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Negative Effects of Thin, Low Tension Strings

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by kwd, Oct 27, 2003.

  1. kwd

    kwd

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    A member made an assertion in the String Forum that playing with today's thin low tension strings can ruin your left hand technique. I've been reluctant to buy the most popular string in the genre for this reason. Is there any validity to this claim?
  2. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon

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    I don't know about "ruin"; it seems an overstatement. If you're going to stay with the string for a long time, who cares? Anyway, I would argue that it's a simple matter of adjustment. I've been fortunate (or just plain crazy) enough to have owned several basses at once (7) with every combination of fingerboard shape, neck thickness, string tension, etc., and I always found the arguments and warnings a bit overdone. By the way, I'm down to 2; the others have found good homes.
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Administrator

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    I wouldn't say "ruin". "Sissify", maybe, but not "ruin".

    All joking aside, your string choice is all about the sound you're looking for. Low tension strings tend to put out less sound, although there are many exceptions. As far the left hand goes, think of it as weight-training: If you normally lift 10 lb. dumbells and then someone hands you a 40lb bell, you're gonna die. But if you only plan on playing your own bass, and you're happy with the sound you're getting, I'd say it's nobody's business but yours. It's not like there's some big STRING MACHO thing going on, it's just all about preference.
  4. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

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    Speaking for myself only, I am useless on a bass with low-tension strings. I learned on high-tension strings and still favor them so that I can dig in hard for max volume. I love the way guts and quasi-guts sound but I can't play them worth a damn...I make more noise than music.
  5. kwd

    kwd

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    Chris, Mike, Don

    Thanks for the replies. It sounds as if the worst thing that happens is that I would have to adapt if I go with a thicker, higher tension string down the road. As Mike points out, going from a higher tension string to a lower tension string also requires adjustment. Hand pain not withstanding, it might be just as hard to learn to hold back as it would to to dig in.

    kevin
  6. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

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    Maybe I'm missing something here but in my limited experience, lower tension strings are usually thicker and higher tension strings are thinner. I mean it has to work out that way because if the length of the string is constant, less mass has to be compensated with higher tension and vice versa. Gut and most gut-like strings are big thick mothers. Then some of the Corellis for example are really thin.
  7. Tom Baldwin

    Tom Baldwin

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    Well, I'm no expert, but think of it this way. Tune your G string down to D. Now you have a thinner, lower tension D string. Less mass accompanies lower tension. Similarly, more mass equals more tension, so if you tuned your D string up to G, (assuming it didn't break), you would have a very massive, high tension G string.

    Why it is that guts have less tension than steel, someone else will have to explain. Is it because although they are thicker, they are actually less dense and therefore less massive? High school Physics was 20 years ago, what is that equation... mass = weight x volume? Anybody?
  8. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

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    I'm no expert either but the problem with the example you give is that the very detuned G string would have virtually no output. When I said what I said in my previous message I should have added that assuming everything is constant too.

    The core of gut strings is completely different to the core of many other strings. It is the gut itself (evidenced if you play raw gut) which is low tension and to have a decent sound output (and in fact guts are known for a reasonably big sound and strong fundamental) the core needs to be pretty thick.
  9. Tom Baldwin

    Tom Baldwin

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    I wasn't suggesting that there was any practical application of this exercise, other than to illustrute my point. What do you mean by everything being constant? If nothing changes, how can you make a comparison? Maybe I should have put it this way: When comparing two strings of identical composition, tuned to the same pitch, but differing in diameter, the larger diameter string will have more tension. Do you agree?

    BTW, I found your webpage very informative and helpful.
  10. Johnny L

    Johnny L

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  11. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

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    If two strings of identical composition are tuned to the same pitch but differ in diameter yes the larger diameter string would have more tension. And yes I agree that a lower pitched string needs to have more mass if it has the same tension as a higher pitched string.

    What I'm saying is that from practical experience it's contradictory to talk about thin low-tension strings because most lower tension strings are thicker. Wound guts definitely have lower tension than "steel" strings and they are much thicker. Raw guts have even less tension and they are thicker still.

    What I was saying when I was talking about keeping things constant is that it is possible to make a set of thin, low-tension strings but I would argue that if it is thin then the tension would have to be so low that it would be practically unplayable. The G tuned down to a D is an example of that. You'd never be able to dig into the string and get decent sound from it.

    Of course we're just talking abstractly here without any numbers.

    Can anyone give an example of a string SET that is both thin and low tension? kwd, you talked about the most string in the genre. What string are you talking about?
  12. Monte

    Monte

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    Corelli Mediums were extremely thin and seemed low tension to me. Hated them, but that was about 4 years ago and I never measured the tension. They were definitely lower tension than the Spiro Weichs they replaced.

    Monte
  13. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

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    I'm willing to bet the pizz sound was terrible.
  14. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

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    Yep. I've got the Corelli mediums on right now and just came from Spirocore weichs. My experience is the same as Monte's without the hating part. The Corellis don't thrill me, but I don't hate 'em.
  15. Monte

    Monte

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    Wouldn't call it terrible, but it had no balls.

    Monte
  16. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

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    Yeah that's what I meant <G> "Terrible" is subjective. I meant that compared to other low tension strings such as guts, Obligatos, etc. that the volume and fullness of the tone (strength of the fundamental) would not be there.
  17. kwd

    kwd

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    I was thinking of Corelli 370 line. I don't subscribe to the lower tension = larger diameter theory. That kind of assumes that all strings are made of material with the same density. Corelli 370s are relatively thin because tungsten is more dense than some other materials like nickel. It's about mass.
  18. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

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    The "theory" assumes constant materials. Mass is the important issue here so certainly you can use something that gives you the mass but not the bulk. Gut is not a particularly dense material.
  19. kwd

    kwd

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    I will try to be succinct because this is getting off topic.

    I've never seen Corellis recommended for jazz in anything but the Forte or Extra Forte gauges. Using the medium gauge for jazz is a non-starter. I have 380s(larger diam. than 370, nickel plated) in Extra Forte gauge and they're smaller than the Helicore mediums I had on. Mine are acceptable for jazz pizz, but I'm sure I hate them too if they were meds.
  20. lermgalieu

    lermgalieu

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    Damon/Monte - I got the Corelli mediums and they came off immediately. I hated them - but it was more of a string mass issue than a volume issue. They just didn't have balls.

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