Technique: Gut strings on double bass


Bassist Rob Nairn on getting to grips with gut strings on the double bass for historical performance

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Starting to play on gut strings on the double bass is likely to come as a shock to students used to contemporary performance; even the most experienced modern-bass players are likely to encounter difficulties crossing over, whether they are playing on historical instruments or on modern instruments strung with gut strings.

Playing on gut strings is quite different from playing on steel. The strings are a lot thicker and coarser, and they are affected by the most minute changes in temperature and atmospheric pressure (usually related to humidity). Pitch stability, even with open strings, can sometimes be challenging. Gut strings are also super-sensitive to changes of bow speed; excessive speed will just cause them to squawk…

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