Dear bass shops, can you split the Red Mitchell 5ths set?

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by MikeCanada, Nov 23, 2013.


  1. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2011
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    I know this is a pretty specific question. I have contacted a couple of shops here in Ontario (most of which don't even know a bass can be tuned in 5ths, who Red Mitchell was etc.) and they look through their computers and find out they can order them, as a full set. Is there anyone out there selling individual strings from this set? Most specifically, the low G? I used the whole set for a pizz recording project and it worked nicely for that, but I really don't like the top two under the bow.

    There are a ton of options for the other three strings. D's aren't an issue, and almost every set by every manufacturer has a Low C/B string, with solo sets (high A) just about as common. My bass doesn't do well with a solo F# tuned up to a G. I've tried several of them, and they all sound/feel tight and choked. I haven't tried a Mittel/Stark/high tension low A and tuning it down, but I assume I would just be creating a different tension problem. I prefer the Spirocore over the Obligato and Velvet Compas 180, and other than custom ordering a Gerold Genssler set, they are the only options I am aware of for a true low G string.

    A lot of shops list the full set on their website, but I don't want to have to start internationally calling Kolstein, Gage, Upton, Gollihur, Lemur, Bass Cellar etc. to find out it can't be done. Anyone have any experience with this?
  2. Chris Symer

    Chris Symer

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2009
    Location:
    Seattle,Wa.
    Lemur has been very good about selling single strings from the Red Mitchell set. I often use them for the bottom two and Lemur is my usual call for them. Shouldn't be a problem.
  3. paulunger

    paulunger Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2002
    Location:
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Quinn violins will sell you individual strings from the Red Mitchell set. I just ordered a low C string today, as a matter of fact.
  4. Mark Gollihur

    Mark Gollihur Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2000
    Location:
    Gloucester County, NJ
    Disclosures:
    Chief Low-Frequency Facilitator, Gollihur Music LLC
    We don't have them on the site, but we'll break 'em out for you, Mike - just drop us an email with the ones you want, we can send you a "special order item" so you can add the specific strings you need to your online cart.
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  6. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2011
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    Thanks guys for your help. I am trying to figure things our with a Canadian shop so I don't get stuck with shipping and the border and all that fun stuff. After a few phone calls I've got one "I'll make some phone calls to my distributors and see what they say." I am also trying to obtain the Permanent Solo A which no one carries, and Orchestral D, which is out of stock currently in a few different shops.

    Crazy how If I lived two hours away in Michigan I'd have no problems and no sales tax, and here in Canada I'm practically on another planet...
  7. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Supporting Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2006
    Location:
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Disclosures:
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    You're not in "Canada", you're in "Toronto"!

    If you lived in my Canada, you'd call the Vancouver L&M for the string you need and be in business. ;)
  8. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2011
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    Thanks Jake. I've actually left the Country of Toronto to join the Republic of Southern Ontario, the latter conveniently surrounding the former and thus still caught in the gravitational pull of the "Center of the Universe Syndrome" that persists here.

    Joking aside, I have had very limited luck with Long & McQuade, Steve's, and any other "music stores" that have guitars in them. I have talked to the "band" rep, "orchestral" rep, and even a couple of string players (usually cellists) at various locations throughout Ontario (Toronto, Ottawa, K-W, and smaller independent places in smaller cities) and had the following conversations:

    "Hello, I'm wondering if you carry Pirastro Permanent double bass strings?"
    - "We have a lot of bass strings, I think they're all permanent ones. You do have to change them eventually though."
    "No, Pirastro is a company, that makes a line of strings that is called Permanent."
    - "Oh, our computer says we have Obligatos in stock..."

    "Hello, I'm wondering if you carry solo tuning double bass strings?"
    - "We have Spirocores, a lot of Jazz guys like those for bass solos."
    "No, solo tuning is where the bass is tuned F#,B,E,A, and I'm looking for the high A string."
    - "umm, I guess you could tune the bass that way, but it really wouldn't be a good idea."

