I have tried a number of brands and sets of strings, to find which best suit playing without nails. I’ve paid for all these strings myself, so I have no relationship with the companies mentioned.

Latest Update 3rd July, 2017:

I must put my cards on the line and say that I think the best gut strings for classical guitar currently on the market are made by Damian Dlugolecki of 

Damian recently improved his strings, and they now tune to A=440, modern pitch, and will happily tune to A=435 for Tárrega. Here’s a video I made after the strings had been on my Simon Ambridge guitar (after Manuel Ramirez) for only 24 hours:

Update to what you can read below:

I’ve very recently tried plain unvarnished gut from the harp-string specialists in the UK, Bow Brand. So far so good. The shortest length they supply is 4ft, which leaves about one foot of wastage, which is a shame. However, they also supply 12ft lengths at a discount, which provides four strings – very useful. Living in the UK, this cuts down on postage and import duty, which is appreciated. You have to write to them (via their Contact page) for a pdf price list, before making an order. Here’s a couple of videos using Bow Brand first (0.66), second (0.80), and a Damian Dlugolecki third string:

Update: These strings have surprised me by lasting over two six months. The quality of production is excellent, and when purchased in 12-foot lengths, are as economical as nylon equivalents. Recommended.


Another piece of news is that Damian Dlugolecki is sending me one or two of his varnished gut strings for comparison. A review will follow. Update: They came. They went. Not for me. However, my cyber friend, Kacper Wierzchos, loves them, and he too plays without nails.


Gut Trebles

My favourite gut trebles are made by Damian Dlugolecki of Damian Strings in the US.


He offers plain or varnished gut. I only like the plain variety. These strings should last a long time, especially when only played with the flesh of the finger tip. They are beautiful strings to touch, and the sound is warm. Recommended. He offers them as single purchases, or as part of a set. However, his basses are modern synthetic strings.

Here’s a video with the three treble strings from Damian Dlugolecki:

La Bella Antique Gut Strings


Available as a gut set, or with modern basses. I tried these once. They lasted a week. Very poor quality compared to those above or below. Not recommended.

Aquila Gut and Silk 900


Aquila have changed their Gut & Silk strings from when I first played them. Initially I liked them, but with recent set, only the basses were useable. The three treble strings were very rough, and had intonation problems. Disappointing . From the Aquila website: “This set which is made with only one degree of tension, riproposes excatly a historical assembling, tipycal of the period of Llobet and Tàrrega by using only genuine gut strings for Trebles and silk’s core wound basses, as it was said by Pujol in the “Escuela Razonada de la Guitarra” of 1934.” Pujol gave measurements for the strings he used, which Aquila have taken for their production of these strings.

One possible downside to using this set is that they cannot be tuned to modern pitch of A = 440. Best tune them a semitone lower. If you like loud, strident, cutting basses, look elsewhere. The basses here are soft-sounding, and with little sustain, but I find them beautifully balanced with gut trebles – I’d say they are the best bass strings on the market at the moment.

Synthetic Strings

Aquila Ambra 900


Aquila have produced two types of nylgut (nylon with some properties of gut), now referred to as Old Nylgut and New Nylgut. This set has trebles made from the Old Nylgut, which is milk-white in colour, and very smooth in texture. That said, the Aquila website mentions New Nylgut, or “Supernylgut®”. The set I currently have is of the Old Nylgut variety. The basses use Aquila’s own invention: Sylkgut cores.

I’d like to say at the outset that I don’t believe that using nylgut is anywhere close to the experience of playing real gut, but it is probably the best alternative we have today. The sound, though, is warm, less bright than modern strings.


Ambra 2000 seems to be an update of the 900 series: “This set was conceived for one grade of tension and consists of -gut coloured Super Nylgut® for Trebles, while for the basses (silvered copper wires wound on Nylgut® multifilament core) we employed a different balance between wire and core in order to obtain warm and deep performances”. The New Nylgut used here has the colour of gut (yellowish). The tuning settles much faster than before. I just wish they weren’t so smooth. With flesh contact, it helps to a little bit of traction. Talking of which…

Savarez Low Tension (“White Card”)


The trebles are ever so slightly rough, not nearly enough to cause a rough sound, but just enough to give good contact with the flesh. They are also much louder than the Aquila brands. When I first put them on, there was quite a bit of noise generated by the right-hand fingers sliding along the string, but as the days go by, that sound decreased.  They have a nice warmth, treble and bass, and the low tension means I can control vibrato better.


