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Arco vs Pizz String Question

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by Mikey3, Feb 23, 2014.

  1. Mikey3

    Mikey3 Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2007
    When looking at the differences between an arco and a pizz string are the main differences going to be in sound, or are they going to be in their ability to be bowed or feel plucked? I have read about differences regarding sustain between the two. This question is more of a generalization between the two classifications of strings and I know what each brand will be different and perform different than another.

    That being said, is it that pizz strings sound not the best when they are bowed (too bright)(too scratchy, weak or thin sounding), or is it more that they do not do the job as well..ie physically harder to bow, such as the bow doesn't grip as well, need more rosin, more pressure from the bow on the string etc...

    I am sorry if this has been asked/answered before, but I could not find what I was looking for in a search.
  2. Michael Glynn

    Michael Glynn Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2004
    There are both sound and feel differences. If you are just looking at strings with a smooth and flat steel winding, the differences largely come down to the sound. "Jazz" strings typically have a brighter sound with more overtones and can sound harsh with the bow. "Classical" strings often have dampening materials inside the strings to mellow out the sustain and overtones, which gives a smoother arco sound, but can sound muddy or indistinct when plucked.

    There are also strings with different winding materials, such as nylon, that are physically much more difficult to bow properly.
  3. Mikey3

    Mikey3 Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2007
    Thanks Michael. Maybe I am doing something wrong with my technique, but it seems like I have to use a lot of rosin and a fair amount of pressure when bowing the e and a strings on my bass strung with Pirastro Jazzers. Even more so when I am playing the notes on the neck vs open string. This isnt as big an issue on the G and D I wasn't sure if this was more due to the nature of the strings as I do not recall this problem with I had a different bass with strung with Helicore Hybrids
  4. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    I know a 5 string player who has Jazzers on his low B and E. He plays in an orchestra and a lot of his work is with the bow, but he also plays some Jazz and other more pizz orientated stuff. He likes them, and makes them work under the bow just fine.

    Although some strings are more difficult than others under the bow, or require different/alterations to your technique, it usually comes down to personal preference. Gut strings and Spirocores are popular choices for jazz players, but can bow quite differently than many of the steel strings that a lot of us are used to now. Gut can sound and play great under the bow, but you can't bow them exactly the same as you would steel strings. Spirocores can also sound and play great under the bow and are a very popular choice for low strings, (B's and E's on 5 strings, C's and G's in 5ths, E's and extended E's in 4ths, occasionally A's as well) but they can be less forgiving than some other options.

    Some strings like Weed Wackers are not very bow friendly at all because of the surface of the string. On the other end of the spectrum, there are some orchestra strings with very little pizz sustain that really don't appeal to jazz players. It is definitely a combination of feel and sound. Some strings are marketed to and more commonly found in certain styles, but depending on what you are looking for, they can be used with varying levels of success in a different style as well.

    I am guessing in your specific case, technique is part of the problem. The E string can be more difficult to bow than the D and G strings, and has a lot to do with how much tension you have in your playing. Relax, and think of it more like pulling sound out of the bass instead of pushing your bow into the bass. It could also be a setup issue, which can make bowing a whole lot easier. A lesson or two focusing on the bow might be a good idea, and if you know any other bassists that are more comfortable with the bow than you are, get them to give your bass a shot.
  5. Mikey3

    Mikey3 Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2007
    thanks mike. I am thinking that technique must be part of the problem, its just a matter of playing around and figuring out exactly what. Just seems weird to me that I can play G on the E string pizz and it sound fine but not so much when using the bow, while I can make the open E string sound just fine when bowing. I guess I am uncertain as to why I am having this issue or what technique problem I may be facing or if it is more of an issue with the strings. Kind of annoying as it seems both sides of the equation are working on their own, but not quite working together....but I suppose again I can be missing something technique wise
  6. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 28, 2011
    Torrance, CA
    For me, it helped to deconstruct the way the bow touches the string. Traditional pedagogy teaches WASP - weight, angle, speed, and placement. To those four variables I add length of stroke, short or long. When I experimented with those 5 variables with the bow, listening to how each affected the tone, is when I learned to use the bow.
  7. Gottaplaybass

    Gottaplaybass a.k.a. James Slice

    Jun 18, 2007
    McDonough GA
    Thanks for all of the good insight. I currently have an Engelhardt EC-1 that I want to restring. It has the factory strings and want something better. My E string really sounds dead with pizz and doesn't bow well at all. I mostly play pizz, and don't want to choose a set of strings that will jepardize that sound; however, I do want a decent arco sound as well.

    I enjoy reading all of the various comments as they give me food for thought.