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.

One Tip: no matter what brand you use, tune them down at least a tone overnight to prolong their life.

Latest Update 31st August, 2022:

My favourite guitar gut strings are made by Damian Dlugolecki of – but Damian is heading towards retirement and has slowed down his output. Consequently his strings are hard to get hold of.

Wild Gut Strings

But recently a new string maker has stepped up to make astonishingly good guitar trebles, and they have a great and memorable name: Wild Gut Strings. They are based in Switzerland: – however, they are having technical difficulties in making lute and guitar strings, and they have discontinued them for the present. I hope to hear more positive news from them soon.


Damian Strings by Damian Dlugolecki

If you can get hold of Damian strings, then they are certainly worth considering. 

Damian claims his string can 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, @ 440 pitch:


Bow Brand

The plain unvarnished gut from the UK-based harp-string specialists, Bow Brand are about the least expensive good gut string, but they are not made with guitar players in mind. 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:

The strings are ground and polished smooth, which might please nail players, and I have to say I prefer a little roughness to the touch, to get some traction between flesh and string. These strings have surprised me, though, by lasting over six months. The quality of production is excellent, and when purchased in 12-foot lengths, are as economical as nylon equivalents. Recommended.

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.


The latest incarnation of the Aquila Gut and Silk guitar set has varnished trebles. I was sent a review set, and to be honest I wasn’t happy about the varnish, but I put them on my teaching guitar, which I use five days per week, and to my astonishment they have lasted two years! After a year no traces of the varnish could be found. They are a nice string for nail players, or very patient flesh players!

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 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.



Bass Strings

There are only two types that I use, both manufactured by Aquila: Seta and Rayon. Seta are made with REAL SILK – they have a muted, soft sound, but are prone to break overnight when you are sleeping! You must tune them down overnight. Rayon are the bio nylon equivalent of the Seta strings. They are also muted – not as much as Seta – and last a lot longer. My current set have been on for two years…and counting!

177 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

  8. Hello Rob. Good to see you are recovering and I send my strongest wishes that you continue. If you have the time and the energy to offer some advice…

    I have been playing on the Aquila Ambra 800 since 2017 (I had to go back and search the older comments) and have them on three guitars. I was lucky enough to acquire an actual 19th century instrument – probably French as the label names a man who was importing violins from France to the US and was active around 1860-75. It is obviously a student level guitar (oak back and sides, wood nut, no binding) that had at least one rough period in its life including steel strings, but still functioning. I won’t bore you with the details, but I did a LOT of work on it and remedied its many abuses and learned a lot in the process. I have to push the treble a little harder than my 20th century copy(Panormo-ish, fan braced) but it still has a voice.

    I just ordered a set of Aquila gut and silk 800 to try out, and since you have way more experience with swapping strings around, in your opinion would it be better to try them first on the more balanced guitar (which is also longer scale – 630mm vs 610 for the old girl – which should make later transfer easier/possible) or just jump in to the 19th century feet first? I recognize you don’t have the instruments in hand and limited information, but this is too long as it is. Any observations would be greatly appreciated.

    All the best and more,



    • Hi Robert. Just use the 800 set, then tune them to where they feel right – it doesn’t matter which pitch, unless you are playing with someone else. Either guitar will do. Really, there is an open field here, with no rules. Just experiment, then cogitate on your findings 😉


      • Wow. That was fast! I thought that the “you just have to try it and see” approach was it, but just wanted to check with someone who’s been through this more often. Thank you very much!
        Now, back to the Giuliani studies……….


  9. Hi Rob. I have a Cordoba C10 cedar top parlour guitar, 630mm scale length, 50mm nut width. Which Aquila nylgut trings would you suggest for playing Tarrega style music – Ambra 800 perhaps? Many thanks, Richard.


  10. Hello Rob,

    I’m very interested in trying to apply Pujol’s method of tying silk bass strings using a piece of gut string, I watched your video on Youtube and I saw the explaining picture on Aquila website, and it seems quite clear actually, but I’m struggling a little moving from theory to practice.
    Did you upload a video somewhere that shows ho to do this knot? There’s some kind of step-by-step instructions on your website? Thank you very much.