140 thoughts on “Strings

  1. Hi Rob, I decided to give a go to gut strings, but Damian strings don’t seem to be able to reply anymore…any alternative suggestion beside Bow Brand? I mean at Damian’s strings level? You say that the Bow Brand are rectified, are the Damian’s not rectified, what is the difference between the two manufacturers, in terms of timbre and feel?


    • Hi Pietro. Sadly, it looks like Damian Dlugolecki is retiring. All gut strings are rectified, or at least the rectification process on nylon strings imitates the roughness of gut strings. Best gut strings now are Aquila Gut and Silk 900. Recommended!


  2. Hi Rob, I have bought bow brand gut string, cut and used one piece,and the question is how to Handle the rest of the string? Do I need seal and place it in the refrigerator?


  3. Good evening Rob,

    I read that with Aquila Gut and Silk 900 I would have to tune the guitar at 430Hz. What strings would you recomend to tune at 440Hz with a Spanish gutiar of 650mm? I play without nails and I want that warm round clean sound.

    Thank you for your wonderful work in your web page and with your videos.

    Best regards,


  4. Hi Rob,

    I really enjoy all of your videos and have recently decided to try playing without nails. I am currently playing with nylon strings and it is definitely different to use the flesh, I think I will grow to like it once I get some gut strings. Speaking of which, is the process for stringing the guitar with gut and silk, or nylgut the same as for nylon strings?




  5. Hi Rob. Lovely and helpfull going through your page. I dont play classical pieces which you do lovely. I have a Taylor NS72 guitar that, since I play folk the majoraty of times, Im trying to find a string that relates to that sound…
    Ive tried different stuff from nylon different tensions and brands and got to Thomastik john pearse.
    They sound close to what I need but the intonation is difficult to get right and the G string has a very weird tension to it …
    Do you have any suggestions to help me ?
    Thanks very much


      • If I may make a suggestion, if you are finding that “weird tension” on the G string unsatisfactory, you might try those D’Addario (spelling?) strings with the optional 3rd that is some harder/stiffer material. I believe different tensions are available. I used to use them when I used nylon strings and 1970’s/ Segovia/ rest stroke technique. Don’t know what they’re like now (since our host showed me that the no nail technique was viable and Aquila made a reasonable approximation of gut available) but I loved them then.


  6. Hello Rob,

    What gauge Bow Brand plain unvarnished gut string do you recommend for the G3 to accompany the 0.80 B3, 0.66 E4 gut strings? Mr. Damian Dlugolecki has retired. I am tuning to A435Hz these days where I can.

    Thank you in advance, Rob.




  7. Hi Rob,

    after trying many different gut strings I admit that you were right, there is nothing that sounds as good as gut, but for me this is true only for quite expensive gut strings, I tried several types and only the ones from a very expensive manufacturer in Italy (drago strings) sounded incredible and way better than the synthetic ones. I didn’t try the Aquila gut though. However because of various issues, I decided to stick with synthetic stuff. So now I have a few gut strings, (3 es from the good make Drago strings) and other used very little or new, can I ship them to you? I am sure they will be useful for you. Please if you are interested just let me know your address so I can put them into an envelope and send them to you.
    …also thanks a lot for your continuous source of inspiration, I am playing Bach cello using your banjo scores tuning the ukulele in 5th like a cello as you suggest, it turns out to be absolutely amazing to my ears. I think Bach as genius as he was wrote the pieces keeping in mind the resonances of the cello tuning, I played some cello suite pieces on my guitar, but on the ukulele tuned in 5th there is something truly magic going on that I can’t feel when I play the same piece on a guitar with standard tuning, i am enjoying it so much!

    Liked by 1 person

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