    "Hello, I'm wondering if you carry the Red Mitchell Spirocore 5ths tuning set"
    - "Yeah, we've got a ton of Spirocore strings"
    "These ones are specifically intended to be used on a bass tuned in 5ths, C,G,D,A"
    - "That's not how you tune a bass"

    Along with numerous other conversations that didn't instill a lot of confidence. In their defence, I have had dedicated string instrument shops with very little knowledge of 5ths tuning, or the strings we require to do it. I know shopping for strings in 5ths is an uphill battle, and I have struggled in the past with not being able to get something "off the shelf" at shops, but for some reason it seems to be a lot more challenging this time around. One of the shops in Toronto I contacted (they have a bassist in 5ths on their staff) said something to the effect of "I don't know where all of you 5ths guys are coming from, but we've sold out of our Spirocore low C's."

    According to the L&M website, they have the Red Mitchell set at a better price than I've seen advertised anywhere else. Whether or not they are able/willing to split sets seems to be a problem, as several shops have said that they can't get them as singles. I haven't seen the Permanents listed, but I am assuming that if they carry Obligatos, they have a Pirastro connection and can get them too. If my current lead (a slightly less local Ontario shop) isn't successful with their phone calls, I will definitely head down to my local L&M and say "Jake de Villiers in Vancouver says you can get these, if you don't believe me, call him!"

    I could call myself, but that would mean acknowledging that there is life west of London ON. Baby steps... :bag:
  9. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Supporting Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2006
    Location:
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Disclosures:
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Not all Long & McQuade stores are equal... Try emailing Colin Wood at cwood AT long-mcquade.com

    Of course, that's WAAAAAY west of Ontario! ;)
  10. Mark Gollihur

    Mark Gollihur Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2000
    Location:
    Gloucester County, NJ
    Disclosures:
    Chief Low-Frequency Facilitator, Gollihur Music LLC
    This is golden. Sorry that you had to suffer through these conversations, but thanks for sharing them.
  11. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2011
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    Mark, I am sure that there are plenty of other stories out there from people who have encountered staff working at shops with very little double bass knowledge.

    For the guys working at Long & McQuade or Steve's (both are Canadian music store chains that sell mostly guitars, but have band departments/sections. I'm assuming they are similar to Guitar Center in the USA) I can completely sympathize. I can only assume that 90% of their business is beginner/intermediate level guitarists, and even if you have a dedicated band/orchestra section, that staff is supposed to be able to talk about double bass strings as confidently as the back-bore on Euphonium mouthpieces? You can only expect so much. As Jake said, Not all are created equal, and it really comes down to individual stores/staff members.

    I previously asked why Canada does not have double bass shops like Gollihur, Upton, Gage, Kolstein, Lemur, the Bass Cellar... and we just don't have the population density. The best we can do are violin family shops and some are better than others. Again, I can only assume that the majority of what they deal with on a day to day basis is beginner/intermediate level violinists and cellists, and bass isn't a big part of their market. They have to play to their strengths and their customer base, so it makes perfect sense.

    I long for the day when I am back in the bass market and I can walk into one of the big shops and just feel at home. Better yet, the day when I can walk in and demo basses already in 5ths. One can dream...
  12. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2011
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    After an extensive search, I have found strings! Most of my usual avenues fell through, so I listened to Jake and went with Long & McQuade. As previously mentioned, not all Long & McQuade stores or associates are created equal. I had a very challenging conversation with a "band rep" trying to explain that the bass can in fact be tuned that way, and that there are special strings to do so. After a couple versions of "we don't have that in our system" and "it isn't possible" I was told he would make some phone calls, and get back to me.

    He left a voicemail indicating that it might be possible, but I would have to pay for them up front as it was a special order. I decided to go into the store to confirm that the band rep, myself, and whoever was on the other end of the phone were all on the same page. Said band rep was out to lunch (it was 1:00 in the afternoon and he was eating, he did find the right strings) so I ended up dealing with someone else who had heard of 5ths tuning. Sense of confidence restored, the associate had a lengthy conversation with their distributor. I was informed that I won't see them until late January, as Pirastro hasn't been very quick with orders lately.

    Thank you everyone for all of your suggestions. I decided to get an extra set this time, so I shouldn't have to go through this nightmare for quite some time.

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