  11. Hi Rob, I just ordered Aquila gut and Silk 900. I saw your video on tying the basses on the Aquila website. Is breakage of the basses a huge issue if they are tied on “normally”? Or is the Pujol method the best way to go? Also, I’ve recently purchased a longer scale guitar, 660mm, and I’m wondering if you have a tuning suggestion for longer scales. You seem to be one of the few people with experience on gut and silk and I’m hoping you can provide a bit of guidance. Your website is fantastic and thanks for encouraging those of us who play without nails.


    • Just a quick reply, Paul. The new Gut & Silk 900 comes with varnished trebles. They will last a lot longer. I’ve had them on my teaching guitar for 16 months! I just tie them on normally. The Pujol method is for strings that are too short to reach the tuners. For 660mm I would tune to Eb or even D. Start with D, see how it feels. Good luck. Rob. PS Zoom lessons available if you have more questions. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rob, thanks so much for the reply. I recall that you used to have a “tip jar “. I can’t find a link, and I would love to contribute to the continuation of your site.


    • Hi Rob, just wanted to share my experience with the aquila 900 gut and silk. The trebles sounded fantastic. They were warmer sounding than I thought they’d be. The set I got didn’t have issues with intonation. They tuned well and stayed stable. My only complaint is the slight squeak when playing, which disapated after a couple of weeks. I didn’t get the same longevity as you. I got just shy of 3 months. The bottom of the e & b strings wore down at the frets and thee e string stared to unwind. The basses also sound great. I like the aquila rayon 800 &900 basses, and the gut and silk sounded better. The cost for aquila is a bit prohibitive. I had to order from Italy and ship to US. I have found another company on the east coast of the US which offers 3 different tensions as well as varnished and unvarnished versions, Gamut strings. I have them on now and unvarnished is my preference. The Gamut strings intonated better than the Aquila. Thanks for the encouragement, and I wanted to share with anyone else who wants to play gut strings. Cheers, Paul


      • Cheers, Paul. Very helpful for my readers. I’ve never tried Gamut strings, but would love to. Shipping to the UK is prohibitive, unfortunately, but I’ve heard great things about them.


      • Hi Rob, I hope all is well with you. A quick question for you and anyone else using gut. Do you have problems with the e string fraying. Of the 3 different brands I’ve tried, Aquila, pyramid and Gamut I start to get fraying after a week to a month. The best luck I’ve had is with a varnished string from Gamut. The Pyramid e has frayed after a couple of weeks. The varnished e from gamut will make it a few weeks before it frays, which is better than the other companies. I don’t mind the fraying, but it starts to audibly buzz. I’m using light tension. thanks in advance


      • I use Gamut unvarnished. Play without nails. Switched to heavy gauge on e-1 string and there is less breaking and fraying. I still use light on b and g. I actually like the tone of the heavy e string better as well. Been playing with this setup for a few years.


      • Hi Paul. I’ve switched my allegiance to Wild Gut Strings – no fraying in two months’ of daily playing. Unvarnished, high-quality gut. And I prefer 392 pitch (D for the first string). The trebles sounds great with Rayon basses.


  12. I second the recommendation of Gamut strings, as I have used them for several years now. I use heavy unvarnished on 1st string, and light unvarnished for second and third. Prices are good and they have periodic specials. Last for months. Good tone and no intonation issues.


    • Thanks for the reply gentlemen,
      I decided to try the medium gauge from gamut. I’m hoping to get better longevity out of them. The b and g have been no problem, they still sound great after a couple of months. I’ll see if a bit heavier string works. David I like the idea of heavy gauge for the e. I too play without nails. Ill see how it goes. Rob I’ll look up wild gut, maybe someone in the states will carry them.


      • Hope the Gamut medium gauge works for you. I used medium for awhile, but was still having issues until switching to heavy for e string. I tune to 440.


      • Not so expensive considering the 3rd string will last maybe two years, the 2nd maybe 8 months to a year. The 1st, like most 1sts, might last a week to six months. Mine has been on for two months now, and played every day. There are no problems with it at all. Best strings I’ve had.


