Strings – a complete guide for the hurdy-gurdy

What strings should I buy? Where can I buy strings? Other string information (tutorials, sound charts, string identification

What strings should I buy?

Unlike a violin, there aren’t many strings labeled “hurdy-gurdy” strings, so we must you strings from multiple different instruments. This page will help you decide which string to buy. Down below you can also find where to buy them.

Always ask your luthier or teacher which brand of strings they recommend for the instrument first, they will always have the best insight on which strings to buy. Another option is to use our groups page to find other players with the same instrument and see what they prefer.

A note on string length

Always make sure the string is long enough to fit your instrument. Instruments with longer scale length (distance from bridge to nut) may need “long scale” strings. Strings usually end somewhere in the middle of the colored “wrappings”, so make sure that the actual string core goes all the way to the tuning peg.

Here are some popular choices to give you a starting point:

Melody strings

The melody strings, or chanterelles, are played with the keyboard of the instrument. These create the main melody of the instrument. Here are recommended strings for different tunings:

G melody G4 Viola A String
Gut .94 to 1.00mm
G3 Viola G String
D melody D5 Yonex BG65
Gut .70 to .76mm
D4 Viola D String
Gut .97 to 1.04mm
D3 Viola C String
C Melody C4 Viola D String
Gut .99 to 1.06mm
C3 Viola C String

For viola strings, medium tension is a good starting point. Here are some popular recommended brands:

  • Corelli Crystal (budget option)
  • Thomastik Dominant
  • Thomastik Vision
  • Thomastik Vision Solo
  • Thomastik Spirocore
  • Pirastro Tonica
  • Pirastro Evah Pirazzi
  • Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Gold

For gut strings, Savarez and Kürschner are popular brands. Look for Savarez BRH or Kürschner plain gut strings in the proper thickness. For Savarez, if you are looking for a .97mm string – “Savarez BRH 97” is what you are looking for. You can find string from other good brands like Aquilla or Toro in the same sizes.

For the high D (D5) melody, you can find the very popular Yonex BG65 at any store that sells badminton strings. Not only does the string sound great, but it is extremely durable and 1 pack will get you enough for multiple strings!

Trompette strings

The trompette strings, are strings that are strung over a buzzing bridge, aka chien/dog. These create a drone note plus the buzzing rhythm of the instrument. Here are recommended strings for different tunings:

C4/D4 Trompette Gut .84 to 1.10mm
G3/A3 Trompette Gut 1.05 to 1.25mm

For gut strings, the go-to strings are Savarez and Kürschner. Just like melody strings, look for Savarez BRH or Kürschner plain gut strings in the proper thickness. For Savarez, if you are looking for a 1.09mm string – “Savarez BRH 1.09” is what you are looking for.

If you don’t want to use gut strings, you can use fluorocarbon or nylgut of the same thicknesses. Look for harp or guitar strings. Some makers use nylon, but it is very stretchy and may not sound as nice.

Drone strings

The drones, or bourdons, are strings that only make a single note, without being affected by the keyboard. Drone strings seem to be the most complicated to pick out. It is highly recommended you talk to your luthier before trying your own strings. With that said, Here are recommended strings for different tunings:

C3/D3 Bourdon Savarez BFC 360/422/442 or KFA 500/530
Cello G
G2/A2 Bourdon Savarez BFC 640 or KFA 890/934/1300
Cello C
C2/D2 Bourdon Savarez BFC 11408 or KFA 1474/1850
Cello C

Cello strings come in different cello scale lengths, from 1/8 being the shortest, and 4/4 being the longest. Make sure the string fits from tailpiece to tuners. Talk to your luthier about what they recommend, and be careful buying high tension strings as they can break or damage your instrument!

Here are some brand recommendations if you are unsure:

  • Thomastik Dominant – most popular
  • Thomastik Spirocore
  • Thomastik Alphayue

Another option for drone strings, you want wound gut strings. BFC for copper wound gut, or KFA for silver wound fluorocarbon (synthetic gut) strings. These strings are listed by weight as opposed to diameter, with higher numbers being heavier. Once again be careful with high pressure strings, if you are experimenting it is best to start with low weight/pressure so as to not damage your instrument.

Check out the NRI string shop’s “Hurdy Gurdy Strings” section for ideas. Alternatively check out Neil Brook’s KFA string guide. Sergio González Prats recommends BFC 360 and 640 for C3 and G2 drone strings in his article, so these could be a good starting point as well.

Once again, check with your luthier to see what they recommend first! Do not try to add strings to instruments that do not fit the weights the maker designed it for. You can damage the instrument by putting an extra heavy drone on or trying to pitch up a string that isn’t meant for the instrument.

Make sure you find the correct length or you might end up with the winding past the bridge. Windings can be short or long depending on the maker and the instrument. Longer instruments (cello) have a longer winding which might be too long for the available space from the attachment point to the bridge. ALWAYS ASK THE MAKER.

Where can I buy strings?

North America (NA)

United Kingdom (UK)

Europe (EU)

Other

  • Turkey – Kürschner Strings – Gut strings (Produces strings on order, takes a while but brand new)

Other string information

String tutorials

String Sound Profile Charts

If you’d like to research wound strings yourself, or just feel like experimenting, below are some excellent resources you can use to discover the different sounds and functions of various string profiles.

String Identification Colour charts

Sometimes you like a string that needs replacing, but have no idea what string it is. These links may help you find out!