"Best" Strings for an Alcoa

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by Sam_Brown1, Jul 18, 2018.


  1. Sam_Brown1

    Sam_Brown1

    Jan 4, 2017
    Michigan
    Im soon to be getting an Alcoa Bass #436 (I believe) and am wondering which strings will sound/play the best. I'm considering full guts, or Pirastro Obligatos like I have on my Kay M-5 but those are quite pricey. What are ya'lls thoughts?
     
  2. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    I like synthetic non-metal strings on my Alcoa because they help tame down the metallic sound. I also really like how they feel. i play slap, pizz and a little arco on my Alcoa for bluegrass, old jazz and general roots music.

    I started with the spiral cut wackers from Superior Bassworks (the Deluxe set in dirty gut color) and really like the G and D strings, but after playing them for about 6 months finally decided that the E and A strings were just too unclear and quiet. I swapped those two strings out for Innovation Silver Slaps E and A, and I'm much happier with the sound now.

    My Alcoa had a top repair and was hot-rodded before I acquired it. It came to me with a Deuce Bass Co. Alumitone D1 bridge and a Deuce Bass Co. custom tailpiece. This bass also came to me with a Vic's Pickups Model C bridge wing and fingerboard piezo set which also sounds great with these strings.

     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2018
    marcox likes this.
  3. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    Soooo, did you get your Alcoa? If so, what strings are you liking with it?

    Inquiring minds...
     
  4. Sam_Brown1

    Sam_Brown1

    Jan 4, 2017
    Michigan
    I did get it (actually I got two but i'm gonna sell one) I put Lenzner strings G and D gut, E and A wound gut. The strings play and sound great, I actually have been putting a 2" bouncy ball between the top and the tailpiece which drastically improves the sound.
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  5. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    A huge congratulations!!! Both of your Alcoas look great. I hope you enjoy the one you keep as much as I enjoy mine!!!

    I've been thinking a lot about the recent Red Diamond copper-wound E&A and nylon-wrapped D&G gut set lately. May wait a year or so, but might just someday make that gut move myself.

    Let us know how things go, ok?
     
  6. Sam_Brown1

    Sam_Brown1

    Jan 4, 2017
    Michigan
    I'd be very interested into how those sound, at under $250 it could be a good deal. The Lenzners are very easy on the fingers and low tension, however they are high maintenance and a little pricey. Only time will tell how long the strings last.
     
  7. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    Not necessarily related to strings, but I do find that tuning differences due to the ambient temperature (and most likely related to metal expansion/contraction) happen quite a lot with my Alcoa. Maybe more than wooden double basses. Early Last week and most of the week before my wife and I were at the Summergrass bluegrass festival (Vista, Southern California) and I got a taste of playing my Alcoa outside in different temps... I had to tune pretty frequently, and this is using synthetic (non-metal) strings. It wasn't obnoxiously so, but I definitely had to tune a lot more than indoor venues in the arid area where I live, especially in the early morning and early evening.

    My Alcoa does have an aluminum tailpiece and a mostly-aluminum bridge too, so that may increase the affects of temperature changes.

    Also, humidity was high there most of the time (~80%) and while I didn't leave my bass out overnight (and very likely suffer from dew-point collection), the strings and neck did get sticky; I was wishing I had some baby powder.

    I don't know if you're following it, but there is a thread here about the Red Diamonds... Very interesting.

    I wish you the very best with your Alcoa(s)!
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2018
  8. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Why do bass players get so upset about having to tune the thing????? Everybody else in the band checks and makes fine tuning adjustments almost every song....
     
  9. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    "... It wasn't obnoxiously so, ..." and I wasn't really upset... Just aware that I was tuning more.

    My main band plays often for a local TV station, where because of program timing and background sound control, there's absolutely no tuning between songs. So I'm probably more conscious of tuning "breaks" than i would be otherwise. But that's indoors in a temperature controlled environment.

    James, you've worked with the Alcoa basses probably more than anyone... Have you encountered more tuning due to temperature changes with Alcoa basses than with "normal" wooden basses?
     
  10. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Nice!!!!!!!!! It is a rare day when you get to bring home one ALCOA, but two?????!!!! That usually only happens when someone raids one of the school district's old band rooms.

    They may be a bit more sensitive to temperature changes. A wooden or ply bass seems to hang reasonably well, but take an ALCOA out on a cold winter day or a hot summer day and there is a tremendous amount of variation- at least it appears that way and my left hand can notice things. The strings move a lot throughout the year too. I live in the mountains AND in the south, so all year long the climate changes almost every hour.

    When I check some of the published engineering specs, if we look at the coefficient of linear expansion of maple it is about 3.5 parallel to the grain vs 8.1 in aluminum (10-6 in/(mK)), so it would make sense that the aluminum neck moves a lot more. (Engineers may have more detail. That was my education, but I don't practice it.) What about a Pfretzschner with their aluminum body and wooden neck- maybe somewhere in the middle.

    As for strings, I put on 50 sets a year across the spectrum of basses and brands; for myself, I almost always wind up with Spiro mittel E A and plain gut D G. No reason to mess with a proven formula; it just works. I'm so used to them that I don't spend the whole gig thinking something is wrong with my strings. If there is a problem, it is me, not the strings.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2018
    dhergert likes this.
  11. True. Tune off the Spiro A and go from there. If it’s sharp, adjust accordingly.

    Can I say how pleased I am with the set of Clef plain guts on my ‘34 King? Now that they’re finally settled they’re more stable than the Spiros and Kaplans on the carved basses in my non-climate-controlled bass room/dining hall/video game terrordrome.
     
  12. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    Guts of some type and as a part of some mix are definitely on my gotta-try list for sometime. While I'm pretty happy with the current synthetics I've got on my Alcoa for now, guts are just something I eventually want to hear and feel.

    Hi have to say I really love the look of the Alcoa basses... Especially in aluminum color, whether polished, matte or even powder-coat like mine. A friend upon seeing mine remarked that it looked like a cross between the surrealist works of Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso. I've wondered if Alcoa actually had this in mind with the design.

    Just musing, I've often thought how visually and historically in place one of these basses would be with a Gypsy Jazz band, ala Louis Vola with Django Reinhardt.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2018
  13. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    Nashville TN
    I tried that string setup for a day and it messed with my head. Do you use plain gut dg? Are they high tension? Do you adjust for the jump from A to D?
     
  14. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    I have an old set of Jargar's with blue silks (mediums?) with a raw gut D & G that are all well broken in on one of my ALCOAs (I currently have three available). They are the best combination I have ever used on an ALCOA. The Jargar are dark and slightly blunt and they mix perfect with the guts. My other ALCOA has Spirocore medium EAD with a Stark G (mainly for the KRIVO pickup bit of extra power) and it is more bright, but also more power.

    'Gotta also say that the KRIVO makes all of the acoustic reverb type sounds disappear when amplified that tend to be more pronounced with any of my piezo type pickups, but...it does not work with the guts or any non-steel core string.
     
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