Strings that "do not bow well"
I am yet another one of those EB players looking to make the leap into URB soon. I will surely get a teacher (and an URB) as will surely be recommended here. But in the mean time...
As I read through volumes and volumes of threads, I see constant reference to the degree to which strings bow well, do not bow well, or are simply "unbowable".
My question is:
Is any string truly "unbowable"?
Specifically, if I were looking to play almost exclusively jazz/pizz styles, but I still wanted to bow for practice, would even the most bow-unfriendly string still be bowable for that?
Or, are there strings that truly cannot be bowed even for this kind of practice?
It's more like how difficult it is to draw a good sound consistently out of a particular string. I can bow the Velvet Blues, for instance, but getting a consistent sound on every note is harder than with many other strings. Some strings are harder to start than others. Plastic wrapped strings are evidently very difficult to bow from what I've read. If you want to use the bow, get a string that is known to work at least decently in that capacity. You'll have a better experience.
Some naturally screech or just have a hard time trying to get it to sound decent. It's like the string or bass fights back. My Jazzer A reminds me of that.
Velvet Garbos are obnoxious to bow on, but by no means impossible.
Yeah, I agree with what being said. I have Goldenslaps right now, and they bow, just not as easily or richly as steels like the old spiros they replaced. They get really screechy up the fingerboard, but are ok for some practice, kinda a Paul Chambers sorta sound. I want to try black bow hair to see if that would help.
On the other hand, I can't imagine them working in an orchestral setting, they wouldn't "blend" in a section where everyone is using a dark, steel, bow friendly string.
OK, all good input. While it sounds like I could make a noise using a bow on pretty much anything, perhaps it's more pragmatic to go with something more bow friendly in the early days. I can always switch later if my needs change.
Of course, this is really related to the oft-asked question: "what are best strings for a beginner".
After much talkbass trolling, my best estimation is that something like Spiro weichs or mittels might be a good starting place for almost anyone with my jazzish aspirations, i.e. not the very best string for bowing, but good for pizz and perfectly suitable for my modest bowing needs.
While I really love the sound that the pros get from their Animas (or any string, really!), I have doubts that that is a good place to start. It sounds like that might be inviting some unnecessary trouble at the start.
Since I live in Chicago, I guess I have to buy Mr. Hochberg coffee now :) You other guys are out of luck ;)
I'd say get the spiro weichs and call it a day. They bow well, last for years and years, are easy on the hands, pizz great, and sound good on many basses. Others will probably chime in for mittels, its a preference thing. Either way, you can't really go wrong.
Or, if you buy used and the bass comes with decent strings, you could just use them. I think the most important thing for someone new is a good setup by a real luther as opposed to a spiffy string.
+1 for Spiro Weichs. They do bow well, as in you can get really good results, but not easily, as in it's fairly tricky to get those good results. This is a good thing for learning the bow... a fussy string means you'll be getting all the details right.
Hmm, interesting: If I get a string like Spiro Weichs, then I have to be extra focused to do it right, thereby leading to good bow technique. However, if I get strings that bow like butter, then I'll just be spoiled and lazy.
Another interesting factor: The Spiros will get better and better arco as time goes on, which is common for pizz strings that start off bright. Also, basses warm up and become more "open" with frequent arco use. So you, your bass, and your strings will be getting better over the course of the first year!
OK, with three posts in this thread JayB has earned a coffee as well, so next time you are in Chicago...
Spiro Weichs are "arcoable", but Spiro Mittels are definetely not for arco. First, too much bright, second, it is scratchy. Period. And they are thin, not very comfortable under the bow.
The statement that you have to be extra-careful and extra-focused to bow it right, therefore achieve a better technique, that's a half true and half lie. True,you're gonna get a better technique, but only for this string that requires a specific bow pressure.
If you get any other string you're gonna need some time to adopt the technique for that string, and that's it. I think there's no magic, to get a decent arco you have to spend a lot of time with the string you will choose.
My recommendation for the best hybrid, which has both pizz and arco wonderful sound and feel: Eva Pirazzi Weichs.
No, they don't last forever like Spiros.
Spiros can do everything well and they last forever. Find the gauge that makes your bass sing and go for it.
I would agree that spiro weichs work well enough for arco. You can always experiment with other G strings if you want a richer sound for higher notes. Evah Pirazzi weichs are a good match tension-wise for spiro weichs and sound good plucked too.
Someone mentioned Golden Slaps earlier. I really like their pizz/slap sound but took them off my bass because of the screechy arco sound higher up the G. In the end though I got a second bass to string with Silver Slaps. :)
I think one thing to keep in mind when folks say a string like Spirocores or plain guts or what have you sound "scratchy" is that this is the way the person playing (behind) the instrument hears it and not necessarily the way it sounds to the listener (out front). I've had others bow my Kay (plain Gamut gut D and G) and when I stood out front it actually sounded quite nice and clear/clean. It's like when a soloist is playing some Bottesini or Koussevitzky.. to their ears there might be a degree of non-musical/part of the piece noise being made (be it through string changings or slight scratches here and there that might occur in the heat of the moment) but the audience doesn't hear any of them, only hearing the voice of the solo part.
Spirocores are can be very unforgiving when it comes to playing them arco, but (IMHO and IME) a combination of time the strings spend on a bass (more time = better and better) as well as time focused on really getting one's bow technique together (a good bow with good hair helps too) eventually tames what at first seemed so difficult to do. Strings like Spiros have very little dampening material built around the core, which is why they are pretty bright (especially brand new or in the first few months, depending on how much playing in they get) and why they might not be the best choice for section playing (strings meant for that purpose tend to have a good deal more dampening built in).
I would not suggest nylon covered strings for the OP's request. They can be bowed but it's not easy and can be very frustrating for casual/part time arco study. The core material doesn't matter as much as the outer windings for the bow.
I currently have plain gut / silver wound gut and it is not as easy to get a consistently decent arco sound as the flatwound steel covered strings I've tried but they're the best overall strings for my needs.
The best pure arco string I've tried are the Passiones... but gut lives on my bass.
All Spiros are bowable, my faves are the Solos at standard pitch. I'd agree that the lighter gauges are initially better sounding for arco, but once mittels get broken in they're fine, and they'll last until the next millenium.
Gut is very bowable but requires somewhat different technique than steel -- generally a lighter touch and faster bow speed.
Synthetic-core like Evah Pirazzi and Obligato are good for arco, but they don't last as long as steel strings, and don't like being repeatedly put on and taken off basses.
As Jeff said, the ones to truly avoid (although not completely unbowable) are the nylon covered strings -- Innovation Slaps, LaBella Black, Golden Spiral, Supernil, etc. Aside from not taking the bow well, they produce a very "hollow" tone. I'm also not fond of Velvet Anima for arco, and Garbo is worse.
If you're really arco-serious, the best strings are orchestral strings like Pirasto Flexocor, Thomastik Bel Canto, D'Addario Helicore Orch, and others. Usually these are disappointing for pizz though.
There's no free lunch!
Given the limitations of my mac speakers, I thought both videos sounded pleasant enough for arco, although I almost never listen to bowed music, so I am listening with no reference.
I thought the pizz on the weichs sounded pretty good, but the mittels were a mixed bag: clicky, but with a nice full sound afterwords.
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