Semi-wound gut strings are first mentioned in an advertisement published in the book “Introduction to the Skill of Music “by John Playford
, published in 1664.
“Advertisement: There is a late invention of strings for the Basses of viols and violins or lutes, which sound much better and longer than the common gut string, either under the bow or finger. It is small wire twisted or gimped upon a gut string or upon silk. I have made tryal of both, but those upon silk do hold best and give as good sound. The best choice of these strings are to be sold at Mr. Richard Hunts instrument-seller at the Lute in St .Pauls Alley near Pater Noster Row. FINIS “
There is enough evidence to deduce that the use of this type of strings was quite widespread and took on special relevance in the incorporation of new grave orders in Renaissance and Baroque instruments.
From an organological point of view, the analysis of the bridges of those lutes that have survived to us reveals that the holes for the bass strings were too small to allow the use of pure gut.
Also the musical iconography reveals that the basses of many instruments had a very different color to the pure gut, from dark red to brown, even blue!
Anna Rosina von Lisiewska
BERLIN 1716 – 1783 DRESDEN
AN ALLEGORY OF HEARING
Although there is still some room for speculation about the technique used to make these strings: either the semi-wound (a metallic thread wrapped in the heart of the gut, not wrapping it) or perhaps the overload of the gut, by impregnation with oxide ferric (which gives it that reddish color that we can see in some paintings of the time).
In any case, the objective of these techniques is the same: to increase the density of the string, thus achieving a lower gauge than that which would result in an equivalent in pure gut.
Anonymous dutch painter (1st half of the 17th Century)
Detail of the strings, where you can see reddish strings.
The result is a brighter tone and a faster response than a pure gut string of the same gauge, which is also confirmed in treatises of the time, which describe the sound of the bass strings as having long duration and lush acoustics ( see Mersenne ‘Harmonie Universelle’, Paris 1636; ‘The Mary Burwell Lute Tutor’, 1670 ca.)
Later, at the end of the 17th century, the generalization in the use of wound strings (gut wrapped in copper or silver wire) led to the abandonment of these techniques for making strings for the basses.
Already today, the widespread use of wound strings places us in an interesting paradox for the historicist musician (should strings that are not really typical of the time be used?) And also a derived acoustic problem (how to solve the imbalance that occurs between the wound treble and bass registers?).
Anonymous dutch painter (2nd half of the 17th C)
Detail of the reddish basses of a 12-courses lute
In Cuerdas Pulsadas we have incorporated Gamut’s excellent semi-twisted strings
. These strings are made by Gamut Music with a braided copper wire, wound around the gut, and smoothly polished.
The semi-wound gut is intended for the practice of Renaissance and Early Baroque music in a pure gut tone.
The gauges of semi-wound gut strings are measured by the equivalent diameter system. This means that the indicated gauge is equal in weight to the same gut gauge, but the actual diameter of the semi-wound string is smaller, due to the added weight of the metal.
For example, a 1.50mm Gamut semi-wound gut string has an actual diameter of 1.10mm. And it should be used to replace a 1.50mm sheer gut string.
sources: Gamut Strings
, Aquila corde