast.
There are so many different kinds of strings you have to try things out, gut is the best but does not sound good on all instruments. Only gut will make the right sound on some of the ornaments and articulations. Nylgut is very popular but does not have as accurate tuning--particlarly noticeable in pure meantone--and nylgut does not sound as good as gut, but it is of course easier in other respects.
For professionals who perform under very hot spotlights--not exactly an historical consideration--carbon is more stable under bright light. I recently had a chance to play in Drottningholm under "artificial candlelight" and one of the things that was amazing--aside from how dark it was--is how much more stable the tuning is without the spotlights and heavy A/C wind. If you play with harpsichord, know that as the temperature goes up the pitch goes down; with organ it is the opposite: choose your materials accordingly, or allow time to retune.


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