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Instruments: What to do if there is no vegan alternative?


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Hi vegan brothers and sisters,

 

I have kind of a problem: I'm dreaming of starting to play the lute. But the problem will be, that some parts of this instrument (and instruments in general) are from animal sources: The frets are from cow or sheep guts, the glue for many instruments (classic guitar, for example) contains bone or fish meal, and even the German flute (is this really the english word for this instrument?) potentially contains some fish skin (I can't imagine but I read it somewhere on the net).

 

I know that everybody has to make his own decisions but if you really dream about playing an instrument, what would you do?

 

(The only way I could imagine would be to ask somebody to build you such an instrument but this would be really expensive (if possible at all).)

 

Regards,

 

GoW

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If you were me then you would play that lute to the best of your ability, honoring the animals who made it possible. If more people treated animals and animal products with some reverence, the world would be in better shape.

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I agree, go for used!! Are you sure its really sheep gut? I know when my sister played violin the strings were called catgut but it wasnt real catgut, it was wholly synthentic. (Yes I did freak out when I heard the word "catgut" the first time...!) Maybe talk to some expert lute-ists and see what advice they have?

 

-Andy

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No vegan can avoid traces of animal products 100% of the time--it's just that when given the choice between an animal product and alternative, we choose the alternative. Vaccines use animal products, car tires use animal products, hitching a ride in a friend's car with leather seats uses animal products--but we'd be going over the top if we strictly avoided all those things. If you can't find an alternative, what else is there to do?

 

Go for it, it won't affect your karma. But if you really worry that it will, donate some money to the sheep at a farm sanctuary to balance yourself back out

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Wikipedia:

Strings were historically made of gut (or sometimes in combination with metal), and are still made of gut or a synthetic substitute, with metal windings on the lower-pitched strings. Modern manufacturers make both gut and nylon strings, and both are in common use.

 

With frets, you have to buy new ones some day as they tend to fray in use, but there seems to be a nylon alternative to this one as well, though it says that:

Given the choice between nylon and gut, many luthiers prefer to use gut, as it conforms more readily to the sharp angle at the edge of the fingerboard.

 

So I guess that besides the glue the other parts are okay. Or am I wrong?

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Of course I asked some people who know about it so I wrote some eMails to some luthiers yesterday. Here is what I got so far:

 

It is no problem to build a lute free of animal components: Gut strings are played rarely nowadays because there are better alternatives (I have to add here that the frets of a lute are normally from gut strings, too. Who ever has seen a guitar could probably not imagine but on a lute you have to knot your fretboard by yourself .

You could also take nylon strings for knotting your fretboard but they can cut in the wood of the neck as another lute player I asked told me).

 

The glue is more problematic: Animal glue can be removed by the use of wetness. This is especially important for later maintenance: If there are any repairs, it is not possible to remove a synthetic glue to open the body of the lute so the parts that have to be repaired have to be destroyed. So it would be better to use animal glue. But in general you could use a synthetic glue instead of animal glue.

 

Its also about tradition: One luthier told me that he is able to build a lute in the same way the medieval luthiers did because he can build his lutes without the use of any electrical device since animal glue can be melted on alternative ways.

 

So in general, it's no problem to build a lute without any animal component: There won't be any loss in sound, for the luthier it would just mean a higher effort in building such an instrument, there is a risk when it comes to repairs and the price could go up or go down what depends on too many components to make a general statement.

 

I think we have enough knowledge about building vegan lutes now so that we can start our own vegan lute company ...

 

Perhaps I have to mention that in general if you want to play the lute you have to find a luthier or an used instrument since an exotic instrument like the lute is not build in mass production. So it's something different than buying a cheap guitar if you think about starting to play. I think getting a cheap guitar without the use of animal components could be kind of difficult.

 

As an anecdote aside: One of the luthiers told me that 20 years ago he had a similir request and built such an instrument: One customer who had to move to the tropical rainforest for scientific researches asked him to build such an instrument without animal glue. To their surprise there was no difference in sound in comparison to his other instruments.

He has no idea of repairs for this instrument: His customer is in retirement now and still plays on the same instrument and is still comfortable with it.

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Of course I asked some people who know about it so I wrote some eMails to some luthiers yesterday. Here is what I got so far:

 

It is no problem to build a lute free of animal components: Gut strings are played rarely nowadays because there are better alternatives (I have to add here that the frets of a lute are normally from gut strings, too. Who ever has seen a guitar could probably not imagine but on a lute you have to knot your fretboard by yourself .

You could also take nylon strings for knotting your fretboard but they can cut in the wood of the neck as another lute player I asked told me).

 

The glue is more problematic: Animal glue can be removed by the use of wetness. This is especially important for later maintenance: If there are any repairs, it is not possible to remove a synthetic glue to open the body of the lute so the parts that have to be repaired have to be destroyed. So it would be better to use animal glue. But in general you could use a synthetic glue instead of animal glue.

 

Its also about tradition: One luthier told me that he is able to build a lute in the same way the medieval luthiers did because he can build his lutes without the use of any electrical device since animal glue can be melted on alternative ways.

 

So in general, it's no problem to build a lute without any animal component: There won't be any loss in sound, for the luthier it would just mean a higher effort in building such an instrument, there is a risk when it comes to repairs and the price could go up or go down what depends on too many components to make a general statement.

 

I think we have enough knowledge about building vegan lutes now so that we can start our own vegan lute company ...

 

Perhaps I have to mention that in general if you want to play the lute you have to find a luthier or an used instrument since an exotic instrument like the lute is not build in mass production. So it's something different than buying a cheap guitar if you think about starting to play. I think getting a cheap guitar without the use of animal components could be kind of difficult.

 

As an anecdote aside: One of the luthiers told me that 20 years ago he had a similir request and built such an instrument: One customer who had to move to the tropical rainforest for scientific researches asked him to build such an instrument without animal glue. To their surprise there was no difference in sound in comparison to his other instruments.

He has no idea of repairs for this instrument: His customer is in retirement now and still plays on the same instrument and is still comfortable with it.

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