  13. Hi Rob.

    Thanks so much for this wonderful resource. I’m about a month into a no-nails experiment. So far I’m finding it really rewarding (if incredibly frustrating at times). Now that Damian Dlugolecki is no longer an option for gut strings do you have a recommendation?
    I have been playing Nylgut (Ambra 2000 – low tension). They are very nice but I would love to take the plunge into the real deal. Looking at your above reviews, it seems like Bow Brand is currently your only recommendation?
    Would be really grateful for your thoughts if you have the time.


    • Hi Martin. It’s a big problem. Bow Brand are a UK company, so their strings are not too expensive for me. I use them a lot, but they have been rubbed very smooth, which is okay, but I prefer them a bit rougher, which is better for finger control. Aquila 900 Gut & Silk are a good set, but the treble strings are varnished, which I don’t like. They do, however, offer single plain gut strings for the same gauges: 100 (g) 82 (b) 64 (e). The reason they have started varnishing their 900 set is to entice nail players: the varnish gives some protection from the string. They sent me a set 20 months ago to try out. I put them on my teaching guitar, which I use every day, and they are still on it! And after about a year, all the varnish wore off. They are now wonderful strings. Depending on the student, they could be tuned a tone down or a semitone, or at standard 440 pitch. I think all that tuning up and down (including DADGAD!) has aided their longevity. That’s my thoughts now. Cheers, Rob


      • Thanks Rob – really appreciate your guidance. I’ll see which are available to me and start experimenting 🙂


  14. Hi Rob,
    I have a question about sting tension and what steel string guitarists call action. I recently switched from a regular scale 650mm to a short scale 630mm guitar because I have very small hands, and it is easier to reach the frets horizontally. I have been using Savarez New Cristal Corum 500CRJ strings, which I think you previously recommended. From what I understand, short scale guitars require less tension for strings to be in tune and are designed with a higher action (distance of the strings above the frets) to avoid buzzing on the higher frets. However, I also like to play some fingerstyle jazz, and I prefer a lower action on the high frets if I can get it. I wonder if the Savarez 520B low tension strings can provide a happy solution. If not, I know a good luthier who can lower the action, but I prefer not to go that route if lower tension strings might solve the problem. I appreciate any insight you can offer..
    John Stroman


    • Sorry, John, I have no idea. In my experience how the guitar was set up and constructed can affect the tension required to get a singing note, and therefore every time I get a new guitar I have to experiment with different strings to get the best result. Thankfully guitar strings are relatively cheap, so the outlay is not so bad, and you might get lucky first time. I also play at a lower pitch, which changes everything. Good luck!


      • Hi Rob,
        Thanks for your quick response. I ordered a couple of sets of the Savarez white card. The diameters are considerably smaller than most normal tension strings. I also tuned down a half tone, and that seemed to make some difference but it is too early to tell. If I get a favorable outcome, I’ll let you know.


  15. Thanks Rob, the Savarez white card feel great! I’m a new player and was inspired by you to play with flesh. I’m grateful to be starting off on the right foot, not having to worry so much about fingers slipping off treble strings!


  16. Hi Rob,
    Just wanted to say thanks for the great advice, I’ve just put a set of the 520Bs on my Alhambra, tuned to Eb at 430, and its sounds better than ever before. I’ve been playing Lagrima for years but it’s never sounded so good!


  17. Rob, I would like to try gut strings. Available for me is Aquila 800 and 900 gut and silk. Do you have a recommendation for me? The guitar is a Nico van der Waals from 1962, spruce/maple. A light construction with Brazilian fretboard. Scale 650mm. Torres bracing.


    • Hi John. If your guitar is lightly built, I would suggest the 800. But first of all tune them down a tone, with D on the first string. Then over the course of a few days start tuning them up. I find around 415 to be good. Any higher, and you run the risk of breaking the first string. Also, before putting them on, take an old 4th string, and rub it back and forth through the bridge holes of all the strings, and also the nut grooves. This will lesson the chance of the strings getting torn there. Good luck! Rob


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